No question about it, being a board game creator is a pretty great gig. But when you're a female board game designer in a male-dominated industry, designing a game that celebrates women—well, that's a pretty amazing experience. Here, Danielle Reynolds, board game creator and Underdog's head of kids' game design and development, shares what it was like to help turn our newest board game, HerStory, into the fun and inspiring game that it is today.
What was your involvement with HerStory?
I was brought on at the end of March 2022 to help the Underdog team finish designing and developing the game into the final product.
What women are you most excited to have featured in the game?
That’s hard. Through working on the game, I learned about a lot of women I never would've initially thought to include in it. As I worked on HerStory, I grew to adore Hedy Lamarr, which has become an inside joke with the Underdog team. Plus, she’s now on the side of the cover of the box as a bit of an Easter egg. Also, when I was first hired, I was asked which women I’d want to add to the game, and I suggested Emily Dickinson and Mother Teresa. Now one of them is in the game! You'll have to buy it to find out which one of them made it in.
What’s something that surprised you along the way in creating HerStory?
Honestly, the content in the game. At first I felt bad that I didn’t know many of the women picked for the game, but that made me realize why this game is so important—we should know all of these women’s names!
Also, from a gameplay perspective, I spent months testing this game an average of 12 times a week and never grew tired of trying different strategies. I was so happy to help come up with fun powers that could be built into an engine to possibly win the game. The rules of the game may be pretty simple, but there's still a ton of strategy that goes into playing!
What was one of your biggest contributions to HerStory?
I came up with a library card in the game. This is a card you can use to clear the token options if you don't see anything you like. You're able to "go to the library" twice with your card. We actually removed it for a while during testing, but then I asked to revisit the idea. Now it’s back in the final version of the game. We've received a lot of positive feedback from it by playtesters, and I'm happy to have brought it to the table.
As a female board game designer, what are your thoughts about a game dedicated to women?
I love it! I was on a panel this year about being a female in the board game industry, and I was told by another panelist that there are more sheep on the covers of games than women. That stung to hear. Seeing 16 diverse, powerful women on our cover is inspiring. I’m so thankful that I was picked to help bring this design across the finish line!
Games need to be more inclusive in its creators, themes, and artwork. I think HerStory really pushes that message through. I intentionally go on panels not because I think I’m the best public speaker, but so I can be a model for other women and show them that they can be a voice of change in the industry. I think HerStory can do a similar job of inspiring other publishers to do similar themes in the future. And just because the cards are women doesn’t mean only girls can play the game—all ages and genders will enjoy playing and learning from this game.
What component of the game are you most excited about?
The neoprene play board that looks like a corkboard with oversized wooden pushpin meeples is so fun. But it’s the illustrations that really stand out. They are gorgeous! I’m also excited about the bag that holds the chunky tokens. I don’t think I’ve seen one like it before.
What would your 12-year-old self think of this board game?
I would start playing HerStory as soon as I got it and would boss my siblings into playing with me. To see a game where I feel represented and seen is a powerful thing. Growing up, I was lucky to see myself represented in dolls, but that wasn't true for many other girls. I find it amazing to look at HerStory and see that so many kids and adults will feel represented in this game.
Anything else you want people to know about HerStory?
From a design/mechanic perspective, I think the game succeeds in creating an entry-level engine-building game that will allow hobby gamers to teach their friends mechanics that set them up for playing more complex games, like Wingspan, some day. HerStory's rules are short and sweet, and the strategy is all in the card powers and getting exact bonuses for turning in the matching research symbols. This game has easily been my favorite to work on, and I can’t wait for people to play!
Learn more about HerStory's beginnings with this article from Nick Bentley, president of Underdog Studios.
Want to buy your own copy of this great new game? You can do that right here.