Existing as a trans person is unbearable. I do not know how we get through most days. It’s not a truth I like to address, and it is certainly not something I like to talk about, but it is an unfortunate reality of the cultural climate that we live in. A cultural climate that, when the CEO of FryxGames, the design and publishing team behind Terraforming Mars, comes out against trans folx with sentiments like “trans women aren’t women”, nothing happens.
Sure, there’s some calls-to-arms. There’s disgust. There’s discussion. But there’s no goddamn riotting. There’s no big names in the gaming community calling for boycotts. Hell, most large board game outlets aren’t even covering that aspect of the story, even when those same outlets were immediate in their response to FryxGames using AI art.
So instead of sitting here and attempting to hash this conversation out more and drive myself insane, I’m turning the conversation. I’m going to spotlight some games designed by trans gamers that you can purchase or back now. Turn my angsty energy into a spotlight to focus on the weirdest, sharpest, most awe-inspiring designs from those who aren’t dicks.
Here are some games to buy if you want to support some amazing trans designers.
Hmm. Well. Maybe I didn’t choose the easiest place to start.
Velocirapture is… “a game” where players will be playing as dinosaurs who see their impending doom up in the sky (aka the meteor) and they cope with this doom by playing “human games”. Each dinosaur is given a card with their Coping Mechanism on it. Are you going to be playing these human games to win? Are you aiming to make them more entertaining? Are you aiming to see how much you can cheat? At the end of the overall game, which is a time period decided on by the player’s, the table chooses which dinosaur explored? exploited? their coping mechanism the best.
As a game, Velocirapture is quite odd, even for a party game. No set time limit, ever-changing rules, an unusual winner’s structure… but the game isn’t even really about the game that’s happening?
Based on how I read the game, and from what little concrete tonal discussions I’ve heard from the designer Xoe, this game is about exploring the ability to cope. From the Hollandspiele YouTube video promoting the game: “So, my coping mechanism when I’m overwhelmed by the impending capitalist-driven climate catastrophe that’s on the horizon is to think about how this really isn’t our first extinction level event – it’s happened before, and there was life afterwards.”
This game is probably most comparable to I Guess This Is It, a game that was also a semi-roleplay, mostly-discussion on a sticky human emotion. Oddly, both games do focus on the intensity of the unknown, and how sudden endings
More dinosaurs!! Except these are on trains! Well, sort of.
Cretaceous Rails is a Dinosaur Island with route building. It’s Ark Nova with trains. It’s a tableau builder with dinosaurs. Players will be laying down trains out onto a filled hex board stuffed with dinos, trees, and tourists, and shuffling around all of those elements in order to score the most points. Players will be constructing buildings and improvements to their resorts in order to store more and more tourists, dinos, and trees, increasing their points more and more.
What I’m most excited for with this game is the absolutely brilliant action selection mechanism. There are four actions available in the game, and each action is available four times to create 16 action tiles. At the start of each round, these action tiles are randomly distributed into a 4×4 square. When a player takes their turn, they choose an intersecting point between two actions, place one of their pawns there, and take both actions.
The Kickstarter for this game goes until October 25th, and I’d recommend taking a look at the page. The component quality appears to be top notch, and there’s tons of dino minis, which, I mean, hey, who doesn’t love that. I have not played the game, but watching Ann develop the crap out of this game has me convinced this will be one finely tuned game.
Two-player TCGs/CCGs aren’t an uncommon occurrence. But one that is set in an alternate 13th Century Asia that also blends history with fantasy to create a new melding mess of a setting? Now that’s Worldbreak(ers)ing!
Developing Location cards, building up units to attack, and playing powerful events all lead to one player achieving 10 power before the other and winning the game. Without getting into much more of the rules, I will say this game is one of the heavier two-player Magic-likes I’ve played. It’s up there with Clowdus’ Omen for sure. With that said though, unlike some of the other failed games in this space like Epic Card Game, Worldbreakers feels fully thought out and cohesive, even if this is only achieved through extra keywords than most games have. Definitely take a look if you’re an Omen fan, because this instantly replaced Omen for me.
Side Note: Shut Up & Sit Down mentioned this game in one of their rapid-fire videos. Yay, spotlighting smaller designers. However, I do find it weird that they don’t consistently take the time to shout-out queer designers in instances like this. Sure, I understand not wanting to spotlight those who don’t want that extra attention, but I think calling these (unfortunately rare) designers out is a positive for the hobby.
((Ed. note: Check out our three-part interview with designer Elli Amir from February last year here, here, and here. Also, Worldbreakers just got a shout-out from No Pun Included in their video about great two-player games. It’s so great to see this game starting to get traction!))
I shared an online space with Amabel back in early 2021. She was the only trans woman I knew at the time, even if we had never shared a word. Sure, I had played some of her games, but again, I never talked to her. But one day, after working up the courage, I sent her a private message and asked her to talk to me about her gender journey. One thing led to another, and now I’m here.
This is why trans creators need to be spotlit. This is why when reviewers discuss a game, it’s important to bring up the designer’s identity. Showing the board gaming community that we’re here and that we are not going anywhere no matter who shows up, is critical.
Amabel’s Kaiju Table Battles is a love letter to Kaiju films (Godzilla, Mothra, etc.) And when I say love letter, I mean that literally. Sure, this is a freaking amazing two-player skirmish game with some legacy elements and every single human being alive should play it. But more crucially, this game has some of the most brilliant writing about the trans experience at the top. I will link it here, but I also want to share with you a highlight.
The opening essay continues:
Listen, and you shall hear. The plights and exuberance of trans folx is all around you. Our stories are out there. The depths of our pain and the heights of our happiness are on display for you. Seek our stories out. Hear us.
Don’t listen to the assholes that use AI to generate their art. Trans women ARE women, and AI generated art IS NOT art.