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Three Tabletop Games that Explore the LGBTQ+ Experience

Tabletop gaming has, for a number of reasons, lagged behind other mediums when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation. The narrative elements rarely touch on queer topics, the rules typically avoid talking about gender and sexuality, and often tabletop games don’t seem interested in engaging with players in that way. However, there are a number of recent tabletop games that buck the trend and speak directly to LGBTQ+ struggles. These games center queer stories or provide the tools necessary for players to explore them at the table if they so choose.

Dare to Love

What if your partner was imprisoned by a powerful member of the ruling class for the crime of being LGBTQ+? Dare to Love explores that question, tasking several players with saving their queer loved one and overthrowing the powerful individual known as the Oligarch, also controlled by a player. However, the Oligarch wins if they are able to kill the active dissidents.

Dare to Love comes out of the long fight for LGBTQ+ rights in Taiwan where it was not unheard of for LGBTQ+ activists to be imprisoned for fabricated crimes. The board game draws on that long struggle for its narrative components, centering the LGBTQ+ struggle as the heart of the game. Dare to Love released in 2018 and Taiwan formally legalized same-sex marriage in May 2019.

The game itself plays well and represents an important cultural turning point for Taiwan. On top of that, the narrative contains enough abstractions that it can be applied to almost all struggles for LGBTQ+ civil rights struggles. This renders a game that might otherwise be firmly anchored in a time and place flexible enough to resonate with LGBTQ folk and allies across the world.

Fog of Love

For those looking to explore romance, Fog of Love provides an excellent gameification of starting and developing a relationship. Two players work together to create two original characters who meet, fall in love, and try to make a relationship work. The rules guide player interactions and cards throw the players curveballs. Do you try to change yourself to become a better fit for the relationship or do you push forward while sticking to your guns? Fog of Love is about discovering that not every seemingly perfect relationship works out, and sometimes the most dysfunctional people can find partnerships that work for them.

For those wondering what makes Fog of Love a great game for LGBTQ+ folk: It comes with special packs of cards and rule modifications for making the game more welcoming to diverse genders and gender expressions. These welcome additions to the game even help straight, cisgender people to work through queer relationships in a way that might be insightful.

Fog of Love focuses on telling a story together rather than winning or losing. Whether the relationship built in-game results in a happily ever after or heartbreak ends up being irrelevant. Fog of Love makes sure the emphasis rests on creating a memorable story while having a great time together.

Star Crossed

Similar to Fog of Love, Star Crossed tasks two players with telling a story to one another about characters falling in love. Unlike Fog of Love, both characters in the story know that their love can never be. Star Crossed is a game about yearning and forbidden love.

Players act out small scenes that develop the relationships between their two characters, a block tower standing between them. Every time a character does something that increases the attraction between the two characters, a block must be removed from the tower. Should the tower fall, the characters then act on their feelings, regardless of the consequences. The number of bricks pulled prior to the collapse determines whether the new lovers overcome all of the odds, doom themselves, or land somewhere in the middle. If the tower never falls, the characters never act on their feelings and go on with their lives armed with thoughts of what might have been.

Star Crossed offers enough flexibility to accommodate pairs ranging from the mundane to the fantastical. This means players can have queer relationships between humans, pairings between creatures from mythology and science-fiction (think mermaids and space harpies), or love affairs that straddle the line between the wondrous and the ordinary. Star Crossed allows players to explore what it would be like to encounter institutional roadblocks to LGBTQ+ relationships while also allowing their imaginations to run wild and have fun.


Let’s end with a quote from Isaac Vega, the co-designer of Dead of Winter (another great game to play if you are looking for more LGBTQ+ representation in your tabletop games) who told Killscreen in 2016 the following. “Games aren’t just fun, but are also a medium for people to experience a new story and see and feel things they haven’t necessarily seen or felt before. A lot of people playing may never have interacted with someone who’s gay, or trans, or from a different race. So the game becomes a space to tell these stories, start a conversation around the table that could bring these things to light for a group of players.”

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