It is not only rare to be a woman in the board game design industry, but also have a niche in ecology themed games. Elizabeth Hargrave, a relatively new entrant in the industry can boast of almost overnight success with the path-breaking avian themed Wingspan. A 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres award winner, this competitive card-driven, engine building game, themed around creating habitats for birds has been a runaway success. Produced by Stonemeier games, the game’s unprecedented success has meant long waits for fans & months long pre-orders as the first print run sold out almost immediately.
Elizabeth’s inspiration for Wingspan, Tussie Mussie & her upcoming board game Mariposas has been a love for nature. A board game enthusiast, she found the variety of themes present in board games sadly lackluster and unrelatable to the kind of subjects she was interested in most. Having interests in outdoorsy activities like hiking, ornithology, collecting mushrooms and being an all round nature geek, Hargrave found the prevalent themes of castles, space & trains in board games quite unattractive and decided it was time to change that.
Behind the meticulously designed Wingspan is a spreadsheet full of facts about birds, which were then converted into intricately designed cards, with gorgeous artwork that is all based on reference photos. Several board game enthusiasts claim that this has been the best game of 2019, and its popularity and rating on BoardGameGeek, the Mecca for enthusiasts, is a testament of that. It helps that the game has a unique theme along with artwork & components that compliment it in every way, making it a collector’s must have. While setting up an aviary, players can interact with tactile components like bird eggs & a bird feeder and absorb information about their diet and habitat from the picturesque cards. Hargrave is working on several expansions to include birds from different regions, making it more diverse and attractive to fans around the world.
While her interest in ornithology inspired the beautiful, award-winning Wingspan, the other games that she has designed or are in the works are similarly inspired from nature, conservation, and the environment and she’s always looking for inspiration from the world around her to convert interesting themes & ideas into playable concepts.
Tussie Mussie, a very small card game featuring stunning designs is based on the floral world and the Victorian ‘language of flowers’ while Marioposas has players guiding monarch butterflies on their migration.
Bored Game Company is the best place to buy games by Elizabeth Hargrave, like Wingspan and Mariposas.