Smash fascism (and the patriarchy)

The representation of women in wargaming is an ongoing discussion. That women of all ages, and children and older people (of all genders), have been victims of war is a fact that can only be disputed through a narrow interpretation of facts. However, gaming (overwhelmingly) focuses on the soldiers, the majority of who have been male.

Fantasy and science fiction have an easy fix available: create worlds where the patriarchy is consigned to the dustbin. Creations like this cannot be disputed for inaccuracy. That we do not is a reflection of our communities’ biases.


Historical gaming has a genuine challenge here, since overwhelmingly combatants were (and are) male. There are companies that are seeking to shift this balance, and being companies I guess they are doing so in response to demand. Good on them. Bad Squiddo Games come to mind as doing a particularly good job of making women warriors available, consciously rejecting the pernicious sexualisation that mars so many female figures (Games Workshop is an easy source of examples, but are typical rather than especially poor in representing women).

Given there were only ever around 1500 tiger tanks produced and I suspect far more than this in service on wargame tables, I have no particular problem with female soldiers appearing more frequently than they did (or even stretching some of their roles). For WWII gaming, the Soviet Union and Partizan forces both provide historical basis for creating armies with female combatants.

female partisan

Black Tree Design

Konflikt 47 has a wonderful opportunity, being a fantasy (diesel-punk) extension to the second world war. The background story has nuclear weapons tearing strange holes in space though which the competing nations receive information about how to build new (and terrible) weapons. The new technology see the Germans hold the allies east and west, extending the war into 1947. Part of the story extends real world events and strains: the Soviet Union splits from the allies, making the war three-way in Europe and the Middle East.

A real world shift not emphasized in the story to date is the role of women in the war. In every country, women stepped into roles dominated by men: particularly in factories, on farms, transport and planning. The access to the new rift-tech still requires soldiers to wield the new weapons.

The trend in the Soviet Union was to include women, and with two potential new fronts (Japan and Iraq) and the ending of US Lend Lease, this trend will be accelerated.

The United Kingdom, except for possibly India, were under enormous pressure after six continuous years of war. Given the opportunities given to women in the quirky Operation Sealion expansion for Bolt Action, I think getting a few into khaki for K-47 makes sense.

The United States still had a lot of man-power, but the rising affluence (and influence) of women could plausibly see them not just building the tanks but operating them.

French women took up arms when they could to liberate their country. I think they would not shirk their duty given the chance in 1947.

The case for the axis is less clear. While Germany faced acute shortages of combat fit soldiers, the deeply dysfunctional and conservative regime seems to me to be unlikely to recruit women (outside of home defense units). Unlike the other nations, the role of women as mother and wife was central to the nazi regime’s view of itself. I think it is plausible that Osttruppen, Hitler Youth, and Volksturm could all include women. And armed BDM seem to be more likely than flying vampires.

The Italians have less opportunity given their lack of resources and constraints from allies, but I think for different reasons the rump of the fascists in the north (desperation), and the newly liberated nation of the south (revenge) would both allow women into their fighting units.


Rocketeers from Eureka Minatures

New possibilities for armies, miniatures and expanding representation on the table top. I can see no downside here. So how about it Warlord?


9 thoughts on “Smash fascism (and the patriarchy)

  1. Interesting write-up, but GW’s track record I feel is more of a mixed one than a terrible one. Eldar/Dark Eldar line troops being one of the better examples in all of wargaming, IMO. Infinity seems much more of a poor example.
    Regardless, this blog post might be more useful if sent to Warlord directly, or posted on their facebook/social media for a public-but-direct message.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that Eldar is the best of the 40K world, and Idon’t see the S&M vibe of dark eldar as a problem in itself. My concern is the narrow pallet of ideas GW seem to use. It’s like they saw the book Damned Whores and God’s Police on a shelf but never bothered to look inside.
      A nice idea to to head over to FB; I guess I was testing my arguments on a more modest platform. Thanks for the comment.


      • Agreed on the S&M Dark Eldar. Whether people like the ethos/aesthetic of it or not, once again the models are split pretty evenly. Hopefully the next round of Imperial Guard models will take a few cues from the Eldar – and frankly I was disappointed that the Stormcast were not more diversified from the get-go (and the single female hero thing does get a bit annoying – we should be able to have more than the occasional Boudica or Joan mixed in with the lads alternating with the all-female forces of the Sisters, other Sisters and Escher.
        I’m actually ok with the all-female units found in some of the elven armies, since their fantasy is sort of proto-historical (amongst other things) but would equally like to see some female warriors mixed in the generic rank and file troops.
        Of course, there’s always the non-boob-female armour argument to be made for Imperial Guard and Elves. Witness the stormtroopers in the new Star Wars films (not just Phasma – the white armoured grunts were a mix of male and female – and you can’t tell them apart!)
        Apart from stature and facial details (& maybe some errant hair or makeup), you often can’t tell which gender a female soldier is. Now translate that into 28mm model terms and there’s not much to see unless you’re demanding exaggerated proportions, and not all women have E-cups!

        Not that our models take into account the normal variations on human male stature for that matter…

        Not that I’ve gotten around to the modelling or painting part yet, but I’ve bought a bunch of statuesque heads to stick onto “male” bodies in order to make female troopers and warriors to mix in with the lads. I’ve seen it done a few times – from Guards(wo)men to Chaos Warriors and it usually works quite well.

        …just some thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the photos and your observations. It’s an enormous topic, and the way to shift things is doing exactly what you propose: start building and playing with more diverse armies. Cheers.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Terrific article. The Bad Squiddo miniatures (and plenty of others) are doing wonders to having a good representation of females in our wargames. I totally agree with your assessment that there is no good reason not to have equality in our made-up future worlds.

    Infinity has the right idea (a roughly even distribution of boys and girls) but let themselves down a bit by having ‘cheesecake’ poses for the female miniatures. Malifaux (of which I am a huge fan) is moving somewhat in the right direction but I think that the distribution is still not equal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Simulating Catan – How To Create A Random Dice Simulator In Excel – Start Your Meeples

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