“How important it is for us to recognise and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” – Maya Angelou
In my time as a board game hobbyist, there have been many occasions when being a woman meant you were in the minority. If you scan all the youtube reviewers and content makers online, visit board game nights at cafes, or go to conventions, women are grossly underrepresented.
But curiously, this is not because there are not a lot of women in the hobby. The number of women I see on Facebook groups refutes this. There are certain conventions, not much but a few, where women participate in larger numbers. What creates this space of diversity? I have found that representation and the conscious effort to champion it is key.
If women see themselves represented in the board gaming industry and see role models doing amazing things in content creation, illustration, publishing or marketing, then they can imagine they can be like those women too. So when I heard that Amanda Milne, was publishing the new Martin Wallace game, AuZtralia, I jumped at the chance to not only work with her but to find out what drives her to succeed.
Does Gender Matter?
“It’s a hard business for anyone. It may be a little harder to get taken seriously as a woman at the start but I think the main thing is perseverance and determination rather than gender.” She said that the main challenges in publishing are marketing and differentiating her games from the thousands in the market and thus has found Jamey Stegmaier as a role model. “He seems to be well connected to his customers and puts so much energy into blogging and podcasting information that is useful to other small publishers.”
This determination shows in her work ethic. A typical day for Amanda means waking up at 6:30 to check her phone for emails and Facebook for questions and comments. When I asked what occupies most of her day, she said “I spend a lot of time at the moment working on AuZtralia, as the Kickstarter is a few weeks from launching. That entails fine-tuning the layout of the artwork, keeping the rulebook updated as clarifications and suggestions come in from playtesters, working with overseas partners who are going to localise the game for their markets, budgeting and asking pricing details from our manufacturer, prototyping and testing items for potential stretch goals as well as doing promotional things on Facebook and Boardgamegeek. There is never enough hours in the day and a big pile of papers on my desk that I need to work through, including about seven half-finished to-do lists.”
Luck Happens When you Seize Opportunity
For somebody who shows so much dedication, it is interesting to find out that she got into designing and publishing, she says, by accident. She studied Geography and Politics at University and worked as a transport planner and Data Manager but ended publishing two games, Komodo and Raid the Pantry, with a friend. Amanda says that she had been designing games with a friend for fun and “They turned out too good not to publish, so we started a publishing company. We had no idea what we were doing, but somehow we persevered with help of various advisors and googling for information.” It wasn’t an easy road for her too. After publishing another game, Manifest, her business and game design partner left the company. On top of that, she broke her foot and spent a great part of that year immobilised. All this made her doubt her ability to go at it alone.
But it seems, luck and serendipity, and what she created out of it, played a role in Amanda’s publishing career. Martin Wallace was living in New Zealand and she was lucky enough to be contacted by him to playtest some his prototypes. From those meetings, their friendship grew over the years, and he asked her help to publish AuZtralia. The decision was not hard because according to Martin, “Mandy is very easy to work with. I think we make a good team. I’m not very organised, hate planning, and come out in hives when I think of social media. Mandy has the organisational skills and financial acumen to run a successful campaign, having proved that in the past with Manifest.” According to Amanda, Martin encouraged her to get involved in publishing again and that partnering up was inspiration in itself. That push, helped her gather herself together and leap back into her career.
Here’s to the Future
“I’d like to spend more of my time designing and less time publishing…However, if AuZtralia goes well and another game excites me I may change my mind. I don’t see retirement as a goal to aim for. I can retire when I am dead.”
Amanda’s day ends, with a nice meal, that she cooked herself, a good book nestled in her hands and a glass of wine. I like imagining her like this because it is a scene familiar to me and I would say to a number of women out there. Don’t we all know and empathize with hard-working women in the industry who talk about making content after they’ve tucked their kids to bed, or sell minis that they’ve painted as an extra source of income? There is a power to knowing incredible women like Amanda. You get to know their fears, their triumphs, their dreams and they change how you see the world.
Historically, the boardgaming scene has been male-dominated but there is no reason why it can’t change. By putting a spotlight on women’s contribution to the boardgaming industry, whether it is publishing and designing games, organising a local boardgame club or hosting a podcast, we can all help change the space we play in.
Amanda Milne is the Director of Schilmil Games. She launched AuZtralia on March 6th. Information about the game can be found at www.auztralia.net
You can find me here:
@laminatingboardgames on Instagram and @laminating_bg on twitter
You can also find me on WoW on discord at https://discord.gg/kjr9yhX