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Town and City sculpts

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dpt
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Town and City sculpts

Over in the comments on Kickstarter, I asked why the prototype renders had wavy windows, and got the answer that they were supposed to  look strange and unworldly, since they are seen in the eyes of the spirits and Dahan. I love that idea, and the wavy windows do convey that.

But I do also imagine that the very straightness of the European buildings would look unnatural. One way to make straight sides look unnatural to my eyes is to make them skew, like these skew dice designed by a friend of mine, Henry Segerman:

I find it pretty uncomfortable to watch them in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OI5njPo7zC0

Despite appearances, they are fair dice in the usual sense.

Anyone have other ideas for making the invaders look "strange and unworldly"?

(Just brainstorming for fun here, I'm sure Greater than Games has plenty of ideas on their own.)


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I thought the wavy buildings just looked like poorly modeled buildings, not something done on purpose.  I like the idea of skewing the perspective of the buildings so they looked top-heavy (as if you were looking down on them in an isometric-view video game) but also ominous or predatory.  Something like that would read, to me, as a purposeful style choice.


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Agreed, I prefer skewed buildings to wavy ones.


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dpt
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What about the explorers? The samples shown looked cartoony, but not particularly strange or unworldly.

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Those looked stylized to me (and kind of Picasso Don Quixote-esque), so I'm good with the sample shown.  I'm sure there are other styles which would be good as well, though.


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I don't really like the explorers, they look really spindly and fragile (I'm sure they aren't fragile, but they look it) and I don't think they match with the buildings.


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Silverleaf wrote:

I don't really like the explorers, they look really spindly and fragile (I'm sure they aren't fragile, but they look it) and I don't think they match with the buildings.

I was going to say the same. They look like they'll crumble and the style is much more curvy and smooth than the buildings. I like the idea of the settlements and cities (and explorers, if that creates a stylistic link) skewing top-heavy, but that might adversely affect their stability.

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grysqrl wrote:
Silverleaf wrote:
I don't really like the explorers, they look really spindly and fragile (I'm sure they aren't fragile, but they look it) and I don't think they match with the buildings.

I was going to say the same. They look like they'll crumble and the style is much more curvy and smooth than the buildings. I like the idea of the settlements and cities (and explorers, if that creates a stylistic link) skewing top-heavy, but that might adversely affect their stability.

I guess the explorer sculpt needs to reflect how the Dahan see the invaders, if that's the desired style. So exactly what do the Dahan look like if they see the (presumably Caucasian) settlers as spindly skinny figures with proportional massive chests?

Two other things are bothering me about the sculpt, which I've only just been able to put my finger on.

1) This is essentially a Eurogame (sure, a very thematic Eurogame with war game elements, but it's a Euro at heart). These explorers look a little too much like Ameritrash minis which kind of jars a bit. It's hard for minis to look good in a game like this.

2) The minis are incredibly masculine-looking. I know, historically explorers have mostly been men, but Spirit Island is alt-history. If we can have nature spirits, we can have female explorers - no need to perpetuate the imbalance that's already heavily present in board games in general. Two different sculpts is probably excessive, so I propose a gender-neutral sculpt.


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No thoughts on gender-neutral explorer sculpts?


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I'm all for it. I'm actually fine with them being pretty abstract - I'm using screws right now.

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Yeah, I'm totally for it. Perpetuation of gender inequality aside, all the Dahan are seeing is scary foreign invaders; they don't give two hoots about their gender.


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All I see are invaders that will become victims.

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I haven't actually decided what I think about the explorers: abstract or not? How gendered? I can see a variety of things possibly working.

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P.S. In terms of gender representation, I'm pretty stoked that Thunderspeaker has a female avatar. It's by far the most human of the Spirits so far.

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I think the explorers, cities, and towns should have a scary edge to them.   The Dahan don't know what they are and only seem to attack as a last resort when they've been cornered.   


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Silverleaf wrote:

No thoughts on gender-neutral explorer sculpts?

IMO, I think the invaders should be vaguely threatening, which tends to mean masculine (strong upper boddies, jutting jaws, large proportions), so I think worrying about gender neutrality here would be a little off the point.


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Spiff wrote:
Silverleaf wrote:
No thoughts on gender-neutral explorer sculpts?

IMO, I think the invaders should be vaguely threatening, which tends to mean masculine (strong upper boddies, jutting jaws, large proportions), so I think worrying about gender neutrality here would be a little off the point.

See, that's the kind of stereotyping that bothers me. Something can't be threatening unless it's masculine? :(


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Powerhound_2000 wrote:

I think the explorers, cities, and towns should have a scary edge to them.   The Dahan don't know what they are and only seem to attack as a last resort when they've been cornered.   

A large part of this is because among themselves, the Dahan practice a much more ritualized version of warfare, and the Invaders' notions of group conflict are something they have basically no practical experience with. Some Dahan are in flat-out denial - no humans would actually wipe out an entire village over something as small as who gets to farm where, surely that's an exaggeration - while others are trying to figure out how to shift and deal with it, but don't have much guidance other than old stories and the spirits.

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Silverleaf wrote:

See, that's the kind of stereotyping that bothers me. Something can't be threatening unless it's masculine? :(

+1

In this case, I feel like ideally it's the flag that should parse as really threatening; after all, the Explorers aren't great at beating people up, it's what they represent - who's coming on their heels - that's threatening. But I can't offhand think of any good ways to do that. (Skull-and-crossbones is totally wrong.)

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Silverleaf wrote:

See, that's the kind of stereotyping that bothers me. Something can't be threatening unless it's masculine? :(

I think that if you want to quickly and cleanly portray "threatening", then masculine stereotypes are the way to go.  Why'd they go with little huts to represent the natives?  Isn't that a pretty stereotypical way to portay a native population?  Of course it is.  The huts are a shortcut to making the user quickly understand what they're supposed to represent precisely *because* they're stereotypical, and I think the same applies for the invader tokens.  If you try to solve too many problems at once with the design, it'll just get muddy.


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What about a horseman? It's probably easy to make a threatening rider without referring to gendered stereotypes, and horses can represent all the new things the invaders are bringing. The invaders are just funny colored people. Horses are creepy deer things that they've never seen before.

As far as threatening flags go, I would go with an all black or all blood red flag with a tattered edge.


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I think it's interesting that we now live in a time where game develepors need to be concerned with gender stereotypes. I'm not saying they should or shouldn't be concerned, just that I'm sure the creaters of Life never worried about making the men blue and the women pink.

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Spiff wrote:
Silverleaf wrote:
See, that's the kind of stereotyping that bothers me. Something can't be threatening unless it's masculine? :(

I think that if you want to quickly and cleanly portray "threatening", then masculine stereotypes are the way to go.  Why'd they go with little huts to represent the natives?  Isn't that a pretty stereotypical way to portay a native population?  Of course it is.  The huts are a shortcut to making the user quickly understand what they're supposed to represent precisely *because* they're stereotypical, and I think the same applies for the invader tokens.  If you try to solve too many problems at once with the design, it'll just get muddy.

I totally disagree that masculine stereotypes are the way forward. It's lazy stereotyping. We can portray "threatening" without perpetuating the idea that only males are important.

And I don't think that male gamers can truly understand how it feels to be a woman gamer and be constantly surrounded by games were all the characters are male, or there are just a couple of token female options who are obviously just there as eye candy. The message is clear: games are for men. It's incredibly pervasive, but it's very hard to see the extent of the problem if you're not one if those under-represented minorities.

This is why I don't feel like I can express a strong opinion about Dahan abstracted as huts. I'm a white European from a country which once colonised more than half of the world, so it's not my place to tell anyone else how they should feel about the way the Dahan are represented. Neither is is appropriate for me to dismiss the opinions of any marginalised group that I'm not part of simply because I don't see a problem.


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Bunston wrote:

I think it's interesting that we now live in a time where game develepors need to be concerned with gender stereotypes. I'm not saying they should or shouldn't be concerned, just that I'm sure the creaters of Life never worried about making the men blue and the women pink.

Other colours exist. I myself am wearing green today.

I'd like to think we've moved beyond Life.

And I'd like to see everyone concerned about gender stereotypes, not just game developers. Such stereotypes are harmful and restricting and exclude people who don't fit in those tight little boxes.


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Spiff wrote:

Why'd they go with little huts to represent the natives?  Isn't that a pretty stereotypical way to portay a native population?

It absolutely is, yes. (And if anyone from a relevant culture calls me on it and expresses distaste / says they're offended, I will apologize to them.)

In this case, they're also are the best non-pricey representation[1] of the central-post/radial-roof construction that the Dahan use. A round hut implies one post, and thus probably an offshoot-family that isn't very large yet, but the Towns (which are the equivalent Invader pieces) seem like small single-family affairs, so they're comparable.

It also fits into the general visual paradigm of the game, which is "Invaders = straight lines/right angles; non-Invaders = curved lines/organic".

In cases like this, "recognizable" and "harmful stereotype" aren't always easy to tell apart; my research seemed to indicate that this style of construction was so common that it fell on the former side of the line rather than the latter, but I could be wrong. 

(Trivia: early prototypes all used minimeeples for the Dahan, as they were closer to Explorer-equivalent back then. But mini-meeples were weirdly expensive, so when Dahan stats shifted to full Town-equivalent I swapped components for both systems-representation and price.)

[1] = A custom sculpt could do a multi-post Dahan dwelling, but it'd have to be plastic, and it would probably have a stronger visual equivalence to City pieces, which is a false correlation.

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Is it correct that the Dahan will be custom wooden pieces? How will they different from the existing pieces in the photos?

EDIT: Specifically, in the description you gave of the construction, Eric, I gathered that the roof would be conical rather than rounded?

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Silverleaf wrote:

And I don't think that male gamers can truly understand how it feels to be a woman gamer and be constantly surrounded by games were all the characters are male, or there are just a couple of token female options who are obviously just there as eye candy.

This is essentially my mantra when dealing with things like this. I can totally see why masculine invaders would be cool from a historical-accuracy point of view, but I don't think anyone's going to be seriously disappointed if they go with a more gender-neutral sculpt; I certainly won't be. On the other hand, the effect on many, many female gamers if yet another game comes out dominated by male figures? That matters a whole bunch, in ways I cannot fully comprehend because, as a straight white cis male, I have no frame of reference for this. 


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I like what games like Dead of Winter have done, lately: half-and-half. For Dead of Winter, half the zombie standies are female and half are male. I'm sure it's a little more work, as have to have to define two items instead of one, but I personally think it is worth it. So long as the two are close enough in style/appearance, it will be clear they are both explorers.

No, it's not historically accurate, but neither are islands with spirits. wink


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If Spirit Island existed on it's own, I would have no problem with masculine explorers. They aren't player characters so providing player cove isn't vital, and they have a historical basis to justify their masculinity.

But Spirit Island does not exist in a vacuum. It also has to fight against every other game which perpetuates male dominated casting. So every opportunity should be taken to balance the sexes as a way of making a statement.


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dpt wrote:

Is it correct that the Dahan will be custom wooden pieces? How will they different from the existing pieces in the photos?EDIT: Specifically, in the description you gave of the construction, Eric, I gathered that the roof would be conical rather than rounded?

AFAIK, what you see on the KS page is (more-or-less) what it's going to be.

My impression is that yes, roofs of that style are much closer to conical than rounded. But I suspect having pointy roofs would make them less visually distinct from the angular Invaders - and custom wood bits tend to be pricey.

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I just realized that I haven't thrown my support behind the 'skew dice' version of the invader cities and settlements yet.  I like the 'straight lines' vs 'curved and rounded' dichotomy which I think the wavy versions weakens slightly.


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I just wanted to take a minute to say thanks for the support on this. It means a lot, and it's helping me to resist my urge to punch certain KS commenters who either don't get it, or don't care, or both.

I know, it sounds like something that's not a big deal. And in isolation, it isn't - if I bought one game where all the humanoid figures turned out to be male, I'd just be a bit disappointed and move on. But it's game after game after game after game. It's so pervasive that when a game does have positive female representation it's commented on and made a big deal of because of how novel that is. And don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly happy to play a male character, but I resent having to play one because it's the only choice there is.

And I honestly don't know how to communicate that to straight white cis men who don't understand why it's important for people who aren't all of those things to have representation and complain when characters/art/etc aren't straight and white and cis and male just like them. (Because having a character who is like you is only important if you already have a bucketload of characters out there who are like you, apparently.)

[I typed a lot of stuff about my own privilege and deleted it. The tl;dnr is that I know many people have it worse than me, but this is still important.]


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Arcanist Lupus wrote:

I just realized that I haven't thrown my support behind the 'skew dice' version of the invader cities and settlements yet.  I like the 'straight lines' vs 'curved and rounded' dichotomy which I think the wavy versions weakens slightly.

I think you're right about the wavy lines. I'm not 100% sold on the skewed idea but straight lines vs curves is much stronger than wavy vs curves.

I don't know enough about how the Dahan huts are constructed to know how perfect the circles/curves are, but I could easily imagine that it would be the unnaturally straight lines and right-angled corners of invader buildings that would seem so strange and unfamiliar to them.


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I have a lot of trouble knowing what to say to people being so willfully obtuse. It's hard for me to restrain from punching as well. But I also totally support you. I look forward to the cool ideas that >G comes up with.

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I'm also not a huge fan of the wavy look.

 

As a side note to others using the PnP version, Monopoly houses and hotels work amazingly for towns and cities respectively.

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I tend to prefer something simple and iconic for pieces like this. The material and color are already going to do a lot to emphasize the otherness of the invaders. I worry that by adding too much detail to the towns and settlements the e.g. waviness of the pieces will dominate the appearance and make it more difficult to distinguish from each other.

I like the idea of using flags for the explorers.

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Another here in agreement over the wavy line debate. Having chunky, square, imposing pieces for the invaders makes more thematic sense, especially if they are larger than the Dahan huts so they really look like they are thoughtlessly unsympathetic to the environment. You almost want the invader pieces to crowd out the terrain when they are put down.

I don't mind so much what the explorer pieces will be as I think the gender neutrality of the card art will be more important than the sculpts, but I'm glad they are changing as I wasn't keen on the original design. I think a flag would make best sense as it de-humanises the invaders even more and makes sense as the thing that would be most noticeable to the Dahan - first come the flags, trying to claim the land, followed then by the invaders en masse with their towers of stone.

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Yeah, I am very much on board with the idea of flags for explorers - that's the thing the Dahan and the spirits are worried about, so why not put that front and centre?

(Silverleaf: My favourite bit from KS is the bit where you were apparently 'playing the damsel in distress'. That was... quite some logical leap.)


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BlueHairedMeerkat wrote:
(Silverleaf: My favourite bit from KS is the bit where you were apparently 'playing the damsel in distress'. That was... quite some logical leap.)
Wow, that was something. I also liked the man who was quite sure he knew what all the "girls" in his group thought.

 

On the wavy vs skew discussion, I'd actually like to weigh in a little on the side of "wavy". The amount of waviness in those initial designs they showed off would, I think, seem quite mild at the scale of the actual pieces, and I don't think it would seem too weird. (But I still like a moderate amount of skew instead.)

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Silverleaf wrote:

I just wanted to take a minute to say thanks for the support on this. It means a lot, and it's helping me to resist my urge to punch certain KS commenters who either don't get it, or don't care, or both.I know, it sounds like something that's not a big deal. And in isolation, it isn't - if I bought one game where all the humanoid figures turned out to be male, I'd just be a bit disappointed and move on. But it's game after game after game after game. It's so pervasive that when a game does have positive female representation it's commented on and made a big deal of because of how novel that is. And don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly happy to play a male character, but I resent having to play one because it's the only choice there is.And I honestly don't know how to communicate that to straight white cis men who don't understand why it's important for people who aren't all of those things to have representation and complain when characters/art/etc aren't straight and white and cis and male just like them. (Because having a character who is like you is only important if you already have a bucketload of characters out there who are like you, apparently.)[I typed a lot of stuff about my own privilege and deleted it. The tl;dnr is that I know many people have it worse than me, but this is still important.]

 

silverleaf, I have been staring at the image of the figures for the invaders and having trouble seeing why people are thinking they look like men, which is why I think some people are having trouble seeing your point of view. To my eyes, they just look like oddly shaped stick figures.

 


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Broad shoulders, bit of a barrel chest, hips narrower than the main body. There is definitely a maleness skew to the current design.

My concern is them looking spindly and fragile. My games tend to have to endure quite a few knocks. A flag rather than the current explorer would be a very neutral way and remove most of the fragile areas.


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pwatson1974 wrote:

Broad shoulders, bit of a barrel chest, hips narrower than the main body. There is definitely a maleness skew to the current design.My concern is them looking spindly and fragile. My games tend to have to endure quite a few knocks. A flag rather than the current explorer would be a very neutral way and remove most of the fragile areas.

will agree they look fragile. They look like you can snap them in two easily. But honestly don't see it. Just see some messed up stick figure.


My wife thinks Sentinels is ruining our marriage. I think she doesnt know what shes talking about because she wont sit down to play it

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morph147 wrote:
But honestly don't see it. Just see some messed up stick figure.
Hmm, it's obvious to me. It's also playing off the male super-heroic characters, with heavily exaggerated upper bodies (compared to the legs). Compare to Legacy's pose: http://sentinelsofthemultiverse.com/multiverse/heroes/legacy

Obviously Legacy has vastly more detail, since he is a protagonist rather than a generic explorer. But the overall body shapes are similar, though Legacy's legs aren't as spindly.

Women in comics are not drawn that way: their boobs are exagerated, yes, but their hips are not typically drawn as narrow as that, nor are their legs drawn so spindly compared to the upper body.

But it also sounds like that figure just didn't work as a representation for you at all, which would of course be a problem in itself.

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Instead of a flag, what about a compass? It's the same principle- mapping out an area and defining it- but you don't have to worry about what goes on the flag, or its fragility as a game piece. 

Similarly, you could also go with a covered wagon. 

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I'd rather have little dudes than flags, but to paraphrase someone on the kickstarter, as long as the tokens\figures are durable and are immediately recognizable as explorers, I don't care too much. I think it makes perfect sense that European explorers would be men, but if that bothers enough people I would of course have no trouble changing them to something more gender neutral.

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I like the flag idea, because it means that the explorers are stealing land using the cunning use of flags.

I still like my horse rider idea as a way of making non-gendered threatening figures, though.

Fragility is a danger, but considering how non-fragile I've seen the LotR Risk pieces to be, I think that good design and good plastic can overcome any dangers.

dpt wrote:
morph147 wrote:
But honestly don't see it. Just see some messed up stick figure.

 

Hmm, it's obvious to me. It's also playing off the male super-heroic characters, with heavily exaggerated upper bodies (compared to the legs). Compare to Legacy's pose: http://sentinelsofthemultiverse.com/multiverse/heroes/legacyObviously Legacy has vastly more detail, since he is a protagonist rather than a generic explorer. But the overall body shapes are similar, though Legacy's legs aren't as spindly.Women in comics are not drawn that way: their boobs are exagerated, yes, but their hips are not typically drawn as narrow as that, nor are their legs drawn so spindly compared to the upper body.But it also sounds like that figure just didn't work as a representation for you at all, which would of course be a problem in itself.

To add to this, which Incredibles character is the explorer figure most like?

 

And the fact that not everyone can recognize the upside-down triangle shape as a hypermasculine caricature only serves to emphasize our point about male-dominated media being seen as normal.


"Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?"

- Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

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Arcanist Lupus wrote:

I like the flag idea, because it means that the explorers are stealing land using the cunning use of flags.

I was going to make this joke, but I was worried no one would get it. Clearly I have underestimated you all.

 

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No flag, no country. Those are the rules that I just made up, and I'm backing it up with this gun I took from my grandfather's armory.


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I want to join this conversation without adding anything constructive but still mildly relevant. So I'll leave this here.

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"But historical accuracy!" is an argument I've heard before (not that I'm saying anyone here is making it, but I thought I'd talk about it anyway) and I refute it on two basic points.

1) There have been women explorers in real life, just like there were women pirates, women scientists, and women fighting in wars. While I'm sure it's correct that most of the people who actually "discovered" land were male, painting all explorer pieces as male effectively erases those women who did that job.

2) This isn't a historical simulation. It's a fantasy world where nature spirits wield awesome magical powers. Creating a world where magic and spirits exist and deliberately choosing to make all of your fictional explorers male would be really rather sexist, and I'd call that out too.


Just assume I'm always doing that.

Damn it, Ronway!

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@Silverleaf

Having the evil invaders and main antagonists of the game be explicitly sensitive to gender equality amongst their exploration parties seems downright strange to me. Why must I be forced to sympathise with this group I am trying to battle against? Why can't we just say "hey, these guys..ermm...I mean, these people, are discriminatory against women and trying to take over our land. BLAST THEM WITH FIRE". To me that sounds both satisfying and rewarding in the same way that shooting/killing nazis in Wolfienstien is satisfying. 

Generally I share your sentiments but I am trying to play Devils Advocate here a little. My honest opinion is that, given the context of the game, I do not see a significant need to include 2 different gender-based invader sculpts/pieces outside of just doing it for the sheer sake of doing it. Edit: For the record, if there was a single gender-neutral piece, I see nothing wrong with that as a way to please both sides without adding extra production cost to the game.

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