Games Against Oppression

Wednesday, May 29, 2024 at 10:00am to 6:00pm

Building E15, Outside E15-320
20 AMES ST, Cambridge, MA 02142

MIT Game Lab, with support from MIT MindHandHeart, hosts "Games Against Oppression" a series of game playing sessions for MIT Faculty and Staff focusing on board, card, and role-playing games that center the fight against oppression by designers representing historically oppressed groups including women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

We invite MIT Faculty and Staff across the Institute to play with us and our invited designers!

No prior experience with these or other board games is assumed or required. In this unique experience, the designer has been shipped with the box to teach our participants how to play in an engaging way.

We will also have drop-in sessions for participants to play related games within our game library, with teaching support by MIT Game Lab staff and students.

We have limited spots available for lunch panel discussions each day, to informally discuss the games and topics at hand.

Our Designers and their Games:

Tory Brown

Tory Brown is the designer of Votes for Women, an award-winning card-driven board game about the American Woman Suffrage Movement and the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Inspired by the 70 year effort to build one of the most effective political movements in American history, in her day job Tory is an experienced activist working on campaigns across the progressive movement for the last 20 years. She hopes anyone who plays Votes for Women will be inspired to become part of a cause that is greater than themselves and dedicated to the rights and dignity of all people. 

Votes for Women box art

Votes for Women captures and celebrates the democratic struggle by inviting players to join the suffrage movement, organize support, and campaign for victory across the 48 states that were called to ratify the 19th Amendment in 1919-1920. The card-driven game can be played cooperatively, competitively, or in solitaire mode, and in each version players must navigate the historic events, movement schisms, and political challenges of the era to win. 

The deck of over 100 stunning cards feature period art, portraiture, and historic documents and include event instructions that can either be played or discarded to campaign or organize their side of the issue. Campaigners move across the map to build political power with a roll of the included dice that will determine whether each state votes to ratify the amendment or opposes the Vote after three eras of play. Dig deeper into the history and maneuver through the critical choices that suffragists faced for a chance to guarantee equal franchise for all and win Votes For Women!

Cole Wehrle

Cole Wehrle is an ex-academic who decided to abandon the lucrative field of Victorian studies in favor of game publishing. He works as the creative director at Leder Games in Saint Paul and is best known for the award-winning game Root, which uses a children's book aesthetic to explore the politics of police states and insurgency. Root and its expansions have sold hundreds of thousands of copies and have been translated into nearly twenty languages. He is also the cofounder of Wehrlegig Games with his brother Drew Wehrle, which handles the publication of his historical games which cover subjects related to his academic work including state formation in 19th century Afghanistan (Pax Pamir), the rise and collapse of the British East India Company (John Company), and queer communities in the early 18th century (Molly House, designed with Jo Kelly).

John Company box art

In John Company, 2nd Edition, players assume the roles of ambitious families attempting to use the British East India Company for personal gain. The game begins in the early eighteenth-century, when the Company has a weak foothold on the subcontinent. Over the course of the game, the Company might grow into the most powerful and insidious corporation in the world or collapse under the weight of its own ambition. Unlike most economic games players often do not control their own firms and will collectively guide the Company in ways that benefit their own interests. However, the Company is an unwieldy thing. It is difficult to do anything alone, and players will often need to negotiate with one another as they work to secure their power abroad and their place in fashionable society at home. 

In Molly House, players take the roles of the gender-defying mollies of early eighteenth century London. Throw grand masquerades and cruise back alleys while evading moralistic constables who seek to destroy your community. Be careful, there may even be informers in your midst! Over the course of a couple hours, players will draft hands of vice cards representing the different gestures, desires, and encounters that were frowned upon by the Society for the Reformation of Manners, a citizen group that sought to stamp out any behavior it deemed deviant in late 17th and early 18th century London. These cards allow players to host festivities with the help of their fellow mollies and create joy. But, those same cards can also lead players to be arrested and to the ultimate ruin of the molly house. As players encounter the Society’s enforcers, they will often have to pay bribes or may be coerced into becoming informers for the Society. Informers must try desperately to undermine the community around Mother Clap’s Molly House without being discovered by their fellow mollies.

Non-Breaking Space

Non-Breaking Space builds game models with an emphasis on actor agency. The games put players into positions where the decision space closely resembles that of the actors represented. This allows them to place the impacts of their choices into a context relative to the topic being modeled.  Their games provide players with the opportunity to understand the underlying dynamics at play in complex historic and contemporary situations, at a fidelity that compliments modern scholarship.

Cross Bronx Expressway temp box art

Cross-Bronx Expressway from GMT Games looks at the history of the South Bronx New York during the second half of the twentieth century to investigate the impact the first roadway project to cut through an urban center had on life in the area. Three factions - Public, Private and Community - attempt to navigate the area through the most tumultuous period, hoping to avoid bankruptcy and prevent the disenfranchisement of the population.

Everfair, based on the book of the same name by Nisi Shawl, is an alternate steampunk history of Leopold's Congo Free State. It posits the possibility of an international group working with the indigenous peoples of the Cong. They must work together to first resist Leopold and colonial rule, with the hope of building a free and independent African nation before the Great War. Everfair is a cooperative game for four players.

Worker Placement: Under the Table is the first volume of the Worker Placement series which looks at the life of individual workers. Players in Under the Table lack the appropriate documents for legal work, but still must survive their everyday challenges and achieve their individual goals. If they can save enough they may be able to get the documents they need to get a job legally. Worker Placement: Under the Table is a solo game with multiplayer modes.


Popcicleta is a game design collective that makes culturally engaging games about issues affecting Puerto Rico to be played by families, activists, and the broader public. In the Summer of 2018, Mikael Jakobsson, Rik Eberhardt and Aziria Rodrigez led an ideation and concept development workshop at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan, Puerto Rico and a design workshop at MIT. At these events, Puerto Ricans, game designers, students, and others interested in counter-colonial game design shared their ideas and experiences, and created game concepts. After the workshops, Mikael and Rik continued developing and playtesting one of the concepts and in 2020, Graphic Novel artist Rosa Colón joined the team to work on illustrations and graphic design for the game Promesa. 

Promesa  is a cooperative board game for all ages about the debt crisis in Puerto Rico. One to six players take on the role of the local government in Puerto Rico with the task of getting rid of the debt before the archipelago succumbs to natural catastrophes. Players make strategic and tactical choices about investments in infrastructure, education, and social services while trying to keep the debt from spiraling out of control.


Sign-ups are required to guarantee a spot at the table when playing with designers, but drop-ins will have opportunity to see the games in action or play games from our library!

Tuesday, May 28

12-1pm Lunch (limited to 20)

1-3:30pm Session 1
  Votes for Women
  John Company
  Cross-Bronx Expressway

3:30-6pm Session 2
  Votes for Women
  Molly House

Wednesday, May 29

10am-12:00pm Session 3
  Votes for Women
  John Company
  Cross-Bronx Expressway

12:00pm-1:00pm Lunch (limited to 20)

1:00-3:30pm Session 4
  Votes for Women
  Molly House

3:45-6:00pm Session 5
  Votes for Women
  Molly House
  Worker Placement


Event Type

Community Event

Events By Interest

Arts/Music/Film, General

Events By Audience

Faculty, Staff

Events By School

School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS)


Games, entertainment, board games, oppression, serious games, mind hand heart




MIT Game Lab


Add to my calendar

Recent Activity

You're not going yet!

This event requires registration.