Former Conan Rep Calls Out Hit Board Game's Depiction Of Women

A woman who helped market a wildly popular upcoming Conan board game, which raised over $US3 million ($4 million) on Kickstarter in 2015, is speaking out against its portrayal of women.

In a November 12 essay titled "Grab 'Em By The Board Game", Cynthia Hornbeck, who marketed the game for Asmodee, the company that is distributing the game, says women in Conan are treated as "objects". The game was made by Monolith Edition. Conan's art and gameplay, in her view, reflect toxic stereotypes about damsels in distress and sexualised, submissive female characters in the fantasy genre.

Hornbeck told me the game appeals "to obviously a male demographic that wanted to feel empowered by objectifying women".

In an email, a Monolith representative told me that the game is just derivative of "US pop culture". Its tropes about women, he said, come from "the "sword & sorcery" style" Robert E. Howard's books ("as true as possible from the books"), and John Buscema's Conan comics. Hornbeck's beef is that those tropes shouldn't be glorified in a modern blockbuster board game.

Conan is one of Kickstarter's most successful gaming campaigns, with over 16,000 backers, and has been delayed twice. Pledge rewards are just now being shipped out after developers surpassed the expected October 2015 delivery date by over a year. It's an asymmetrical strategy game for two to five players, targeting consumers who are over 14 years old. It sells for $US120 ($163).

Named for the eponymous novel series, Conan is rooted in writer Robert E. Howard's pulp fiction sword-and-sorcery world. And along with its 1932 publishing date comes 1932 ideas about women. Pliant servant girls dot his fantasy landscapes. Conan is a grizzly, muscled warrior who famously conquers what he pursues, be it an enemy, a hot young lady or a hot young enemy lady. In "The Frost Giant's Daughter", Conan pursues a near-naked woman — an enemy — who runs from him, screaming for help. He grabs her and attempts to kiss her before she calls on her father, the Frost Giant, to attack Conan. Howard writes, "With a scream and a desperate wrench she slipped from his arms, leaving her single gossamer garment in his grasp." The final twist is that she's a "lure", meant to draw in men whom her father and brothers would slay.

Howard has difficulty introducing female characters without referencing their breasts, often "ivory", within the first sentence or two. An introduction of the character Belit begins, for example, like this:

Belit turned toward Conan, her bosom heaving, her eyes flashing. Fierce fingers of wonder caught at his heart. She was slender, yet formed like a goddess: at once lithe and voluptuous. Her only garment was a broad silken girdle. Her white ivory limbs and the ivory globes of her breasts drove a beat of fierce passion through the Cimmerian's pulse, even in the panting fury of battle.

This is the kind of thing you might expect from a Conan book in 1932, but it's not what Hornbeck believes needs to be in a 2016 Conan game. Take the presentation of Belit in the game. She is the queen of the Black Coast and Conan's lover. Also, she's the only playable female character in the board game. Of your heroes, three are male and one is Belit. Here's how she looks:

In the game, Hornbeck writes, Belit's "mechanical function is to make the men better". Conan's developers clarified that, in addition to her "Leadership" skill, which lets her give orders to her guards, she also has a "Support" skill that provides buffs to her party. In Hornbeck's view, that means her job is essentially to "follow Conan around and boost his abilities. Because that's what women are good for in this world: being fucked by men and making those men feel good." As the only female playable character, her focus on supporting men's role in combat, paired with her barely-there clothes, comes off very 1932 here in 2016.

When asked to comment on Belit's role in a Conan party, a Monolith representative told me that, while she's less powerful than Conan, she's as strong as the two other playable characters.

More urgent to Hornbeck is the cover of Conan's heroes' rulebook. Conan stands imposingly over what Hornbeck describes as a "prone damsel in jeweled panties". She appears to be passed out.

Conan Heroes' Rulebook

Hornbeck objected to the heroes' rulebook cover and said that others agreed with her. "Why is she naked?" she wrote. "Why is she on some sort of rock bed/altar and glowing, so that we the gamer focus on her physical beauty? To me, she looks like his prize, a reward for his violence with which he can do whatever he wishes - including grab her by the crotch and rape her before she's regained consciousness." She described the scene as "the scene of or before a rape. And you, my friend, are going to take on the role of the rapist."

The makers of the game disagree. A representative from Monolith forwarded a picture of its inspiration, a Frank Frazetta painting.They maintained that it depicts Conan as a good guy. "The bad guy is now missing from the cover but everyone knows that Conan is a hero and is here to save the women and not to attack the women." Asmodee declined to comment.

Frank Frazetta

Of the Heroes' Rulebook cover, Hornbeck says, "This cover actually represents a scene from one of the game's scenarios, in which Conan and his friends must rescue a princess who is about to be sacrificed by the Picts. In that scenario, the princess token/figure is treated exactly as if she were an object. She has no abilities. You can even toss her across the board."

Hornbeck argues that depictions of women like this are the result of an industry that advertises to a mostly straight, male audience. According to Hornbeck, over 81 per cent of Asmodee's social media following is male. For other board game companies she's familiar with, that percentage has never gotten below 90 per cent. She estimates that 95 per cent of the board game reviewers she's worked with have been male.

A recent Shut Up & Sit Down review draws attention to Conan's grab for straight men's sexual interest, noting that there are 1.25 boobs per Conan game scenario:

There have been several Conan board games in the past, with similar male/female power relations, marketed to similarly male demographics. I asked Monolith whether the game may alienate potential female customers, and they responded that the game's depiction of women "are parts from US pop culture". But Hornbeck says that it's time to start speaking out it. Just because the game's using Robert E. Howard's world and characters and is being marketed to men, she told me, doesn't mean that it needs to cater to a power fantasy:

"Part of this comes from a deep tradition in which board games are designed to let men live out these fantastic roles they can't live out in real life," Hornbeck told me. "Part of that is living in a male world in which women are objectified and/or secondary. This is a historic thing." She asks designers and buyers who agree with her to be more deliberate architects and consumers of their games.


    "This is the kind of thing you might expect from a Conan book in 1932"...

    ...this is why people backed it. This is what they wanted.

    Hornbeck should get a fucking clue.

      Would you be as blase about it if other common cultural mindsets from the 30s were also depicted?
      Such as the opinion that people with dark skin are lesser people than whites?
      Or that homosexuals are sexual deviants that should be expunged wherever possible?
      Or that Jews are an insidious scourge on Western civilization that seek its downfall?

      Or is it only the dubious depiction of women that gets a pass?
      Just because people want something doesn't mean they should automatically get it.

        Should we also erase slavery from all our historical/fantasy games as well?

          Erase it? No.
          But celebrate it? Hell no.

            Warhammer 40k would be in a bad place then. There's no way that that universes humanity doesn't 'celebrate' forced servitude via their front lines, including segregation for the sake of encouraging eugenics and religious fanaticism.

            But it's ok because everyone reading/playing it knows that it's ridiculous fiction.

              40k is satirical... which of course means there is a chunk of the fandom that miss the satire

                It's only satirical if you lack the imagination to immerse yourself in the game world, or if you are going to write a snarky commentary about it :-)

                Yeah. Like with everything. You'll have someone interpret something wrong, like you can with Conan here too. Conan got some nasty ideas in it and now it's terrible and not also a satire? Just like with 40k, can't people read Conan and also not turn into roided-up muscle men who cut down their opponents for their vile abuse of magic?

                I'm not arguing that this Conan game can't do better, or doesn't deserve criticism; I just prefer my criticism to be less reductive.

                  I'm not making the argument that Conan readers are roided idiots, or anything of the sort. My criticism is really that when they adapted the Conan stories in this instance, they deliberately chose to include and emphasise some elements and remove others, and I disagree with the choices they've made with respect to women.

                  I made this comment to someone on Twitter, but: I like a lot of Lovecraft. Dude was, even for his time, an EXCEPTIONAL anti-semite, misogynist, and racist, and these themes are all in his work. Does this mean that I think "lovecraft fans are anti-semite, misogynist, and racist?" (Elder) Gods no! That said, if someone adapted Lovecraft in 2016 and included all of those elements without a degree of recognition or acknowledgement, and without a point, I'd certainly question their choices as well. That's really the core of the issue here, because it seems like they've done half of the work- they've altered the racist depictions from the original (and yes, as you say downthread, one can quibble that you're just creating a new "other" for Conan to fight, but I'd argue there's a gulf of difference between "kill all the orcs that aren't tied to a real world culture" and "kill all the black/brown/chinese people that are only not chinese because we changed the name) but haven't addressed some of the sexist issues, which could have, with a modicum of thought, been easily addressed.

                Comment Tree ended, so I'm just replying to your last.

                I do agree that the newer more up to date Conan stuff could do with some edits and balancing of diversity; no question as having only one playable female character that is described as such is just plain limiting.

                But unlike the change of races, I don't know what is expected here? You can change someone's skin from black to green and say, "It's not racist but we still got someone to hate" then not too much has actually changed. However if the whole point of a naked woman is to show that, "goddamn she is a beautiful woman" and if you're a full-blooded male barbarian you better pay attention then what are replacing that with? The only thing I can think of is to dress them up, but if you dress all of them up then Conan himself looks pretty out of place.

                I do want variety and diversity in this, but I then also don't want to see that get criticised as 'good job but you still have problems'.

        Yeah I would, because I can appreciate that one can enjoy historical works without agreeing with or supporting the attitudes set out in those works. Just because I like Conan (including the way women are depicted) doesn't mean I believe women should be treated that way.

        Like if I enjoy rape fantasy that makes me a rapist just waiting to strike...

        Just because the PC police are shocked and outraged doesn't mean something should be banned :-)

          This isn't a historical work. It's a board game you can get in 2016. There is no 'historical context' here. The creators chose to use the parts of the work that contain the elements that people object to. It was a conscious decision. The original author might get a free pass, but the creators of the board game don't.

            Yeah, I get it, so if I'm doing some sort of coffee table book featuring The Luncheon on the Grass by Edouard Manet, I should just paint clothing onto the females, because otherwise it would be sexist, right? LOL

              No? What does a depiction of female nudity in 1863 have to do with a male power fantasy in the 1930s?

                But can't you see? The females are nude and the men are clothed! Manet was obviously painting to indulge the male power fantasy. Anyone who would dare publish a book based on such a sexist work should absolutely censor it, or perhaps just change one of the naked women into a man and one of the clothed men into a woman. It'd still be mostly Manet right?

              I guess you should. Also need to burn all studies/discussions of things we now know are bad if they were written after ~1980.

            If being able to criticise an artist for their choices is 'not giving them a free pass' (and lets not pretend the original authors never attracted criticism) then it's also up for grabs to criticise the criticisers. These artists aren't breaking any laws, these aren't KKK cartoons, it's a representation of fiction specifically for an audience that's interested.

          Except this isn't a historical work. It's a modern adaptation of a historical work.

          Shut Up and Sit Down address this in their review linked above. There was no problem changing the negative racial elements. The recent Conan comics also manage to stay true to the spirit of the original while improving the female characters.

          Quite simply, this is lazy and fair game for criticism.

            I still think the source material should be respected. Whether it's sexist or racist or whatever, there's no need to whitewash it if you are aware that the game is based on historical work. You don't have to incorporate those elements into the game mechanics though. That's where the creators of the game have some leeway to do their own thing.

            I'd be interested to know what negative racial elements were altered for the game, although I'm not really up for watching the SU&SD review in its entirety.

              The enemy "races" in the original work were pretty explicitly asians/africans/middle eastern, with the fair skinned conan as the last bulwark against those "savages."

              In this, the depiction of those alternate races is more fantastical, and less tied in to specific world races or cultures.

                So we're allowed to destroy the savages for their differences as long as they don't look like people?

                If we're using fictional characters as a metaphor for real life then the interpretation can go as deep as we want.

          Edit: Double post :/

          Last edited 22/11/16 12:40 pm

      this is why people backed it. This is what they wanted.

      Well that's fine then. If there's a market for it, it must be justified... Faultless argument right there.

        If you don't like it, don't buy it. Also another faultless argument.

          If you don't articulate why you're not buying something, how will companies know what markets they could better sell to?

            This illustrates a very important point. As a consumer, you're able to voice your opinion in the most effective way possible: with your wallet. But if you're not supporting a product, there's certainly something to be said for letting the seller know *why* you're not buying their product so that they can choose whether they wish to modify their product to target a different audience.

            Either way though, "the customer is always right". If people want to buy something, you sell it to them. If you try and tell customers what they want they'll skip your product entirely and it'll fail.

        Well unless we as a society make something illegal, then yes. Mere social disapproval, whether widespread or marginal, does not invalidate the right to enjoy something.

        All of the sexism of the 1930s with none of the crippling economic hardship! It's win-win!

          Logged in just to upvote, MOD comment of the week for sure.

      I, and probably most of the other people here, are UTTERLY UNSURPRISED that you are yet again weighing in on a troublesome depiction of women with your usual 'it's not a problem, and I should know because I voraciously consume media that sexualises underage girls but it's OK because in their backstory they are older than they look' attitude.

      Dude, seriously. You're like the ultimate 'I'm not a misogynist BUT...'

      Separate your hobbies from your social commentary a bit more maybe?

      And to directly address your 'point', no, people did not back the game because they wanted a 1930s-era experience. I hate to tell you, but other than barely-clothed women, most of the content in the game isn't particularly tied to that era at all. As has been pointed out to you repeatedly, they had no issues with changing things left right and centre but leaving that in play.

      People backed it because it is a big shiny dungeon board game at a time when these things are extremely popular, not because they felt that 2016 needed an injection of 1930s prejudice. Although there ARE people like you who like that kind of thing, I think you will find you are vastly outnumbered by people who want to play a boardgame with lots of plastic figures.

      You can have that clue for free.

      And why yes, I have read all the Conan material, thank you for asking. That's how I know it's a work of fiction, and therefore open to contextual interpretation, rather than a depiction of historical fact.

      Last edited 22/11/16 1:07 pm

        I've noticed that a pattern in your posts where you're arguing is that you seem to appoint yourself as some sort of spokesperson for the community as a whole in order to depict some sort of false authority and presumably try to give your arguments more weight.

        "I, and probably most of the other people here... "
        "people did not back the game because..."
        "People backed it because..."

        I'm not saying I agree or disagree with the position you're putting forward, but I'd love to know where you're getting this data from. Did I miss filling out a survey you'd sent out? Or are you just self-appointing yourself as "voice of the people"?

        You also invariably resort to ad hominem attacks as a primary opening argument. Unfortunately, this makes you come across as a Tumblrina and weakens any other arguments you put forth.

        I really admire the passion you hold and you seem determined to "right" what you perceive as "wrongs", there's no doubt about that. I don't necessarily agree with all/most/half/some/any of what you say, but I do think there's room for improvement in your technique that may result in actually winning other people over to your point of view rather than you simply berating them until they stop replying and you declare it a victory.

          Uh oh dude. That sounds a lot like "tone policing" to me. You're a misogynist. Don't mansplain. Patriarchy.

          For real though, my biggest frustration with the online feminist / social justice movement isn't what they believe in, it's how often I see them shoot themselves in the foot with weak arguments and personal attacks. Many times I have seen someone who tries to highlight the downsides of attacking everyone around you non-stop and making the exact generalisations they claim to be fighting against, only to be attacked viciously and dismissed.

          Nobody will ever agree with a childish tantrum filled with sarcastic and defensive rhetoric. The issue can have deep emotional importance for you, but your persuasive argument can't be be a slave to that same emotion if you hope to preach to anyone outside of the choir.

          For many people online, it seems that an ally isn't someone who gives them what they need, only someone who gives them what they want.

          Last edited 22/11/16 6:59 pm

            Whoa there, that kind of logic might get you labelled a MRA neckbeard gamergater weeb!
            Your argument is dismissed forever!

          I've noticed a pattern in your posts, that when someone calls you out for your nonsense you creep around and then make passive aggressive judgmental posts on their other comments a few days later.

          I've also noticed you continually project onto others and make commentary that while not actually falling into the category of 'MRA creeper', certainly gets a lot of upvotes from those guys.

          All in all, your posting style indicates someone who is holding onto a lot of anger but lacks the emotional capacity to display it openly and therefore hides behind an extremely thin veneer of trying to appear to be 'reasonable'. Of course, like everyone else, you are simply offering up your own subjective judgment but the difference is you want to judge others without being seen as directly judgmental. You try and point out the alleged self righteousness of others while pretending to yourself you're not doing the same thing.

          I do think there's room for improvement in your technique that may result in actually not having all your posts upvoted by horrid MRA cucklords, and instead seeing you deal directly with issues at hand rather than hold onto things that made you feel insecure about yourself.

          Last edited 23/11/16 5:29 pm

            Sorry to burst your bubble, but the reason it took me days to reply to posts is because the mail system on this new site would tell me I had a reply to a comment, then would send me to another random comment on the site. It's been fixed now, but for a while it didn't work and I couldn't be bothered trying to find out which comments I'd received replies to.

            while not actually falling into the category of 'MRA creeper', certainly gets a lot of upvotes from those guys.

            I do think there's room for improvement in your technique that may result in actually not having all your posts upvoted by horrid MRA cucklords,

            Where are you getting these statistics from? How do you know the beliefs of each person who hit the "upvote" button? Or are you just slinging the label "MRA" at anyone who doesn't specifically subscribe to your beliefs?

            Just quickly though, you may wanna ease up on calling everyone you dislike a "cucklord", "cuck" or any variants on this. In fact, maybe just stop with the ad hominem attacks all together. It makes you come across as an angsty 19 year old.

              You're doing it again, champ.

              Two things to help you:

              - These aren't 'statistics'. There's a small group of horrible MRA/Gamergaters on Kotaku and you know as well as I do who they are. If you're still wondering, click on the people upvoting you and read through their comments to find them. But we both know you don't need to do that ;)

              - Sorry to burst your bubble and invalidate your sanctimonious post, but the term 'cucklord' is a satirical take on the term 'cuck' used by MRAs. Since you seem to enjoy patronising conversation, may I suggest you Google the term 'satire' so you understand what I mean.

                Sorry buddy, but "cucklord" seems to be the rallying cry of r/The_Donald supporters. Using it doesn't make you sound any less like an angsty 19 year old. Telling you that ad hominem attacks weaken your argument isn't being sanctimonious, it's fact that's been repeated by others in this thread and many other threads here.

                This conversation is stale though. I'm done with it. I can't be bothered coming back to this to see you name calling and brushing off any alternate opinion someone else has with "they're an MRA, their argument is invalid". I fully understand what satire is, but you need to understand that satire is carefully crafted, it's not yelling the same insult over and over again and expecting people to believe you're "using it ironically". In essence, you're just this guy

                Have fun on this site, mate. I can't wait to see you screaming obscenities from your high horse at anyone who doesn't prescribe to your narrow beliefs whenever you feel like someone hasn't truly respected your safe space.

        Separate your hobbies from your social commentary a bit more maybe?

        Eh? This discussion exists because the entire value of the criticism presented in the articles is based around connecting these two things!

        Most people backed it because it was Conan. If you think otherwise you are mistaken.

        Big shiny board games are a dime a dozen.

        Take away the Conan art and lore and it's basically Hero Quest with some rule changes.

          'Take away the Conan art and lore and it's basically Hero Quest with some rule changes.'


        I mean this in the most neutral possible way, but the ad hominem you opened with only served to feed your sense of self righteousness, it didn't actually accomplish anything. Attacking people doesn't change their minds or open them to the possibility they're wrong, it's the conversational equivalent of a thug punching someone in the face because they disagree with them.

        The second half of your post was quite well-considered and I agree with you on a lot of it. You'd be more persuasive/influential if you had just stuck with that and not the rest.

        If your reply was only intended to yell at people for being on your lawn then don't mind me and by all means continue :)

        Last edited 23/11/16 6:20 pm

          It's not an ad hominem as much as a statement of fact. He's present in pretty much any article to do with gender issues (And any article to do with sexualisation in Japanese cartoons/games), with the same predictable commentary over and over.

          And the fact he does this means I don't care about changing his mind - because someone that deep in will not reconsider his position.

          In terms of persuading and influencing people, I'm not big on having to phrase things so as not to upset the sensibilities of people who should know better.

          You may have noticed a massive rise in fun things like white nationalism, misogyny, xenophobia and assorted nasties in recent years. That's simply because we stopped slamming people down when they opened their mouths to say awful stuff and instead were told that 'you need to show all sides and discuss equally', a conservative-led drive that has been ironically picked up by plenty of progressives.

          No, you don't.

          There isn't a human being born who can communicate objectively. All communication is about imposition of will. That is precisely what it was created for.

          And there are no moral absolutes. Every moral stance returns to window dressing for what are always forms of social or internal psychological organisation.

          So it comes down to you, and me, and everyone else, trying to make the world they way THEY want it to be.

          I just prefer a world with considerably fewer misogynists, and I am happy to yell at them - because being nice to them certainly won't change their mind and it amuses me more than constructing meaningless pap just to placate their childhood parental issues. They need to pay a shrink for that.

            I'll just prefix this by saying I believe we're on the same side here.

            You may have noticed a massive rise in fun things like white nationalism, misogyny, xenophobia and assorted nasties in recent years. That's simply because we stopped slamming people down when they opened their mouths to say awful stuff and instead were told that 'you need to show all sides and discuss equally', a conservative-led drive that has been ironically picked up by plenty of progressives.

            In my opinion it's the opposite. I spoke with a lot of Trump supporters (some of whom were disgustingly racist) while I was researching the election a few months back and the general sentiment I heard was that they felt modern social movements were too invasive, too aggressive and that's why they voted the way they did. There's actually some deeply saddening stories coming out of universities in the US and Canada where radical social activists are attacking people, spitting on them and damaging their property not because they disagree with the activists, but simply because they want to hear what the other side has to say.

            I don't like Trump at all for the record, and I have no room in my life for sexists and racists, but there's logic to the reasoning I mentioned above. People who feel like they're under attack will entrench, and eventually they'll retaliate. The woman who picket-protested a mosque over in the US a while back was a great example - she was angry and fearful of what Muslims represented and was demanding the mosque be shut down, but when the Muslim women from the mosque invited her inside for coffee and a conversation she reluctantly accepted, then emerged later with a completely different perspective. If the Muslims had screamed at her for being a racist or bigot (even if that's what she was) she would have just dug in and believed her feelings were justified. I've drawn this comparison before in other threads in the past too, that Martin Luther King Jr accomplished more for black rights in the US with open arms and a philosophy of inclusiveness than Malcolm X did with aggression and militant violence.

            I absolutely agree there are no moral absolutes. As someone noted in a previous conversation (was it you @hotcakes?), I'm a moral relativist. We definitely should be creating the world we want to live in. I think we're actually very similar and want the same things, I think we just differ on what the best method to accomplish that is.

    HAHAHAHAHAH oh please.

    This one's too easy. I'm going to let others feed the peanuts today.

      Yep, haha. I considered weighing in but I think I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

        "Kotaku 503 Error - Our site is currently experiencing unexpected load - please check back in a moment."

          Oh boy, dis gon b gud.

            I've seen interesting points on both sides, I've seen valid points on both sides, and I've seen gross hyperbole on both sides. I'm yet to see anyone actually try to talk to each other on both sides, as everyones trying to take the ultimate 'I'm right, fuck you' stance. Always makes for interesting arguments.

            Got some popcorn? Dis gun be very good.

            Last edited 22/11/16 6:10 pm

              Why do you think I barely post these days? If you dare have an opinion that differs from someone else, or is mistakenly outdated, then prepare yourself... As @deathduck and @geometrics said above, the problem isn't having different opinions, it's shouting at each other until one person stops giving a shit and goes away. People need to actively engage with each other instead of having discussions devolve into namecalling and sarcastic comments from either side.

              Yeah, meanwhile I'm still giggling at the reference to Ivory breasts.
              Reminds me of those old romance novels where somebodies milky something was always glistening in the moon light.

              Now I'm imagining Arnie saying..
              "To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to hear the woman receiving equal pay and fair representation in a medieval society"

              I don't think I'm going to be contributing much.

                "As he watched her heaving, creamy, ivory elbows glisten in the moonlight..."

                Wow even that's sultry :O

    The game is called Conan so I would imagine it makes sense that he is the most powerful playable character. As for their respective armour, whilst Belit's is certainly on the brief side, Conan's is also fairly revealing and impractical!

    On the subject of Belit's class, Support is incredibly important. Hornbeck says her job is to follow the men around and make them better. You could also equally suggest that the men rely on Belit, and without her leadership and support functions they could be easily vanquished by enemies. I don't think many people who play games would say that Support is in any way and inferior class.

    The cover for the manual, yes it is fairly suggestive. However, I think Hornbeck is using a fair deal of creative license to imply that it depicts Conan in some sort of 'Trump-esque' pre-sexual assault position!

    Last edited 22/11/16 11:45 am

      I think Hornbeck is suggesting that the makers of the game should:

      (a) not have made it; or

      (b) altered the source material to create a 'strong, independent, well-clothed woman' as a protagonist.

      She's a loon.

        Is (b) too much to ask? Really?

          It's not, but you may as well create your own source material if you are going to alter someone else's. Don't sell it as Conan if you are going to 'purify' it.

          The best I could offer from Robert E Howard is Red Sonja, which you could *possibly* get away with inserting into a Conan game. She's not particularly well-clothed though...

            I will concede the well-clothed part. No-one seems to wear much clothes in those works. I assume because of how hot it is in those parts.

            Howard didn't create Red Sonja as we know it.

            He did create Valeria though and she was a strong female character iirc.

              And she's available in the KS version of the game. Hornbeck didn't mention that though...

                The fact that there are several additional playable female characters is a serious lapse in the article. As a backer I got a couple as addons, notably "Red Haired It's Totally Not Red Sonja" (for copyright reasons) and the witch one.

                Not breaking them out until I have more desk space. The boxes way a tonne.

                As for why I backed the game, because it's Conan and I'm a fan of the original Howard stories which did include strong female characters, as well as appearances of creatures from the Cthulhu Mythos. Not the terrible stuff that was written by other authors after his death which was plenty cringeworthy. Robert Jordan in particular scarred me forever with one particular section involving Conan and an zombie gal.

              Didn't Marvel comics change her from the 17th century to the Hyborian age to mash it in with Conan in the 60s or 70s or something?

          Apart from the "well clothed" part, they did (b) already - Belit is freakin' pirate queen. You don't get much more strong and independent than that.

          Plus, the game actually put more clothes on her than Howard did. He had her just wearing a silken girdle in the book.

            She was slender, yet formed like a goddess: at once lithe and voluptuous. Her only garment was a broad silken girdle. Her white ivory limbs and the ivory globes of her breasts drove a beat of fierce passion through the Cimmerian's pulse, even in the panting fury of battle.

            Such strong. So independent.

              Is there a point you are trying to make? Does one paragraph from the original story giving a physical description somehow invalidate her role as a lethal pirate queen, both in the story and the game?

                The problem is that this one awful awful paragraph is how they've apparently chosen to introduce her.
                I'm totally into pirate queens. But that does not say 'pirate queen' to me it says "wow do I really have to play as the chick constantly getting ogled by Conan if I want a female avatar?"

                  One person's pirate queen is another person's object of the male gaze.

              I'm sorry, but are you saying that the character isn't strong or independent based on:
              - her clothing choice
              - her body shape
              - her skin colour
              - that another character finds her sexually attractive?

              Your other posts seem to be against judging people based on the above qualities, but you're claiming that this character has specific traits because of them?

              I find that a little hard to swallow.

              Because all that quote tells me is what she looks like and that another character sees her as distractingly beautiful. This tells me nothing about how strong or independent she is. The fact that she's a pirate queen *does* tell me that she's incredibly strong and independent.

              What you've shown me right now is nothing more than thin-shaming/slut-shaming a fictional character because you don't like what she's wearing, her body figure, her skin colour or that another character finds them attractive.

                The judgement is more based on the fact that the paragraph introducing her is pretty much entirely about how fuckable and naked she is.

      As for their respective armour, whilst Belit's is certainly on the brief side, Conan's is also fairly revealing and impractical!

      I'm honestly shocked nobody's tried to make the "power fantasy fallacy" argument to you on this one. Granted it's early days, but have people finally learned that "power" comes in many different forms?? God I hope so.

    If this was the sole creative work out there I'd agree that the representation of females isn't the best and gives the wrong idea. It isn't though and the intent was to make something that was true to the Conan universe so I don't see why it needs to be attacked.

    The biggest reason, to me, why the equality movement raises so much ire is because its primary mode seems to be to attack everything that isn't equal. What we obviously need more of is examples of what people want to see. Equality isn't just about taking from one side, it's also about adding to the other.

      Right on! Attacking this kind of thing is the same as attacking yaoi manga because it doesn't feature female love interests. Let's take a broader view. Some things are just not for everyone.

        Much as entering a conversation like this makes me feel dirty, I will point out this is an utterly false equivalency. From what I understand, again, feeling dirty, manga has a number of these 'sexual' genres that are EXPRESSLY written with specific erotic focuses. That's what they are all about, although you probably say you read them for the stories. Equality doesn't even have a place in that conversation in the way you're trying to cast it, because the inherent nature of the medium precisely sets up to provide equality through plurality.

        Conan isn't a genre where the racial and sexual issues are the express focuses. It's sword and sorcery, so try and guess what the focuses are? You can write that genre in a setting that has progressive social values if you want, as has been done more than once.

        But, if you REALLY want to bring your manga into this conversation, then what you are doing is actually advocating for more versions of Conan where these troublesome depictions are changed. You know, plurality of versions where yes, some are misogynistic, but many others have women wearing appropriate clothing, black people who are not savages, etc etc.

        That's right champ, your argument actually supports that of Hornbeck.

        So well done!

        Last edited 22/11/16 1:15 pm

          It also brings up the topic of what tropes and storytelling artefacts are allowed/expected to mix. You say

          Conan isn't a genre where the racial and sexual issues are the express focuses. It's sword and sorcery, so try and guess what the focuses are?

          And I'd agree to the point that, why not? Like surely we can just have whatever we want in our fictions. A story about swords and sorcery doesn't exclude the idea of a character getting so naked. Whethere it helps the narrative or not is another problem but sex and nudity shouldn't be restricted to the romance genre.

          No one said an author has to cater for all possible audiences. That is my point. You attack Conan because some people don't like the objectification. You could attack yaoi due to the fetish nature of the male/male love content. What's the point though? If Hornbeck had her way we'd end up with nothing but fantasy that was rigorously PC, with plenty of overtly LGBTQI POC. Now if people want that, it's cool, but stop being the fun police :-)

          Conan isn't a genre where the racial and sexual issues are the express focuses.

          I guess it depends how much you really wanna dig into the original texts. On the surface it isn't but once you start digging, the original Howard texts of Conan were alllllllllllll about race and sexual issues... but pretty much rarely in ways that are brought up so far here. Colonisation, globalisation, etc.

          Don't mind me, we analysed some of his stuff earlier this year, truly fascinating works and I mean that with utter respect. Anyhoo sorry to interrupt, wasn't being contrarian, just one of those stupid interruptions of mine :)

          Last edited 22/11/16 6:17 pm

            No, not at all - you're right, but I get the feeling you're analysing them through a contemporary lens (and if you're doing that, it most certainly validates the arguments in this article).

            Sexual issues in Conan were a lot to do with Howard's own sexual issues in real life, and that's a book or two by itself.

            In terms of race, Howard had a set of notions informed both by his upbringing and his own psychological pathology. I'd argue that they aren't as black and white, pardon the pun, as people tend to make out, as he was a smart man with a complex way of looking at things.

            There's a lot of toxic masculinity issues in Conan, which if you know Howard's story makes a lot of sense.

            Which is why you generally have two kinds of people who like Conan. Those who see it as a great example of Swords and Sorcery and enjoy it for the world building and action framing while being well aware of its problematic depictions, and those with masculinity issues who get into the more toxic aspects because they resonate with them.

    Excuse me while i slam my head on my desk for the next half hour...

    My god...

      Wanna borrow my wrist rest? It's got gel in it. It'll take away the pain, but not the pain of all this...

    Cant blame her. Im particularly upset that in yet another game it seems I as a man cant wear bejeweled underwear and be rescued by warrior princesses.... Its 2016 not 1916 people get with the times and let me wear my bejeweled underwear damn it!

    Also just how long did she continue to market the game after this became known to her.....? Not to sound jaded but my guess would be determined by however much she was getting paid....

    Last edited 22/11/16 11:57 am

      I agree the timing is a bit odd, but doesn't mean her arguments are necessarily incorrect, at least for that reason.

      I spent three years in a job I found morally repugnant and emotionally draining because I needed the money and felt unable to just quit and hope for the best. A lot of people work jobs they don't like because their situation doesn't allow them to just walk away like a boss.

    I backed this on KS, and its a great game.

    The scenario she refers to has the princess treated as an "object" with "no abilities" because she is unconscious - having been kidnapped by the Picts and about to be murdered. If a player chooses Belit, then she is being rescued by (among others) a bad ass pirate queen.

    Hornbeck's post reeks of projection - who else looked at the cover and thought "ooh, that looks like before or after a rape". I think most saw it is a pulpy damsel in distress trope, which is a riff on a theme stretching back centuries (or longer).

      but is a "pulpy damsel in distress" really a needed or relevant trope to call back to in 2016? I'd argue it isn't, because it's a) sexist when it's about the only depiction in the game of a woman and b) beyond cliche at this point

        Who is to judge if it is "needed"?

        A game like this needs motivations for the players (playing characters which include a woman). One of them is "rescue the princess" - something that has been done by people ranging from Perseus to Mario. Its a story which has been told for as long as we have been telling stories.

        Despite people complaining on twitter and tumblr, I reckon it will keep getting told as well.

          And you've unknowingly (?) stumbled on the reason so many women have a problem with the damsel trope. The princess isn't a character with her own motivation and ideas and thoughts and agency. She's just a "motivation" for the male players.

          Trust me, if your entire gender was relegated to that role in a story you'd be pissed too.

            If there were only one story in the world and therefore only one role for my entire gender, I would agree with you.

            But it isn't. It isn't even the only story in the very game we are discussing - and nor is it isn't the only role - because of the very female character (1 of 4) under discussion here. One scenario has a princess being rescued. Every scenario can have a pirate queen directing her troops and kicking ass.

            So the first time I heard of this trope it was used to describe Super Mario Bros. What I never understood though was, what depth was attributed to the men in that story either? Mario is indeed a plumber, but his only role and purpose is to save the princess. While I accept that he may have more agency as a token of the player, he has no other choices or goals than to save the princess. In fact to actually be considered to be playing the game correctly (not just standing still, dying) he must successfully follow a linear path that will only result in her salvation.

            So she's the only woman in the game and there's like 4 or 5 clearly male characters so it's imbalanced, very true, but now looking at them too... Bowser's only purpose is to be the bad guy and kidnap the princess. He's not even human, not even a human is the one who would stoop so low in this story. The toads can do nothing but sit idly by in wait of her rescue. So all the men in this story are pretty shallow and the fit some really simple tropes as well, and are all solely obsessed with the only woman in the story to the point that if she didn't exist then there would ultimately be no game.

            I suppose what I'm saying is, is that if we are able to reduce a story down it's individual tropes, maybe nobody is going to get away from becoming a shallow token or metaphor for telling it.

              This is why these arguments can only truly exist in a grossly simplified, theoretical context. It's the same with "privilege" and "The Patriarchy™" as well. As soon as you scratch even slightly beneath the surface of what is actually being argued, you start to see hypocritical contradictions everywhere. Everyone is the damsel and hero in their own lives at different times. Everyone feels powerless every now and again.

              Nobody can see the power they possess and the ways they are subjugated at all times, to keep track of it all, with every new room you enter, every racial family tree you need to trace, every gender ratio, every job title etc. would leave no time at all for actually existing as a human being.

              Mario is just as much a prisoner as Peach is. They are just prisoners to different things.

            I agree that the damsel trope is seen disproportionately in media, but surely you would agree that there's room for that kind of story to exist side by side with more empowered representations of women? A lot of the argument around this (including Hornbeck's own arguments, as I understand them) seems to be attacking the Conan game for being what it is, rather than attacking the industry for failing to engage sufficiently in more diverse creative works.

            Isn't the way to fix this problem to create more diversity, rather than to try to stifle the over-represented depiction from existing at all? Can we not have both?

            Last edited 23/11/16 7:07 pm

          But what is achieved by having an "unconcious princess" here that isn't achieved by "box of jewels" or "magical doodad?" Both of which are in Conan stories.

            If we are basing it on what is achieved, why even have jewels or a magical doodad? Just call it "Objective A".

            Its a Conan story. Among other things, he rescued damsels. For most people, I suspect that this aspect of his character is not an issue (or 'problematic' to use the current approved language).

            He also slaughtered people wholesale. You would think this would be more a troubling "trope" than rescuing kidnapped royalty, but apparently not.

            The sexy lamp! If you can replace the female character with an inanimate object that people REALLY want, then it's a shitty story.

            Like for example, if Bowser stole Mario's really nice bedside lamp and now Mario has to rescue his lamp from Bowser's castle.

        Hang on, you said "it's a) sexist when it's about the only depiction in the game of a woman"
        yet the post you're replying to said:

        If a player chooses Belit, then she is being rescued by (among others) a bad ass pirate queen..

        The very post you're replying to says that the character is unconscious and is able to be rescued by a pirate queen (which I assume means a ruling female pirate, not a male contestant on a reality show starring Ru Paul). Just a heads up.

          I qualified that with "about" for that very reason.

          As @hayleywilliams has noted, there's precisely no agency to the "damsel." There's nothing to that mini that can't be achieved with a treasure chest, and it's one of the few female minis in the game and few purposes that female ANYTHING is serving in the game. By my book, that's dumb.

            I also have yet to be convinced that miss "Ivory Globes Of Her Breasts" is in any way a strong enough character to offset miss "Literally Just A Female Body"'s damselness so....

              Assuming that such a balancing exercise is even necessary, I am wondering what would convince you - reading Belit's story? Playing the actual game?

              I am just glad no one has picked up on the fact that the black character you can play is a master thief... He is described as "wiry and lithe" "very dark" with a "vulture like face". He only gets around in a girdle too. I feel triggered....

        Is a pulpy trope necessary in a board game referencing material that's nearly entirely built around pulpy tropes? I'm going to go with yes on this one. If you find it offensive, don't buy it. Seems simple

          but they've ALREADY altered the material- as noted elsewhere, they've changed the racial depictions from the original texts. Why don't they alter the treatment of women in a similar fashion? You can be plenty pulpy and trope-y while STILL saying "hey guys maybe we should think about what we're saying about women." It's an adaptation of a large body of work- they can include or exclude whatever they liked, so why include this?

          Also, "if you don't like it, don't buy it" is a particularly shallow rejoinder when part of this entire thread is articulating WHY people don't like it and WHY people don't want to buy it.

            It gets to be a bit of a rock and a hard place in some ways though. We can't deny that nude damsels to rescue is something a lot of Conan fans might enjoy and so they kept that in to sell more to the audience. But it's clear that an audience that would appreciate 'mass genocide against a bunch of dark-skinned savages' isn't who they particularly want to serve. So they can change that knowing that boy, that audience can't be too huge. Now I totally think that the makers here could've made something with more interesting and diverse female characters, but I don't think they would've had much of a leap in custom should they have done it removing or dressing up the damsels.

        Mario better not be saving princesses anytime either.... or link......

        I look at this board game and just roll my eyes, it's like teenage anime... yeah cool, not my thing to get some soft porn out of my entertainment (except for GoT... which ironically has a great depiction of women).

    I really liked the point they made in the SU&SD video about the depictions of women vs the depictions of race- the game creators were comfortable with altering the depiction of race for 2016, but not the depiction of women.

      I'm not really that deep in Conan as some of the other here who have mentioned that Conan isn't all about the naked women.

      But that's news to me. Guess what I picture in my head when you say Conan the Barbarian? I think of a Frank Frazetta painting of a huge half-naked muscle-man with a sword cutting down a wizard while some poor vulnerable half-naked woman is left to the concern of his (and the audiences) success.

      Lazy tropey pulp? Yes. But I do think it's the codified image of Conan for those who have, at best, seen the Schwarzenegger films.

      Last edited 22/11/16 4:06 pm

    I love the art and the figurines....and to me the females are strong and independent. They are not ashamed of themselves or their bodies, which kind of reminds me more of Europeans.

    Making a storm out of a molehill. Soon they will start demanding that Michaelangelo nude sculptures be clothed.....some of those are pretty suggestive and yet the women don't look embarassed or vilified for looking that way.

      The discussion of whether sexy depictions of women are empowering or objectifying is actually really interesting, and pretty involved. I mean, I dress up in sexy cosplays for fun and I find that empowering.

      Here's another example of "sexy=empowering" from the Australian pole dancing community.

      Nudity doesn't automatically mean a woman is objectified, but neither does it mean that she's empowered. In this case, I would very much argue that it's objectification. Have a look at the quote they've put next to her -- it's essentially Conan creaming his pants because she's hot. It doesn't empower her in any way, it makes her something for the male characters to stare at.

      Another big problem is that the scantily clad women are the only ones that ever appear. Like in real life -- not all cosplayers make sexy costumes, some wear full armour and some make ballgowns -- the more similar the female characters all are to each other, the more it looks like objectification/eye candy than an attempt to make empowered female characters.

      It's also fairly problematic that most of these sorts of depictions of women are drawn/sculpted/written by men. I'm not saying men can't write empowered female characters, they just tend not to a lot of the time.

      But yeah as a woman who legitimately enjoys wearing sexy outfits, that's my 2c (and I'm probably going to regret it, right Kotaku comment section?)

        Objectification is subjective anyway. Female pole dancer does it because she feels empowered. Dude watches because he objectifies her. There's no one way of looking at this.

          It all comes down to intent, I think. A pole dancer might elect to derive empowerment from her activity. But here's the thing: female empowerment isn't really something that men can bequeath. Just as cultural nuance cannot be adequately appropriated from outside of a community (think what Cleverman would be if made by white people), men cannot appropriate female empowerment - which means that a male gaze that sexualises a woman can't really be anything but exploiting.

          And also, just because one woman thinks a provocative pose in skimpy clothing is empowering, that's not carte blanche for males to pretend that it's all empowerment. You wouldn't suddenly engage in blackface pantomime just because one POC said they didn't care, would you?

          TL;DR: It's not up to men to decide what's empowering for women.

            Good point. I was thinking more of the situation. If a lady goes out and pole dances for a largely male audience because she feels empowered, it isn't for others to criticise those men for watching. It's basically slut-shaming by proxy.

            TL;DR: It's not up to men to decide what's empowering for women.

            Wouldn't the corollary to that be that it's not up to women to decide what constitutes a male power or sexual fantasy either, as Hornbeck appears to have done?

            You touch on the essence of the issue when you say that not all women find a provocative pose empowering. This should be expanded - everyone, regardless of gender, has different fantasies of power and sex. It's inappropriate for anyone to assign an assumed fantasy onto someone else simply by virtue of their race, gender or other group identity. Conan isn't a "male power fantasy", and shirtless men on romance novel covers aren't "female sexual fantasies", they're both just "fantasies". Some people (of any gender) are into them, some people aren't.

              I would posit that Hornbeck's argument isn't about what constitutes a sexual fantasy, but what constitutes a respectful public position for entertainment providers to adopt when it comes to gender representation.

              The problem as I understand it from this article isn't that women are overtly sexualised in Conan, it's that they have literally no other defining traits (unlike, I would add, the male character in a romance novel, who is highly likely to have a winning/charming personality as well as rippling pecs).

              There might also be some spillover of the argument into what constitutes a mentally-healthy sexual fantasy, and the validity of this concern has to do with safety more than respect. Not all fantasies are equal in terms of being healthy, and they're certainly not equal in terms of their social responsibility. This could lead to the conclusion that some fantasies should be discouraged.

              And that argument goes something like this: normalise and entrench power fantasies, and you end up with toxic attitudes and exploitation in the real world. We're seeing an example of this normalisation threat right now with the rise of the Neo-Nazis in America.

              Last edited 24/11/16 11:11 am

                I don't believe creative works have any obligation to be respectful, and the notion that it's acceptable to pressure artists to conform to particular modes of expression is tacit support of censorship.

                I also don't accept the argument that fantasy bleeds into reality. It's the same argument that video game violence leads to real world violence, which has to date remained unproven despite extensive research. Fantasy is an essential part of the way the human mind (and any higher intelligence) works and we're well adapted to being able to differentiate between it and reality. Normalised behaviour is far more complicated than "have fantasy, do fantasy" and drives down to personal responsibility and ethical codes.

                Likewise, neo-Nazis aren't on the rise because they all played a board game or watched a film romanticising racism, they're on the rise because there have been decades of rising resentment at being suppressed by society, combined with a sense of disenfranchisement (regardless if deserved, eg. the sense that white male opinions don't matter because they're seen as privileged) and rising tribalism in part because of extremists that are easily (and inappropriately) segregated and stereotyped by racial lines. Fantasy has very little to do with what's going on both in the US and Europe right now.

                  Of course it's more complicated than that. Anyone who seriously believes that the infinite complexity of the human consciousness can be distilled into a 150 word social media post is kidding themselves.

                  And no: fantasy on its own isn't going to bleed into reality. But when it's reinforced and bolstered by an ongoing barrage of popular media that confirms over and over in a variety of ways that women are nothing more than objects to be used and prizes to be won, and the message persists over the course of decades and decades, it's ridiculous to think that it's not going to have some lasting effect upon the individual's attitudes.

                  It doesn't exist in a vacuum. Ideas and attitudes are transmitted from media to consumer. Media artefacts are not by a long shot the sole factor in determining an individual's attitudes, of course, but they ARE a factor.

                  And one of the reasons the Neo-Nazi movement is rising now is because overt racism has found its way back into the public sphere. The attitude has become normalised to some extent, and it has empowered the movement to speak and act with a greater sense of confidence. Of course, the existence of white nationalism draws upon all those factors you mentioned, but the meteoric rise of their profile since the US election is all about normalisation.

                  That's why the counter-cultural voice of people like Hornbeck is important. It keeps the message from being homogenous, from becoming entrenched and immutable in our way of thinking.

                  And no, creative work doesn't HAVE to be respectful. But if creators make a deliberate choice not to be respectful (as they seem to have done here, by updating other aspects of Conan mythology but not its treatment of women), they should expect to receive a good dose of wrath of those to whom they are showing disrespect.

                  @shane I think your concerns are well-reasoned and rational, I think we just disagree on the end result. I don't have anything particular to respond with, thanks for sharing your views :)

                  On your last paragraph, I just wanted to say that absolutely criticism is allowed. Hornbeck and others should always be free to express their views, whether they're offended or not, in the same way artists and creators should be able to freely create fiction, controversial or not. Both the game and the criticism have a right to exist unhindered, in my view.

        Thanks for being so candid. Might I ask you how exactly you'd define this empowerment? I ask because I (on my own male perspective) would believe that the sense of power comes precisely from making a strong man go weak a bit on their knees at the sight of your beauty and confidence... yet you say that's not empowering of the woman, but gratifying to the man. What am I missing?

          Because you're assuming that an empowered woman gives a crap about what you think about how she looks.

          Did you pick your clothing this morning because you hoped it would make all the women walking past you think you looked as hot as Chris Hemsworth? Or did you not think about it at all?

            I think it's a little of both, to be honest. It's pretty much why most people don't wear pyjamas and UGG boots in public (although I've seen it happen more than once).

              i wear my ugg boots in public because they comfortable and the fact that i dont give a shit what people think

            Are you assuming then that the man gives a crap whether or not you think he's powerful? Is that how you define who is empowered or not? Whether they consciously seek that power?

            Not this morning, no. But those times I have gone out of my way trying to look "hot" (to whatever dubious degree I could manage it) and that makes me feel "empowered", yes, I was expecting to provoke at least a second look. Since Hayley was talking specifically about dressing sexy, my question is neither unwarranted nor deserving of the hostility of your response.

            Last edited 22/11/16 8:49 pm

        The quote is from Conan's point of view, if anything it says more about him than her.

        Also, why does Conan thinking she's hot disempower her? You've mentioned you like wearing sexy cosplay, so let's for a minute pretend that you've put on a sexy outfit and you're kicking ass. Now got some neanderthal mouth-breather who's staring at you saying "Hur hur, I'd like to conquer *her* lands... hur hur hur". Does that objectification by an individual remove the empowerment you have or diminish the actions you've taken? I'd argue it doesn't.

        As for the static body type, I agree that there's normally only one body type in Conan for women. Luckily for men, there's three body types represented: Conan size, emaciated slave and big, fat fat-guy. Generally they all wear about the same amount of clothing as the women do.

    As always with the unintended consequence of self righteousness I would say that the writer has simply broadened the PR reach of the game and increased the likelihood that even more people will (gladly) play it.

    I hadn't heard anything about this boardgame but love Conan so sign me up, I'm buying a copy.

      "Unintended...." Genius marketing more like it ;)

    wouldnt an ex-rep be legally bound from speaking out from all this - at least ethically to take the job and work to its completion and THEN complain seems wierd. if i wanted a watered down conan game theres plenty of fantasy flight stuff being pumped out btw

      As we've seen with the Trump election, many people don't really care about legal obligations when society itself is at risk of destruction ;-)

      Seems fairly simple to me: she couldn't speak while under contract, now the contract is over so she's free to say what she pleases.

    2016 the year everyone was offended by anything...
    I am offended people find things offensive.

      Not even just offended by anything, it's gotten down to picking out of context pieces to suit your argument / agenda nowadays.

      Funnily enough in 2004 Eminem stated in one of his songs:
      "You find me offensive, I find you offensive
      For finding me offensive"


    First off: there's room for criticism about this game. I actually would go as far as criticising the choice of theme. You could still make a really good game about barbarians and the such without the need of referencing such a dismal source material. That alone puts you in the quandary of being faithful to it or making a sociopolitical stance, and both choices are prone to backfire. So yeah, I generally lament that a game that gives homage to this should-be-bygone stereotype of the ur-male exists.

    However, the rep is using highly inflammatory language, full of hyperbole and assumptions such as her depiction of that scene as a rape about to happen. It's quite clear that Conan is saving the woman from a villain who placed her in that state. Is there a problem with the trope of the damsel in distress and with the transparent graphical objectification? Yes. Does she need to call everybody who supported this game a rapist? No. That guy that she called a rapist may very well just be a boardgames fan that didn't even know such image would be used. She, on the other hand, worked towards encouraging that guy and all the others to purchase the game, for whichever of its virtues she used for marketing purposes, while hiding this criticism until now. I think I know who is more reproachable.

    Speaking of which, it's highly suspect to me that she's only talking against it long after she herself worked to make it a success and likely profited from it, or at least made a livelihood. The way she speaks betrays a significant amount of outrage that cannot be solely caused by the troubling depiction of women (or otherwise, it would have made her refused to work for it, to begin with). Seems to me that she had a falling out with the studio and this
    is petty revenge. If that's the case (hope someone investigates), I'd really despise her use of real social issues to further her own agenda.

    Last edited 22/11/16 3:47 pm

      That rape assumption was pretty disturbing. The fact that her mind went there says so much more about her than it does the image. Even if you compare it to the other Conan image just below of the guy about to stab the woman, there's so much implied threat there, whereas the image above is literally just the man standing there, looking ready to defend her, if anything.

    paraphrasing the words of Matt and Trey... Horrific deplorable violence is OK as long as nobody is objectified. This game will not turn me into a sword wielding villain/hero or an objectifying pig.

    Yeah it's pretty sad when so many people don't appear to understand or even recognise the problem. I had the same issue with Kingdom Death. Ultimately the portrayal of women in the art and miniatures made me avoid it. It's a pity though, the mechanics of both games looked fun.

    Did I leave my fitbit at the end of this thread?

    Shit... must be in my car...

    Wow. What a joke.

    Conan was iconic in its day. Yes, women weren't exactly well represented in Conan, but was a sign of the times. Are we going to just ignore that? I think it's more disrespectful to women when you just sweep that shit aside.

    If this woman felt so strongly against it she shouldn't have worked on it.

    No fucking way should it be changed to suit what people would want in 2016. Conan is not 2016. If people feel so disgusted by it they should just consume other media, not try to take control of someone else's.

    The worst thing about this is how completely disrespectful it is to Howard's work. It's a good thing he's dead and doesn't have to see these morons, who have not even a fraction of his skill, trying to tamper with his creation.

    Just boobs worlds not ending..... Who really cares could be full of penises for all it matters. I mean oops lets all cover our disgusting human bodies up

    That is a crazy wall if text so my comment will no doubt seem a little simplified but frankly, the way I see it is that sure these tropes are a little on the nose now, but that's Conan. To change these details would be to stray too far from what makes the source material a passion for the fans. It wouldn't be Conan anymore, not completely.

    In her article (which I did read), Hornbeck writes the following:
    "It’s time to stop acting like promoting this misogynist and racist narrative through board games is okay. Time to start fighting for the inclusivity and equality that you sometimes talk about with your money, designs, and words."

    My big problem with this and so many articles like it is that they are always asking others to take action that the author could have taken (and often from a position of greater power/impact than the average consumer), but chose not to. Hornbeck was part of the marketing team for Conan, meaning that she was paid to promote what she now refers to as "misogynist and racist narrative through board games". She has since updated her piece to note that, while she has left Asmodee, her reasons for leaving have "nothing to do with the gender or racial politics of Asmodee or the gaming industry."

    It's one thing to tell others to talk with their money, another entirely to talk with your own money. Hornbeck didn't have to help market Conan in the same way that none of us have to do the things we're asked to at work. If we ever want to take a stand on something we can, we just need to be prepared to lose our job over it. If we're not willing to do that, well, that's why sayings like "everybody has a price" and "talk is cheap" remains so popular.

    Honestly, I would never buy a Conan board game anyway because it just doesn't interest me, so this is all kind of a moot point. I have no problem with recognizing that Hornbeck, like any of us, is free to complain about anything she likes. Free speech is undoubtedly a wonderful thing!

    Maybe this is coming from my own frustrations and disillusionment with Aussie politics at the moment (long story short we've gone through five prime ministers -six if you count Rudd's much shorter second run separately - in less than a decade...), but I have just grown so incredibly tired of hearing people ask others to make sacrifices without making the same sacrifice themselves when it really counts. Whatever happened to "practice what you preach"? Is it really too much for people to lead by example?

      It was really cheeky/disingenuous on her part to use the word "promote" when talking about supporting sexist media. It's literally the action verb that describes what her job was. If a person able to see the issues the closest agreed to literally promote them in exchange for payment... why is she expecting better of other people and in fact going as far to call them "rapists" if they fail?

    I'm sorry but this whole complaint comes across as reductive, and to be honest, a bit of a strawman. For a starters, let's start with this sentence:
    Hornbeck told me the game appeals "to obviously a male demographic that wanted to feel empowered by objectifying women".
    Someone cries "SEXISM!", therefore it must be true. The whole article is slanted with a tone that accepts every single one of Hornbeck's complaints as fact, and any refutation by the creators as highly questionable.

    Conan is going to be sexualised in a particular way. That is pretty much a cornerstone of concept of Conan. He's a muscled titan who murders his way through hordes of (male) enemies to get the treasure/woman/macguffin.

    Yes, it'd be nice if there was another female character, but Hornbeck's "woman are only there to pleasure males" appraisal of Belit comes across as a flagrantly biased overreaction. We've got a badass pirate Queen in a Conan game - but because there's not a gender-swapped Conan equivalent, it's time to kick and scream and burn the whole house down.

    There are certain things that you need to maintain because they are pretty much a tenant of the source material. Imagine if we were making a new Sherlock Holmes, but decided that the character is really demeaning to the less mentally capable, so Sherlock has downs syndrome and a low IQ. We need to let those people who aren't as intelligent know that anyone can be an amazing hero - so we have to cater to them with this new Sherlock so that they know they are truly special and capable people too.

    That is akin to what Hornbeck is demanding - toss out key aspects of the source material because they doesn't fit with her personal views.

    I'll give Hornbeck the offer to help her design and create a new boardgame called Valkyries. It can feature women only warriors who go around saving the world, collecting treasure and rescuing hapless men - but only the latter when they really feel like it, because they don't need men for anything because they're strong independent women.

      We've got a badass pirate Queen in a Conan game

      Whose description is predominantly about how nice her tits are and the fact she's hardly wearing anything.

      Last edited 23/11/16 2:20 pm

        That excerpt was from Queen of the Black Coast by Robert Howard in 1934. It's not how the board game introduces the character in 2016.

          Actually, that does appear to be included with the game - or at least promo material:

          But, it is interesting to note there that one of the male characters is also predominantly about his looks. There are also two additional female characters for kickstarter backers, neither of which are scantily clad.

          Of course, these details don't fit with Hornbeck's narrative, so these facts are entirely omitted from her argument. She can't declare "everything about this game is sexist" when there are clearly elements and parts that entirely undermine her argument. That's called cherry-picking.

            Ah, I stand corrected. Still, it's a direct quote from the original book as all the character descriptions appear to be, rather than an original phrasing written by the game team. It would be strange to have original quotes for each character but a sanitised rewrite just for Belit.

    Watched Red Sonja last night... You see her nipples within a minute of the movie starting.

    Kalidor? Ho man, red leather pants! If you skip the kid it's bearable.

    What's this article about? 1930's sexism... oh

    Damn, makes me worried that the Mein Kampf boardgame i backed might not be true to the source material following this fallout.

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