Elizabeth Hargrave

Today we are featuring Elizabeth Hargrave, designer of Wingspan which recently broke the top 100 on BoardGameGeek. Elizabeth moved to Washington, DC after graduate school to work for the federal government. She now works part-time as a freelance consultant in health policy, which is what's bringing her to Portland the week of the Stumptown Game Summit. The rest of her time is split between game design and getting outdoors. We are excited to have Elizabeth joining us at the first Stumptown Game Summit in our Designer Alley!


  • Elizabeth doesn't have any permanent pets, but she has raised snakes, butterflies, and once, an orphaned baby squirrel. There's a bowl of tadpoles on her kitchen table right now.

  • She spent three years working for a member of the US Senate. Then she got married, quit her job, and traveled for six months as a "honeymoon." (The trip got planned before the wedding did.)

  • She's seen 295 species of birds so far in 2019 and is hoping to pick up a few west coast birds when she's in Portland!

Questions by Kimberly Revia (KR), answers by Elizabeth Hargrave (EH).


KR: How did the design process begin for you?

EH: About 5 years ago, my friends and I were just really dissatisfied with the themes of a lot of popular board games. I decided to try to make one about something I love. It literally began as pencil scribbled on scraps of paper.

KR: What have you found to be the most rewarding part of designing?

EH: I mean, it's pretty awesome to see pictures of my game being played around the world! But in terms of more intrinsic rewards, to me, game design is like solving a really complicated puzzle. You have to keep mulling over all the pieces and figuring out the logic of how they work together. It's something my brain finds deeply satisfying.

KR: Do you plan to add educational aspects into future designs, like you did for Wingspan?

EH: It's not so much that I want to be educational, but I get fascinated by these real-world stories and how they could be told through a game. I just signed a game with AEG that's about monarch butterflies. It's not nearly as detailed as Wingspan, but the gameplay does tell the story of how monarchs migrate from Mexico out into the rest of eastern North America for the summer, then back to Mexico in the fall.


KR: What are some of your favorite birds?

EH: I love the big water birds like herons, and I love birds with weird beaks like woodcocks and ibises. And so the one that takes the cake is the roseate spoonbill, which is a big water bird with the weirdest bill of all. Plus it's pink.

KR: If you could play Wingspan with any one person, living or deceased, who would it be?

EH: Can I name a group? The staff of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their resources all the time, and I'd love to say thank you in person sometime.

KR: Do you have any convention rules you try to adhere to for yourself?

EH: A lot of the strategies I've developed are just being self-aware of how I tick: I get hangry, so snacks are essential. I naturally will wake up by 7 am no matter what time I go to bed, so I try not to stay up much past midnight (and my brain's usually not working by that point, anyway). I'm a big introvert and so will walk away from the giant halls periodically, maybe grab a meal with people I know, maybe just walk around the block. I try not to let a day go by without actually going out in natural light.

You can find Elizabeth and what she is currently up to by following the links below!

Twitter: @elizhargrave

Website: https://www.elizhargrave.com/

Wingspan Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/wingspanboardgame/