Boardgames in the News: What is a Meeple?

Reading our game reports, a fairly commonly used term is “Meeple”.  The word is used so widely amongst Euro gamers, that it was adopted for the name of the Oxford boardgame café, Thirsty Meeples, however, non-gamers are completely unfamiliar with it.  So, what does it mean and where does it come from?

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor wizardless

The term was allegedly coined in 2000 by Alison Hansel while paying the tile laying game, Carcassonne. In Carcassonne, players draw a tile and then add it to a growing map before placing a wooden figure on the tile. Thus, meeple was a conjunction of “my” and “people” and was used specifically to refer to the characteristic wooden people-shaped pieces used in Carcassonne and more recently, games like Keyflower. Since then, the range of game pieces available has increased hugely and the term has been adapted and broadened.

– Image used with permission of BGG contributor punkin312

For example, Agricola has a wide range of resource tokens, including sheep, pigs and cows, which are often collectively referred to as “animeeples”. Similarly, the wheat and vegetable resource tokens are often referred to as “vegimeeples” or even “vegeeples”. So, the suffix “-eeple” has now come to mean game token, interestingly, usually one that is shaped. Thus, people playing games like Ice Flow or Salmon Run might talk about “fish-eeples”, devotees of Caverna may discuss “dog-eeples” and “donkeeples”, and players of the Arctic Bounty expansion for Fleet might comment on “crab-eeples”, though they may also be collectively referred to, simply as meeples.

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
– Image by boardGOATS

So, generically, a meeple is a game piece, usually made of wood, and often, but not necessarily with two arms, two legs and a head…

– Image by boardGOATS