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What Is A Meeple?

Meeple is a relatively new word, at least in the timeline of all of history. It was only added to the Oxford dictionary in 2015. The term was said to be coined by Alison Hansel in 2000 during a game of Carcassonne, which, if you’ve ever played this game it makes sense since you know it’s all about Meeples, more Meeples, even more Meeples, and you guessed it, claiming property. She combined the words my and people when referring to her wooden Carcassonne figures and the rest is history.  The word has grown in popularity since then. 

Meeple Definition

If you haven’t played many board games though you still might be asking “what are meeples”? In short, they are little human-looking board game pieces, usually made out of wood. They usually have a very generalized form, looking similar to the silhouette of a person. Not a realistic-looking silhouette though mind you, something that looks more like it was drawn by a kindergartener. That’s my long-winded description, but I know most of you reading this are nerds just like us, so If you want the official definition, according to the Oxford Dictionary, here it is below.

noun

  1. a small figure used as a playing piece in certain board games, having a stylized human form.
    “each player is given eight wooden meeples”
Meeples
Lots of Meeples

The problem with this definition though is that it only refers to the pieces that have a human form, so that eliminates many pieces in board games from being called meeples, such as animal pieces, food tokens, and others.  Some want to add the word “meeples”  to everything and have created new words such as vegimeeples or animeeples.

I must admit “animeeples” is fairly catchy but the others seem like we’re pushing the envelope a little bit too much. Below is a picture of what some would refer to as animeeples or even pigmeeples, but I must say those people do not include my wife and me. We would just call these Pigs, yeah we’re boring people.

Animeeple Pigeeple
An example of what some call animeeples, I present to you the “pigmeeples”

Meeples will forever be a board gaming term, especially with so many brands using it (including us). There is an entire category of games out there that we would probably just call Meeples Games because those little human figures are their entire focus.  I don’t think it is likely we will ever go back to calling those tiny wooden people whatever we used to call them. I think the word is here for good, especially now that it is in the dictionary.  

Meeples Games

Like we said there are so many games where the primary focus is on the meeples. Just look at this giant list and these are just some of the most popular ones. There are so many that have the word meeple in the title even.

  • Meeple Circus
  • Meeples and Monsters
  • Meepleland
  • Terror in Meeple City
  • A Fistful of Meeples
  • Carcassonne: Review
  • Five Tribes: Review
  • Keyflower
  • Animal Upon Animal
  • Meeple Party

Meeple Upgrades

If you have a favorite game that you’re wanting to give a little extra love to, there’s no better way than upgrading its meeples. You can easily search for any board game online combined with meeple upgrades and will likely find pieces that will breathe new life into your most played games.

An excellent place to start your search for meeple upgrades is MeepleSource.com, which offers a lot of high-quality component upgrades for the most popular board games.

The Future for Meeples

Meeples will continue to change as games continue to change, who knows maybe we will have robomeeples with every game in the future, and instead of being built out of wood, the standard material will become metal, you know, since they’re robots. In the near future though I can see a lot of people begin to make their own custom meeples to use when playing their games.

With 3d printing more affordable than ever you can just print your own and make them look however you want to. We think that’d be pretty cool, I know I’d like to use meeples that look like me as I win against my wife in whatever game we’re playing that night. I’m just kidding, my win ratio against her is quite sad, and actually, now that I think about it, a whole army of meeples that look like us dueling it out on a board game would be quite creepy and unsettling.

Meeple Emoji ?

One area where the future of meeples is unknown is the meeple emoji. There is currently no official meeple emoji, but this is definitely something that needs to change. Just imagine texting your friends about game night and being able to send some awesome little meeples along with your message.

The community has put in efforts to try and make this happen but it’s quite a long and lengthy process. At this time it’s still uncertain if we will get a meeple emoji in the near future or ever. The more searches “meeple” gets online the better chance it has at becoming an emoji, so thank you for doing your part, since you likely searched it to get here. Hopefully will be texting each other meeples in the near future.


Anyway… we hope this post helped you, and If you are curious about other board game terms and slang be sure to head over to our board game terms glossary page: Board Game Glossary, Board Game Terms Explained


Need more meeples in your life or some meeple swag? We even sell our own meeple-themed shirts and keychains that let you or your entire gaming group claim your player color!

Meeple Keychains Buy Now
Meeple Themed Tshirts

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