Diary #23 – Young Heroes


My aim post-Expo was to have a relaxing few months with no board game work. Is that what happened? Of course not! I’ve attended another Board Game Bash, designed another board and visited a gaming-focused youth club.

On arrival at the village hall I almost collided with a nerf gun-wielding teenager riding an office chair. The children spent the first hour or so shooting at each other “to burn off some energy”, and the rest of the morning engaged in board games, trading card games and chilling. We playtested my light card game Kingpin – the children were more patient than I had expected and made some very nuanced observations. They even used the word “variable” – I take off my hat to their science teachers.

Then came the main event: the large scale roleplaying game Marketplace Heroes. Steve – event organiser, game designer, fine artist and more besides – and his son had created dozens of weapon, item and spell cards. He divided the children into “Adventurers” and “Vendors”: the vendors were given a stockpile of cards and the adventurers 40 groats with which to purchase them. The vendors set up shop in different rooms, and the mechanics of the game randomised the adventurers’ routes between them, and their odds of finding rare items. Once they had finished shopping, the adventurers divided into three guilds and prepared to Duel.

Steve set up a table in the middle of the hall where champions from each guild would fight using their collected items and some huge twenty-sided dice. Through clever use of items, guilds could damage all members of the opposition, not just the champion they were fighting (the item-smashing Baby Grenade was popular here). The guild which had taken the least damage was declared the winner.

I thought the activity worked very well because:

  • The “Marketplace” system allowed the children to be creative with their character designs.
  • The variety of roles available enabled them to engage as much as they wanted.
  • It was flexible and accommodating: one child spent most of the first stage drawing her character; another two took a nerf-gun break and were able to rejoin the game.

I was intrigued by the use of space: placing the vendors in different rooms seemed mechanically unnecessary, but the children really appreciated using different parts of the venue (including the playground). I’m hoping this will influence not only my game designs but also my teaching practice – who says my students will view a space in the same way I do?

I had a great time indulging my twin loves of game design and working with young people. I know I’m repeating myself when I say that games like Marketplace Heroes enable children to strategise equally, regardless of race, gender or disability. I’ve tried to be conscious of equality in Master of Olympus, and so I’d like to reveal my last, and most controversial, artwork spoiler. Society says Gods should be strong and imposing while Goddesses are beautiful and simpering – I disagree. I give you Hera, Queen of the Gods (and Goddesses):


2 thoughts on “Diary #23 – Young Heroes

  1. This is a great summary of Gaming Potion’s first summer session in Tean. Richard, the only thing you missed out was to mention your own excellent input – as ‘Blacksmith’ and in helping us sort the 70-odd cards alphabetically once the Groat Market stage was over. Without your help, identifying which modifiers and special powers each Hero had purchased would have been impractical and time-consuming, yet without this info you cannot move on to the Duelling. This, and the Item price list, are aspects of Marketplace Heroes which I now know need some real attention before I run it again. Hope we can share our games again sometime soon. Thank you!


    1. Cheers Steve – being the Blacksmith was good fun. I think the children instinctively wanted to take their purchased cards away with them, so perhaps just having fewer card types but plenty of copies of each one would help. I look forward to seeing it in action again!


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