Box Fort Wars

Chris Durr July 30, 2015, 3 comments

This is for a program that I ended up doing several times - it comes out of some teen advisory board meetings.  We called it 'box fort wars'.  The idea was that teens would learn a little bit about medieval architecture, build 'castles' out of boxes and then, in an elaborate game of NERF fighting, put the utility of their design to the test.  Behind the scenes, the TAB did a little research on architecture, put together a presentation, developed the rules for a game, priced out some items on Amazon and got a little hands on facilitation experience.  

The game works like this - after a presentation on the basics of castle designs, teens would be given a space in the library (after hours) and some construction materials  They would then make their fortress to protect their 'monarch' or 'patriarch' (a stuffed animal that was usually exceptionally cute).  They would then be given notice of where their kingdom was, where the neutral zone was, and where the other kingdom was.  Armed with NERF weapons (no guns, all bows and crossbows) they would be tasked with defending their keep and eliminating the opposing monarch. 

Type: Active
Age: Middle school
Optimal size: 11-20
Estimated cost: $100+
Planning time: <2 hours
Frequency: Monthly

Learning outcomes

TAB will learn project management skills through managing a project. 

Teens will learn design basics through trial and error. 

TAB will learn presentation skills through presenting an idea and activity.

In addition, this is an activity that stresses creativity and builds community. 


It is hard to write down exactly, because done right this is really about getting the TAB to create all the instructions.  I would say this - if you have started a TAB and they can run projects, say 'how would you guys feel about teaching kids about design and strategy by creating a game using cardboard, duct tape and NERF weapons?' and then just letting them run with it. 

Other than that, these are specifics of what my group was able to make.  But keep in mind the 'making' of these rules by the teens is where the real value comes in. 

Prep of materials

Each team gets an equal share of cardboard boxes, duct tape and NERF weapons

Judges get hula hoops and Special Darts

Mark off a section of the library for each team.  Mark off a space between the teams as the neutral zone.  We used duct tape on the floor to mark things off. 


Show everyone where each monarch or patriarch will live. Make it in a place that is generally accessible / hittable from the field of play. 

Set expectations for safety / controlling your body and enthusiasm.  Also following instructions from the judges.

Describe the rules

(optional) present on fort styles and tactics and remind about rules

Give each team 30 minutes to build their fort

Announce the start of play. 


If you are shot, you are out until it is time to bring in reinforcements.  Judges will let in reinforcements at their chosen interval (every 7 minutes works well)

Judges will toss hula hoops to one another.  If a player shoots it an arrow through a hula hoop then they get a special dart.

If you shout 'catapult' and throw the special dart - anything hit by that dart is removed from play.  That way you can damage the opponent's fort.

First team to successfully hit the opposing team's monarch / patriarch is the winner. 


This activity is light on evaluation.  As I note below, we saw a change in behavior when we included the presentation versus when we did not.  Also keep an eye on the emotional level of the room and the request from teens to do the activity again.  That really is at the core of creating a space that supports the 40 developmental assets.

Other resources

Here is a copy of the prezi the TAB made.  Apologies if the text is a bit copy and paste from Wikipedia - this was built with them learning presentation skills, not research skills, yet. 

One thing I should note - we tried this program one month without the presentation on castle design and then one month with it.  There was a significant difference in the strategic utility of the forts that were built after the presentation.  After the presentation we saw a lot more 'star' style forts with 'arms' that jutted out and surrounded 'kill zones' (so to speak).  It all sounds a bit violent, but, if you properly facilitate and control, it is really about the fun, competition and creativity. 

While this has an initial cost of 100+, subsequent programs can come in at 20 or 30 dollars for some light snacks, replacement darts (some will get broken) and ductape.  Also, if you have some families in your community who have lots of NERF weapons, you might be able to work with them to borrow supplies for the game and even further lower that initial barrier of cost

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