Leechwyves & Bonesetters

live-action game

The Story | Research

The Story

Leechwyves & Bonesetters is an active roleplaying game in which players combat plague in medieval Europe. Play groups work collaboratively to make their fiefdom the wealthiest and least plague-ridden in the land. Players are assigned characters with their own strengths and weaknesses. Each round, they must balance the goal of working their manor lord’s land with the need to visit the leechwyfe or the bonesetter to keep themselves plague-free. At the end of each round, players seek an audience with their lord to entreat him to pass decrees that would better their living conditions and improve their ability to avoid maladies.

Leechwyves & Bonesetters was unveiled at the 2013 Come Out and Play festival in New York City, where a select group of peasants died from plague while striving to harvest grain and feed their families. The etchings below commemorate their struggles.

Game Play

Have someone flip over one card from each color deck face up onto the table. All players immediately race to think of, and shout out, the name of a real person or fictional character who matches the descriptors on the cards. The first player to name a match takes the matched cards. When the decks run out, the player with the most cards wins.

Whenever the group finds itself Buffaloed by the cards on the table and unable to make a match, someone adds another card from both decks to the table.


Can games change the hearts and minds of healthcare decision-makers, providers, and consumers in the U.S.? Can they help us find potential solutions for the healthcare cost crisis? Leechwyves & Bonesetters was developed by Tiltfactor to give players opportunities to discover new ways of thinking about health care.

Behind the scenes, Leechwyves & Bonesetters models key aspects of America’s health care delivery system; the game uses fantasy and metaphor to familiarize players with driving forces in health. Contemporary health care systems need drastic change in order to be sustainable. Can we fix them by “playing the past”? The lord’s decrees represent real-world policy interventions, and, through play, participants experience the impact those health initiatives have on health systems. The game is based on a roleplaying sport game, developed by Tiltfactor, that models ways of re-imagining modern health care delivery more literally.