The Card Game For Positive Mental Health
Imaginhero is a turn-based battle card game for 1 to 4 players. It’s a great way to help kids aged 8+, as well as parents, educators, and therapists who work with them, develop the tools they need to help them develop healthy emotional responses to challenging situations.
Fun to play, Imaginhero is rooted in widely-used, and well-evidenced, therapeutic approaches used in cognitive behavioral therapy.
The gameplay is designed to help develop emotional intelligence and empathy. Each of the Power cards is based on an underlying visualization that promotes positive thinking, and each of the Echo cards represents an unhealthy response to an overwhelming emotion.
It’s designed to be an accessible and engaging way of helping kids face their fears, and develop healthy ways of dealing with pain, using well-established and evidence-based approaches to improving mental health.
Players equip their Heroes with Imaginhero Powers to battle the Echoes who have overwhelmed their friends. Working together, players use their empathy points to diminish the Echoes’ pain and free their victims.
How To Play
Each player is dealt Hero and Power cards, as well as a Friend card and an Echo who has overwhelmed them.
Selecting a Power, players rescue their friend by reducing the Echo’s pain, raising their shield to protect from negative attacks. They may hit a trigger point, which could help or harm their chances, depending on the cards in play. If they rescue their friend then they join the deck as a Hero, but fail and they’ll be completely overwhelmed by the Echo!
The playable characters in the game are everyday kids. Goofy, sporty, enthusiastic, shy, outgoing. They’re relatable, because anyone can be an Imaginhero.
Any of these playable characters can use a Power to rescue their friends. But, just as any of them can be a hero, they are all susceptible to Echoes, acting and thinking in ways that are damaging to themselves and to others.
Echoes are the supervillains of the game, each with their own special attack. They are personifications of anger and internalized pain that must be subdued. An Echo can overwhelm any character in the game. When this happens, their friends need to team up, power up, and free them.
Any character becomes a superhero with an Imaginhero Power. When a friend is being overwhelmed by an Echo, choose a Power to rescue them. Powers have bonuses against certain types of Echoes, and you can clash with them by firing a Rainbow Ray, going supersonic with some Sweet Beats, or stopping it in its tracks with Freeze Blast.
Players can hit a point that deals a Trigger card. These can give the player a boost or a setback, depending on the cards in play.
The Therapy Behind The Game
The gameplay of Imaginhero is built on underlying principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Each part of the game works to instill patterns of positive thinking, develop empathy, and encourage players to visualize new ways of thinking about challenging situations.
Hero cards can be dealt as both the playable characters in the game, and as those friends who are being overwhelmed by Echoes.
Each card shows the character’s inner voice. The illustration represents who they really are, how they see themselves deep down. Whether it’s the shy kid who’s really a born performer, the fierce warrior who’s always there for their team, or an explorer who can’t keep their curiosity contained.
By rescuing a friend card from an Echo, you free them from the negativity of the echo. They can return to being who they really are; a kid waiting for a chance to be a hero. Once rescued, they become a Hero card the player can use.
The gameplay in Imaginhero shows that we are all susceptible to act in ways that are damaging to ourselves and to others. That there are no ‘bad people’, only people struggling to deal with pain. That we should not label (ourselves or others), and are all, with help, able to overcome negative patterns of thought and become our best selves.
Echoes are personifications of negative behaviors and patterns of thinking. Echoes are able to overwhelm any of the Hero characters in the game; when this happens, it’s up to their friends to rescue them.
Echoes each have a number of Pain Points. These aren’t a measure of the pain they inflict in their attacks, but a measure of the pain they are in. To defeat an Echo and release the character they’re overwhelming, players must use their empathy points to reduce their friend’s pain.
Each Echo draws its strength from a different vulnerability. If the vulnerability of the Hero they’re fighting matches the Echoes source of pain, then their attack strength increases.
Let’s take Distort, for example. Distort represents the way we obsess over how others see us. We can worry so much about appearing to be what everyone wants us to be, that we start to only see the bits we think are wrong. Like a spider in a web, Distort lures you in and surrounds you with screens, overwhelming you with twisted versions of yourself.
The Imaginhero powers are used by players to confront friends who are being overwhelmed by Echoes and reduce their pain. Each power conveys an underlying technique or CBT principle that can help a person deal with anxiety, aggression, stressful situations, or negative thoughts.
Each power has a level of Empathy Points. The more empathy a player can employ against an Echo, the greater their chance of reducing their friend’s pain.
For example, if a player uses the Sweet Beats card, they invoke the power of awesome tunes, pounding an Echo with blissful bass as well as benevolence. Music is an acknowledged method of regulating emotion, lifting mood, and enabling focus. This Imaginhero power reminds players they can access positive thoughts at the click of a play button.
Trigger cards are activated at certain points in the game. Each card represents a type of situation that, depending on the person, could trigger either anxiety or inspiration. Depending on the cards in play, a Trigger could help or harm a player’s chances of overcoming the Echo.
Among the Trigger cards are Volcano, representing a volatile, explosive emotional presence. Runaway Train, which charges forward with the sense of a situation that’s out of your control. The Bridge represents choice, and the opportunity of trying or becoming something new.
Each Hero card has a vulnerability. These vulnerabilities are also sources of pain for the Echoes. If an Echo’s source matches a hero’s vulnerability, that Echo attacks with increased strength.
There are five vulnerabilities: Entitlement; Insecurity; Rejection; Powerlessness; Resentment. These are all potential sources of anger in our lives. If a situation, rooted in one of these emotions, is left unresolved it can cause emotional pain, or trauma.
It’s not a bad thing to be vulnerable, but sometimes our vulnerabilities can be used against us. And that’s exactly what the Echoes do. Each Echo is developed from an unaddressed trauma rooted in one of these vulnerabilities.
Just as each Hero is susceptible to a particular vulnerability, they each also have a source of strength. These sources, which can give them gameplay boosts in certain situations, are based on creative outlets: Music, Narrative, Nature, Movement, and Art.
The deck includes a card that can be cut and folded into a playing dice.
When using an Imaginhero power, you are encouraged to “place the dice on your palm. Breathe in, visualize the Imaginhero power, and blow the dice to roll.” Each of the power cards contains an underlying technique or principle that helps deal with stressful situations. Through linking the breath to rolling the dice, it encourages a player to pause, slow their breath, and visualize the Imaginhero power of the card they’re playing.
At each turn of the game, players have the opportunity to slow their breathing and visualize a CBT technique. Controlling your breath is an important component in dealing with stressful situations, and has benefits that include reducing stress, lowering your heart rate, and encouraging relaxation throughout your body.
We launched our first product, Cards for Calm, in 2016. A deck of cards, this therapy tool uses techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness to help people rethink their approaches to problems.
As well as individual people looking to rethink how they dealt with sources of stress, the deck is being used by counselors, therapists, addiction centers, social workers, and educators to help clients, patients, and students. We have sold over 18,000 decks through retailers in the USA, UK, and Canada, and have extended our product line to focus on resources and therapy tools for educators and counselors working with younger clients.
Seeing that so many of our customers worked with children, we wanted to create something that would be accessible to a younger audience. Something relatable, where they could reframe challenges they faced and believe they could overcome them. A way they could see themselves as powerful.