Upcoming events

Follow Us

Log in


Athens Besieged: Debating Surrender Microgame

by Naomi Norman and Mark C. Carnes

Portions of this page are still under construction, pending more details from the Game Authors. Reacting Consortium Members can download game materials below.

Athens Besieged is set within the Long Walls of Athens during the winter of 405-404 BCE. In the Fall of 405 Sparta destroyed the Athenian fleet at Aegospotami (near the straits leading to the Black Sea). The Spartan fleet then blockaded Piraeus harbor, and Spartan soldiers, augmented by their allies from Thebes and Corinth, camped outside the walls of Athens and lay siege to the city. By December, when the game begins, the city had exhausted its food supply.

The main location of the microgame is the Pnyx, where the Athenian Assembly must determine whether to surrender and relinquish its democracy. At the end of each month (10 minutes in class time), some Athenians die of starvation and disease; these players, on leaving the room, are assigned new roles as commanders of the Spartan and allied armies, as either of the two Spartan kings, as the Delphic Oracle, or in one or two other complicating roles. These “reincarnated” players now are thrust into a new debate: whether, after surrender, the Athenian men should be executed and the women and children enslaved, or whether the city should be preserved as a vassal state within a new Spartan empire. The Spartan kings, being advised by various generals in their war council, and by the Delphic Oracle, determine the outcome of the game—and the fate of Athens.







Microgame (what's that mean?

Using the Game

Class Time  

Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive. Athens Beseiged may pair well with:


Class Size and Scalability

Read more about scaling this game for different class sizes...

Complete guidance on role assignments can be found in the instructor's guide, and questions can be directed to the game author. The main way this game can be scaled up or down is by eliminating or expanding the journalist roles. Since journalists do not ordinarily give speeches during regular class meetings, this does not affect the time needed to play the game.

CLASSES BELOW 14 In small classes, the instructor may assume the function of the journalists or eliminate the role of journalists altogether.

CLASSES WITH 14-36 STUDENTS Classes with 14-36 students can use the basic roles, available for download below or from W. W. Norton.

CLASSES WITH 37-61 STUDENTS Additional roles are available for download to Reacting Consortium members. Of these additional roles, eleven are delegates, four are protesters, and ten are journalists. Some of the assignments for these roles are specialized. For example, Theodore Meir Phil Ochs should sing instead of giving speeches. Warren Hinckle and Abe Peck should help journalists to assemble and disseminate their stories.

CLASSES WITH 62-67 STUDENTS AND/OR MEDIA EMPHASIS The expanded roles also include roles for William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal as well as the cast and crew for an experimental film, “Medium Cool.” These six roles are supplemental to the functioning of the main game. Since these players record their work, it could be shown during the debriefing or players could watch it asynchronously to conserve class time for game play.

CLASSES WITH OVER 67 STUDENTS Press Secretary and Press Stringer roles can be paired with delegate and journalist roles. In order for them to have the opportunity to interact, the instructor may need to help them to schedule press conferences outside of regular game sessions. By pairing each of the 25 delegate roles and 20 journalists, 45 more roles can be added to the game, for a total of 112 roles. To create even more roles, assign individual roles to pairs of students, beginning with the protester roles (which brings the total to 128). Increasing the number of crew members for “Medium Cool” could bring you easily to 130.

The game can be run with even larger numbers than this by expanding the size of the teams playing different roles.



Read more reviews from instructors...

"This is a game that teaches a lot about the process of political coalition building, the pressures on expansive coalitions, and introduces notions of protest and counterculture as a part of a pluralistic, democratic society."

"Wrapped up Chicago 1968 on zoom/slack, and it was a really wonderful experience. I worried about how some mechanics would work virtually, but we had the same arc and escalation of tension that I've seen several times in the classroom."

"The game has a shorter class-time investment than other simulations, which might be appealing for some new to Reacting."


Reacting Consortium members can access all downloadable materials (including expanded and updated materials) below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.

Additional Resources 

Resources for Introduction and/or Debrief



Naomi Norman

Naomi Norman

Reacting and Related Titles

  • The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BCE
  • Beware the Ides of March: Rome in 44 BCE
  • The Getty Kouros: Authenticity, Forgery and the Law
Mark C. Carnes

Mark C. Carnes

Reacting and Related Titles

  • Minds on Fire: How Role-Immersion Games Transform College
  • The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BCE
  • Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791
  • Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945
  • Confucianism and the Succession Crisis of the Wanli Emperor, 1587
  • The Trial of Galileo: Aristotelianism, the "New Cosmology," and the Catholic Church, 1616-1633
  • The Trial of Anne Hutchinson: Liberty, Law, and Intolerance in Puritan New England
  • Revolution Now! The Paris Commune, 1871
  • Hobbes v. Wallis: Infinitesimals and Euclidean Geometry in the Royal Society, 1663


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


Athens 403 BCE
The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BCE

Athens Reconciliation

Athens Reconciliation

Altar of Victory
Christians, Pagans, and the Altar of Victory


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software