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The Crisis of Catiline: Rome, 63 BCE

by Bret Mulligan

It is the year when Marcus Tullius Cicero and Gaius Antonius Hybrida are consuls. Will the Republic live to see another?

Rome, 63 BC: a tumultuous year of urban and rural unrest, economic instability, sensational trials, and electoral misconduct. You are a Roman senator. Can you save the Republic…and yourself? At the center of the crisis stands Lucius Sergius Catilina or Catiline, a charismatic (and scandal-plagued) nobleman. Last year Catiline lost an election for the consulship, the highest office in Rome, to Marcus Tullius Cicero, a brilliant orator, canny politician, and “new man” (novus homo) — the first member of his family to reach the pinnacle of Roman politics. Now that Catiline has failed to be elected consul for a third time, rumors swirl that he and his followers plot assassinations and arson in Rome, while raising an army in the north. Are the rumors true — is Catiline conspiring to lead a revolution? Or have Catiline’s enemies conspired to thwart desperately needed social and economic reforms by slandering Catiline and his followers?



Classics/Classical Antiquity; Conflict and War Studies; Cultural and Social History; Economics and Economic History; Political Science and Government; Western Civ/History; World History

1st Century BCE; Ancient History

In a Few Words
Well-structured, tense mystery


Notable Roles
Cicero, Catiline, Julius Caesar

Themes and Issues  
Class, colonialism, constraints of power, cultural memory and present political action, reactions to instability, preservation of order and violations of rights, state use of force against citizens, security vs. liberty, justice vs. expediency

Player Interactions 
Factional, Non-factional, Competitive, Collaborative, Aggressive, Coalition-Building

Sample Class Titles

History of Ancient Rome; Latin; World Civilizations

Published Game (what's that mean?

Money, Rolling Dice, Formal Podium Rule, Resurrection Roles

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
Individual sessions are well-structured, with clear order of speaking and guidance for stances, along with just enough flexibility and uncertainty to keep students engaged. The final session, which might see military marches on Rome, assassinations, etc. can be a little chaotic but while the results of these events affect the outcome of the game they rarely affect on-going gameplay.

Primary Source Highlights

Cicero, Catilinarians; Sallust, “Catiline’s War;” Livy, From the Founding of the City (all in new, accessible, annotated translations)

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability
This game is recommended for classes with 8-41 students.

The game can be played with high-single digit characters but the factional structure allows for the ready expansion of players. The game also includes up to 9 non-voting roles (non-Romans, women, artists and others outside the senatorial elite).

Class Time  
For this game, 1 setup session and 1 to 6 game sessions are recommended.

The game includes four core debates (amnesty, debt reform, land reform, the senatus consultum ultimum — a.k.a. martial law). Gameplay could engage all of these or only one or more. There is also an optional trial mechanic.

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.  The Crisis of Catiline may pair well with:


You can adjust the assignments to fit the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include traditional paper/research/thesis-driven writing, creative writing, and letter writing. Voting characters all give formal speeches; but there are 9 non-voting roles that have different assignments.


Confirmed instructors who are not yet members can access basic instructor materials. Reacting Consortium members can access all downloadable materials (including expanded and updated materials) below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading


All students need a Gamebook, which includes resources and historical content. The Crisis of Catiline Gamebook is published by UNC Press. 

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6413-2
Ebook ISBN: Coming Soon

Published September 2023

 Available wherever books are sold.

Instructor's Manual

The Instructor's Manual includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more.

Role Sheets and Additional Materials

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, suggestions for further reading, and role-specific info or assignments.  


Bret Mulligan

Bret Mulligan is an Associate Professor of Classics at Haverford College, where he teaches Greek, Latin, and a variety of other courses on Greco-Roman literature, history, and culture. His scholarly work focuses on Latin literature, especially late antiquity, and recently obscenity, disease, Neo-Latin, and epigram. He maintains a commitment to democratizing access to the study of the past, especially though his efforts in digital humanities. He is an Executive Editor at Dickinson College Commentaries, a platform for peer-reviewed and edited commentaries on Latin and ancient Greek texts. Since 2014, he has been the Project Director of The Bridge, a free on-line tool that allows students and instructors to create customized vocabulary lists; he has also  developed CommentarySandbox, a plug-in for juxtaposing text, notes, and commentary in a WordPress site. He is currently working on several studies related to the readability of Latin texts, while putting the finishing touches on the first English translation of the poetry of the Latin bishop Ennodius.


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


"The Catilinarian Conspiracy is such a rich topic that it seems natural that a game should have been made for it. It is documented from multiple perspectives, has vivid historical personas for students interested in the creative arts, literature, political science, economics, philosophy, etc.—I would say that the game could make itself, if it weren’t for the fact that the creator here put in a lot of excellent work to make it even more compelling."

"The primary reason that Catiline is great to me, though, is that it puts front and center a question of the power of the state over the right to life of its citizens. This is a question that, in America today, is so relevant that one would have to be willfully ignorant not to see it. Thus this game explores and challenges values that are as important today as they were in 63 BCE—and you don’t have to be a Classicist to appreciate that."


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

The Ides of March
Beware the Ides of March: Rome, 44 BCE

Council of Nicaea
Constantine and the Council of Nicaea: Defining Orthodoxy and Heresy in Christianity, 325 CE


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