Upcoming events

  • No upcoming events

Follow Us

Log in


"Engines of Mischief": Technology, Rebellion, and the Industrial Revolution in England, 1817-1818

by Brendan Palla, Louise Blakeney Williams, and Megan Squire

*Formerly known as "Rage Against the Machine"*

The Disruption of New Technology

“Robots will take our jobs!” So announced a recent news article. Human workers are being replaced by automation. How should we respond? Do we resist or embrace this new technology? Engines of Mischief explores a very similar situation in the past -- in Manchester, England in 1817 and 1818. Players are faced with different choices about how to live and prosper at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. They use new economic theories, parliamentary commissions, and news reports to debate the pros and cons of factories, the role of the government in the economy, taxation, workers’ unions, and the extension of political rights down the social order. But players do not just debate. Characters from various classes of society must take action to improve their lives. Hand weavers and spinsters have to choose between violently resisting the new technology, joining factories, forming unions, or gaining political rights. Middle-class entrepreneurs decide how best to run their businesses to maximize profits and how to treat their workers. Craftsmen/inventors decide what type of new machines to build. Aristocrats must maintain control over government while deciding whether to support the working or middle classes, the old world or the new. Above all players must make ethical decisions about how to balance their individual interests with the good of society as a whole.

This is a Level 4 game that is still under development but has been approved by the Reacting Editorial Board (REB) for general use. A detailed explanation of the editorial process and game levels can be found on our REB Page.



Cultural and Social History; Economics and Economic History; History of Science and Technology; Philosophy; Political Science and Government; Western Civ/History


19th Century; Late Modern Period

In a Few Words

Industrialization vs. Tradition; Revolution vs. Social mobilization


Notable Roles

Lady Shirley Keeldar, Merchant Samuel Oldknow, Peter Blinstone

Themes and Issues  

Industrialization; labor exploitation, capitalism, and socialism; benevolence vs. self-interest; class and status; role of government in economy; political power and powerlessness; time and place of revolutions

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

Sample Class Titles
Revolutions in Europe; Democracy in a Globalized World

Level 4 game (what's that mean?

Divided Spaces, Money, Secret Voting, Rolling Dice, Formal Podium Rule

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
The game can be chaotic if the instructor wishes to allow student free rein during Market Place. However, it is possible to run the game mostly with speeches and debates in Town Hall and reduce the time and complexity of Market Place.

Primary Source Highlights 
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations; Robert Owen, A New View of Society; Parliamentary Commission reports

Using the Game

Class Size
This game is recommended for classes with 10-40 students.

Class Time  
For this game, 2 to 7 setup sessions, 5 to 8 game sessions, and 1 debrief session are recommended.

Some game sessions are variable so instructors can choose key topics according to their pedagogical needs.

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. Engines of Mischief may pair well with:

You can adjust the assignments based on the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include traditional paper/research/thesis-driven writing and journalism. All roles are required to give formal speeches.


Reacting Consortium members can access all downloadable materials (including expanded and updated materials) below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  Basic game materials (Gamebook, Role Sheets, Instructor's Guide, and Handouts) are available to any instructor through the publisher. 

Please Fill out the Permissions Request Form Before Using Engines of Mischief in Your Class!


Students need a Gamebook, which includes directions, resources, and historical content.

VERSION 4.0. Updated October 2023. .docx file.

Role Sheets and Add'l Materials

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, role-specific resources or assignments, and their character's secret victory objectives. 

VERSION 4.0. Updated Oct 2023. .zip file of .docx files.

.zip file of .pdf, .docx, and .xlsx files.

Instructor's Manual

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

VERSION 4.0. Updated October 2023. .docx file.

Additional Resources 

Resources for Introduction and/or Debrief

  • Setup: North & South (BBC TV series)
  • Debrief: Peterloo (2018 film)


Brendan Palla

Dr. Brendan Palla teaches philosophy and interdisciplinary coursework at the University of Providence, Great Falls in tandem with professors from multiple disciplines. He was a teaching fellow at Fordham University prior to moving to Big Sky country in 2014. His scholarship focuses on the Catholic Intellectual tradition, with an emphasis on Aquinas’ robust account of human freedom, alongside Aristotelian concepts of the common good. In his (limited) free time, he enjoys playing board games and exploring the Mountain West with friends and family.

Louise Williams

Dr. Louise Blakeney Williams teaches courses on the British Empire, modern British and Irish history, European history, and intellectual and cultural history at Central Connecticut State University.

Megan Squire
Dr. Megan Squire is a professor of Computer Science at Elon University. Her main research area is applying data science techniques to understand niche and extremist online communities, particularly radical right-wing groups on social media. Dr. Squire is the author of two books on data cleaning and data mining, and over 40 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, including several Best Paper awards. In 2017, she was named the Elon University Distinguished Scholar. She currently serves as a Senior Fellow for data analytics at the Southern Poverty Law Center, and as a Senior Fellow and head of the Technical Research Unit at the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right.


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


French Revolution
Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791

Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village, 1913: Suffrage, Labor, and the New Woman, Second Edition

Collapse of Apartheid
The Collapse of Apartheid and the Dawn of Democracy in South Africa, 1993


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software