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Kentucky, 1861: Loyalty, State, and Nation

by Nicolas W. Proctor and Margaret Storey

Secession Crisis!

As one of the northernmost slaveholding states, Kentucky plays a pivotal role in the crisis unleashed by Lincoln’s election in 1860. Student roles include political leaders, newspaper editors, and militia leaders. Opening with a special session of the legislature, Kentucky, 1861: Loyalty, State, and Nation forces students to struggle with the complex and divided loyalties of their roles. They must determine how to reconcile varied motivations, interests, and ideologies with an unprecedented and intensely combustible situation. Informed by assorted speeches, debates, and political tracts, students debate the cultural, economic, and political concepts driving secession while reacting to a constantly shifting political and military situation. Through the use of rhetoric, the press, and paramilitary action, they struggle to alter the fate of the nation.



American History; Conflict and War Studies; Political Science and Government

19th Century; Late Modern History

In a Few Words
Secessionists vs. unionists; secession is a mess 

United States of America

Themes and Issues  
Secession and conflicting ideas about loyalty (to nation, state, region, and family), Abolitionism, Race

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

Sample Class Titles
US Civil War; US History to 1877

Published Level 5 game (what's that mean?

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 

This game is chaotic, particularly towards the end, and is moderately demanding on the instructor.

Primary Source Highlights
John C. Calhoun, A Disquisition on Government; Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro;" James Henry Thornwell, “A Southern Christian View of Slavery"

Rolling Dice

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game is recommended for classes with 11-28+ students. 

Class Time  
For this game, 2 to 4 setup sessions and 4 to 6 game sessions are recommended. If necessary, the Instructor's Manual makes provisions to drop one session.

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


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. 


Students need a Gamebook, which includes directions, resources, and historical content. The Kentucky, 1861 Gamebook is published by UNC Press.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7071-3
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4696-7239-7

Published July 2022

 Available wherever books are sold.

Role Sheets 

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

.zip file of .pdf files.

Instructor's Manual & Handouts

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

Updated 2017 .pdf file


Nicolas W. Proctor

Nicolas W. Proctor grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. After completing his B.A. in history from Hendrix College, he received an M.A. in Diplomacy and International Relations from the University of Kentucky, as well as an M.A. and Ph.D. in American history from Emory University. He is now a Professor of History at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, where he has also served as department chair and director of the first-year program. Proctor is also the Chair of the Reacting Editorial Board, overseeing game development. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with his family, a print shop, lots of books, five chickens, and too many Legos.

After completing a traditional historical monograph, Bathed in Blood: Hunting and Mastery in the Old South, he reoriented his research to fit the needs of a teaching institution and focused on writing historical role-playing games.

Margaret Storey

Margaret Storey is professor of history at DePaul University. She received her Ph.D. in U.S. history from Emory University and is the author of Loyalty and Loss: Alabama’s Unionists in the Civil War and Reconstruction, the editor of Tried Men and True: Or, Union Life in Dixie, and co-curator of the online exhibit The Civil War in Art: Teaching and Learning Through Chicago Collections.


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


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