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Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York City, 1775-1776

by Bill Offutt

Experience the American Revolution--intellectual debate, political violence, social upheaval, dealmaking, war, and a future up for grabs.

This game draws students into the political and social chaos of a revolutionary New York City, where patriot and loyalist forces argued and fought for advantage among a divided populace. Can students realize the liminal world of chaos, disruption, loss of privacy, and fear of victimization that comes with any revolution accompanied by violence? How do both the overall outcome and the intermediate “surprises” that reflect the shift of events in 1775-76 demonstrate the role of contingency in history? Could the Brits still win? What were the complexities, strengths, and weaknesses of the arguments on both sides? How were these affected by the social circumstances in which the Revolution occurred?

Students engage with the ideological foundations of revolution and government through close readings of Locke, Paine, and other contemporary arguments. Each student’s ultimate victory goal is to have his/her side in control of New York City at the end of 1776 (not as of the end of the Revolution, when all know who won), as well as to achieve certain individual goals. Winning requires the ability to master the high political arguments for and against revolution as well as the low political skills of logrolling, bribery, and threatened force. Military force often determines the winner, much to the surprise of the students who concentrate merely on internal game politics.



Conflict and War Studies; Cultural and Social History; Political Science and Government; Western Civ/History

18th Century; Modern History

In a Few Words
Emotionally engaging, disorienting, fun

United States of America

Rolling Dice, Formal Podium Rule

Player Interactions 

Factional, Competitive, Coalition-Building

Sample Class Titles
The Early American Legacy; Conflict and Revolution in Early America

Published Level 5 game (what's that mean?)

Notable Roles

Robert Livingston, Alexander Hamilton, James Delancey

Themes and Issues

Class, Gender, Race

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
Replicating the disorienting nature of a social revolution requires an element of chaos, of "surprise"--events that require response with insufficient information, of intellectual and political collaboration. GM also must move events through 15+months with handouts both general and role specific, and chance plays a part in mob and military actions.

Primary Source Highlights
John Locke, Second Treatise of Government; Tom Paine, Common Sense; Thomas Jefferson, Draft of Declaration of Independence

Using the Game

Class Time  
For this game, 3 to 4 setup sessions and 6 to 7 game sessions are recommended. For those who wish to use the game in fewer sessions, setup may be reduced by 1/2, and gameplay may eliminate the first week (sessions 1 and 2) and begin with session 3.

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. American Revolution 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. 

Class Size and Scalability
This game is recommended for classes with 11-29+ students.


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. 


Students need a Gamebook, which includes directions, resources, and historical content. The American Revolution Gamebook is published by W. W. Norton. 

 ISBN: 978-0-393-93889-0
 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 Guide
and Handouts

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

Second edition. .pdf file.

.zip file of .pdf files.

Additional Resources

Digital Assets

This includes digital Zoom backgrounds for your students.

Webinar Video: Use Patriots Online

This includes the video recording of the webinar.


Bill Offutt

Bill Offutt is Professor of History and Faculty Advisor for the Pforzheimer Honors College at Pace University. He received his AB from Stanford University, and his J.D. from Stanford Law School. Abandoning the law, he then went to graduate school, earning a Ph.D. in Early American History at Johns Hopkins University under Professor Jack P. Greene. His first book, Of Good Laws and Good Men: Law and Society in the Delaware Valley 1680–1710, was published by Illinois University Press. His academic interests focus on the relationship between law and society, particularly the methods by which legal systems obtain and keep their legitimacy. He has taught courses on colonial America, revolutionary America, the Civil War, Constitutional history, and American women’s history. In addition to his own Reacting games, he has taught eight other Reacting games to students at Pace, and he has participated in numerous Reacting conferences as Gamemaster and/or player.

Reacting and Related Titles

  • The Fate of John Brown, 1859
  • Alien and Sedition Acts
  • Stamp Act Crisis, 1756-66
  • Prohibition Repeal
  • 1960s Feminism split: Political vs. Personal


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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