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The Remaking of the Medieval World, 1204:
The Fourth Crusade

by John J. Giebfried and Kyle C. Lincoln

The Tragedy that Reshaped Christendom

The Remaking of the Medieval World, 1204: The Fourth Crusade allows students to understand and experience one of the greatest medieval atrocities, the sack of the Constantinople by a crusader army, and the subsequent reshaping of the Byzantine Empire. The game includes debates on issues such as "just war" and the nature of crusading, feudalism, trade rights, and the relationship between secular and religious authority. It likewise explores the theological issues at the heart of the East-West Schism and the development of constitutional states in the era of Magna Carta. The game also includes a model siege and sack of Constantinople where individual students’ actions shape the fate of the crusade for everyone.



Conflict and War Studies; Cultural and Social History; Medieval History; Political Science and Government; Religion; Western Civ/History; World History; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


13th Century; Post-Classical Era

In a Few Words

Crusade, Christendom, and Chaos

Europe; Southwest Asia

Notable Roles

Enrico Dandolo, Raimbaut of Vaqueiras, King Lalibela of Ethiopia

Themes and Issues  

Just war, crusade, inter-Christian conflict, church-state relations, medieval theology, trade, feudalism, growth of the state, constitutionalism, medieval warfare, human rights, war crimes, Tragedy of the Commons

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

Sample Class Titles
Western Civ 1; World History 1; Medieval History; Belief and Belonging in the Pre-Modern Mediterranean; History of the Crusades

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

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game can be moderately chaotic and demanding on the instructor. The potential for chaos is very student-driven. Additionally, if students use their tools a lot, it puts an onus on the faculty.

Primary Source Highlights 
Papal Letters, Historical Chronicles, Troubadour Poetry

Published Level 5 game (what's that mean?

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game is recommended for classes with 12-52 players, but there are scale bios up to 150.

Class Time  
For this game, 2 to 4 setup sessions and 4 to 8 game sessions are recommended.

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 Fourth Crusade 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. creative writing, criticism, and letter writing. All roles are required to give formal speeches.

If you choose to use the "electronic version of the Sack of Constantinople" in the game materials, you'll need two pieces of digital material to share with students:

  1. The "Choose Your Own Adventure" module is available on Storyboard--users will need the password "Reacting" to access it.
  2. The "Sack of Constantinople" google form is accessible here. You should make a copy of the form, set yourself as an owner, and then use the "send" function to distribute it to your students. The form is large, so it will load slowly. It will, however, create a spreadsheet of student responses that will make assessment easier.

It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to make sure that students copy both the letter, the action, and the results of their actions to their Sack and Plunder Worksheet (a handout in your Instructor's Materials). This is their record of their deeds, and without it, they should get a zero for that assignment.  In order to make tabulating the results easier, we suggest having students send you an "action code" of their deeds.

The code has eight alpha-numeric elements: 

  1. the first three letters of the Region (Petrion, Blachernae, Great Palace, Merchant, Greek Residental)
  2. their letter answer to the First Incident
  3. their letter answer to the Second Incident
  4. their position in the Sack of the specified region
  5.  their choice for that position specific question
  6. their net fama change
  7.  what, if any, change to the nefas score for the crusade as a whole they earned (most will be zero, but they should be asked anyway).
  8. how many marks--as a whole number--they are donating to the crusade's common fund.

Thus, Gre-A-C-3-D-+2--1-150 Means that a player having the Great Palace Region's third position answered the first two (common) questions with A and C, then chose D for their unique question. They gained a total of two fama points and reduced the crusade's nefas score by one, all while donating 150 marks to the common fund of the crusade.


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.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6411-8

EBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6412-5

Available wherever books are sold.

Role Sheets and Handouts

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

VERSION 4.2. .zip file of .docx files.

.zip file of .docx files.

Instructor's Manual

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

VERSION 4.2. docx file.

Additional Resources 

Resources for Introduction and/or Debrief

Videos of the Byzantium 1200 project:


John J. Giebfried

John Giebfried is a historian specializing in the Crusades and the Mongol Empire. He completed his PhD at Saint Louis University in 2015 examining the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade and Latin rule in Constantinople. He has served as a postdoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's "Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia" prosopography project and has taught at Saint Louis University, Webster University, and Georgia Southern University. John currently serves as an Assistant Professor of History at East Georgia State College.

Reacting and Related Titles

  • Grandsons of Genghis: The Mongol Kurultai of 1241
  • Evian 1938: The First Solution
Kyle C. Lincoln

Kyle C. Lincoln is a medieval Iberian historian. In 2016, he completed a PhD at Saint Louis University in Medieval and Early Modern European History and a Masters by research in the same in 2012, after earning a BA in Classical Civilizations at Kalamazoo College in 2010. He has taught widely, but currently serves as Assistant Professor of Pre-Modern European History and Interdisciplinary Studies. His publications have appeared in more than a dozen venues, and he currently serves on the Reacting Consortium’s Game Development Conference Committee and the Reacting to the Past Editorial Board.

Reacting and Related Titles

  • Never in Spain Was There Such a War
  • The Conquest of Granada, 1492
  • Sing Goddess of the Rage of Achilles
  • "To Take the Office of Judge:" Ibn Battuta and Islamic Custom in the Maldives


"The Fourth Crusade is notorious; I find that even students with a casual knowledge of the period sometimes have awareness of it. This game is a wonderful exploration of why and how things went as wrong as they did. The interests of different factions, the clash between collective ideals and individual ambitions, and the frustrations attached to the whole endeavor come to life."

"The Fourth Crusade is a fascinating moment in history and the game brings out some good debates on important themes in medieval history."

"This game also allows some exploration of both Latin Christian and Byzantine political and religious ideals, giving a glimpse of multiple cultures within the game, even though most of the characters are western European. As a medievalist, I’m glad to see a game dealing with so many aspects of medieval European society so thoughtfully."


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 Second Crusade
The Second Crusade: The War Council of Acre, 1148

The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations, and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994

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


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