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

by David E. Henderson and Frank Kirkpatrick

Who was Jesus anyway? God, or Man, or both?

Constantine and the Council of Nicaea plunges students into the theological debates confronting early Christian church leaders. Emperor Constantine has sanctioned Christianity as a legitimate religion within the Roman Empire but discovers that Christians do not agree on fundamental aspects of their beliefs. Some have resorted to violence, battling over which group has the correct theology. Constantine has invited all of the bishops of the church to attend a great church council to be held in Nicaea, hoping to settle these problems and others.

The first order of business is to agree on a core theology of the church to which Christians must subscribe if they are to hold to the “true faith.” Some will attempt to use the creed to exclude their enemies from the church. If they succeed, Constantine may fail to achieve his goal of unity in both empire and church. The outcome of this conference will shape the future of Christianity for millennia.

Council of Nicaea can also be played with the Roman Prisoner's Dilemma Microgame which is designed to set the scene for this game.



Classics/Classical Antiquity; Religion; Western Civ/History; World History

4th Century; Ancient History

In a Few Words
Religion, Politics, Christianity

Southwest Asia

Themes and Issues  

Relationship between Jesus and God; Apostates and sacraments/baptism

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

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

Notable Roles

Constantine, Arius, Athanasius

Rolling Dice; Formal Podium Rule; Robes, Stoles, and Crosses

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game is moderately chaotic and demanding on the instructor.  The only demanding aspect is the fact that factional alignments fall apart in the later parts of the games as new issues arise.

Primary Source Highlights
Gospels of Mark and John; The Acts of the Apostles; Letters of Paul; Letter of the Council of Antioch; Eusebius Chapters I-III, IX, and X

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game is recommended for classes with 7-40+ students.  The game has been adapted to address the widely varying class sizes. While classes of 7 or 40 are not ideal, the game works well in these cases. The IM contains detailed instructions for scaling the game for various sizes.

Class Time  
For this game, 2 to 4 setup sessions and 5 to 6 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. Council of Nicaea 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. 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 Council of Nicaea Gamebook is published by Reacting Consortium Press. 

PAPERBACK ISBN: 978-1-4696-3141-7

EBOOK ISBN: 978-1-4696-3142-4
Available wherever books are sold.

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. 

.zip file of .pdf and .docx files.

.zip file of .xlsx and .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 7.4b. Updated 2014. .docx file.

Forums for Council of Nicaea

Please note that these forums are in a beta phase and that functionality may be limited. Game authors have discretion when deciding what community materials can be publicized on the Reacting website.



Last message



David E. Henderson

David E. Henderson is Professor Emeritus at Trinity College (Connecticut). He is the author of several Reacting game modules on science, public policy, and religion.

Frank Kirkpatrick

Frank Kirkpatrick is the Ellsworth Morton Tracy Lecturer and Professor of Religion, Emeritus, Trinity College. He is author of eight books and numerous articles on the history of the Christian church, the development of its theologies, and Christian social ethics.


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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