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Raising the Eleventh Pillar: The Ratification Debate
of 1788

by John Patrick Coby

In this one-week game in the Norton Flashpoints™️ series, students sit as delegates to the New York State Ratifying Convention. The time is June-July 1788; the place is the Poughkeepsie courthouse in the Hudson River Valley. Eight states have ratified to date, but a ninth is needed to give effect to the Constitution. The central issue of the game is democratic representation, presented in three phases of debate and organized around three large questions: What are the qualities and obligations of a representative? How are representatives of the preferred type identified and elected? And by what constitutional measures are representatives kept true to their trust, or speedily removed in the event of corruption? Students divide into Federalists (supporters of the Constitution), Antifederalists (opponents of the Constitution), and Moderates. Besides these three faction roles, delegate roles for 35 players are provided, though their use is optional. After examining all aspects of the representation issue, delegates vote to accept or reject the Constitution drafted in Philadelphia the previous summer--assuming, of course, that ideological divisions do not first blow apart the convention. Core-text readings include selections from The Federalist, "Federal Farmer, "Brutus," and the debates of the New York convention. The game is designed as a Reacting to the Past sampler; accordingly, ease of adoption is its distinguishing feature and primary objective.



Political Science and Government

18th Century; Late Modern Period

In a Few Words
Revelatory, serious, easy

North America

Notable Roles

George Clinton, Alexander Hamilton, Melancton Smith

Themes and Issues  
Democratic representation

Player Interactions 
Factional, Competitive, Collaborative, Coalition-Building

Sample Class Titles
American Political Thought; US History to 1877; United States Government

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

Rolling Dice, Differentiated Voting, Costumes

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game is not chaotic or demanding for the instructor. Ease of adoption/management has been the primary game-design goal.

Primary Source Highlights
Publius, Federal Farmer, Brutus, NY Debates, Gordon Wood

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 

This game is recommended for classes with 7 to 700 students (i.e., the game has no upper limit on class size).

Class Time  
For this game, 1 setup session and 2 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. Raising the Eleventh Pillar 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.

The Moderates take an exam but do not give formal speeches. That's how the game can be completed in two classes (Flashpoints™️) and accommodate any number of students. Moderates debate (optionally) and vote, but they do not write papers or give 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 Eleventh Pillar Gamebook is published by W. W. Norton. 

 ISBN: 978-0-393-53303-3
 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 files.

.zip file of .pdf and .pptx files.

Instructor's Manual

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

.zip file of .pdf files.

.zip file of .pdf files.


John Patrick Coby

John Patrick Coby is the Esther Booth Wiley 1934 Professor of Government at Smith College, where he teaches courses in political theory and American political thought. He is the author of six books and numerous journal articles, book chapters, and book reviews. Included among his books are Socrates and the Sophistic Enlightenment: A Commentary on Plato’s Protagoras; Machiavelli’s Romans: Liberty and Greatness in the Discourses on Livy; and, in the Reacting to the Past Series, The Constitutional Convention of 1787: Constructing the American Republic. At Smith he is the recipient of three teaching prizes: the Smith College Faculty Teaching Award, the Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching, and the Board of Trustees Honored Professor Award.


"The subject of representation in a republic is a critical issue that is not often plumbed beyond the surface. This game provides a chance to dig in, in a concentrated fashion, to one of the critical political theory questions ever posed. It carries resonance today (as pointed out at the end of the gamebook) and the structure of the game brings out the issues quickly and thoroughly."

"It also works well at raising the intellectual issues and discussions that are at the heart of Reacting. Though perhaps not a typical Reacting game with individualized roles, I think that’s OK in this situation because the essence of the game is Reacting in terms of intellectual debates that are set in a specific context with real decisions to be made. Being very structured is useful for a short game."

"This is a great companion game to 'The Constitutional Convention.'"


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


Constitutional Convention
The Constitutional Convention of 1787: Constructing the American Republic

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

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


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