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Watergate, 1973-74
by John M. Parrish

"But if there be no accountability, another President will feel free to do as he chooses. The next time there may be no watchman in the night.”

-House Judiciary Committee member James Mann, 1974

In Watergate, 1973-74, students experience the unfolding of America’s most dramatic constitutional crisis of the 20th century: the investigation of the Watergate burglary and its subsequent cover-up.

Beginning in July 1973, as the point where the scandal’s main facts had finally been made public, students will portray members of Congress, the news media, and the Nixon Administration as they struggle to cope with the emerging crisis.

The key to resolving the crisis are the president’s secret White House tapes – Nixon invoked questions of high constitutional principle to withhold access to the tapes from the special prosecutor and Congress – but many of his critics suspected he was merely trying to conceal evidence of his guilt.

With the world’s most powerful person barricading himself within the walls of the White House and threatening to take the constitutional order itself hostage to ensure his political survival, how could well-intentioned leaders pursue truth and justice without risking collateral damage to the nation’s foundational principles and institutions? Watergate gives students the chance to understand the importance of evidence and disciplined verification in resolving conflicts of belief and value, and to wrestle with the often-frustrating complexity of using such processes to decide, under conditions of profound uncertainty, some of the most consequential questions of a nation’s political life.



Philosophy; Political Science and Government; Rhetoric and Performance Studies; U.S. History

20th Century; Contemporary Era

In a Few Words
Coalition-building; evidence-focused; dilemmas

North America

Primary Source Highlights

The Federalist Papers and U.S. Constitution; Watergate testimony and public statements by the president; transcripts of secret White House tape recordings

Themes and Issues  
Partisanship; impeachment; constitution; journalism; evidence; presidency; Congress; separation of powers

Player Interactions 
Factional, Competitive, Coalition-Building

Sample Class Titles

Conspiracies in the US; American Government; Survey of US History

Published game (what's that mean?)

Notable Roles

Sam Ervin, Howard Baker, Daniel Inouye

Divided Spaces, Rolling Dice, Differentiated Voting, Formal Podium Rule, Physical Props

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game is moderately chaotic and can be demanding on the instructor. There is a fairly determinate overall pathway to the game, leading more or less inevitably to a vote on impeachment, but there are a number of minor twists and turns along the way for the instructor to keep track of.

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game is recommended for classes with 12-30 students.

Class Time  
For the full version of the game, 3 setup sessions, 6 game sessions, and 1 debrief session are recommended.

An abridged version can be played with 2 setup sessions, 3 game sessions, and 1 debrief session.

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.  Watergate may pair well with:


You can adjust the assignments to fit the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include traditional paper/research/thesis-driven writing, journalism, letter writing, and speechwriting. Many roles are expected to give formal speeches.


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  


All students need a Gamebook, which includes resources and historical content. Members can download the Gamebook, and provide it to students for free or at cost.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7517-6
Ebook ISBN: Coming Soon

Published September 2023

 Available wherever books are sold.

Instructor's Manual

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

.docx file.

.zip folder with .docx files.

Role Sheets

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, suggestions for further reading, and role-specific info or assignments.  

.zip folder with .docx files.

.zip folder with .docx files.


John M. Parrish

John M. Parrish is Professor of Political Science at Loyola Marymount University. His teaching and research focus on political theory, political ethics, political rhetoric and the history of political thought. He is the author of Paradoxes of Political Ethics (Cambridge, 2007) and The Decline of Mercy in Public Life (Cambridge, 2014, with Alex Tuckness) as well as numerous articles and book chapters. He has been teaching with Reacting since 2015.


"I think Reacting really needs a game on this topic – and on late 20th century topics in general. It’s valuable also because the issues are very topical and current, particularly with the current administration. I also think it has the potential to open students’ eyes to the problems of corruption and power in American politics, as well as the consequences (or lack thereof) of those actions."

"It’s timely, it’s an important topic, I honestly can’t wait to use this game. I am spending a lot more of my space in this review with more critical comments, but that in no way detracts from my level of excitement to try this one in my classes and to hope I have a chance to play it sometime soon!"

"Understanding Watergate the event was difficult at the time, and even more difficult for current students today. This game gets students to grapple with issues of political power and its abuse that date back to the American Revolution and forward to today. The roles are three-dimensional and possess enough range of choices to reveal how contingent the actual outcome was, and how many ways a constitutional democracy may be lost. "Watergate, 1973-74" will give students a visceral understanding of what was at stake then, and now.


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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