The revolutionary generation had to negotiate a lot of hard choices. In Revolutionary Choices, a player is asked to weigh priorities and make decisions about the economy, human rights, armed conflict and political order from the standpoint of the Continental Army, the thirteen states, and the Continental Congress. The Continental Congress must grapple with difficult choices about how to finance the war, how to approach European powers for support and how to supply the army. The states have to make choices about supporting the common cause or defending their own interests. The army has to make choices about when to fight and when to flee in order to fight another day. While facing the dilemmas confronted by the men and women of revolutionary America, a player is also challenged to uphold the high ideals of universal liberty and natural rights, and to nurture the fragile union of the states. From the player’s perspective comes the realization that, in historical situations, actors cannot always do what now seems like the ideal thing.
This guide is intended to help players better understand how to contemplate decisions made in-game, using an example faced early during Revolutionary Choices play: determining how the Continental Army will be paid.
As the Revolution officially begins to take shape in 1775, militiamen from across the nation are moving from fighting for their individual towns to joining the Continental Army as soldiers. The Continental Congress has resolved that any troops raised in Virginia will be paid at the same rate as forces from Cambridge, Massachusetts. This raises the question of whether the army or Congress is responsible for determining how the Continental Army is paid. A player can choose to either:
- defer the decision to the newly formed Continental Army (army), or
- allow Congress to consider standardizing the rate of pay to recruit soldiers from all thirteen colonies (Congress).
This choice, and every choice confronted by a player, has consequences.
The impact on liberty, unity, and other factors…
When making decisions that affect more than just supplies, players have to consider the liberty, or freedom, of their citizens, as well as the unity, or cooperation, between the states. Decisions affecting liberty will involve some level of control over the civil rights of every American—free and enslaved, male and female, rich and poor, young and old. Other decisions will cause the unity of the states to increase or decrease, which in turn will change how the different regions of the country work together. Both factors impact future events and a player’s success in winning the game.
For example, instituting standard pay for soldiers from all thirteen colonies may increase the unity between the colonies—they may be able to act as a more cohesive nation, instead of separate regions.
The impact on the three regions of the united colonies…
Players’ decisions impact the level of support for the Revolution from the three regions of the colonies: New England, The Mid-Atlantic, and The South. The level of support from each region determines how much money and how many tons of supplies from that region are contributed to the cause each season. Sometimes, players must make decisions that may increase support from one region but also decrease support from another.
For example, asking for standard pay for soldiers may increase the level of support from the south, since southern militias were typically paid less than New England militias. However, because this choice may increase the money and supplies all regions must contribute toward the war effort, it may be unpopular in regions that do not see a localized benefit.
The impact on the leaders and decision-makers responsible…
The various generals and agents encountered in Revolutionary Choices are historical figures who have influence over how the events of the Revolution play out in the game. Generals fight battles and recruit soldiers, while agents impact factors that affect both battles and legislation.
For example, if the issue of standardized pay for the Army is being debated in Congress, adding an agent before voting, such as a folk hero like Molly Pitcher, may increase support and unity.
Viewing the decision in light of what actually happened historically…
Players can make decisions that cause the Revolution to play out differently than what happened historically. The decision to play Revolutionary Choices differently from what happened historically is encouraged to better understand what factors facilitate different outcomes. Players can see how the decisions they make compare to what really happened and put them in the context of the historical record.
For example, historically, the responsibility to pay individuals in the Continental Army was left to the states. Pay was typically low and sometimes in the form of a land grant. Players can decide to standardize pay and then form conclusions about how that decision could have changed the course of the Revolutionary War.
Viewing the decision’s impact in the context of twenty-first century issues in America…
Many of the decisions players make in Revolutionary Choices have parallels to issues that face America in the twenty-first century. Players can connect the impact of their eighteenth-century game choices to contemporary debates that inform their everyday lives.
For example, the decision to standardize army pay or not connects to the contemporary issues of veteran’s benefits, minimum wage, and equal pay. Players are encouraged to make these connections and consider them while making in-game decisions. Who makes those decisions today? How do those decisions affect national unity and civil liberty? What regional factors impact those decisions? What leaders or popular individuals influence those decisions?