Nomic

Some months ago, I was flipping through a book on game design, and I ran across a link. That link led me to another link, which led to my discovery of the game of Nomic. Nomic is, by far, the most intriguing game I’ve ever come across. Developed in the 1980’s by Peter Suber, as part of an exploration of the ways governments can legislate themselves into corners, it has received, in my opinion, far less attention than it deserves. Here’s the gist of it.

The primary goal of Nomic is to change the rules. That’s right, the game is all about changing the game’s own rules. Readers familiar with my style and personality will see now why I was so drawn to the game. Play begins with an initial rule set. For example:

  1. All players must obey all rules at all times, in the current form in which they are written.
  2. A rule may be modified, added, or deleted in the following way: a player proposes the rule on their turn, and all other players vote on it. The rule will be enacted, changed, or removed if the proposal to do so receives a simple majority (51% or greater) of votes.
  3. Players perform actions in turn, moving from left to right around the play-circle. On each turn, a player rolls a die and receives the number of points shown.
  4. The winner is the first player to reach 100 points.

This initial rule set is intended to be quite boring, in order to encourage players to begin amending it immediately.  (Note: Peter Suber’s original incarnation included a division between two rulesets: the mutable and the immutable, the latter of which can be changed right away, and the former of which must be “transmuted” into a mutable rule first. This distinction seemed arbitrary and unnecessary to me, and so I took the liberty of doing away with it.)

As I searched the Internet for a good, active, on-line Nomic game, I discovered very quickly that almost no active games exist. As usual, it seems, I’ve stumbled upon something fascinating a couple of years too late. My attempts to start up a forum-based Nomic derivative failed completely.

Oh well. I just thought I’d get the word out about one of the coolest unknown games I’ve seen.

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