Returning players! Wiki accounts were reset in late 2014. If you haven't played since then and wish to edit the wiki, you'll need a fresh account.

Nomic Without Chaos

From BlogNomic Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The following essay was retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20050227235048/http://www.nomic.net:80/~nomicwiki/index.php/NomicWithoutChaos written by LionKimbro and was put here so more people would be able to read it.

Nomic Without Chaos

Most games of Nomic become meaningless Chaos. You can look at any number of Nomic games in order to understand this- Most games become concerned with the manipulation of meaningless objects with strange names, amassing hoards of rules as if they were dollars, and playing subgames with scoring systems decoupled from winning conditions. Some games even explicitely state that the game cannot be won.

This essay attempts to propose means of restoring meaning and order to Nomic. I do this by proposing no radical rule changes, but rather, by proposing that Peter Suber rules #203, #208, and #209 be followed and elected immutable, rather than removed.

Consider first Rule #203

203. A rule-change is adopted if and only if the vote is unanimous among the eligible voters. If this rule is not amended by the end of the second complete circuit of turns, it automatically changes to require only a simple majority.

Many Nomic games scrap this rule, because it interferes with their gameplay. However, the rule is necessary, because it gives a player who has a chance of winning two turns with which to make winning moves, without the interference of the other players. The rule means: "You can freeze the game for 2 turns, during which you can make your winning moves."

Over the course of the game, I would even recommend lengthening the duration from "second complete circuit of turns" to "third", and then even "fourth".

Consider next Rule #208

208. The winner is the first player to achieve 100 (positive) points.

The game has meaning when there is a goal. It is important for the goal to be attainable. Rules that grant and revoke points should be, with time, rendered immutable. The winning condition should be made immutable as well.

Finally, Rule #209

209. At no time may there be more than 25 mutable rules.

The game should not be too fluid. Rules should be made immutable, so that the games harden, and players can make steps towards completing the game. Democratically determined rules can place roadblocks before players who are about to win, but players should have the ability to circumvent Democracy long enough to win the game.

(work in progress.)


The (anonymous?) author of the above commits the error of assuming that what e wants from Nomic is what everyone should want, and that Nomic should be played accordingly. The very fact that many Nomics either amend or repeal the cited rules, or begin with rulesets that do not incorporate those rules, should be a clear indication that what the author here wants is what many Nomic players do not. And Nomic of all games ought to be about what the players want, rather than what some external authority wants.

Regarding those specific rules:

I do not believe the intent of Rule 203 is to make it possible to win a Nomic game in two moves. In fact, no such intention was expressed in a recent discussion on the NomicBulletinBoard with PeterSuber. Nor do I understand the point the author is trying to make: in what way does a requirement of unanimity interfere with a winning strategy less than a requirement of simple majority? I believe the true benefit of Rule 203 is that it forces the game to begin with a period of constructive cooperation in defining the initial direction of rule changes.

PeterSuber has stated that he feels Rule 208 should be kept mutable, and that its rather boring win-goal should and will be replaced with something more interesting as the game evolves. The impulse to evolve toward a Nomic with no winning condition, or a Nomic where "winning" does not end the game, is a natural one: the effort and creativity involved in evolving a ruleset should not be thrown away lightly. Otherwise it's as if you go to a store, buy a board game, go home, play it once, and then incinerate it. What for?

Finally, Rule 209 attempts to set a limit on the evolution of the game. Some such limits may be useful, especially in the early stages. But the limit it sets is completely arbitrary, and tends to encourage "all-in-one" rules that address multiple issues and really ought to be multiple rules. I prefer it be kept mutable, so that its limit may be modified or removed to fit the particular situation.

-- RichHolmes


No, I haven't assumed that everyone wants from Nomic what I want.

A lot of people see Nomic as a wonderful opportunity to heap scraps of trivia together and call it Creativity. Personally, I find it rather boring and meaningless. Call me a FinitePlayer if you like, but I'd like to continue the super-game of Nomic by having a continued interest in playing the game. The heaping of triviality hardly collects my interest.

My personal opinion is that if you want to heap trivia, do it in a meaningful way. Construct worlds like http://lycadican.sourceforge.net/ Lycadican, which I think is a much better use of creative energy than these strange games of Nomic. Or write a novel like Tolkien.

I'm interested in playing a game. In particular, a game that cannot be predicted, and is developed by the players. That excites me. But I don't play Nomic to heap trivia and revel in goofiness. Humor is good, but most of these Nomic games are just absurd.

I'm all for Democracy. By writing this article, I'm not acting as a dictator. If some players want to be goofy and play goofy Nomic, okay, that's fine by them. Hey, if they want to play Hearts, who am I to stop them.

I'm just looking for people who like Nomic because they see interesting realms of game play there. I think many people begin their Love of Nomic looking for interesting games, play a few and find it's "easier" to play goofy Nomic, and then get attached to their goofiness and finally embrace the goofiness. I reject that goofiness, and would like to play a Real Game.

Rule 203

(Please include a link to the PeterSuber notes on 203, I'd be interested to see them.)

In answer to your question, "In what way does a requirement of unanimity interfere with a winning strategy less than a requirement of simple majority?":

I don't think that the unanimity requirement interferes with a winning strategy. In fact, I argued that it strengthens it. I argued (I thought clearly) that the rule is necessary if anyone is to be able to win the game. In fact, I propose that as the game continues, the duration lengthens from 2 turns to 3 turns to 4 turns ... (I'd like to write an article here on GradualSolidificationOfNomic.)

The reason it is unanimity is good and simple majority is "bad" for a game that eventually ends is that by simple majority, whenever a player is about to win (has figured out a winning strategy), the other players can simply topple the win- "Oh, player X, in danger of winning, has 0 points now." Unanimity gives a player the option to freeze Nomic- to say, "The rules will stay constant for X turns, during which I can make my winning moves according to the present rules."

Whether or not this is PeterSuber's original intent, I don't know. While I care, and would like it if that were PeterSuber's original intent, in the end, it is not terribly important to me.

I think 203 is a good rule, and should NOT be repealled, as it almost always is.

Rule 208

208 is a rather boring goal: "Get 100 points". Replacing it is fine. However, once replaced, I believe it should be made immutable. It is not the scoring system that I am attached to, it's the concept that there's a goal that can be reasonably reached. Most games either make the goal effectively unreachable, by allowing players to immediately set back a player who is getting close to the goal, or by allowing players to just set the goal post "a little bit further", or by explicitly declaring a rule that the game cannot be won..!

As for the "impulse to evolve toward a Nomic with no winning condition"... I do not share that impulse. I find no similarity with going to the store, buying a board game, going home, playing it once, and then incinerating it. The base rules of Nomic are still around, and have not been burned. I can equally say that making the game have no ending is like proposing a Monopoly game that has no end- the winning players continually loan out to the losing players. There is no interest there.

My vision of a good Nomic community is one that identifies common patterns in games, and makes canonical rulesets that can be modularly swapped in and out, or establish a PatternLanguageForNomic, allowing players to make rules quickly and precisely. I have worked on a number of iconic notations for rules that allow you to write very precise rules very quickly. For example, you can quickly say, "A secret ballot vote is taken requiring 2/3 of votes to pass..." Just write a handful of icons, use the standard book of what the icons mean, and you don't have to deal with a lot of silliness thereafter. ("Well, I want to make a half-vote..") There are icons for referring to "the player to the left of the normally concurrently following player", for inserting phases to an ordered turn, for talking about closed vs. open systems, etc., etc.,. I think it takes too long to make rules precisely, and that this can be fixed by establishing a common rule language (the PatternLanguageForNomic).

Rule 209 (& all-in-wonders)

I'd like as the game continues for it to gradually harden (GradualSolidificationOfNomic). "Limiting the evolution of the game" is not something I would write with disdain. That means that a player can eventually win the game. There are a number of ways to do it, that I'd like to write about some time.

I would reduce all-in-wonders either by legislation, or better, by limiting the time that is allowed for writing rules.

-- LionKimbro

You said :

{The reason it is unanimity is good and simple majority is "bad" for a game that eventually ends is that by simple majority, whenever a player is about to win (has figured out a winning strategy), the other players can simply topple the win- "Oh, player X, in danger of winning, has 0 points now." Unanimity gives a player the option to freeze Nomic- to say, "The rules will stay constant for X turns, during which I can make my winning moves according to the present rules."}

But why not just make a rule against such behaviors in the begining of game and make it immutable ?


LionKimbro: I believe you have misunderstood rule 203. Rule 203 means that during the first two complete turns of a game of Nomic, all rules require unanimous consent to be passed. After the first two complete turns, rule 203 changes itself so that, from then on, rules only require a simple majority in order to be passed.