Thoughts On Nomic In General
- By card
Nomic is quite a niche game and while finding players for certain tabletop games, from board games to pen and paper games may be difficult, finding people who want to try any form of Nomic can be more difficult. The fact that the average person or even average tabletop enthusiast does not know what Nomic is in my opinion has to do with the inherent way the game was created and introduced to the world.
Since Nomic was introduced in an essay from the magazine Scientific American, it's initial audience was not widely from a background of playing games or knew anyone working in the industry of board games. Because Nomic was freely distributed it lacked any chance of gaining a lot of lasting publicity. Other free tabletop games do exist, but they are generally tied with some sort of equipment, crazy 8s, go fish, bullshit, poker, black jack and so on are all either ways of getting people to buy cards or for betting. Mao is quite similar to Nomic but it also suffers from low popularity and the fact that it requires a deck of cards to play with. Many other board games obviously require the present equipment to play. The difference that Nomic has with all of these games is that it's not as bound to require equipment to play, although such objects can make games more fun or familiar to play. So Nomic won't ever get support from a Hasbro as a board or card game because its main mechanic will become overly complicated for the average person buying it and it's more effort for them to market a ruleset and pieces that can turn into any game than an already complete game -- their potential customers want to pay them for a game, not the pieces and information to make a game!
There seems to be two major ways of having changes to the ruleset work without breaking the game -- having the game in a state that from the initial ruleset the first person to propose a change can't simply win from making the change "I win" or making it impossible to change the initial rules right away. The most familiar to people here is using proposals. Methods similar to proposals have changes stated about the rules or something in the game which are not rules (known here as the gamestate) which are then decided by majority vote. Another method is for the person suggesting the change to be able to make that change without any objection from the other player or players. This second option allows for two player games (instead of having the two players vote against any changes so nothing happens) leads to a lot of padding to the rules to either prevent someone from doing something like "The player named X wins" or prevent them from erasing all of the rules. Usually the player is limited by time, such as only being able to change the rule when they have a specific state; another way is to allow people to make limited changes so you can do (almost) anything. In a two player game the players will balance it out with interleaved opportunities at changing the ruleset and or gamestate. One way of limiting power is usually with immutable rules or other such similar schemes.
Limited But Automatic Changes
One game that should probably deserve a mention is the line of Fluxx games. To my knowledge there's quite a few themed card games and one board game of Fluxx. To illustrate my difference between voted on rule changes and limited rule changes, this is a great example. I've only played the card game myself so I'll explain the basics. So the game has a number of "Rules" cards, another number of "Goals" another of "Keepers" and one more of "Creepers". In contrast to Nomic the rules are very limited, no free editing of the rules since only the preprinted cards are allowed. The same goes for the other cards of course. Since the Rule cards are preprinted there are no "You Win!" or "You Lose!" rules and another difference is that you can only change the rules if you can play that Rule card. The same example can be said of the "Goals" cards, since in the printed rules instructions that is the win condition, which is not up for change via the Rules cards. So while someone can manipulate it to be very favorable for them to win via Rules cards, they can't win with complete certainty right away.
Unlimited But Delayed And Agreed Upon Changes
Another example of a game that can have rule changes and has an "Emperor" of sorts is DnD. The DM could make whatever rule changes they want or players could ask for house rules. The difference from Automatic changes is that the DM could make any changes they want but not without agreement from most people they are playing with. Those players could leave if they don't like said changes and similarly with any changes the players might ask for the DM to put into their game.
Fun vs Winning
The question of winning in a Nomic game brings question to what winning means to the player in other games or conditions. For example one of the longest lasting games Agora Nomic has maintained that "Winning" doesn't end the game. And that's true, many people may have had a family Monopoly game that ended with people seeing what "place" after 1st they got. However many people would through conditioning from other games believe that any game ends when someone wins. Probably carried over from 1 player vs 1 player games. In Blognomic the term "win" is not actually present in the non-Dynastic rules and the victory simply makes someone able to change the theme. So what does winning mean for a player in general? People seem to not always have the same reasons for playing or goals. As brought up here and some other places, there seems to be a general types of players. Although not everyone fits perfectly into those said slots, to be sure you don't assume everyone plays Blogomic to win. In fact some people might think of winning in Blognomic as a goal of there's in line with winning other games while another person might want to win in order to try their hand at theming a Dynasty.
How fun a board game is to each player depends upon how the other players interact with the game; if a half the people at the table don't enjoy playing said game then the mood turns sour. This fact is simply increased with games with interactive story telling such as RPGs or Nomic. If people don't "get" Nomic the first rule they may try to implement would be some victory condition that would immediately end the game. When you can make trivial victory conditions such as "the first person to speak wins" the idea of wining can be boring. Without a challenge, winning ceases to be fun for many people, which is why most players will vote against a proposal most of the time that says "random/specific player wins" -- as an aside most boardgames or even player versus player video games makes winning something to desire by comparing skill or some similar thing: winning a game of ratscrew is more fun or enjoyable than winning a game of war against someone, however it depends upon your opponent. Ratscrew against a paraplegic or similarly disabled player is about as fun as playing war against yourself.