When I heard about the game Nomic, I was excited to give it a try. I read the rules to the game and my excitement started to flicker. What’s with all of these “immutable” and “mutable” rules? I get points for rolling a die? Clearly, the original game of Nomic was inspired by the US Constitution, which is fine for a law professor but adds complexity to the game which is not needed. So, in discussing the game with my friend Elliot we decided to just have two rules. Elliot suggested that the only rule needed to start the game is “players take turns suggesting a new rule.” I though that it was clear that a second rule was also required, which is that “all players must agree to a new rule before it is accepted.”
In further discussions with Elliot, it became clear that we have one rule too many. He would go so far as to suggest that we have two rules too many, and that the simple agreement of the players that they are playing a game gives a structure to the game that follows. I think that the one rule that I would use is “All players must agree to any changes to the game”. I think this is more of a clarification than a limitation, and is sufficient for the start of a game of Nomic.
For a more complete discussion of the nature of games, check out Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse, which is easily one of my favorite books of all time.