Some comments on our first Nomic game, Josh Kortbein, 24 July 1998.
To the few very active players, this game seemed to take quite a while to get going. Many of the players were involved to a minimal extent, and until the players as a group hit its stride in harassing people to vote, propose, etc., we sometimes went days between any game action.

Action picked up some with the passage of 306 (Simple Majority) and 307 (Voting Period). As the game ended during the proceedings involving proposal 311 (Inactivity), there wasn't much time to really feel the long term effects of 306 and 307. I anticipate that we would have basically stuck to a 2-3 day cycle for each turn, as 307 set the voting period length at 36 hours, and most people choose to take about a day for discussion of their proposals if there is not great dissent.

The first attempt to win the game came from Mike Jensen. The details are made clear in Judgment 2, but essentially Mike attempted to exploit rule 107, governing the retroactive behavior of rules. Mike's coup attempt was quashed by Joel Uckelman's judgment, in which it was determined that Mike's interpretation of the word "retroactive" was incorrect.

Over a week later, what may have been another crucial problem developed. I identified what I felt was a problem in the number-changing which occurs when rules are transmuted. Adam Haar seized on this and thought that, if I was correct, the game was rendered unplayable. I disagreed, as did Judge Ben Byrne. This "problem," along with that dealt with in Judgment 5, shows that our game was somewhat concerned with things like simultaneity. I don't think we really ever settled on a comfortable interpretation.

A while after that much of the game action and discussion was concerned with the adding of new players. As far as I am aware, there was at least one person who wanted to join the game, but there were strong opinions against adding new players, as it was thought that they would only make the game even slower and more unwieldy. A discussion amongst the Harwood contingency of our game (i.e., those players who lived in Harwood in real life) spurred a Call for Judgment by Joel, regarding whether or not new players could be added at any time, and whether or not new players (i.e., the real people representing them in the game) needed to be aware that they were playing. I was not privy to this discussion, but apparently a judgment was required because some players were interested in abusing the addition of new players. Mike Jensen's judgment regarding the latter part of the CFJ was pragmatic: "I see no reason why players, added in the procedure above (rule change or uncontested action) are required to recognize their franchise, spirit of the game or otherwise. We would be insane to let such players into the game, but if we did, we would deserve what we get."

Matt Kuhns had a busy turn as Judge - he issued 3 judgments. The first, on an issue for which there was much debate between Joel and I, dealt with whether or not 109 was "bipolar," that is, whether or not the unanimous vote required went both ways. I sided with CFJ originator Chris Mayfield, as we both disagreed with Joel. Our interpretation was, we felt, strictly logical, admitting nothing but what was in the rules. Joel's was more in the spirit of law, as he wanted the judge to form his opinion based on what the rules reasonably SHOULD have said, had they not been written as they were. In this judgment, Kuhns' decision coincided with our interpretation.

Matt's second judgment was in regards to another real-life discussion which took place between Joel and Matt Potter. Again, I was not privy to that discussion. Essentially, though, Potter disagreed with Joel's interpretation of the rules governing (or not governing, in this case) point changes. In order to call attention to this disagreement, and to have it resolved in a manner he was happy with, Potter announced that he was setting Joel's score to -10 points, and then called for judgment on his own action: "Having said that, I realize this is basically an anal and bass-ackwards way of interpreting a (IMHO) rather straightforward rule." Kuhns' judgment reflected the common sense opinion.

Matt Kuhns' final judgment centered around something I (un-maliciously) instigated. During the rest of this game activity, there were discussions and proceedings underway regarding Damon Luloff's re-entry into the game. Some time earlier, Damon had quit the game, as he had become dissatisfied with the manner in which it was proceeding. As I am told, he had a personal disagreement with Joel, in which Joel determined that Damon and Joel simply could not play games together any more. In order to prevent Joel's exit from the game, Damon quit first. Damon's re-entry proceedings were slightly difficult because there was some question as to whether or not we were ready to accept him. Interestingly enough, it was Damon's own rule which governed the entry of new players. Damon was added during the turn in which Kuhns had already been judging.

The matter on which Kuhns deliberated was this: I posited, publicly, that Damon's re-entry could cause a problem in the interpretation of the judging rule, as our judging selection uses the alphabetical list of players' surnames. When Damon was re-added, his name came after Kuhns' and before Chris Mayfield, whose turn was currently occuring. Damon's new player rule denied the right of proposal to new players, until some criteria were met. It did state, though, that new players were otherwise granted all the rights of players. I argued that Damon, as a new player having all the rights of a player, should have the right of Judgeship. CFJ Initiator Nick Osborn took a literal stance, and said that Damon, as a "new player," did not count as a "player" for the purposes of the judge selection rule. Kuhns resolved the problem by stating that, since the rules state there is to be only one judge for a turn, and he had already been a judge for the turn, there could be no other judge.

The strongest subtext of our game was definitely, in my opinion, the distinction between the Platonic and pragmatic game. Most players preferred that the game tend toward the pragmatic, but some players (myself perhaps foremost among them) came from a more logic-rich background, and preferred to think of the game in those terms. Personally, I am far more interested in logic and formal systems than I am in law interpretation and politics. Joel shares my interest in the former, but is also interested in the latter. Two of the other most active players, Adam Haar and Ben Byrne, tended toward the latter. Though of course I am biased, I would say that until its end the game was dominated by the Platonic philosophy, but that is not to say that the pragmatic did not play a role. After the passage of 306, we were beginning to see more politically-motivated votes, mostly made in order to either 1) earn opposed minority points, 2) deny a proposer passage points, or 3) show support for a prominent "yea" or "nea" supporter of a proposal for which there was strong disagreement. Further developments, had they been able to develop, may have exhibited much more of a political bent.

Two such developments were point-trading and vote lobbying. There was apparently some interest in point manipulation in general surrounding the Potter/Uckelman debate mentioned above. I suspect this was mostly because some people wanted to use holes in the rules to win, or wanted to stop other people from doing so. Others, such as Adam Haar, were interested in developing point trading as a sort of economic property of our Nomic. Haar also wanted to develop a system of regulated vote lobbying based around point trading. Haar began to formulate a plan for introducing point trading, as Matt Kuhns' judgment regarding score manipulation had set a precedent for disallowing any such rule (though of course precedents were not binding).

Around the same time, Joel and I had a large disagreement over the direction of the game. Joel wanted to perform major revisions to many of the rules, as he felt they were fundamentally flawed, and that the game would be immensely improved as a result of the revisions. In order to perform the changes, Joel wanted to get the consent of the players, and then make the changes extralegally, i.e. without obeying the rules in place. Normally this would not be a problem, if all players agreed, as they would all be breaking the rules. However, I (and a few others, at least) disagreed with this approach, and felt that if we were to make major changes, we should do so through the rules, even if it meant doing silly things like manipulating the rules temporarily so that we could ramrod through dozens of changes before the semester ended. Because of this disagreement, Joel didn't go through with his plan for making the changes.

[NB: I share an apartment with two other players, Adam Haar and Chris Mayfield.] After hearing about this, my roommates discussed with me a plan they were forming, to manipulate the judging rule in order to get point trading firmly established. Chris was up for Judgeship in the next turn, and Haar planned to collude with Chris so that he could trade points with another player, legally. They decided to involve me so that Haar could trade points with a player who was not the judge. This was not a legal problem, as the judge could have allowed it anyway, but more of a public relations problem. Eventually, we decided that we could use such an abuse of the Judgship to win the game, as Haar could trade away so many points that I would acheive 200 (the winning criterion).

I consented to Haar and Chris' plan because I felt it would be a way that we could make major rules changes, and still keep with the spirit of the game - we would simply end the game, then make rules changes and all agree to start a new one with those rules, perhaps even maintaining point (minus my winning score) and turn information across the games. Also, I was somewhat frustrated that Joel had, after deciding not the go through with his plan, given up all hope of changing the rules at all. Before we went through with our plan, I mentioned privately to Joel that I wanted to see his planned changes written out, because I thought I had a way of implementing them. He refused, as he was also somewhat upset as a result of our disagreement.

Chris, Haar, and I went through with our plan after the next turn started. Once Haar woke up [NB: he is a pizza delivery man and sleeps late], he transferred 200 points to me. Of course, someone (Joel) protested immediately, and called for judgment, in light of the recent decision on point manipulation. According to our plan, Chris judged in our favor. I note here that though of course I am biased, it does seem reasonable that such a judgment could be made (in favor of point trading), as it is somewhat different than arbitrary point manipulation.

Soon after, both Joel and Ben Byrne called for judgment again, with regards to the fact that, since Haar gave me 200 points, his score went below 0, which means that he transferred points which he didn't "have." Chris judged in our favor on the basis that a precedent for negative scores had already been established, viz. the penalties for unpassed proposals, etc. Again, though I am biased, in a different context I think this judgment would have been seen as much more reasonable.

Chris initiated the final judgment, on the grounds that, while I had achieved a score of 213 points, I had not acheived a score of EXACTLY 200 points and therefor did not meet the winning conditions. This seems to be an often-used objection to game wins, as I've seen it in more than one other Nomic. Chris judged that by achieving more than 213 points, I had indeed achieved 200. I have a nice mathematical argument for this, but most people are very annoyed at seeing it.

One problem with our coup attempt was that Haar jumped the gun on the point transfer; we had planned to do it very publicly and nicely, but Haar sent his message to the mailing list before I was ready, so I hadn't publicly asked for points. I had sent him an email message the night before, just in case, but of course that's much less believable than one sent to a public list. There was a problem regarding the time at which Haar transferred the points, since we didn't have public proof of my acceptance of the points (necessary to agree with Chris's first judgment). At this problem, some players immediately stated that they had transferred points with each other long before our coup attempt. This was a little messy, but ultimately irrelevant, as the real reason our coup worked was our collusion with the judge.

In the week that followed the end of the game, most players refused to accept that it had ended correctly, and mostly blamed me for its messy ending, as I was the official winner. I don't consider myself to be the sole winner, since obviously I couldn't have done it without our plan to abuse the judging rule. There was also a large amount of personal hostility flying around, much of it directed at me. Players cited my snotty attitude during play as a reason for "never playing this game again," or at least never playing in a Nomic with me. I regret that the game ended as it did, with so many people upset, but I still hold that the game ended legally, in the spirit of the game, and that my play during the game was in no way rude, unsportsmanlike, etc. I hope that a lot of what went on after the game was just due to hard feelings at losing, and nothing more, because I would enjoy playing again with people I know. Also, I regret any personal remarks I made in the heat of the moment, after tempers started to flare all around.

At least a few players decided that they'd prefer not to play Nomic again, even without me. I'm not certain if it's because the game proved to be too involved with logic, or with legalese, or politics, etc. It probably became clear after the end, though, that Nomic is definitely not a game like any other game. Winning via rule abuse may be considered unsportsmanlike in other rules, but that's really sort of the intention in Nomic. I think it would be interesting to see if any Nomics have ever ended completely "normally," with players acumuluating and losing points due to rule passage, and one player achieving a winning score. It seems to me that once players pick up the flavor of the game, that method of winning becomes boring.