The OxNomicker

Issue 8, 21 March 1998



Since term has now ended and the Speaker has gone home, we might have expected this issue of the newsletter to be a short one mainly concerned with wrapping up the loose ends from Hilary Term. Indeed, the gameplay section more or less fits this description. Not so the judgements section, however. This week saw OxNomic's second crisis brought on by an attempt to invoke the Stalemate rule. The second attempt by the same person, indeed. It followed a sequence of Judgements which threatened to bring disrepute on the whole system. But these Judgements were made illegal following an appeal by the very same person. You will have to forgive any bias which may show through: your faithful correspondent is the person in question.

As a gentle introduction, however, we first bring you a summary of the Proposals which were up for consideration this week.


The week has been fairly inactive as far as proposals go, since several players are on Suspended Animation and the Speaker is away from Oxford. Nevertheless the Speaker dialled in on Monday to announce the result of P95, Ian Snell's proposal which illustrated the dangers of multiple amendments as well as trying to outlaw them. It failed with six votes for and six against.

FT9 was proposed by Colin Batchelor after the recent Judgement in which he asserted that Judgements were binding. It proposed that Judgements are `binding on past play and on future play unless and until some rule determines the situation'. It is questionable whether this rule would have been enforceable, given that Rule 108 states that rules will not be retroactive. However this proved to be immaterial as the proposal was voted down three votes to one.

Much to everyone's surprise, P96 - Death's last Proposal of term - passed six votes to three and resulted in the repeal of rule 450(0) (which states that each rule will have a number and defines its two parts). This may have been due to players voting `for the points'. It does not seem to cause an immediate crisis, since there are also other rules stating how a rule is numbered when it is enacted or amended. In other results from last week, Simon's P97 to declare war on .nomic failed one vote to eight despite the promised reward of twenty points for its supporters. Colin's P98 instituting the Accusation and the procedure for awarding Black Marks passed five votes to four. P99, some administrivia for the Recorder also proposed by Colin, failed with four votes for and four against. And P100, Stephen Gower's anti-grammar rule, failed three votes to seven. Interestingly, two players voted `double-minus' on P100 just to make a point - double votes are as yet no different from single votes.

Stephen Gower proposed FT10, apparently as a result of his being asked to judge on J(32) (see the Judgements section), which states that Judgements are not binding on play. This passed with two votes for and one against.

Finally, the one Proposal whose result is not yet known is FT11, proposed after judgement J(33). It suggests that the Judges for an Appeal should be selected in the same manner as normal Judges and have the same time limit. It also removes the misleading comment from the Appeal rule which says that the Speaker's Judgement, if produced as a result of a tie, is binding.

But the main interest this week came from the . . .


The result of J(28) arrived shortly after the publication of the last issue. FT8, in which Simon Cozens had sought to dock 20 points from Gordon Aickin in addition to fixing rule 315, was adjudged by Terry Boon not to have been a valid proposal. Terry also returned a Judgement on J(26) which was broadly in line with the other judgements on this subject: P97 is a valid Proposal consisting of two rule changes.

More interesting was the result of J(31). Readers with short memories may not recall that Colin Batchelor had earlier returned two Judgements in answer to the same question, naming them J(30a) and J(30b). Ian Collier had then quite reasonably asked whether this was legal. At the time of publication of the previous issue of the OxNomicker the Recorder had not received a legal Judgement. The Recorder published Simon's Judgement on March 15th, which read:

Judgement J(31a)

   * It is legal for a Judge to produce two Judgements.

Judgement J(31b)

   * It is illegal for a Judge to produce two Judgements.
and at the bottom he added `Now what?'. The response was quickly forthcoming. Ian Collier, mildly irritated at Simon's sense of humour, stated:
I'll tell you now what.  J(30a,b) assert that Judgements are binding,
therefore the above is binding.  Hence the above proceed from the Judge,
consisting as it does of two Judgements, is equally legal and illegal.

Rule 219(0) states that a player may call for Judgement when a move
appears to be equally legal and illegal, and this I now do.


 * Simon's Judgement is equally legal and illegal.
 * Simon's Judgement is illegal.
 * Simon's Judgement is legal.

This statement will be deemed to have been judged TRUE if the Judge finds
that the first option is correct.  If this happens then the game will
(in theory) end.
Stephen Gower was chosen as Judge. The world waited with anticipation, but the judgment ended in anticlimax the next day when the Recorder reported Stephen's response:
   Judgement J(32a)

      * Simon's Judgement is illegal

   Judgement J(32b)

      * Simon's Judgement is legal
`Now what?' asked a baffled Recorder. `It's hard to be original,' said Simon Cozens with a yawn. `We have now reached stalemate and the game is over,' said Ian Collier, crossly. Well, if Simon's Judgement is illegal and it is also legal then we have surely found a move which is equally legal and illegal. Not so, said Stephen Gower, but not before our resident ex-player and Puppet's namesake Chris Dickson had announced the end of the game and started plotting its replacement. `It says that Simon's judgement is legal. And Simon's judgement is illegal. No equality,' explained Stephen obscurely. Whether that was true or not it seemed that the system of Judgement had become ineffective since all a Judge had to do was return two opposite Judgements.

In a desperate attempt to reintroduce some sanity to the system, Ian Collier appealed the judgement of J(32), thus giving rise to A(31). The Judges picked were Terry Boon, Gordon Aickin and Nick Fortescue (although the latter only after a failed attempt by the Recorder to select the Speaker as a Judge, which didn't seem to be explicitly forbidden but it seemed logical to follow the normal rules for Judge selection). Terry responded almost immediately:

I have a strong preference for:

* It is illegal for a Judge to produce two Judgements.

Any comments, particularly from Owen or Gordon? If anyone has a suggestion
for a "stated and chosen" alternative, I'm open to suggestions.

One thing that does come to mind is the problem of a Judge sending two
messages which appear to be Judgements to the Recorder. The Judge
considers one of them to be the Judgement, and the other to be a message
with no legal force but which merely happens to look like a Judgement. The
poor Recorder has no way of knowing which is which.

A plug for this loophole would be a new rule, stating that it is unlawful
(the crime of Forgery?)  to send something which appears to be a Judgement
but which isn't. It should probably be extended to other official reports.
After all, the Speaker is required to make the ruleset public (IIRC) - but
there is nothing stopping him/her publishing a different thing which
appears to be a ruleset as well.
On March 20th the results were published by the Recorder.
All three Appeal Judges have supplied their verdict, and it is as follows:

Terry Boon:     It is illegal for a Judge to produce two Judgements.
Gordon Aickin:  It is illegal for a Judge to produce two Judgements.
Nick Fortescue: It is illegal for a Judge to produce two Judgements on one
                Call for Judgement.

Judgements J(31a) and J(31b) are therefore void, as far as I understand
it.  Nick Fortescue and Terry Boon didn't supply rationales, but Gordon
Aickin did:

     Rule 401 states "A legal judgement will choose one of the options
     set out in the Call for Judgement or may choose and state another

     Which means that anything that choses one of the options set out
     will be a legal judgement in fact almost anything could be a legal
     judgement. (Might be bad if judgements are binding.)

     But 328 states "the Judge has four days in which to deliver a legal
     judgement." My reasoning is based solely on the word "a" and the
     assumption that it is illegal for anyone other the chosen Judge to
     give Judgement. I assume that the word "a" means one and only one.
     If many were meant to be possible, then it would say "at least
     one", or something along those lines.
And so disaster was averted. However, as a result of this there were several other Judgements. After selecting the Judges, Colin Batchelor called for J(33).
Actually, Nick Fortescue seems not to be responding.  My understanding of
the rules covering Appeals are that Appeals are a special form of
Judgement, and as such are subject to the same procedures and constraints
as ordinary Judgements, except where the rules state otherwise, but I'd
like backing up on this.

Hencely, and with the note-in-passing that the Appeal panel on A(31) is
heading towards the opinion that a Judge can only supply one Judgement, I
call for Judgement on the following statements:

  * Appeals work in the same way as Judgements, except where the rules
    state otherwise.  Hence an Appeal Judge has four days to supply a
  * Appeals are only governed by the rules specifically dealing with
    Appeals.  Hence the time limit for an Appeal Judge is undefined.
And the same afternoon, the result came from Ian Collier.
   I judge the first statement to be the gospel truth.

   Rule 458(2), which specifies the procedure to be taken on Appeal,
   calls for the appointment of three people to assess the appeal and uses
   the term Judges to refer to them.  Neither the method of selection nor
   the format which their judgement should take is described explicitly in
   Rule 458(2), so for these details we look to the other rules which
   define the selection and rôle of a Judge.
This Judgement was accompanied by FT11, a Fast-Track Proposal to clarify the Appeal process.

In a brief digression from his review of the judicial system, Colin Batchelor noted that the Master of Puppets Simon Cozens had taken the dubious step of putting all the Puppets into Suspended Animation. This is of dubious legality because by law Puppets are not allowed to do anything for which they do not have instructions, but for J(34) Colin focused on the obligations of the Office:

Simon Cozens has put the Puppets into Suspended Animation.  Rule 472(1)
states some situations in which Puppets will be put into Suspended
Animation, but does not restrict when they can be:

   Any Puppet which has no Master or whose Master is in Suspended
   Animation will be placed in Suspended Animation until a new Master is
   appointed or the current Master leaves Suspended Animation.

However, 410(0) says that Office is an Office if and only if:

   the position imposes some obligation upon the player holding it

Hence I call for Judgement on the following statements:

  * The Office of Master of Puppets when the Puppets are in Suspended
    Animation imposes no obligation upon the holder, so the benefits that
    accrue to the holder of that Office no longer apply.
  * The Office of Master of Puppets when the Puppets are in Suspended
    Animation imposes no obligation upon the holder, so the Office is
    deemed vacant and an election should be called in accordance with
Terry Boon was selected to judge these statements.

After the result of the Appeal was published, Colin immediately put his thinking cap on and called for justice. In the wake of the decree that multiple Judgements were not allowed, it was uncertain what would happen to the other Judgments which had had multiple results. J(35) read:

  * J(30a), J(30b), J(32a), and J(32b) are illegal automatically by A(31).
  * A(31) only covers J(31a) and J(31b) and the illegality of J(30a),
    J(30b), J(32a) and J(32b) has to be settled by separate appeals.
and is to be judged by Tim Ricketts. In J(36) he wondered what ought to happen when two Judgements are received.
  * When a Judge has made two Judgements on the same CFJ, both Judgements
    are null and void.
  * When a Judge has made two Judgements on the same CFJ, only the second
    Judgement is null and void, and the first one holds.
  * When a Judge has made two Judgements on the same CFJ, the second
    Judgement overrides the first.
This was answered the same day by Ian Collier, who chose to state an alternative.
   * When a Judge has made more than one Judgement on the same CFJ, it
     is at the discretion of the Recorder which, if any, of the
     Judgements to accept.

   Let's firstly consider the degenerate case.  It is entirely likely
   that the Recorder will publish this Judgement before the first sunset
   has fallen following the CFJ.  If I then make another Judgement three
   days later it will still be within the time limit but the second
   Judgement will be irrelevant given that the first one has already
   been published as the definitive answer.  On the other hand, to make
   the rules so inflexible that one could not under any circumstance
   change one's mind would be wrong.

   I would suggest that under normal circumstances the Recorder treat
   the first Judgement as taking priority, but if the Judge states that
   the second supersedes the first and the Recorder has not yet
   published the result then the Judge's wishes should be followed.

   Finally, if two Judgements arrive at the same time then the Recorder
   is entitled to reject both of them on the grounds that "a legal
   Judgement" has not been received.
Colin added:
In that case, I am taking advantage of this now to consign J(30x) and
J(32x) somewhere-or-other on the grounds that they aren't "legal
Judgements".  And the questions they asked have been answered elsewhere
and superseded, so that's alright then.