Blind Nomic

Post-mortem Commentary:

Blind Nomic was a bright idea of mine to create a game with rules you could change, even if you didn't know them. It was inspired by any of a number of things, including Battleship, Black Box, Mastermind, Kriegspiel (blind chess), White Wolf roleplaying games and, of course, the card game Mao. Mao is probably its closest cousin, since it too has rules the players don't know at first, but learn of through experience.

But while Mao is increasingly popular, Blind Nomic was different from it in a couple ways that led to Blind Nomic's death. The biggest one was of course burnout, which I suspect is common among Nomic administrators. Mao doesn't have a burnout issue; if a player actually manages to win a hand, he gets to run the game, even if he barely knows the rules himself. I didn't have that luxury, I had a steadily decreasing amount of time and energy to devote to it, and, while many players dropped out of the game either by omission or commission, the few remaining pursued the game with a vengeance.

The other difference is that, in Mao, the players can see what the other players are doing, and can learn from others' mistakes. My Blind Nomic was a little too blind, since players couldn't see what others were doing or what results others were getting, unless and until the publicly displayed game state changed. My intent in that first version was to create a competitive atmosphere in which everyone would have an equal chance of figuring things out on their own; I thought it potentially unfair for one person to do a great deal of work and someone else immediately capitalize on it for a quick profit.

Were I to start another Blind Nomic game, I might make it more "myopic" than "blind": have a core set of rules that the players couldn't see and might have a very hard time getting any information on, but otherwise run it like any other imperial (or even parliamentary) Nomic. Yes, those hidden core rules would have some effect on how the game was run, but at the same time the game could evolve around that mysterious core yet independent of it. Eventually the players would have to deal directly with the core, especially if it concealed any sort of time-bomb effect.

Perhaps another way to go about this is Masonic Nomic, where there are Mysteries that only those players who have reached a certain level of Enlightenment can know. Or Crypto-Nomic, in which the hidden rules are encoded or enciphered in some way, and certain actions can yield clues to their decoding. Personally I think the whole Nomica Obscura concept still has a lot of potential to be explored. If anyone makes any inroads on it, please let me know. I might even want to play.

-- Donald Whytock (Geppetto, Da Boss), 2002

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