Nomic, Anybody?

Voice Card  -  Volume 4  -  John Card Number 4  -  Sun, Jan 22, 1989 10:30 PM

This is a response to volume 4, Roger Card Number 3 ("Thoughts on Nomic")...

I agree with Roger that at least four people are required to attempt a game of Nomic. If there are two other volunteers (besides Roger and me) then we can begin to discuss ways of implementing this game on Archipelago.

Roger asked about rule 213, which states that if further play is impossible, then the first player unable to complete a move is the winner. Perhaps this quotation from the original Hofstadter article will shed some light on the subject:

"For most games there is an infallible decision procedure to determine the legality of a move. In Nomic, on the other hand, situations may easily arise where it is very hard to determine whether or not a move is legal. Moreover, paradoxes can arise in Nomic that paralyze judgement. Occasionally this will be due to the poor drafting of a rule, but it may also arise from a rule that is unambiguous but mischievous. The variety of such paradoxes is truly impossible to anticipate. Rule 213, nonetheless, is designed to cope with them as well as possible without cluttering the Initial Set with too many legalistic qualifications. Note that Rule 213 allows a wily player to create a paradox, get it passed (if the rule seems innocent enough to the other players) and thereby win."

Although it's hard to come up with a simple example of such a paradox, I feel certain that one will arise if we ever attempt a game. Incidentally, at the rate of a move a month, a game would probably take years to play. Of course we could always bail out if it got too dull (unless we pass a rule against quitting!).