mao and nomic: games with emergent and changing rules

I watched one of my kids play the game “Mao” (also called Mü, Maw, Chairman Mao, etc) with her friends the other day.  Fascinating.  In the game players develop unspoken, secret rules that others have to figure out — the rules are emergent and evolve.  Fun stuff.

Interested in playing (but don’t have any friends)?  Well, of course there’s a MaoBot that you can play against online.

Another game, roughly in the same family (but even more fascinating), is Nomic – developed by Peter Suber.  Here’s the premise:

Nomic is a game in which changing the rules is a move. In that respect it differs from almost every other game. The primary activity of Nomic is proposing changes in the rules, debating the wisdom of changing them in that way, voting on the changes, deciding what can and cannot be done afterwards, and doing it. Even this core of the game, of course, can be changed.

Written by teppo

March 17, 2011 at 6:10 am

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. one of my former professors at uc davis, eddy u, wrote a book called “disorganizing china” about what he called the existence of “counter-bureaucracy” in the chinese govt.

    rules weren’t clear and there was no clear, single chain of command heirarchy. his argument is that china didn’t suffer from too much bureaucracy (in the weberian “iron cage” sense) but from too little, and that movement toward more bureaucratic structure would improve governance and outcomes



    March 17, 2011 at 7:21 am

  2. This game should prepare your kids very well for publishing in management journals. :) From what I have gathered from a few friends who lived in the Soviet, there was one rule that got you pretty far: when you want to get something done, bribe people you have a weak or an indirect social tie to.

    I would also like to say how nice it is that this blog caters for people who have no friends.



    March 17, 2011 at 9:00 am

  3. Nomic sounds like a faculty meeting (minus the “doing it” part), and trust me, it is not fun at all.


    brayden king

    March 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm

  4. You might be right.



    March 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm

  5. As entertainment, these games are super fun. A friend introduced me to Mao in college and certain versions are addictive. But technically, many Mao versions are not emergent. The brand I played was defined by rules hidden to outsiders. More like a secret society game. Rules don’t change, you just discover them through trial and error. But that can be fun with the right crowd.

    Nomic is emergent and loads of fun. At gen con , I run nomic games. I could run a game at ASA if people want.



    March 17, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: