Long-playing silly games
April 29, 2009 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Looking for ideas for a simple self modifying game to be played at a lazy pace over several days.

In a few weeks I'm going to an event in which about 100 people camp in a field for a week and mostly laze about and socialise. Lots of the people are creative and/or geeky and enjoy playing games.

There will be a big marquee and a cafe tent, but mostly just a farmer's field.

I have been trying to imagine how I could create a self-modifying game that people could sign up to, and play at a slow pace over the whole week. I'm thinking it would be co-ordinated on a noticeboard. The aim would be to have some laid back fun and encourage people in being silly and/or creative with the rules.

Does anyone have any ideas, resources or links that might help? I've been reading all kinds of things about nomic games, but none of them seem suitable for "distributed playing" where all of the people are unlikely to be in the same place at the same time at any point, but only have access to pen and paper.
posted by emilyw to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Pencil and paper version of broken picture telephone
posted by sanko at 3:33 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm sure you've seen 1000 Blank Cards. This could be distributed and played asynchronously. Mind you, this is sheer anarchy--but, that's the point of a self-modifying game. Hail, Eris! Observe:

Put a stout, long tack on the corkboard. Place a tray of blank cards. Divide the players into an arbitrary number of teams--let them make up new teams, splinter, changing allegiances, etc. as the game goes on. Provide a place for team names and scores--a big piece of butcher paper or the like.

So, each team (as represented by a single individual of that team who happens to pass by), at any time, may play a card by doing two things. First, he must accept the terms stated on the topmost tacked card. So, if it says, -100000 points, he's got to take it. Second, he takes a blank card from the tray and posts it under the tack at the top of the deck. Game-changing cards should be removed from the tacked deck and posted publicly until they're rescinded. Cards affecting only a single team could be stored for each team, although that could get annoying really quickly.

I'd make each team "sign" the cards played and ask them not to accept and play again on their own card.
posted by Netzapper at 3:48 PM on April 29, 2009

And now, I unleash "Nut" upon the world.

Many once upon a times ago, when my husband and I were newly living together in a teeny attic apartment in a hot Iowa summer, in graduate school with no cable TV or computers or whatever keeps the silly young couples distracted from their miserable apartments these days, we invented a very, very ridiculous long playing game to make the hours at night go faster when it was especially muggy and we didn't feel like studying any more. This game is called "Nut."

It is played between two people, but can be played as you described, between several pairs of people, over time, on paper or a big board (we've played on a household chalkboard over many days), or it can jump from paper to a few rounds face to face and back again. It can be played with no goal other than discovery, or to win rounds, as a memory game. It's also nice in a group of people, all with a partner.

It begins with the first person opening the game by offering the other person a "Nut." Like so:

"I give you a Nut."

The second person ALWAYS has to accept the Nut, and then offer the other person something similarly small and hopefully desirable to the other person, like so:

"I accept your Nut, and give you a well-worn beach pebble from the west coast of Ireland."

Then, the first person can accept the new gift, or decline. If the person A) accepts, it is theirs until the round is declared over, and they must offer their partner a gift. If the person B) declines, the person still must offer their partner a gift (but the declined partner knows now to work harder to think of something they might accept in their next turn). Like so:

A) "I accept your Irish pebble and I give you a nugget of gold from the original Alaskan gold rush"
B) "I do not take your Irish pebble and I give you a nugget of gold form the original Alaskan gold rush"

The point is to A) get the other person to accept as many of these palm-sized imaginary gifts as possible and B) describe and imagine them as appealingly as possible so the other person takes them.

This part of the game could potentially be infinite and played as a way to get at what a person will and will not take, to engender discussions about why and why not, and to get to know people in a silly, but sometimes poignant way. We've had moments in the game where we've discovered, through the "giving" of subsequent gifts, what the other person is after, and been able to "give" them something long ago lost or desired.


You can notch it up to competition by, at anytime saying:

"I call Nut."

When a partner calls Nut, then the other person is required to produce a recitation, either from memory (very, very fun. Especially when the strategy is to get them to accept as many gifts as possible, but also trying to beat the other to calling Nut), or from mini-journals kept over a long game. If from written materials, than it is important to recite your booty with dramatic flair for the entertainment of your partner, or others. Once someone has recited their booty, if from memory and correct, they win that round of Nut, and the next one is started by asking a partner, "I give you a Nut." Or, if recited for entertainment, of course, a new game is started just for fun after the other partner recites, as well.

A few rules:

*You MUST accept something based on whether or not you want it, not based on trying to keep your list short. If you want it, you must take it, and as these games go on, your partner is going to know--and that's part of the fun, uncracking the person's "nut."

*The item must be material, described well, and able to fit in the palm of the hand.

Have fun out there kids!
posted by rumposinc at 3:58 PM on April 29, 2009 [33 favorites]

I think some of the more successful and slow-moving online Nomics might provide a decent model - they do have a similar feel to what you're after, since the players are usually not online at the same time, and are prone to dropping out completely at a moment's notice, so the ruleset has to be robust enough to continue however many people are left.

You'd want to start with something much, much simpler than the original Suber ruleset, and avoid a few specific pitfalls: don't make it turn-based, for example, and don't require votes from a majority of players - just from a majority of those voting.

So maybe something along the lines of...
  1. These are the rules of Camp Nomic. Every player must obey them. The rules can only be changed when permitted by a rule.
  2. Every player has a score. This score begins at 0. All scores are publicly tracked by the administrator.
  3. At any time, any player may propose one change to the game. To do this, write up your change - a new rule, or a change to an existing rule - and stick it to the noticeboard at the end of the change queue. At the top of your suggested change, write the time and date, and your name. At the bottom of your suggested change, draw two circles. Label one AYE and the other NAY.
  4. All players may vote on any queued change. To do this, sign your initials in the AYE or the NAY circle. You may vote on each change only once.
  5. Several times a day, the game administrator will take all suggestions that have been in the change queue for at least 12 hours, and count up the AYEs and the NAYs. If there are more AYEs than NAYs, the rule (or rule-change) will be added to the rules of Camp Nomic.
  6. Whether the change has been accepted or not, its proposer will gain two points when it is evaluated.
  7. In addition, if the change is accepted, the administrator will roll a six-sided dice. The administrator will then add the number of points that come up on the dice to the score of that rule's proposer.
  8. If players disagree about the legality of a move, a judge shall be selected at random from among the players to resolve the issue. This judge's decision is final.
  9. The first player to 50 points is the winner.
This is based off a simplified ruleset we use, with a few tweaks (since ours is mostly for groups of a dozen people sitting around a table). Obviously it's very rough, and some of it's a bit daft - the random assignation of points, and the arbitrary 50-point win condition, is partly there to encourage people to propose changes.

You'd want a way to deal with proposed changes that are no longer relevant because the gamestate has moved on - maybe give the proposer three points instead of two, but no dice-roll, if you were using the scoring model above. You'd want a way for the administrator to veto changes which make onerous demands ("the administrator will check the change queue every hour", for example). You'd maybe want to decide in advance whether people are allowed to change their votes.
posted by severalbees at 3:59 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

(And oh, implicit in that ruleset - but it could definitely do with being made explicit, Nomics being what they are - is that people can make a new change proposal once their previous proposal is out of the queue.

And you might want to let people remove their proposal from the queue if they don't like it any more, thereby missing out on the 2+ points they would have got when it reached the start of the queue - but be aware that people will game this dreadfully, proposing RULE CHANGE (A) THAT THEY THINK PEOPLE WILL LIKE BUT SECRETLY HOPE WON'T HAPPEN, so that nobody else bothers proposing RULE CHANGE (A), and they can then whisk it away and out of the queue at the last minute...)
posted by severalbees at 4:06 PM on April 29, 2009

Nomic is awesome. To get some sense of how it plays out if you've never seen it before, take a look at blognomic - it's been running, played on a blog, for several years.
posted by pombe at 4:07 PM on April 29, 2009

Assassin with Post-It notes?
posted by Paragon at 6:27 PM on April 29, 2009

@severalbees thanks for your ruleset. I've adapted it for a blog here: http://mudball.net/nomic/
posted by mattcoop at 8:54 PM on June 17, 2009

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