You have an hour to go with a group of homeschoolers, and the kids have already played Nomic twice. What do you do? You play One Thousand Blank White Cards, of course!
Aside from the creative aspects, the game is fairly basic. Play begins to the dealer's left and continues clockwise, with each person playing a card on either herself or another player, although players are allowed to respond to others' play with further cards. You're allowed to create, alter and even destroy cards however you want, and you can even create cards that evoke the spirit of other card games.
Another group I played One Thousand Blank White Cards with, for instance, saw cards arise with things like "Lose 50 Points If You Don't Have a Water Card." This immediately led to someone creating a "Water" card worth 20 points, and that in turn to a third, "Anti-Water" card. The potential for silliness abounds.
I introduced the game today to Oldest Daughter's logic club after we had completed the day's exercises in critical thinking. I handed each of the students five completely blank cards, explained the basic rules, and let them indulge themselves. Once they had completed their cards, I shuffled the deck, mixed in a few more blank cards, and dealt the first hand.
We played this last weekend at a friend's house, and since everyone playing was in her mid-30s or later, the cards were silly but tilted toward the witty. We had a few cards that said things like "Swap cards with the person on your left" and "Trade places with someone else," but the majority said things like "Sing a Happy Song About Leprosy" and "Tell a Story About Your Teddy Bear." (I interrupted that one with a card that said, simply, "Shut up.")
Play today reflected the age of the players accordingly. They created a lot of cards that involved mildly humiliating or annoying tasks like "Crawl Like a Worm for a Minute" and "Hop Up and Down Until the Game Ends." (I saved that player after a few seconds with a card that read, simply, "Game Over.")
There were a number of cards that referred to specific players, like "Give Card to Joe," which led to some creative arguments among players as to which card should be given to Joe, that card or another one.
The phenomenon I found most interesting was the way players began creating cards to adapt their playing strategies to one another. Fifteen minutes into the game, there were cards being played that read in part "Play Right Away," thus allowing them to interrupt on someone else's turn; or "Card May Not Be Edited," so the player could be guaranteed her way. (Unfortunately for her, someone else played an Override card that allowed the card to be edited anyway.)
The game was a hit, mostly because the kids kept making one another do silly or embarrassing things. I am curious how things would have gone had someone played my card "Elves Attack Your Village. Lose 50 Points," especially since I always add nifty illustrations to my cards, but no one played that, so we never got to see whether a game would develop with points as a goal, or around a fantasy theme.
The game broke up when everybody had to go home, but I sent the kids packing with starter decks that consisted of the cards that they had created and the cards that were specific to them. (I have no use for a card that says "Mourn Billy's Lost Dignity," for instance, since there are no Billys in my family, though Billy's family may use it at some point.)
As they left, one of the moms told me that Nomic has been spreading. Not only has her family played it, she's seen her children teaching their other friends how to play it as well.
And now they have something else to share.
Copyright © 2012 by David Learn. Used with permission.