Model Paper-based Games

It will be useful to have on hand some paper-based games that help illustrate and illuminate the inter-relationship between rules and play. We have found three that can do this by making the creation of rules of play a part of their dynamic of play.

 

Fluxx

Fluxx is a kind of a game about games. It's simple to begin, and different each time it is played. I've used it to to help students understand the inter-relationship of rules. It's a good idea to play once with closed hands, and then once with open hands. This also demonstrates how one simple change can alter game-play and strategy pretty radically.
Fluxx is a card game that is commercially available from its publisher, Looney Labs.
  1. http://wunderland.com/LooneyLabs/Fluxx/Fluxx.html
  2. http://wunderland.com/LooneyLabs/Fluxx/HowToPlay.html 
In playing Fluxx we have found that some players are uncomfortable with the dynamic nature of the rules and goals. Other players delight at this dynamic nature and play to subvert the game. This is a helpful situation to highlight the roles of players, and the assumptions we have about those roles. It is also helpful to observe the behaviors of players when confronted with a deck of cards in the context of a game. Implicit gameplay conventions can be highlighted. For example the act of shuffling the deck, the configuration of players seated around a table, the dealing of cards, all are implicitly signalled by the physical form of the game and are not explicitly mentioned in the initial rules of Fluxx. Fluxx requires or relies on an implicit set of conventional literacies signalled by the forms "card", "deck", and "play".
 
Two other games that appear to have similar properties are 1000 Blank White Cards and Nomic. I haven't had a chance to play them yet. If you wish to play either Nomic or 1000 Blank White Cards I have included a set of links below.
 
Nomic
[NB. excerpted from http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/writing/nomic.htm ] 
“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.”
“Because the rules are always changing, there is no absolute set of rules to Nomic. There is only the starting or initial set of rules. There are 29 numbered rules in the Initial Set. Most are "procedural" and govern the process of changing the rules or the facts of life in a game where the rules are always changing. The chief exception is Initial Rule 202, which should be read first. Rule 202 is practically the only "substantive" rule in the Initial Set. It tells how to earn points to win. The mechanism is as simple as possible: one throws a die or makes a calculation. The substantive portion of the game is deliberately simple so that the players can decide, through rule-changes, what kind of game they want to play. If they make no decision here, they will be fully occupied in what I call a "procedural" game, which many players choose deliberately. In a substantive game, players aim to score points and win. In a procedural game, players try to tie the rules into the most interesting knots imaginable and to win not by points (Rule 208) but by paradox (Rule 213).”
Upon cursory inspection Nomic will be a nice fit for Social Studies and Government classes to explore the rule of law, and negotiation. It is likewise useful for Math classes that deal with complexity theory and emergence. Computer Science classes that deal with algorithms and procedural AI may also find it useful.
 
1000 Blank White Cards
 [NB. excerpted from Board Game Geek at: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/4550 ]
“1000 Blank White Cards is a public domain card game, which allows the players make the cards during the course of the game. Before play, players seed the deck with their own invented cards. These cards are shuffled in with blank cards to form a deck of about 60-90 cards.”
“Basically, the game follows "Draw 1, Play 1". Most cards have a point value of +1000 to -1000, and players may play a card on themselves, on another player, or on all players. If a player draws one of the blank cards during the course of play, they may craft a new card out of it, often countering other cards which have already been played.”
“Cards usually have a title, a picture, with a score and/or rule. Usually the picture, being a quick sketch by a non-artist, comes out as a stick figure. That's okay. This adds to the humor value, especially when another player makes a "Stick-Figure Genocide" card. Cards can represent anything the designer wants to feature, from serious to absurd. (However, usually cards tend toward the latter.)”
“The game ends and points are tabulated after the deck is exhausted, and the winner is the player with the most points. Then, players lay out all of the cards face-up for the "epilogue," which allows players to choose the best cards to seed the deck for the next game.”
The game play involves collaborative creation and assessment of the cards, and assumes an iterative process. This can be very useful for the purposes of teaching/learning game design in a team-based environment.
 
The online reference resources were purposefully drawn from a wide assortment of sites, including the controversial (for K-12 education) Wikipedia. It is not altogether clear how long-lived any one of these resources will be, and so they have been selected to form a diverse ecology as a hedge against ephemerality.