So, yeah, I enjoy a game with a nomic element to it. What’s a nomic element, you ask? Look, we’ve been at this before– it’s a game where changing the rules are an active part of the rules themselves. The word “nomic” comes from the game design by Peter Suber, which was first mentioned in Douglas Hofstader’s book, Metamagical Themas. Suber, a philosopher, envisioned a game where you could vote every round to change the rules of the game. The game he created based on those principles involves a lot of making of motions and voting to make changes. Voting and making motions may not sound like it’s edge of the seat entertainment for you. It surely isn’t for me either. I’ve observed a game of Nomic being played, and it was like watching paint dry. On the other hand, I did like the way the game was subtly evolving as it was being played– that part was excellent. Now, other games borrow “Nomic elements” for game play. The most famous being Fluxx and Cosmic Encounter but there are others, like Dvorak. The medium is usually a card game because the simplicity of a card lends itself to ease of understanding when a rule changes. There’s an even simpler approach, involving dice and markers…
I’ve just discovered another great game with nomic elements, BLANK WHITE DICE, by Whizkids (BWD hereafter). BWD is implemented with simple mechanics and simple components. Each player gets two dice, two color tokens, and a marker. A set of five cards that are always played are set out, and another set of five cards (decided either randomly or called for in one of the game scenarios) are placed to their right. This creates “the tableau”. The cards have large icons on them. The icons are symbols you can choose to “Tag” (write on) your dice with. Each card does a different thing, game wise.. either adding points, removing points, erasing dice, or retagging them. There is also a big “common” dice that a person can claim during the course of the game by playing a certain icon from a card (“Window”). This gives the player an advantage of an extra dice.
A starting tableau.
Game starts with the players “tagging” four times. That means, writing a symbol on the cards in the tableau.. on any dice they like, but only four times. Then they roll. If it comes up blank (likely in the first turn), they spend the turn tagging a blank side. They keep rolling and gradually the Icons on the cards (transcribed into the dice by the expedient of wet erase marker) will quickly come into play. Mostly this is felt by either gaining points, losing points or changing one or more faces of any dice on the table.
The game rules are not particularly well-written; they use different words to mean the same thing and often make a very simple point seem overly complex. However, after about one game anyone can get the hang of it, and games run very quickly indeed– rarely more than 20 minutes. Blank White Dice is an excellent filler game at a very nice price (20 bucks MRP or thereabouts), and could make an excellent stocking stuffer this Christmas.
And now, the Solution (pardon the pun)
I watched Tom Vasel’s review of BWD, which was short and somewhat critical, some of it for very good reasons. I do agree that the rulebook could use another pass. I also agree that the technology of wet erase (and dry erase) markers with somewhat porous dice sides makes for dice that can get very grimy very quickly. However, just by chance I stumbled around to a perfect solution. Giggle.
My son and I were playing BWD down in the man cave and the first “erase” result came up. I got up to put some water in a red solo cup. Just by chance, I added a little Mr. Clean cleaner in the cup too.
Notice what happens!
Typical grimy dice after three games.
Dab a paper towel in the Mr. Clean and water solution, apply gently:
Just dab it once and wipe off the excess with a dry paper towel.
It’s totally clean, now.
The dice on the left, next to the red marker, has never been marked. The ones on the right have been used for 7 games.
Tom decries the wet marker as being “horrible” and “problematic”. They sure were (problematic, I wouldn’t say “horrible”, per se) before I discovered the Mr. Clean method. However, we found a quick dab and a blotting up cleaned it like new in seconds.
So, what are my thoughts? I love the nomic flavor, and I love the semi-deck building feeling of the game (dice building?). It’s a great idea for a fast game that plays back to back several times quickly. Tom thought it was more like an activity than a game, and he might have a point. I enjoyed it after several plays, and will definitely keep it. However, it’s not a real brain bender or “deep” game. Still, it was simple, fun and every game had unexpected changes. I’ll have it on the table again.