Constitutional Democrazy

The other day I played a game called “Democrazy” in which players propose and vote on new rules as the game progresses. The full rules can be found here.

As I played this game I was disappointed by the limiting nature of the fact that no rules could be proposed that were not already written on the cards provided by the game. This is partially ameliorated by the presence of blank cards and a “carte blanche” game variant that allow crafting of custom rules. This variant is described in the ruleset linked to above. The blank cards may only be used for immediate rules, not for ones that stay in play, and they only occur occasionally in the deck.

With a couple friends I started thinking about a more ambitious version in which almost all rules are developed on the spot and are modified over the course of debate. This variant we call “Constitutional Democrazy” because it attempts to, with a simple “constitution” that is defined outside the game and immutable within it, codify what is and is not appropriate to include in each new rule.

In this article we first describe how one proposes new rules to vote on in the variant and then we will move on to discuss the theoretical potential for abuse posed by such open-ended rules and the first draft of a constitution developed to prescribe what could and could not be entailed in a rule.

In Constitutional Democrazy, all cards in the deck may be played either as themselves or as blank cards. Before proposing (putting up for a vote) a blank card, a player must state the rule to be proposed and receive a promised vote from at least one other player (a cosponsor). The rule may be changed (amended) an unlimited number of times to garner support from the other players prior to going to a vote. As a rule may become complicated, it is advised to keep it written on a sheet of paper in pencil as it is amended. Once the rule is proposed with a cosponsor it goes to a vote as usual, with wild cards acting as normal. There is still the same limit of six rules in play at a time, and if one rule or part of a rule contradicts another, the more recent rule takes precedent.

One concern about this variant is that it could open the door to becoming something of a “Bureaucratic Truth or Dare” wherein players could be forced into all manner of compromising or unpleasant positions. In order to protect the rights of the minority, so to speak, we propose a constitution that will define appropriate conduct in the creation of rules.

The Constitution of Democrazy

  • If any part of a rule in play is found to contradict the constitution, the entire rule is discarded immediately.
  • No rule in the constitution may be changed during a game under any circumstances.
  • No rule may contradict itself. If a rule is found to contradict itself, each of the two or more contradictory elements is considered void and has no effect.
  • No custom rule may have an effect outside the current game. Premade rules such as “No Smoking” do not fall under this restriction.
  • Only one player may win each game of Democrazy. In the case of a tie, the winner is chosen randomly via a preferred method. This method may be defined by other rules
  • Rules must be followable within a reasonable amount of time. If a rule is deemed to be causing a turn to take too long it must go immediately up for a vote

This constitution is a first draft and may receive some modifications after a few rounds of playtesting. Please do offer other theoretical bad situations that might merit additional amendments to the constitution. Also, there is an open question of the best way to resolve issues of contradictions or too-slow turns given players are likely to have a vested interest in the outcome. I know most of my readers are not local, but if you’re interested in trying this variant sometime, let me know!

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