Tag Archives: nomic


I noticed that Dionysius posted his discovery of Gnostica, a game played with pyramids and tarot cards.

“This game looks like great fun. Tarot cards and pyramids; what’s not to like?” [via]

I’m going to try really hard to keep this relatively brief, and avoid going down the rabbit hole of talking about everything there is to say about this game and the topic of Looney games. But, I’ve got to say something!

“Gnostica is an abstract territory based war game. Tarot cards make up the often-changing board, and players use Icehouse pieces to represent minions that control those territories. Every tarot card has a power, and when a player has one of his pieces on a territory, he or she may use the power of that territory through that piece. Players also have a hand of tarot cards which allow them to use those powers through any of their pieces. Territories are worth points when occupied, and the game ends when one player challenges the other players and has 9 points on his or her following turn.” [via]

While you do need a deck of some kind, you don’t really need to use a tarot deck. I made my personal deck out of blank note cards. Actually, I made both a Gnostica and Zarcana deck, because I wanted to play the two similar games and compare. However, there is no denying that a real tarot deck would look awesome during play, and have to bonus of freakin’ our both the squares and the uptight. It has always been my plan to dedicate a Thoth tarot deck toward this purpose, but I’ve not yet done that.

Other than a deck of cards for territory, you’ll need a number of Looney Pyramids. Think of the pyramids kind of how you do a deck of cards, something that is used to play a large number of games. There’s a whole lot of history to these pyramids, which you can find and read; but, you should take a gander at IcehouseGames.org Wiki, the fan-built wiki of games that people have designed for play using the pyramids to get an idea of how these are used.

There are actually a large number of pyramid colours that have been available over the years, though currently there are two sets of colours that come boxed together. In order to play a game of gnostica, you really should have five boxes of Looney Pyramids so that you have a stash of 15 of each colour, since 3 of each colour come in each box. The pyramids themselves come in three sizes, each having 1 to 3 pips on them, so a complete stash of 15 pyramids of the same colour will have 5 of each size.

And, I can personally vouch for the way that one can become a little bit obsessed with all the various accessories and tchotchkes.

If you’re interested in the Looney Pyramids, and games you play with them like Gnostica, you may also want to look at some other nifty games from Looney Labs, like Fluxx (including a planned Cthulhu Fluxx at some point!) and Chrononauts.

The Looney Pyramids and Fluxx games are part of a set of games that have flexible or self-amending rules, and I personally find the way I think about playing these games to be similar to the way I think magically. I keep meaning to write my thoughts about that down, and had the notion of a class on “Games Magicians Play” where I would share my thoughts with others. To just put this out there then, I find the need to be flexible and adaptable, while still maintaining a focus on intention, to be an excellent way to play with magical thinking outside of ritual.

Of course, for me, this all started with Peter Suber’s Nomic, which is one of the first games of self-amendment I ever explored. Problem was, it just wasn’t fun. And, if the single necessary and sufficient Nomic rule is “all players must agree on the rules of the game” then it seems to naturally follow as a corollary that “all games should be fun” … you know, unless you’re into the kink of playing games that aren’t fun, I suppose. But, these games from Looney Labs have always seemed to fit that necessary and sufficient core rule and its corollary; they have always maintained a consistent level of fun and interest for me that no other games have sustained.

Check out Gnostica, or the other Looney Labs games, and let me know what you think about my hypothesis about them being a game that mirrors magical thinking, or if you have games you think other magicians should know about consider letting me know or sending me a review of them.

HipBone Games’ Glass Bead Game

I want to introduce you to a website, a game designer and a very interesting and peculiar game. Moreover, I then want to invite you to play this game with your friends and then send me the record of your most interesting games to publish on the Hermetic Library blog.

The American Library Association’s National Gaming Day is Nov 12th, so I’ve been finding myself thinking a lot about games in general and specifically games that I play which resonate with my personal practice, or, you know, might be considered to actually be part of my personal practice. A number of years ago, I was looking for interesting game dynamics, such as those found in Andy Looney’s Fluxx (which can be found in any good game shop and also via Amazon at Fluxx 4.0) and Peter Suber’s Nomic (which appears in both an appendix to Peter Suber’s own out-of-print The Paradox of Self-Amendment and Douglas Hofstadter’s Metamagical Themas: Questing For The Essence Of Mind And Pattern), and I ran into the website for HipBone Games. HipBone Games is the site of a game designer named Charles Cameron and is the home to an interesting “family of meditative and educational games in the genre of Herman Hesse’s ‘Glass Bead Game’“.

You may want to explore the entire HipBone Games site, but especially check out “Here’s your invitation to play the HipBone Games” and “HipBone: dreams and other reasons you might want to play …

Here’s a description of how to play a HipBone Game competitively:

“Two players play a game by each naming an idea in turn to one of the ten positions on the board. Ideas can be placed in any unoccupied position on the board.

Ideas can take the form of text, sound, or image: a quote, an equation, a musical theme, a video clip, or a photo or graphic are all acceptable. Essentially, a move can be made out of anything in the three worlds… so long as it can be named.

Players score by claiming links between the idea in their own move and the ideas already in play in those positions on the board connected to it by the lines of the board in question. A link can be any form of association – similarity, opposition, cause-and-effect, metaphor. Fanciful links may be made and enjoyed — or hotly contested.

The idea placed in the first move cannot score, since there is no other idea on the board for it to link with. The idea placed in the second move cannot score either, to keep the playing field even. Thus each player gets to make five moves on a ten position board, of which only four are scoring moves.”

And, a description how to play HipBone Games collaboratively:

“Collaborative games are usually played with either aesthetic or meditative intent. A score can still be kept, but it is far from necessary — the purpose of the game being to come up with the most interesting, curious, eccentric, far fetched, elaborate, imaginative, beautiful, or insightful and profound links. The HipBone games can also be played solo, again usually with aesthetic or meditative intent.”


To get an idea of what this game can be like, check out “Yeats and Jung” an example game between LeGrand Cinq-Mars and Charles Cameron being played on the TenStone board, which is a stylized Tree of Life. You may recognize the name LeGrand Cinq-Mars since he’s the author of a review article and a couple of other book reviews that appear in the archives of Caduceus.

“LeGrand and myself chose to explore together two of the great figures of this century, Yeats and Jung, in our Game. We decided to play the TenStones board, since it is based on the Sephirotic Tree of Cabala — which Yeats was familiar with as a member of the Golden Dawn, and which Jung mentions in a fascinating passage in Mysterium Coniunctionis, and presumably discussed with his friend, Gershon Scholem.”


There are a number of other example records of gameplay on the site, but including “The Play’s the Thing: an essay on game design — played on Psyche’s Board”, a curiously meta example of gameplay:

“This game shows how the moves in a game can ‘build’ on one another until an almost three-dimensional structure of ideas appears. This is a fairly scholarly game composed of ten quotes about time, written to explore the various ways we can think about time and their impact on narrative structure in the arts, and gameplay in computer games…

Let me emphasize here that the specific content of each move is the indented quote: in other words, it’s the quotes that are being played off one another, and that constitute the game. The surrounding text provides both setting and commentary — and hopefully allows the piece as a whole to be read “straight through” as an essay…”


Check out this curious and interesting HipBone game, and if you’re inspired to play a game around themes of interest to esotericists consider sending a record of your session to me so I can share it here on this blog to help the Hermetic Library celebrate National Gaming Day in a unique and fun way.