MultiVerses

Ron Hale-Evans

Version 0.9.3, 2010-04-03

2-6 players, 60-120 minutes

MultiVerses is a unique word game based on recent ideas in cosmology. You can learn the rules in about 15 minutes. For more information, see NotesOnMultiVerses.

Summary

The object of the game is to create a thriving multiverse, or group of universes. Universes (also called “verses”) are collections of lines of words. You create a universe by writing laws for that universe. These laws specify which words the universe may contain. Then you choose words that fit those laws from the Dust (a pool of random words). The score for a universe is the number of laws it has multiplied by the lengths of its lines. The score for a multiverse is the result of multiplying all of its universe scores together. The player with the most points is the winner.

Setup

You will need

• a pen and paper for every player
• some way of choosing words randomly (see below)
• a good dictionary to resolve disputes about words (optional)
• a calculator to help compute scores (optional)

At the start of the game, players must draw a pool of words at random and write them on a central sheet of paper. This pool is called the Cosmic Dust, or Dust for short. Use any method you like to draw random words, such as sticking your finger into a large book. It will speed things up if one player draws the random words and another records them. It's OK if you draw the same word more than once.

You can vary the length of the game by varying the number of words you draw. For your first game, try 10-12 words per player. Unless you're playing with someone who is prone to “analysis paralysis”, your games will probably last two or three minutes per word.

Choose the first player randomly. Play moves clockwise in turns. All information is open; any player may examine the Dust or another player's record sheet at any time.

Play

The actions you can take on a turn are as follows. They always occur in this order, and you must do each one if you can. The turn actions are explained in more detail below.

Either add a law to an existing universe, or start a new universe by creating its first law. Laws specify the words a universe can contain, such as “All words in this universe must contain the letter B” or “The words on each line must increase in alphabetical order.” After you add a law to a universe, you may never remove it.

Write your law down and discuss it with the other players to make sure that it's potentially valid.

• First, make sure your law is clear and unambiguous.
• Make sure that any words that are already in the universe to which you're adding the law already follow it. For example, if your law says all words must contain the letter B, make sure there are no words already in your universe that don't contain the letter B.
• Also, make sure your new law doesn't contradict any of your existing laws for that universe.
• Make sure that there are available words in the Dust that can be added to the universe after you add your law. For example, if your law is “All words must begin with D”, and there is already a law in the universe that says “All words must end with L”, but there are no available words in the Dust such as dull that begin with D and end with L, that law is invalid.
• Make sure your law is not ad hoc and arbitrary. In particular, it must not contain an arbitrary list of letters or words. For example, the law “Second letter must be a consonant” is potentially valid; “Second letter must be H, L, M, or T” is not.
• Make sure your law applies to every word in a universe, or every word on a line. Laws such as “Some words in this universe must begin with the letter B” are invalid, but “Every word on a line must begin with the same letter” is potentially valid.
• Make sure your law does not refer to things outside the language. For example, laws like “Words must begin with the initial letter of the first name of the player to my left” are invalid, as are laws that refer to other laws, such as “The previous law is invalid”. However, because the definitions of words are part of the language, laws like “Words must be nautical terms” are valid.
• Finally, make sure that your law narrows the list of words that are valid for your universe. For example, if you already have a law that says all words must begin with L, a new law that says all words must contain the letter M would narrow your possibilities. However, a new law that says all words must contain the letter L would not narrow the possibilities.

After you are sure the law is potentially valid, test whether it is actually valid. This is easy to do, but may seem a little confusing at first. Draw a random word in the same way as you created the Dust at the start of the game, for example, by sticking your finger randomly in a book. If your law excludes that word, your law is valid. If your law includes the word, your law is invalid. This means that “lenient” laws, such as “Every word must contain the letter E” are hard to validate, while “strict” laws, such as “Every word must contain the letter Q” are easy to validate. Example: Jess's law is “Every word must contain the letter Q.” Jess draws the word noodle. Noodle does not contain a Q, so the law excludes it and is valid. If Jess had drawn the word queen, which does contain a Q, the law would have been invalid. (You can remember this rule with the mnemonic, “Excluding is excellent; including is invalid.”)

You must specify a “reference word” to test laws like “Alphabetical order must increase” (increase compared to what?). Freely choose the last word of any line of the universe to which you're adding the law. If you need a reference word for an empty universe (one without words), freely choose a word from the Dust. You must immediately remove that word from the Dust and add it to the empty universe if your law is validated.

After a law has been validated or invalidated, it maintains its status for everyone for the rest of the game. This does not mean that everyone's universes immediately incorporate a valid law, but that after a law has been validated, anyone else in the game may copy it instead of devising a new law, as long as it's potentially valid for that player. Similarly, after a law has been invalidated, no one may use it again during the game. Rephrasing a law does not change its validity; if it means the same thing, it's the same law.

If your law fails, you may not propose another one or copy another law. However, you must still continue to the next step and add a word to a universe if you can legally do so.

Cross out any word in the Dust and permanently add it to the end of a line in any one of your universes, wherever it fits.

For a word to fit a universe, it must follow the laws of that universe exactly. For example, if your only universe contains the law “Must begin with the letter D”, and there are no available words that begin with D in the Dust, you may not add any words until you create a new universe without that law. Also, you may not add a word to a universe without laws (a universe without laws is no universe at all). One common situation in which this occurs is when adding a law fails on your first turn.

Example Universe

Laws

1. Words must begin with the same letter.
2. Words must be nouns.
3. Alphabetical order must increase.

Lines

• deck, dime, dog, duck, dump
• angst, apple, artist, axle
• milk, moose, muffin

Words with multiple aspects

Be careful about words that can be used in multiple ways. You must consider all of these ways when you judge how the word will interact with a law. For example, a word like view can be used as both a noun and a verb, so it can be added both to universes with the law “Must be a noun” and to ones with the law “Must be a verb”. For the purposes of testing, the word view would invalidate both the law “Must be a noun” and the law “Must be a verb” because they include it. It could not be added to universes with the law “Must not be a noun” or the law “Must not be a verb”. However, when testing, it would validate those laws because they exclude it.

This rule has many applications. Some universes may have both the “Must be a noun” and “Must be a verb” laws, and would contain lines like “view, fold, credit, default, taste”. Some words like round can be used as three or more parts of speech (round is an adjective, verb, and noun). Even some letters can be used in multiple ways; for example, W and Y can be used as both vowels and consonants.

Scoring

The game is over when the Dust runs out of words. Each multiverse is then scored.

• To score a universe, multiply the number of words on the first line by the number of words on the second line, multiply that result by the number of words on the third line, and so on. Multiply the final result by the number of laws in the universe. Example: a universe like the one above with three lines containing five, four, and three words respectively, and three laws, would score 5 × 4 × 3 × 3, or 180 points.
• To score a multiverse, multiply the score for the first universe by the score for the second universe, multiply that result by the score for the third universe, and so on, ignoring universes that score zero. Example: Consider a multiverse containing universes scoring 48 points, 27 points, and 0 points. The universe scoring 0 points is ignored, and the score for this multiverse is 48 × 27, or 1,296 points.

Strategy

• If you invent too many new laws, some are likely to fail. However, if you copy too many laws from other players, you may have to compete for words in the Dust.
• Try to make your lines roughly the same length. Consider that a universe with lines of 3, 3, and 3 words scores much better than one with 8 and 1, yet both have 9 words.
• For similar reasons, try to make your universes roughly the same size.
• Creating an empty “junk” universe to hold dummy laws when you don't want to restrict your other universes may be tempting, but is almost always a waste of opportunities. An empty universe with five laws will multiply your score by five if you add even one word to it. Furthermore, remember that you must always be able to add a word from the Dust whenever you add a law, even if you choose not to. This means that if there is no word in the Dust that fits, you can't add the new law to your empty universe.

Sample laws

• All words in a line must begin with the same letter.
• All words in the universe must begin with T.
• All words in the universe must contain a T.
• All words in the universe must contain a double letter.
• All words in the universe must contain exactly two syllables.
• Every word in the universe must be an adjective.
• Every word in the universe must be a medical term.
• Alphabetical order must increase on each line.
• Alphabetical order must alternate increasing and decreasing on each line.
• Each word in a line must begin with the letter at the end of the previous word.
• Each word in a line must be longer than the previous word.

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