I generally enjoy games that center around changes in the rules themselves, a sort of meta-game. The one I like best is called Mao, and you can’t talk about the rules of Mao.

That’s the main point of this card game – you can’t talk about the rules. Mao is learned through play, by violating the rules and getting punished for it. I can’t even tell you how you get punished, since that’s part of the rules. You can read about the rules here, but you shouldn’t.

A game of Mao is played with regular playing cards, and it takes about 15 minutes or so. But you can’t just play it once – because the winner of the round gets to invent a new rule, that gets implemented in the next round. Of course, you can’t talk about the rules, so the only way the other players have to discover the rule is by violating it (if it’s a kind of forbiddance) or try to imitate its use by its creator (if it’s a new kind of action). So everyone is a little bit of a new player, every round – and after 3-4 rounds there are enough new rules that people start to get forgetful even about the regular ones. (Not that there’s a common set of rules for Mao – since you can’t talk about the rules, every group settles on their own local variant).

You should try Mao, it’s very refreshing! Also incites social anxiety like little else.

Yesterday we’ve uploaded a new RPG post, a guide to coordinating expectations in the gaming group. Just because some rules are unwritten, it doesn’t mean you should ignore them! Ask any Mao player.