MoonShadow: The game is best when most players are unsure of the exact rules and/or drunk. It is intentional that only some players know some rules. Playing or ruling incorrectly or in an unsatisfactory manner is cause for a penalty. The game is actually very like one that is already or will soon be fully described elsewhere on this wiki. The following is from a place that also happens to contain spoilers (this extract was edited to remove them). Beware of Google.
It should also be noted that the starting set of rules used differs from place to place, so even if you know how your friends play is no guarantee that you will know how other people do. This probably means that if you have about even numbers of people from groups with different starting sets of rules the game will end in a fistfight, which would be fun to watch and you could probably sell tickets for. the one constant, of course, is that if you can get rid of all your cards you can introduce a new rule which other players must follow from then on, then pick up a new hand and begin playing again.
Aside from its structual base, Mao's rules are drawn as a parody of Communist China, named after its father, Mao Zedong. Players are uncertain of the rules (laws) and are penalized for not following them appropiately. The rules (laws) are strict and orderly, and there is much chaos. The rules are not written on the cards. If the rules are broken, the player is corrected with no explanation (beyond that of the call), and receives a penalty. In some versions of the game, there is a marginal line of corruption; players can cheat. There is a penalty for cheating.
Regardless of whether you believe the above or not, the name almost certainly comes from the game MaoMao?, which is a varient of /Blackjack?
Probably invented at an InternationalMathsOlympiad?/Mao is a descendant of such games as /Bartok? and /Blackjack?.
The story I heard is that it was invented at the Chinese one in circa '95. It spread from there to a number of places, including Cambridge, and the InternationalOlympiadInInformatics? (IOI) where I met it. -- TheInquisitor
''1995 is far too recent. /Mao was already rampant among both the Archimedeans and Warwick Maths Society (where it was introduced by Michael Greene, an ex-Archimedean) by mid-1996, and had also started to appear on websites of related areas. Also, there hasn't been a Chinese International Olympiad since before 1993 (the earliest one I can find the location for), neither have the other two suggested contenders (Moscow and Sweden). Anecdotal evidence would suggest it existed in Mich-1992, and wasn't created at the International in that year. -- Senji
The '95 bit was pure guesswork, but the story I heard definity had it at the last IMO in China. This may not be true, of course... I note that [this site] lists 1990 as the date of the Beijing Olympiad, and would tentatively suggest that. -- TheInquisitor
I first came across Mao (and played lots of it) in Easter 1995, at the final stage of the BritishMathsOlympiad? (BMO), in Cambridge, with lots of people who later became Archimedeans? and who had all played it lots before, especially at the same event the previous year. They seemed to think it was a game exclusive to BMOs and IMOs. -- M-A
There is quite a lot of crossover betwen the IMO and IOI teams, which probably explains the cross-contamination. I'm not sure how far back it goes, except that it was certainly played at the 1998 IOI. (Since many people at the 99 IOI knew about it). -- TheInquisitor
Often played by the more aggressive groups for humility points. Emperor discourages such behaviour
Mao is a wonderful party game, as a game of Mao quickly removes all the annoying idiots from the general conversation, leaving behind those whom one would actually wish to talk. As an occasional social /Mao player, Emperor thinks that's a little harsh
Best intermixing is probably about 1 newbie to 3 experienced players. Maybe more newbies if they're insightful. The largest game I've ever been in had 11 newbies, 2 experienced players and one person who'd played before.
Also plays well with a large group of good experienced players, but watch out for the MathMos, and for disagreements about the value of an Ace...
Not caused problems in my experience. So long as it's understood that the person who implements a rule has to enforce it consistently, they can make such decisions at the time they introduce the rule. It's fun when two rules take deck remappings into acount in a different order, but if it's consistent... -- TheInquisitor
(PeterTaylor) I have had problems with it not being permissible to play _any_ card. When I play it with my family, we also tend to add a rule that rules are player-invariant, so you can't have rules which specifically allow you to play but no-one else.
That's always been implicit when I've played it - and I've never seen anyone introduce a rule which would have violated it. Also, while double-binds may exist, if they aren't too common, it ought not destroy that game. -- TheInquisitor
Yes, as social conventions we have that it isn't allowed to make rules that target people on the basis of intrinsic features (although rules targetting player-surroundings are fun sometimes), and that one shouldn't create a rule until one is sure that it won't interfere badly with a rule you don't understand yet. -- Senji
For true Surreality? try Imaginary or Shared Hallucination [/Mao], in which you play without cards.