Recommend
10 
 Thumb up
 Hide
24 Posts

Zendo» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Geeks Under Grace Reviews: Zendo rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Stephen Hall
United States
Tucson
Arizona
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Zendo is like no other game I've played. This game of inductive reasoning grew out of Looney Labs' popular IceHouse game line. If you're not familiar with the IceHouse system, it is a large group of games that all use a single set of components. The colorful, plastic, IceHouse pieces serve as generic parts that can be used for a plethora of games. Essentially, they are a clever means of creating a limitless supply of play experiences with a single, abstract set of components.

Zendo was originally released as a standalone game in 2003. The brand new, 2017 re-release of the game includes tons of IceHouse pieces. They come in three colors and three shapes. Each turn, one player becomes the "moderator." This player secretly creates a rule using one or two criteria. To do this, he draws a card which usually lists several possible criteria on it. He then uses special sliders to select his desired rule. For example, the rule might be:

The structure must include at least one red piece and at least one yellow piece.

Once the moderator has established the secret rule, he builds two structures, one that follows the rule, and one that does not. These structures are marked with a white and a black chip, respectively, to denote which is which. On a player's turn, he builds a structure of his own. He may then do one of two things:

1. He may ask the moderator whether or not his structure follows the rule. The moderator will then place a white or black chip next to the structure to answer.

2. He may initiate a "quiz," in which all non-moderator players guess whether or not his newly-built structure follows the rule. Each player may secretly vote with a black or white chip. The moderator then announces whether or not the structure abides by the rule, and any players who guessed correctly get a green cube which may be used on their turn to guess the rule.

If a player wishes to guess the rule, they spend one of their green cubes and state their guess. If they are correct, they win. If they are incorrect, the moderator must build a new structure that disproves their guess. For example, suppose a player guesses that the rule is, "The structure contains no blue pyramids." If this is not the rule, the moderator must build a structure that includes a blue pyramid and follows their secret rule, thus proving the player's guess wrong.

Throughout the game, there will be more and more structures built. As this happens, the rule will (hopefully) become more clear, as players use inductive reasoning. If a player guesses the rule correctly, they win.

The 2017 version of Zendo looks amazing. Its components are top-notch. When I first opened the box, I tossed the rules aside and just started playing with the IceHouse pieces. (Don't judge me, you'll totally do the same thing if you play this game.) The tokens have a nice weight to them, and the minimalistic graphic design really works. The original version of Zendo had an Asian zen theme, but I think Looney Labs made the right choice by removing the theme altogether. This is an abstract game, and I don't feel that it needed any window-dressing.

I really like that the game includes two books. The first is simply a rulebook, covering the basic game concepts. The second book, appropriately titled "Going Deeper," provides players with strategy tips and ideas for customizing the play experience and exploring the game further.

With that said, the rules are not perfect. This may be a minor quibble, but they never mention what the green cubes are used for. It's fairly easy to infer that they are guess markers, but the rules should really say this outright.

Zendo is intriguing to play. It feels like an experiment in game/puzzle design that turned into a full-fledged product. It's different than anything I've ever played, but it's fascinating. It's part puzzle, part game, part weird mental exercise. If Andy Warhol designed games, I think this is what they would look like.

I think a very specific type of person will like Zendo. Oddly, I don't think it will appeal much to fans of abstract games, since it is so freeform. It lacks the rigid structure and tactical depth of Chess, Go, or the GIPF series. It does not have an overwhelming amount of strategy, but I think that's okay, since it's not a "game" in the traditional sense. It's an experience.

My guess is that Zendo will be a hit for folks who love puzzles. It is a pretty amiable experience, with no attacking or nastiness. I could see this game being used as an instructional tool to teach logical reasoning; it tickles the brain and asks players to think in new and creative ways. It's not a game I'll be playing every week, but I encourage you to check it out, especially if you're just looking for something new and fresh.

A review copy was provided by Looney Labs.
11 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marina SC
Canada
Toronto
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'm so looking forward to this one... hurry up, boat!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian McCue
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
juggler5 wrote:
I think a very specific type of person will like Zendo.

Actually, one of the things I like best about Zendo is the wide variety of people who like it, and can compete with one another on an even basis.

I would be interested in any comments about differences in how the two versions play. Your description indicates that, other than the de-theming, and the non-statement of what the green cubes are for), the rules are the same. But does the altered selection of pieces make a difference? Is it better, or not as good?

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
juggler5 wrote:
Oddly, I don't think it will appeal much to fans of abstract games, since it is so freeform. It lacks the rigid structure and tactical depth of Chess, Go, or the GIPF series. It does not have an overwhelming amount of strategy, but I think that's okay, since it's not a "game" in the traditional sense.

FWIW I know plenty of fans of abstract games (including myself) who enjoy Zendo.

(But yes, it does not have the strategy and tactics of an abstract strategy game like Chess, Go, etc. It certainly is a different type of game.)
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Peter Hendee
United States
Frisco
Texas
flag msg tools
I do not think it means what you think it means.
badge
Whenever you become anxious or stressed, outer purpose has taken over, and you have lost sight of your inner purpose. Your state of consciousness is primary. All else is secondary.
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
brianmccue wrote:
juggler5 wrote:
I think a very specific type of person will like Zendo.

Actually, one of the things I like best about Zendo is the wide variety of people who like it, and can compete with one another on an even basis.

I would be interested in any comments about differences in how the two versions play. Your description indicates that, other than the de-theming, and the non-statement of what the green cubes are for), the rules are the same. But does the altered selection of pieces make a difference? Is it better, or not as good?


I played it at BGGcon. It was mostly similar to old Zendo.

- One thing new to me was a couple of rules that came with the game that said there must be a wedge shaped piece laid to look like a door stop or a wedge shaped piece must be laid to look like a piece of cheesecake. This is in addition to the old upright/flat/weird options.

- There is also now a concept of vertical which could be right side up or upside down. Those old pyramids did not stand upside down as easily as the new rectangular box. And a pyramid is vertical when it is upside down in the new rectangular box.

So there are some new characteristics in play but it doesn't change the game much more than adding new colors to Mastermind.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeff Yeackle
United States
San Luis Obispo
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Mashpotassium wrote:
I'm so looking forward to this one... hurry up, boat!


The shipment arrived at their primary warehouse early last month, and their direct fulfillment warehouse for Looney Labs web store pre-orders should have received a shipment from there a week or two after that (before or right after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday).

I pre-ordered directly and just received a shipping email yesterday, or at least I hope I did as it only had a subject and no content which is unlike their other confirmation emails I've received in the past.

So, soon! laugh
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Marina SC
Canada
Toronto
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
jyeackle wrote:
Mashpotassium wrote:
I'm so looking forward to this one... hurry up, boat!


The shipment arrived at their primary warehouse early last month, and their direct fulfillment warehouse for Looney Labs web store pre-orders should have received a shipment from there a week or two after that (before or right after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday).

I pre-ordered directly and just received a shipping email yesterday, or at least I hope I did as it only had a subject and no content which is unlike their other confirmation emails I've received in the past.

So, soon! laugh

Great news! I'll have to wait a bit longer as I've pre-ordered from BoardGameBliss, but realistically I'll probably have to wait until the holidays to play it anyway
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
oystein eker
Norway
Unspecified
sola
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
A great game.
The Master must not make too difficult rule. Frustration is not fun.

This is the way scientists and investigators think in real life.
You induce a new theory - and you should try to prove it wrong.
But usually you end up trying to confirm it instead.
Not a way to success.


You can easily make Zendo yourself.
Use other game wood components - meeples - coins and similar stuff.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeff Wolfe
United States
Columbus
Ohio
flag msg tools
Zendo fan, Columbus Blue Jackets fan, Dominion Fan.
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
eker wrote:
The Master must not make too difficult rule. Frustration is not fun.

The new version addresses this by giving you a stack of rule cards that contain potentially hundreds of different rules. Rather than one rule per card, as in the original boxed set, many of the cards have options that allow you to select which color or which shape, etc, to use this time around. There are clips to remind you which option you selected. The cards with no options (or only one option) have decoy slots where you can put the clip to avoid giving away anything about which card you selected. Also, the cards are rated by rule difficulty. You can still make up your own rules, of course, but this is a big help to newer players to help them avoid making rules that are too hard.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Mcpherson
Canada
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I think the game looks really cool but I worry about the replayability. Does it take long to use all the possible combinations. Is that even possible? If so does it even matter because part of the fun is building the different follow up structures.

Any input would be appreciated.

Great review!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re4isnumber1 wrote:
I think the game looks really cool but I worry about the replayability. Does it take long to use all the possible combinations. Is that even possible?

That is not possible.

You might theoretically "use up" all the combinations if you play only with rules which you create with the cards (but remember that each card generates multiple possible rules depending on where you put the little paper clip thingies), but:

1. In practice, that's almost certainly far more more rules produced by cards than the number of times you will play the game, so they won't run out.

2. It doesn't matter in any case if a rule gets repeated weeks or months from now. It's not as if the rule structures are surprises in a "legacy" game or something. They are of known and knowable forms like "there must be a red piece" or whatever. The format of rules from the cards are not "security by obscurity".

3. You are not limited to rules on the cards in any case. The master can devise whatever rules they like.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeff Wolfe
United States
Columbus
Ohio
flag msg tools
Zendo fan, Columbus Blue Jackets fan, Dominion Fan.
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
russ wrote:
1. In practice, that's almost certainly far more more rules produced by cards than the number of times you will play the game, so they won't run out.

Challenge... accepted!

Quote:
2. It doesn't matter in any case if a rule gets repeated weeks or months from now. It's not as if the rule structures are surprises in a "legacy" game or something. They are of known and knowable forms like "there must be a red piece" or whatever. The format of rules from the cards are not "security by obscurity".

I've talked before about using exactly the same rule that the previous Master/Moderator used. It could be potentially very difficult as the Students/Players dismiss the notion that the rule was exactly the same as before. Of course, I've shared these thoughts with several of the people I play Zendo with, so they might not be so surprised. In any event, the games are likely to unfold very differently, as the Students/Players are unlikely to build exactly the same Koans/Structures as in the previous game. As Master/Moderator, I could guarantee that the games were not exactly the same.

Quote:
3. You are not limited to rules on the cards in any case. The master can devise whatever rules they like.

Agreed, although beginning players absolutely should use the cards until they get a feel for what makes an appropriate rule. As I've said, a beginning Master/Moderator often makes one of two mistakes:
1. They make the rule too hard by accident
2. They make the rule too hard on purpose.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Mcpherson
Canada
Ontario
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great feedback. That makes me feel a lot better about my upcoming purchase.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
jeffwolfe wrote:
I've talked before about using exactly the same rule that the previous Master/Moderator used. It could be potentially very difficult as the Students/Players dismiss the notion that the rule was exactly the same as before.

Haha, now I want to try that sometime!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeff Yeackle
United States
San Luis Obispo
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
My pre-orders just arrived today a bit early. No fancy insert like Pyramid Arcade but everything is top notch in terms of quality and nicely bagged in a smallish but sturdy box that doesn't store too much air.

I already built some structures for fun and to tempt those in the household to take a closer look, although the comments were "ooh, what's that?! What are the Tums for, are you feeling OK?"

surprise shake laugh
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian McCue
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Re4isnumber1 wrote:
I think the game looks really cool but I worry about the replayability. Does it take long to use all the possible combinations. Is that even possible? If so does it even matter because part of the fun is building the different follow up structures.

I agree with everything that has been said, but I would like to add that, conceptually, the card-using version of the game is deductive (like Mastermind whereas the freeform version of the game is inductive (like reality).
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
brianmccue wrote:
I agree with everything that has been said, but I would like to add that, conceptually, the card-using version of the game is deductive (like Mastermind whereas the freeform version of the game is inductive (like reality).

The distinction seems a bit more theoretical/philosophical than practical, doesn't it? It seems that the number of cards is large enough that the guessers wouldn't really be operating deductively like Mastermind. (All the more so since probably most players will not have studied and memorized the deck.)
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian McCue
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
russ wrote:
brianmccue wrote:
I agree with everything that has been said, but I would like to add that, conceptually, the card-using version of the game is deductive (like Mastermind whereas the freeform version of the game is inductive (like reality).

The distinction seems a bit more theoretical/philosophical than practical, doesn't it? It seems that the number of cards is large enough that the guessers wouldn't really be operating deductively like Mastermind. (All the more so since probably most players will not have studied and memorized the deck.)

Probably. My copy showed up but it's not opened because we might give it to somebody for Xmas.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eric
United States
flag msg tools
mbmb
I just got my copy. I'm very excited to try it.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
P.D. Magnus
United States
Albany
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
russ wrote:
brianmccue wrote:
I agree with everything that has been said, but I would like to add that, conceptually, the card-using version of the game is deductive (like Mastermind whereas the freeform version of the game is inductive (like reality).

The distinction seems a bit more theoretical/philosophical than practical, doesn't it? It seems that the number of cards is large enough that the guessers wouldn't really be operating deductively like Mastermind. (All the more so since probably most players will not have studied and memorized the deck.)


This.

In Mastermind, the range of possibilities is specified by the rules of the game. In card-using Zendo, the possibilities are specified by the deck of cards rather than by the operational rules of the game. So it's only deductive if you include the deck of cards among the premises, and even then consulting that enormous list of premises would not be the most cognitively economical way to play.

Hmm... If Looney Labs also sold blank Zendo rules cards, then people could customize their decks and thwart even the would-be deductive strategy.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian McCue
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
pmagnus wrote:
Hmm... If Looney Labs also sold blank Zendo rules cards, then people could customize their decks and thwart even the would-be deductive strategy.


There's no need for blank cards, since the cards don't get shuffled or anything. You can just jot the BN down somewhere. (I put some old business cards into the box and I use them.)
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
P.D. Magnus
United States
Albany
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
brianmccue wrote:
There's no need for blank cards, since the cards don't get shuffled or anything. You can just jot the BN down somewhere. (I put some old business cards into the box and I use them.)


If you make up your own rule, then you don't even necessarily have to write it down.

The use for blanks would be to write rules and shuffle them into the deck. Then, at some point in the indefinite future, someone who draws one a card rather than making up a rule would get the custom written one.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian McCue
United States
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
pmagnus wrote:
brianmccue wrote:
There's no need for blank cards, since the cards don't get shuffled or anything. You can just jot the BN down somewhere. (I put some old business cards into the box and I use them.)


If you make up your own rule, then you don't even necessarily have to write it down.

True. But I do it because:

--Later I'll have the card with the rule on it, for possible re-use with different players.
--When people play Master for the first time I ask them to write down their rules (a practice that has saved more than Noob Master from embarrassment), so I need to do it too.
--I don't want to have to have a discussion with the players about how I have not changed my mind about the rule, and it wouldn't matter if I had.
--I like having it written down.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Russ Williams
Poland
Wrocław
Dolny Śląsk
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
brianmccue wrote:
--I don't want to have to have a discussion with the players about how I have not changed my mind about the rule, and it wouldn't matter if I had.

In fairness, it arguably would matter if you changed your mind about the rule during play. E.g. you could "play favorites" and ensure that a given player could never correctly guess the rule, or ensure that a given player (who actually makes a plausible guess) correctly guesses the rule.

(Luckily I've never played with anyone who suspected the master of doing this, nor with anyone who I believe did this as the master, so it's more of a theoretical point than a practical worry, in my case. But based on BGG threads I've read, there are some gaming groups who would totally do this kind of nonsense...)
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.