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Subject: So perhaps I like laughing at people... rss

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I've never seen a flying hogfish. I saw one gliding once, but never flying, not actually flying.
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The bits

Zendo is one of the pyramid games from Looney Labs, replete with three sizes of pyramids in four colours. It looks nice, the pieces have that "pick me up and play with me" appeal and the black, white and green stones that came with the set are nice enough.

The rules

One of the players takes the role of the Master, deciding on a rule that embodies whether a group of pyramids is good or not. These can range from simple rules such as "must be an even number of pyramids" to the outlandish, such as "must include one yellow pyramid which touches a yellow pyramid on it's side".

The Master then puts together two example of pyramid groups (Koans, I believe they're called) that either meet the concept of perfection, or which fail to attain the lofty ideal. In our game, we decided that at least one of these examples must contain the concept (indicated with a white stone), the other one can either meet the rule or break it (black stone). With me so far?

The other players then take it in turn to stare at the koans on the table and make one of their own. It can be one that they think should emobdy the rule, or one that they think breaks it, or to be honest, it can be a total guess if they're stumped, why not?

At this point the player has two choices, if they call "Master", then the Master indicates the rightness or otherwise of the koan by placing a white or black stone next to it. If the player calls "Mondo", then all players get to choose a white or black stone to show whether they think it meets the rules or not. The Master places the appropriate bead next to it, and anyone who was right in their guess receives a 'guessing stone', which are a nice green.

Once you have made your call and resolved the rightness of your koan, you can spend one (or more) guessing beads to guess what the rule is. If you're right, you win! Now it's your turn to be master. If not, the turn moves onto the next player.

There may be a final "who wins" stage to the game, but we never got thatfar - if I'm missing something important there, then I apologise. Seems to me that intorducing that would lead to deliberately difficult rules, so perhaps the game is (or is better) without.

OK, so that's the rules - but how does it play?

Well, if you remember a game called "Mastermind" from the 70's, then it has elements of that - make guesses and (hopefully) use some logical deduction to figure out the rule.

HOWEVER.... this all depends on the person who is Master. The rule is that the koan must be self-referrential (so it cannot be a rule such as "is not placed by Bob", but must refer to the interrelation between the pieces. The box comes with some hand suggestion cards, but in no time at all, you'll be giggling to yourself like a llama and placing pyramids where "none of the tips point directly at another pyramid" or somesuch. Now, for me, that's a tad nasty, and I think there should be some sort of sanity check prior to choosing these things.

OK, so that's how it plays, but what does it feel like?

Right, so here is the core of the thing. The game is simple (theoretically). I'm not convinced that it's technically a game, being something of a puzzle, but that's an argument for another day. However, what sets this game apart from other games (for me) is the emotions generated playing it. This all depends on your current position:

You are the player(s):
You feel like an idiot needs to be whomped with a haddock if you're ever to have a chance of getting the thing. You spot connections between the koans, but guess what? THEY'RE WRONG. You hope the other players will guess the rule, because you brain is trying to climb out of your head, and not in a nice out-of-the-ears way, either.

You are the Master:
You are a God. The puny mortals in front of you cannot cope with your omnipotent smarts, and should really retreat to the mud-pool their ancestors crawled out of. I caught myself referring to my fellow players as "dull-witted disciples" and figured I should stop, I mean, I'm God and all, but there's still more of them than me... Oh yes, and watching the thing with the evacuating brains, THAT'S comedy!

Conclusion

It's a filler, probably a beer'n'whatever game - it's inviting you to enter someone else's devious and twisted mind, and believe me, you'll want to take a flashlight, but at the end of it, YOU GET TO BE THE MASTER! It's worth it for that alone.... unless they guess your rule, then it's time to think of another one for the next time.

Postscript

So maybe you want to know my devious rule that foxed the bright folk for a fair old while until they game in?

"Must not be an odd number of towers".

That simple. If I'd been drinking milk, it would have snortled out of my nose when I revealed the rule, the guesses were getting pretty nebulous by the end, I mean "must not summon the Colours Out Of Space" just sounds like desperation, doesn't it?
 
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Guy Srinivasan
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Here's a hint: As master, consider the goal of the game to make it as fun as possible for the other players. Zendo is not about creating a rule no one can guess, or even creating the simplest rule no one can guess. My group, at least, finds it much more enjoyable when the master attempts to guide the group into correctly guessing the rule but not too quickly. Strangely, everyone has more fun when the master doesn't say "I like laughing at people." It's very easy to make rules that sound simple that will not be guessed. It's much more challenging to make rules that will delight the crowd. But to each his own, I suppose.
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Lacombe
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Suddenly a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed. Suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon! While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury. Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up.
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"Must not be an odd number of towers" doesn't even make sense.
 
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