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Subject: I miss the old Zendo Budda Nature terminology rss

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Michael Leibig
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Greetings,

So glad to see Zendo back in print. I gave my original copy to a friend years ago and was so excited to get a chance to get a new copy. (I know that you can make one with stashes of pyramids -- I am too lazy.) I have been playing some games with my kids and I just can't help but use the old terminology. "A koan has the buddha nature if ..." I know that we now have structures not koans, and we have guessing the rules and not finding the buddha nature. I miss the old ways. I guess it didn't focus group as well. I teach my kids the original, although they do roll their eyes a bit.

I do think one important difference is the lecture in the original rules that the point of the moderators job is to provide a pleasurable experience for the players, not to stump them.

To this end, as moderator, I always try to put in one element of misdirection in the first two koans, but subsequent koans I build are trying to lead the players to the right answer.

Anyway, so happy to have this game back in my collection.

Your obedient,

M. Leibig
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Shush Ruth
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Agree. The old theming, however tenuous, had a lot of charm to it. Not sure what was gained by ditching it. It's not like people couldn't have played it completely ignoring the theme. But it now can alienate people who are scared of pure abstract games but who might've given this a shot if there was a veneer of theme...
 
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Brian McCue
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Zendo works differently from other games and now it is stuck with a terminological difficulty it doesn't need: the players are trying to figure out the "secret rule."

I'd bet at least three green stones that the average noob who has just heard an explanation of the game is thinking "How can I possibly play this game if one of the rules is secret?"

The old terminology avoided this confusion because the players were trying to figure out a Buddha Nature, not a rule. And in explaining the idea of the BN, I always call it a "regularity," not a rule, so that nobody thinks I'm keeping a rule of the game a secret.
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Russ Williams
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brianmccue wrote:
Zendo works differently from other games and now it is stuck with a terminological difficulty it doesn't need: the players are trying to figure out the "secret rule."

I'd bet at least three green stones that the average noob who has just heard an explanation of the game is thinking "How can I possibly play this game if one of the rules is secret?"

Hmm, I have a hard time imagining this as a serious hurdle. At least I've never had any new player have trouble with the concept (and I usually don't use the "Buddha nature" lingo any more; I just say the master is not a player, but rather moderates the game for the players by having a secret rule which classifies each structure as "good" or "bad", and the players compete to discover the rule).

In case any learner has the slightest hesitation, I suspect that saying "Kind of like Mastermind or Mao or Eleusis" would resolve the confusion for many learners...
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Peter Hendee
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I do not think it means what you think it means.
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I suppose they kept the name "Zendo" without the Zen theme to tap the demand for an out-of-print game. It seems like there should be a better name, absent that financial motive.
 
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I personally prefer the game being themeless. I hate themes that are orientalist and unnecessarily religious and as far as I can tell old Zendo was both. I probably would've bought the game either way and I probably would've ended up substituting all the faux Buddhist terms to more intuitive ones, similar to what we have now so that people don't think I'm selling a self-help book or luring them into a cult or something.
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Dana Olson
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I bought the game last week. Cracked it open and played it with 5 other players. Nobody there had even heard of the game before except for me. Exactly zero people had any issue understanding the game or the rules. Nobody complained that it had no theme. I don't regret my purchase at all, and would have bought it with or without a pinch of theme.
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Lou Lessing
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I miss the old theme too. I thought it was perfect.
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Nick Knack
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Personally I appreciate the removal of the Buddhist theme. I can't say I actually minded it, but it always felt like it ran counter to what the game was all about.
Zendo is a game that's laser focused on logical inductive reasoning and discovery in a way that mirrors the trial and error of real scientific research, whereas the literal definition of a Koan is "a paradoxical riddle used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning."

Also, it wasn't terribly frequent, but I've seen eyes glaze while trying to pitch an abstract game draped in a tenuous eastern religious theme. I've since learned to skip all context and pitch Zendo as "a brain burning semico-op where we use logic to discover new laws of the universe." That usually grabs attention pretty fast.

TLDR; I feel the theme was at odds with the mechanics, soul, and marketability of Zendo.


That said, I agree with previous statements that some amount of theme is useful for getting games off shelves and overcoming the hesitation a lot of pure abstracts create.
For my group I describe the players as scientists developing hypotheses and running experiments to discover a new law of the universe, peer reviewing each other's experiments (mondo), and spending their research grant stones to publish a theory.

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Russ Williams
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realityfoible wrote:
Also, it wasn't terribly frequent, but I've seen eyes glaze while trying to pitch an abstract game draped in a tenuous eastern religious theme. I've since learned to skip all context and pitch Zendo as "a brain burning semico-op where we use logic to discover new laws of the universe." That usually grabs attention pretty fast.

Tangentially, since Zendo's in no way a coop or semi-coop (a player wins individually, after all), I have never described it as a coop or semi-coop. Especially since some people aren't into coops, so their eyes might needlessly glaze over if I called it a coop or semi-coop.
 
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Nick Knack
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That's fair.
I think of it as semi-coop because players are helping each other through creating a shared battery of tests, running ideas off each other, and creating shared opportunities to get ahead via Mondo. The race to the finish once the field has been narrowed is the less co-op part.
 
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Jeff Wolfe
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realityfoible wrote:
"a brain burning semico-op where we use logic to discover new laws of the universe."

My eyes glazed over.

realityfoible wrote:
For my group I describe the players as scientists developing hypotheses and running experiments to discover a new law of the universe, peer reviewing each other's experiments (mondo), and spending their research grant stones to publish a theory.

My eyes definitely glazed over.

I think that goes to show that enthusiasm is the key to getting people interested in your games. If you can get enthusiastic about peer review, which sounds tedious to me, then people want to play.

What appeals to me is called enlightenment in the original theme: the a-ha moment when a random jumble of pieces suddenly makes sense. Perhaps that's why a theme wrapped around the word enlightenment appeals to me.
 
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Michael Leibig
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We definitely play it as semi-coop. The guessers definitely discuss their thoughts although once someone thinks he or she has it, then that person keeps the answer to themselves. But sometimes that isn’t true. They share their idea and the next person makes the guess. We play semi-coop, with ultra-low competitivity.


I think the game only really works at low competivity as the master’s goal is a beautiful puzzle and enjoyable experience for the players. If the master decides that you aren’t going to guess the rule, then you aren’t going to guess it.
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foksieloy
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Oldman20 wrote:
I think the game only really works at low competivity


I, on the other hand, think it only works as highly competitive game where everyone keeps to themselves and tries to figure out what others are thinking, while not divulging what they are thinking.

The beauty comes in creating koans that give no information to others, but answer your own questions.
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Russ Williams
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Oldman20 wrote:
I think the game only really works at low competivity as the master’s goal is a beautiful puzzle and enjoyable experience for the players. If the master decides that you aren’t going to guess the rule, then you aren’t going to guess it.

Hmm? The competition is not between the master and the players. The master is not a player. Of course the master does not make an impossibly hard to guess rule.

The competition is among the players, to see who correctly discovers the master's rule first.
 
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Peter S.
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I really agree with Nick here, the "Zen" theme isn't a mechanical fit for the game. It seemed to borrow only the stereotype of a Master asking a koan of a student, while running directly counter to the point of a koan (it's supposed to be unresolvable, to knock you out of your normal thought-loops). I'm happier without it than I would have been with it.
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Brian McCue
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So what terminology does the second edition use?
 
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Lou Lessing
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Koan -> Structure
Master (role) -> Moderator
Student -> Player
Buddha Nature -> Secret Rule
Master (thing you say to get a structure marked) -> Tell
Mondo -> Quiz
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Brian McCue
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Thanks!
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Lou Lessing
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No problem.
 
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Xander
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I love Zendo, but have never used the zen theme. In fact, my first reaction to reading the rules was, "sounds interesting, but that zen stuff has to go before I try to teach this to anyone."

My main issue wasn't so much that the connection to zen is tenuous, but that I personally know absolutely nothing about zen; and while it's never come up in conversation and I haven't gone asking, I assume that my potential players aren't necessarily familiar with it either. To me, the original theming was a fairly straightforward game wrapped in a fairly confusing analogy and a lot of unnecessarily esoteric vocabulary.

I have wondered, could this be a geographical divide? Are Northern Muricans, who are just one ocean away from Japan, somewhat commonly familiar with zen?
 
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Lou Lessing
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I don't think it was really based on Zen so much as it was based on the movie/comic book/D&D trope of a giggling monk asking a circle of students cryptic, confusing, paradoxical questions.

I could not tell you how much basis that trope has in actual Buddhist practice (my guess: little) but I think Zendo did a good job with the trope. The master role really does feel like that "zen master" character.
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Brian McCue
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I read a book or two about Zen in college (it was the '70s), and apparently the masters really did propound puzzles to the students.
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