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Subject: Unpadded Room Variant rss

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Daniel Cristofani
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If any koan on the table contradicts your guess, the Master should point this out, and you may take back your stone or change your guess.


For adult players, I think making a guess that is disproved by something already on the table should cost you TWO stones. Or if you don't have two, then the one you just paid and the next one you earn.
 
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Malachi Brown
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I have to wonder how many games of Zendo you have played before that makes this seem like a reasonable variant. I think it would just serve to discourage guessing and, in the case of a penalty, discourage continued play or encourage otherwise superfluous Mondos.
 
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Daniel Cristofani
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Malachi wrote:
I have to wonder how many games of Zendo you have played before that makes this seem like a reasonable variant. I think it would just serve to discourage guessing and, in the case of a penalty, discourage continued play or encourage otherwise superfluous Mondos.


About five or six. I was thinking to discourage guessing without thinking first. I would have thought it obvious that if you have a guess you should check it against everything on the table yourself before you think about saying it. So I wouldn't expect this rule to actually come into play that often, if it were instated.
 
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Jeff Wolfe
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the majestic moose wrote:
Malachi wrote:
I have to wonder how many games of Zendo you have played before that makes this seem like a reasonable variant. I think it would just serve to discourage guessing and, in the case of a penalty, discourage continued play or encourage otherwise superfluous Mondos.


About five or six. I was thinking to discourage guessing without thinking first. I would have thought it obvious that if you have a guess you should check it against everything on the table yourself before you think about saying it. So I wouldn't expect this rule to actually come into play that often, if it were instated.


I see what you're trying to say, but I think it would have two unintended consequences.

1) It would discourage new players from guessing. Many times, new players are reluctant to guess anyway, and this would just reinforce that. If a new player is allowed to just blurt out a guess, the experienced players can help that player see koans that disprove the guess, as well as point out ways to refine the guess so that it is unambiguous. If there's no forgiveness for bad guesses, the new player will never gain the benefit of that experience.

2) Even with experienced players (perhaps especially with experienced players), it would slow the game down a lot. Most experienced players I know usually check and recheck their guesses before they make them. But if guessing stones were on the line, I would expect that to become triple and quadruple checking, just to be sure. Some especially slow players would be totally paralyzed by such a rule.

With an isolated game group in a private area, these might not be as much of a problem, I guess. But I often play in a semi-public setting, where new players are not unusual (they start out as spectators). Even in a controlled setting, though, I'm not sure I see how the benefit of reducing bad guesses is worth the (potential) problems.


 
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Daniel Cristofani
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jeffwolfe wrote:

I see what you're trying to say, but I think it would have two unintended consequences.

1) It would discourage new players from guessing. Many times, new players are reluctant to guess anyway, and this would just reinforce that. If a new player is allowed to just blurt out a guess, the experienced players can help that player see koans that disprove the guess, as well as point out ways to refine the guess so that it is unambiguous. If there's no forgiveness for bad guesses, the new player will never gain the benefit of that experience.

2) Even with experienced players (perhaps especially with experienced players), it would slow the game down a lot. Most experienced players I know usually check and recheck their guesses before they make them. But if guessing stones were on the line, I would expect that to become triple and quadruple checking, just to be sure. Some especially slow players would be totally paralyzed by such a rule.

With an isolated game group in a private area, these might not be as much of a problem, I guess. But I often play in a semi-public setting, where new players are not unusual (they start out as spectators). Even in a controlled setting, though, I'm not sure I see how the benefit of reducing bad guesses is worth the (potential) problems.


I hadn't been thinking about a game where random people would come and join in...I wouldn't have assumed that Zendo would be a good game for people who would find it difficult to check their guessses against the available koans. I mean, thinking of numerous possibilities and quickly discarding all the ones that are falsified by existing koans is a big part of the game. Anything that tries to make that process unnecessary would seem to push Zendo a long way toward being a game of luck rather than a game of skill.

Anyway. I see your point if people are trying to use this as a social game. If people want something gentler, maybe just take the one stone that guessing normally costs, and point out a koan that refutes the guess. That'd save some bookkeeping anyway.
 
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Malachi Brown
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In my experience, a challenging rule can produce dozens of koans on the table and can take more than an hour to solve. It's very easy for a student, in the course of coming up with a guess, to work with various "half-rules" and end up with a guess that would work except for one or two overlooked koans. Penalizing this would just be discouraging students without much real benefit that I can see.

It's always possible that no one notices the counterexample, in which case the master still has to build something anyway. I think one of the main ideas of the rule as written is that a guessing stone is never lost without gaining some new information.

I have to wonder if you are suggesting this variant because you had issues with players making lots of guesses which were already countered by koans on the table, perhaps in the vain hope that they might stumble upon the solution that way. This may happen with some novice players who aren't accustomed to looking around, but I haven't had it be an issue with the groups I have played with. This can be partially controlled by social norms. If your group finds it somewhat embarrassing to make a guess that is obviously wrong, it helps encourage more through self checking without the need for an explicit penalty.
 
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Daniel Cristofani
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Malachi wrote:
In my experience, a challenging rule can produce dozens of koans on the table and can take more than an hour to solve. It's very easy for a student, in the course of coming up with a guess, to work with various "half-rules" and end up with a guess that would work except for one or two overlooked koans. Penalizing this would just be discouraging students without much real benefit that I can see.

It's always possible that no one notices the counterexample, in which case the master still has to build something anyway. I think one of the main ideas of the rule as written is that a guessing stone is never lost without gaining some new information.


Right. You can't just screw up and throw one away. This reminds me of chess, where you aren't allowed to move your king into check. It would seem more fair to me that if you do so, then the other player can capture your king and you lose. Basically my first impulse is more to make games reward skill and punish a lack of skill than to make games be encouraging. Of course, it depends on the game and on how it's to be used. As I say, it makes some sense to soften a game that's going to be played socially by a mixed crowd.

Malachi wrote:

I have to wonder if you are suggesting this variant because you had issues with players making lots of guesses which were already countered by koans on the table, perhaps in the vain hope that they might stumble upon the solution that way.


When you say "vain", you mean that with the rules as currently written this would never actually work? Why not?

 
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Malachi Brown
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the majestic moose wrote:
When you say "vain", you mean that with the rules as currently written this would never actually work? Why not?

Well, I generally don't play with the suggested rules on the cards, so trying to just guess every rule from a card would always fail, even though most of them would probably have counterexamples on the table and not cost a guessing stone.

I think the odds of guessing a rule like, "AKHTBN if and only if one pyramid is the single largest pyramid in the koan." are so slim that guessing randomly without any sort of plan is going to fail. That's why I say vain.

If you just play with the suggested rules from the cards with no modifications, someone who knows that list well enough can probably win by brute force guessing, but that's not hard to stop. Just change them up a little. If you always pick a different variation on one of those rules, the resulting combinations will be too large for brute force to be very effective.

However, if you want to go down the path of adding penalties, you could also not reward people with guessing stones if they mondo something that has been built before.
 
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Jeff Wolfe
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the majestic moose wrote:
I hadn't been thinking about a game where random people would come and join in...I wouldn't have assumed that Zendo would be a good game for people who would find it difficult to check their guessses against the available koans.


In general, inexperienced players have more difficulty with verifying their guesses against the table than experienced players. They often guess half-rules. The only way inexperienced players can become experienced players is by playing the game.


Quote:
I mean, thinking of numerous possibilities and quickly discarding all the ones that are falsified by existing koans is a big part of the game.


Quickly discarding koans that disprove your rule is prone to error. Slowly discarding koans that disprove your rule is more reliable, but it slows down the game too much. But the latter is what you get when you penalize wrong guesses.

Quote:
Anything that tries to make that process unnecessary would seem to push Zendo a long way toward being a game of luck rather than a game of skill.


The harder the rule, the more likely it is that you will overlook something and make a wrong guess. Hard rules are virtually impossible to guess by luck.

Quote:
Anyway. I see your point if people are trying to use this as a social game. If people want something gentler, maybe just take the one stone that guessing normally costs, and point out a koan that refutes the guess. That'd save some bookkeeping anyway.


I'm not sure what you mean by "use this as a social game." I don't use Zendo as a social game. I just play. But the nature of my gaming is such that I'm usually gaming in a place with lots of people around. My main gaming group is the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society, where we usually get over 100 people at each meeting. If someone expresses an interest, I invite them to join in. Is that using it as a social game or just being polite?
 
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Daniel Cristofani
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The chess analogy still conveys my view of this. If someone puts his own king in check and is asked to make a legal move instead, he's not likely to win that game or the game after, anyway. There's a learning curve and you go on losing until you develop the necessary skills or give up. Changing the rules to put victory within everyone's reach immediately would wreck the game, but that's not what the rule does--it just changes disastrous suicidal defeat into a later and perhaps gentler defeat. I wouldn't have guessed that would provide enough comfort and encouragement to be worth complicating the rules for.

Whether the Zendo rule is the same way or whether it actually does let unskilled players beat skilled players probably depends on who is playing and what kinds of rules are being used. But either way I'm not enthusiastic about it.

jeffwolfe wrote:

In general, inexperienced players have more difficulty with verifying their guesses against the table than experienced players. They often guess half-rules. The only way inexperienced players can become experienced players is by playing the game.


Sure. Almost by definition.

jeffwolfe wrote:

Quickly discarding koans that disprove your rule is prone to error. Slowly discarding koans that disprove your rule is more reliable, but it slows down the game too much. But the latter is what you get when you penalize wrong guesses.


Hm. How slow does it get?

jeffwolfe wrote:

The harder the rule, the more likely it is that you will overlook something and make a wrong guess. Hard rules are virtually impossible to guess by luck.


Right. And that means you still have to go on losing until you develop some skill, with or without the rule tweak.

jeffwolfe wrote:

I'm not sure what you mean by "use this as a social game." I don't use Zendo as a social game. I just play. But the nature of my gaming is such that I'm usually gaming in a place with lots of people around. My main gaming group is the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society, where we usually get over 100 people at each meeting. If someone expresses an interest, I invite them to join in. Is that using it as a social game or just being polite?


It's being polite. But I wouldn't have thought Boardgaming Society members would be so easily discouraged by losing horribly at games they were new to.
 
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Adam McD
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Zendo is probably the least competitive game that I play. Winning is nice, but I play the game to see what interesting rules that people can come up with and to try and come up with an interesting (but reasonable) rule when I am the master. It's not about winning.

As such, I don't feel that putting a possible extra penalty on guessing is appropriate.

On a separate note, I hate playing games when players take really long turns. In an non-timed chess match, I'm sure I could make a better move by studying the board for an extra 20 minutes, but this is annoying. Similarly, a Zendo player might be able to make a better guess or think of more guess possibilities if he/she spend lots of extra time studying the koans in play. I feel that penalizing inconsistent guesses would encourage players to take longer turns.

If you really don't like giving the guessing stone back to a player who conjectures an inconsistent guess, then simply not giving it back should be penalty enough (although I usually do give the stone back). Imposing an additional penalty seems like overkill.

I believe that the Master should not be allowed to impose penalties. However, the Master *should* be the one to decide if a student who attempts an inconsistent guess gets his or her stone back. When I am Master, I give the stone back.
 
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Adam McD
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Skill VS luck is mentioned a lot in this thread. When I think of 'luck' and 'Zendo', I chuckle. I think of the old idea of monkeys on typewriters writing Shakespeare, eventually. If one were to randomly make guesses at the rule in Zendo (without checking all koans for rule validity), this player would guess the rule and win, eventually.

I've placed Zendo before where someone makes a very early guess (when there are still many simple rule possibilities) and wins... this involves some luck I suppose. But on the other hand, this player was likely thinking, "I have a couple guessing stones now, so I could take a crack at a couple of the simple rule possibilities now, and get more stones to guess & win with later if the rule is complex". It takes skill to know when to press your luck.

the majestic moose wrote:
This reminds me of chess, where you aren't allowed to move your king into check. It would seem more fair to me that if you do so, then the other player can capture your king and you lose. Basically my first impulse is more to make games reward skill and punish a lack of skill than to make games be encouraging. Of course, it depends on the game and on how it's to be used.

Let's suppose that in chess, you were allowed to move your king into check. I have two comments concerning this:

(1) Who moves their king into check by accident? Only novice players, with rare exception. It seems silly to impose this extra penalty on (basically) only novice players. What's the point?

(2) Let's say your opponent did move his/her king into check, then you take it. Did you just win by skill or luck? I would argue the latter. Chess is about how many turns ahead you can "see". Moving your king into check means that you were not "seeing" beyond zero turns ahead. So unless you are actually so awful that you cannot "see" more than zero turns ahead, moving your king into check is a mistake, an oversight, an unlucky (not unskillful) event.


'the majestic moose' also used the word "fair" above. I'll agree that giving back guessing stones for free and letting a chess player take back his/her move that puts the king into check is perhaps not the most "fair" way to play. But that is a whole different issue.

These rules make the corresponding games unfair by allowing a beginner a redo if he/she attempts a really dumb move. It's unfair, but appropriate in my opinion. Such rules have little to no impact on expert players.
 
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marc drexler
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> For adult players, I think making a guess that is disproved by
> something already on the table should cost you TWO stones. Or if you
> don't have two, then the one you just paid and the next one you
> earn.

The point of Zendo, for the most part, isn't to guess the rule. With the exception of a few rare games I have played made up entirely of good and experienced players, the main purpose of playing Zendo is to teach people to play better Zendo. Even with good and experienced players, there is some of that going on.

For all the reasons people have listed, it isn't good to discourage guessing. But we have come up with our own rule to discourage mindless guessing. We place a limit of one attempt per guessing stone held at coming up with a valid rule, so that a player who doesn't want to bother to check that their rule makes sense can't just make guesses ad infinitum (and ad nauseum) and make the other players do their checking for them.

If you have three guessing stones, you can make three attempts at coming up with a valid rule before we say, "You are done guessing," and the turn passes. Once you make a valid guess, things reset. It rarely happens, mostly early when someone has one guessing stone and really no clue, and I have no problem moving the game along faster at that point anyway.

Like most of the rules of Zendo, this one mostly defines the culture. We like to encourage thinking. When you are thinking in Zendo, everyone else can also think, so you aren't holding anyone up. But if you really don't have any ideas, you should pass your turn, and do most of your thinking on other people's turns, so that the game advances.

We came up with this rule because every once in a while you will get someone who doesn't want to think, who will just guess anything that comes into their head, and when a contradiction with the board is pointed out, will make another random guess. Yes, they will never get the rule, but they will annoy everyone and hold the game up.

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