Zendo: An icehouse game I didn’t hate


I admit it.  When it comes to Looney Lab games, I can be a bit harsh.  Yes they can be funny, but they usually aren’t “laugh out loud” funny. Typically they illicit little more than a smirk, which is not nearly enough to carry their games that are lacking in… well… game.  Take Fluxx for example,  the game plays itself, you just follow the instructions that are listed on the card.  There is no strategy, or really even much choice, just do exactly as your told.  What fun is that?

But this review isn’t of Fluxx, or Chrononauts, or any of the other equally awful Looney Lab games.  This one is of a gem that has been hiding in plain sight all along: Zendo.  This is a game of logical deductions.  Think ‘Guess Who’, but geared towards adults.  Or better yet, ‘Mastermind’.  You have to make logical deductions about what you know and what you don’t in order to craftily discover the Buddha’s Nature.

The what?  The Buddha’s Nature.  I’ll explain.


One person is the “Master” for the round.  They either choose a rule from the Zendo deck, or make up a rule of their own.  For example: “The coan (grouping of pyramids) must contain exactly one blue piece”.  Then using colored pyramids, they create an example of this rule in action, and mark it as having “The Buddha’s Nature” with a little white stone.  Then they create an incorrect example, and mark it with a black stone, to indicate that it does not have “The Buddha’s Nature”.  Each player then takes turns creating a coan that they feel might help them figure out what the Buddha’s Nature really is.  The winner is the first player to figure out what the rule really is.  They then get to be the next “Master”, creating two new coans with a new rule.

This greatly appeals to my logical side.  It’s a social, multi-player, abstract logic game, that doesn’t suck. We ended up playing approximately six rounds before we called it quits, and it was obvious that some of us (*cough* at least me *cough*) we’re still itching for more.

Some of the rules our Masters used were:
*Exactly three pieces (no more no less) must be touching
*The coan must contain at least one small pyramid
*There must be at least two upright pyramids in the coan
*The coan must be symmetrical (this one aroused some argument)
*The coan must follow the fibanochi code (we wanted to strangle this master)
*The pips on the coan (little dots at the bottoms of the coans) must equal an even number

Given the infinite nature of this game, it is much much better than Mastermind.  Mastermind, as you know is always a series of colors in a particular order, but with Zendo the rule could include color, sizes, pips, orientation, stacking, or any combination thereof.  This creates a landscape for extreme logical deduction like no other game I have played, and I am itching to play it again.

Would you like to play Zendo?  Here is a link to the full instructions:Zendo Instructions

Have fun and let us know what you think about this great game by commenting on our blog!

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 at 2:08 pm and is filed under Abstract Logic Games, Board Game Reviews . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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