Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

Re: [Icehouse] A Zendo variant

  • FromKory Heath <kory@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateWed, 14 Feb 2007 01:29:26 -0800
Hi Ryan,

I see what you're saying. I think that the new variant will have pretty much the effects that you've outlined. However, those are precisely the effects I'm shooting for. You worry that the game "breaks down" in the end-game, but I don't think that's quite accurate. The end-game will function just fine. It sounds like it will have some qualities which (at the moment) you don't think you're going to like. That's fair enough. My suspicion is that I'm going to like them, but I can't be sure until I play it.

I want this variant to generate exactly the situation that you've outlined. If I have two guessing stones and am gearing up for a guess-barrage, I will have to decide whether to call Mondo to try for a third stone (risking my whole stash), call Master and then guess (hoping that two stones will be enough), or call Master and hold off on guessing until I've done some more testing (hoping that no one else wins in the meantime).

Let's push this analysis a bit further. Let's say I have two guessing stones, and I'm convinced that I've narrowed down the answer to one of three rules. I can do either of the following:

1) Build a koan that all three of my rules would mark in the same way, call Mondo on it, and guess according to my rules. That should earn me my third stone. If it doesn't, I will lose all my stones. But in that case, all three of my rules were incorrect anyway. 2) Build a koan that two of my guesses would mark differently, and call Master. The answer will eliminate one of my rules, and I can use my other two stones for my other two rules.

Of course, this is a highly idealized situation. I'm almost never really sure that I can win with a three-stone guess-barrage. But the less sure I am, the more interesting and agonizing the "risky Mondo" decision becomes: do I risk all of my stones to gain a third stone, try a barrage with just two, or hold off to gather more info? I like these kinds of decisions in games. And it's precisely the lack of them in standard Zendo which causes people to characterize it (sometimes derisively) as "a multiplayer puzzle rather than a game". I don't mind the derision. The thing that bothers me is that I sometimes think they might have a point!

Some of Zendo's earliest playtesters argued pretty persuasively that Zendo doesn't need this kind of tension, and is in fact harmed by it. They may well be correct. But for some reason, every year or two, I feel an urge to re-explore the issue. I've never tried opening it up to a forum like this, so that's a new experiment. And I'm pretty sure that I've never played the exact variant I'm proposing here (which is pretty surprising, given how many variants we tried during playtesting).

Incidentally, my intention with this variant has nothing to do with speeding up (or slowing down) the game; it just has to do with adding a certain type of risk and tension to the game. It's also intended to address the fact that, in many games, I end up collecting more guessing stones than I can possibly use.

The issue of slowing down the game arose during the discussion of eliminating the "Master" call and having every turn be a "Mondo". I worried that that this would bog down the game, especially if the entire group just keeps abstaining.

-- Kory