Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

Re: [Icehouse] Zendo, another way to play

  • FromCarl Worth <cworth@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateFri, 24 Aug 2007 08:42:53 -0700
On Fri, 24 Aug 2007 10:53:18 -0400 (EDT), Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> On Fri, 24 Aug 2007, Elliott C. Evans wrote:
> > Has anybody tried playing Zendo this way? Players who figure out the
> > Master's rule would start building koans that hopefully illustrate
> > the rule more and more clearly until all players "get it". Obviously,
> > players should refrain from asking indicative questions ("Master,
> > would you say all these white-marked koans contain one red piece?")
> > but helping the other players "get it" would make Zendo a bit less
> > competitive and more collaborative.

I've noticed a funny thing in playing Zendo. Without fail, if the
master makes a rule that's "too hard" every group of students I've
played with gradually and implicitly throw out all competition and
start to openly discuss and collaborate on figuring out the rule. In
these cases, the lack of competition has never detracted from the
game's enjoyment, and the teamwork definitely helps get the game
moving again, (or it can at least provide some serious entertainment
for the master if all the students are way off).

Of course, if student collaboration still fails, then the master will
generally start handing out hints as well.

So I've definitely noticed that Zendo degrades into a cooperative game
quite nicely.

> I like this. I think it simplifies away the guessing stones, because you
> don't need permission to guess. (Because guessing right doesn't shut the
> game down. And anyhow, there's no way to guess the rule out loud without
> leaving the room, which is no fun.)

There's an important aspect of this that I wouldn't like at all.

I played a lot of those party games growing up, and I did like them a
lot---and that's part of why Zendo speaks to me so much. But compared
to the party games, Zendo has two significant differences:

  1. The secret rule is different each time. (With things like
     "crossed and uncrossed" you can only play the game once with any
     group of people---then everybody knows the rule and it's never
     fun to play again).

  2. With Zendo, the "guess and disprove" mechanic forces the
     master to reveal new information.

In my view, this second point is the major innovation of Zendo, (OK, I
guess it's not strictly an innovation in Zendo---I just double-checked
Kory's essay on the design history[*] and the "guess and disprove"
mechanic comes Stanley Anderson's game "Jewels in the Sand". But _I_
first encountered it in Zendo, so in my personal view of the universe
it's a Zendo innovation.)

Anyway, I think that the ability to force the master to reveal new,
critical information is what really makes the game great. It's an
essential part of what turns the puzzle-like nature of the parlor
games into a real game---many times the disprrof really keep the game
progressing, (and that new information feels like a bit of a reward
for having come up with _some_ consistent view of the universe as it
has been presented so far).

So there are my two cents, for what they're worth.

[*] http://www.koryheath.com/Games/Zendo/Documents/DesignHistory.html

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