Zendo is a great game. It’s a really, really, great game. It’s one of those perfect examples of a game mechanism distilled to its finest and packaged into a game that really works. Kory Heath, the game’s designer, really hit on a genius idea. It’s also a very general game. You can play Zendo with Looney Pyramids, designed by Looney Labs, one of my favourite game companies, or almost any other set of things that are plentiful and can be assembled into a large number of configurations. I’ve played Zendo with pictures on a chalkboard, and with words over e-mail. As an illustration I’ve included below a game played with strings of zeros and ones.
The only thing that bothers me about Zendo is the theme. As Nick Bentley points out, Zendo is about science. I feel like the Zen theme distracts one from the core lesson that the game can teach and might put some anti-religion folks off of the game. I’ve re-written the rules below, in part to see how well the science theme fits the game. The original Looney Labs version is, of course, the best. The write up of the game in Playing With Pyramids is beautiful, with lots of great examples.