An Asynchronous Zendo Variant

We’ve been trying to think up a large multi-player game that can be played asynchronously, doesn’t involve lying or back-stabbing, and isn’t going to be wrecked by the players communicating with each other. In fact, it’d be great if the game encouraged players to communicate and work collaboratively. Such a game is still in the works; but, while we were working on it, the following occured to us.

We’ve written about Zendo previously, check out Kory Heath’s write-up of the rules here. The following description assumes familiarity with Zendo’s rules; we’ll use the terminology in our previous post.

An Asynchronous Zendo Variant.

We describe a variant of Zendo suitable for playing asynchronously in large groups.

Setup: Decide who will be the universe. Everyone else will be called the scientists. Together, the Universe and scientists decide on how long the scientists’ turns will take, and how often they will publish a theory. As in usual Zendo, the Universe selects some secret law which experiments must satisfy in order to succeed. The scientists ought to decide amongst themselves how to decide things. (This process will bring up issues of recursion, and political intrigue. We recommend some variant of democracy.)

For the purpose of this description, we’ll assume the scientists’ turns take a day, and that they’ll publish a theory every three days.

Play: During each turn, i.e. each day, the scientists conduct as many experiments as they like. Each morning, the Universe selects two experiments conducted the previous day. The Universe then assigns succeed/fail markers to those experiments. If physical pieces are being used, the Universe may also re-cycle any/all unmarked experiments. Marked experiments remain in play until the scientists choose to re-cycle them.

When publishing a paper, i.e. every third day, the scientists decide amongst themselves which theory they would like to publish. If their paper succeeds, then they decide amongst themselves who will next become the Universe. If they fail, the Universe must provide a pair of examples disproving their theory.

Some thoughts: Zendo, when played asynchronously, can degenerate to a sluggish game because people take glacially long periods of time to choose an experiment to conduct. Consequently, it can take eons for everyone to make a move. By loosing up the turn order, we hope to eliminate this problem. Players have something interesting to look at each day.

This variant also has the interesting property that the Universe can have more strategic influence in the game by choosing what to mark and what not to mark. Of course, the Universe must play their role lightly, and aim to please the scientists’ sense of curiousity. If the Universe chooses to always mark the hardest and most obscure experiments, the game will become boring. The Universe, as in regular Zendo, should play to provide a pleasant game.

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