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.

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A very close game of Catchup.

An 8-deep tie in Catchup.

If you haven’t heard of Nick Bentley‘s game Catchup, go now. Just go. Read the rules, play the game, love it.

On his blog, Nick recently asked about the closest possible score in Catchup. Since Nick already talked about why the game cannot end in a tie, it doesn’t make sense to talk about a tied game, but one can talk about having the first few groups being tied. In his post on close games, Nick gave an example with the first seven groups tied. We’ve come up with an example where the first eight groups are tied.

We’d like to thank Nick Bentley for making such a lovely game. Hopefully we’ll have more to say about it later.

Zendo — The Game of Science

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.

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(Rules below the cut)

Raj is my new ‘new favourite game’. I learned about it by reading up on what has available, and after reading the rules I instantly fell in love. Raj has that essentialness which is shared by certain abstracts. It is the simplest possible expression of a fundamental game mechanic and yet it still playable as an interesting game in itself.

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Thinking in a game — Over the Board vs Online

This evening I’ve been thinking about abstract gaming and abstract gaming online. What got me thinking was a particularly thorny situation in a game that required a great deal of thought — thought that I couldn’t muster while staring at my computer.I think that when I play a game over the board, I can read deeper and more consistently. I’m curious why this might be. My first guess is that while I play, I get used to reading that particular game and I develop mental models of the game that get updated during that game. I don’t seem to do this when I play online. At best I can look at a few variations in my head before I give up and play a move.

I feel like if I wanted to succeed in each round I play online, I would need to lay out the physical pieces or slowly replay the moves a number of times before ultimately deciding on a move. This seems a little baroque.

Has anyone else thought about this before? Does anyone else feel like online gaming pales in comparison to over the board gaming for this reason? How do you compensate for it?