Game Icehouse: Zendo [Excess Notes]

Make note:

The Master’s rule must provide an answer for any koan that a Student could possibly build. Sometimes the Master has difficulty deciding how a certain koan ought to be marked, because of some physical ambiguity, such as “is that red piece just barely pointing at that blue piece, or is it just missing it?” In such cases, the Master must make a silent judgment call, and then mark the koan appropriately. The Master must not indicate that a judgment call has been made.


If none of the koans on the table can disprove a particular guess, but a previously existing koan that has since been broken down would disprove the guess, the guess still stands and the guessing stone is not returned. Only koans actually in play are used to determine whether a guess is valid. The Master can build the previous koan again as the counter-example, or may build something entirely new.

This would apply in the situation that Jon wanted to make a guess at red and blues being at extremes. He wasn't allowed to though, thanks to Phuong's koan on the table. But, after Phuong dismantled that koan, if, for some reason, Jon made that guess again, he would be allowed to, and I could take his guessing stone.


It sometimes happens that a Master makes a mistake which compromises the fairness of the game for the students. When such an error is discovered, any player may immediately demand that the game be terminated. If all players agree to continue the game, the Master should correct the mistake in the appropriate manner.
* Mismarked Koan: The Master might mark a koan incorrectly and fail to fix it before a player has taken another action. If this happens, the Master should fix the mistake as soon as it’s noticed.
* Misunderstood Guess: The Master might not completely understand a Student’s guess and make a koan that does not disprove it. If this happens, the new koan must remain on the table and the Master must make another koan after the ambiguity is resolved. As Master, you should understand a Student’s guess well enough to play another game of Zendo with it as the secret rule.
* Disproving Koan on the Table: The Master might miss the fact that one of the koans on the table disproves the Student’s guess and create another koan to disprove it. In this case, the guess stands, the new koan remains, and the Student does not get the guessing stone back. All Students are encouraged to help the Master confirm that a Student’s guess works with all the koans on the table.

Tower/Stack—A tower or stack is any connected group of one or more pieces in which the tip of each piece is fully touching the underside of the tip of the piece above it. A tower may be upright, flat, or weird. Pieces are still said to be “above” other pieces in a tower, even if the tower is lying on its side. The pieces within a tower do not form sub-towers—a three-piece tower does not contain two two-piece towers within it. Single pieces are also referred to as towers. It follows that every piece in a koan belongs to exactly one tower.

This is all that is on the Speed Zendo page:

Speed Zendo is a variant of Zendo. The setup is the same, except that players are not given answering stones. At any time, you may make a new koan, and the master will mark it. At any time, you may say "Guess!", and all action stops. You must quickly (within, say, 5-10 seconds, at the Master's discretion) state a guess. If it's correct, you win and the game is over. If it's incorrect, the Master builds a counter-example, and you may continue to take guesses as long as you can come up with them quickly. When you're done guessing, the Master gives you the Meditation Stone. You can't take any actions while you have the Meditation Stone, but the Master will take it away from you as soon as any other player builds a koan or takes a guess.

Although it's called "Speed Zendo" there is not actually a need to rush to create koans. A student can build no koans at all, see the pattern, take a guess, and win. Games do take less time because students who don't know what kind of koan to create don't need to, and students who have several interesting experiments can just run them. And if you have an idea, you don't need to wait for your turn to take a guess. Perhaps "Turnless Zendo" would be a better name, but that's not as sexy, is it?

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