Name: Zendo
Publisher: Loony Labs
Number of Players: 3 to 7
Play Time: 45 Minutes
Grade Range: Middle and High School
Return on Investment: High
Format: Analog Game

Induction is one of the key elements of scientific thinking and research. It gives students the ability to look for patterns based on specific observations and begin to develop theories from those observations. While this may seem as far from fun as a concept can get, it is actually the core mechanism for play in Zendo. In the game, one player takes on the role of a Buddha Master who know the secret nature of things. The other players are his students trying to discover the rule that governs

Zendo is played with a minimum of four Icedice pyramid pieces sets made by Loony Labs. These are sets of colored triangles that come in three sizes, each size featuring a certain number of pips on them. At the beginning of the round, one player creates a secret rule that will govern the round. Simple rules contain a single variable (e.g. There are no red pieces.) More complex rules will contain more than one variable (e.g. There is one medium piece that is not touching the ground). That player then constructs two examples using the Icehouse pieces. One is an example that follows the rule and the other does not.

Play begins with players taking turns constructing examples using the Icehouse pieces. After constructing an example, they use it to gain information in one of two ways. First, they may ask if their example follows the rule, getting a simple yes or no answer. The other is to allow the group to each secretly guess if the example follows the rule. After they reveal their answer, the players who guessed correctly receive a token which they can use on their turn to guess the rule. Because each player’s constructions remain on the table, the group will slowly build a set of results from which they can begin to develop theories on the rule. Students begin testing various theories by exploring and manipulating potential variables in an effort to narrow down the rule. If a player thinks they know the rule, they may use one of their guessing token on their turn. If they are incorrect, the player who set the rule must construct an example that follows the rule they set while disproving the one guessed. The first player who is able to correctly guess the rule, wins the round.

Zendo is dripping with curriculum. It is amazing that just a few plastic pieces can hold such a disproportionately large amount of educational value. While the boxed game is no longer manufactured, the game is easily assembled from four or five sets of different colored Icehouse pieces and some colored stones. The game rules are freely available online as are example rules for the play rounds. In the classroom, the game works fantastic with a full complement of player, and if you have enough Icehouse pieces, you can push those numbers. Teachers can also construct problems, consisting of several examples that give enough information for students to infer the governing rule. This could be set up in the class or photographed and shared with the class. With just a minimal amount of effort, your students can begin having fun, building and testing theories in the classroom.

Rules for the game can be found here.