Looney Labs classic inductive logic game, Zendo, is back with a brand-new look. Originally released in 2001 and a stand-alone Icehouse Pyramids (now Looney Pyramids) game, Zendo used to contain a Buddhist theme and the only building pieces were the 3 sizes of pyramids in 4 different colors. The new edition does away with the theme and different sized pyramids in favor of a clean, abstract look with 3 different shapes: a pyramid, a wedge, and a rectangular prism. The classic gameplay remains intact, but everything has been cleaned up and repackaged in a box that truly stands alone as its own game.
The basics of Zendo are simple. One player plays as a Moderator and secretly chooses a card that contains a rule, then builds two structures with pieces from the box. One of these structures will follow the secret rule and will be marked with a white token. The other will not follow the rule and will be marked with a black token. The players then take turns building structures and will then choose one of two options:
- Tell – The Moderator will mark the player’s structure with a white or black token depending on if the structure follows the secret rule or now.
- Quiz – Every other player will guess if the current player’s structure follows the rule or not by secretly placing a white of black token in their fist. The Moderator then marks the structure and the other players reveal their guesses. Each player who guessed correctly gets a Guessing Stone.
Play continues in this way until a player, on their turn, chooses to pay a Guessing Stone to guess the Moderator’s rule. If they are correct, they win. If they aren’t, the Moderator must build a structure to disprove their rule. Players may spend as many Guessing Stones as they have in order to guess the rule.
This new edition of Zendo is absolutely stunning. The design of the new box, the size and shape of the tokens and Guessing Stones, and the actual acrylic shapes are all top notch. It’s worth noting that not only are there only 1 size of pyramids in the game, but the pips usually found on Looney Pyramids have been removed. The pyramids included in Zendo are made purely for use in the game.
The only complaint I have is that the cards are a bit thin. This doesn’t really affect gameplay at all since the cards aren’t handled much, but I’d still recommend a gentle hand with them. The included clips are a nice touch to help you remember choices available on rule cards.
Even before I owned the original printing of Zendo I was playing the game with my stash of pyramids and my own tokens. I remember the excitement I felt upon received the first edition of the game from a BoardGameGeek Secret Santa many years ago. I’ve always loved Zendo and to this day it remains one of my favorite games. The new edition only strengthens my love for the game.
I have to say I was a little saddened to find the Buddhist theme removed from the game at first, but I do think it makes the game a bit more approachable and understandable to new players without having to worry about terms like Koan, Mondo, etc… Looney Labs is making sure to make sure people know that Zendo is now a purely themeless abstract game.
Even though we’ve lost two sizes of pyramids the addition of the two new shapes more than makes up for the loss. Of course, you could always add in any Looney Pyramids you have laying around the house. The beauty of Zendo was always how open the game is and how much freedom both the Moderator and players have.
Zendo is a fantastic exercise in deduction and creativity that has stood the test of time. The new edition takes an already great game and gives it a more modern look, makes it more approachable, and has already become the definitive version of the game to have. If you already have the original Zendo, or even just a stash of pyramids you use to play the game, you owe it to yourself to snag this new edition. If you’ve never played Zendo, then now is the perfect time to start.
A copy of Zendo was provided free for review by Looney Labs.
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.