za3k > games > emperical zendo

a zendo variant for 3-8 players. these rules assume you know how to play zendo, which i recommend as one of the best games available. this is basically the same as normal zendo, but you never guess the secret rule.

materials: any medium to make experiments (koans), such as an icehouse set, a deck of cards, a pencil and paper, or coins

this game is unplaytested

written by zachary "za3k" vance on 2021-03-19.


One player is the 'master', who makes a secret rule. The master sets up two example experiments. One experiment meets the secret rule, and gets marked by a white stone. One experiment doesn't meet the secret rule, and gets marked by a black stone. The rule should be something simple, like "there is a quarter in the experiment".


Play passes clockwise around the circle, ending with the master. There are a fixed number of turns. With 3 players, each player takes 3 turns. With 4-5 players, each player takes 2 turns. With 6+ players, each player take 1 turn.

On your turn, you make an experiment using pieces. Then, everyone except the master secretly holds out a guess in a closed fist. The master labels whether the experiment meets the secret rule or not. Everyone who guessed correctly gets a point. The master never gets points, but does get to make an experiment like everyone else.

Discussion between students is fine. The master shouldn't talk or give hints, although they can answer questions about experiments as in normal Zendo.

Optionally, the master reveals the rule at the end of the game.


Play one round with a single master. Or play a longer game where each player gets to be master once, and add points between games. The player with the most points wins.