Board Game Reviews

Zendo by Looney Labs Review

Theme and What is It?

Some abstract games attempt to channel your inner Zen, or pretend to be a battle between two warring parties. Some don’t do that, they just rely on good gameplay. Zendo does both, or has done both. It is the game that was supposed to channel the inner Zen, and is now being released with no theme, as a game that works on its own. Pyramids, wedges, and blocks, Oh my!

Gameplay Mechanics

Looney Labs has a game by the name of Pyramid Arcade, a game that allows you to use the underlying game pieces to play many games, not unlike a pack of playing cards. Zendo, was one of those games, and one of the most played. It has been printed once, from what I was told, and this is now the second printing, with three different type of blocks.

You will use three colors, or three different type of block, to form logic puzzles. The player must use a wrongly made design, and a rightly made design to posit an answer on what is correct, and why. It is not about winning and losing, so much as learning from your immediate past mistakes to form the Regis “Final Answer” moment. The moderator will pick a card, and then build the two buildings, and the players will try to determine what makes the building correct or incorrect. Whoever is first with the right logic, wins the round.

Initial Impressions

Do you play Euchre? We in central Ohio love it. I cannot imagine why I would buy a Euchre deck however, as it would also be contained in every box of cards. In Zendo, the benefit to the standalone versus the game contained in the box, is additional pieces for the game, allowing a fuller experiences.

The game looks good, though hard to figure out without knowing the goal of the game. My initial reaction was, I like shiny things.

Quality of Components and Insert

The pieces in this game are well constructed, and likely to last well into the 23rd century. There is no player board to speak of, but I just like the pieces. They are unique and fun shaped, and brilliant as which to gaze.

Artistic Direction

The box is simple art, evoking simplicity, Zen if you will. The pieces of the game are three simple shapes, as above; pyramid, wedge, and block. They are fun to confuse someone with as they have a lot of different ways to do the same thing, which is to build something to confuse your partner. You have the power of confusion in your hands.

Fun Factor

Since I first laid my hands on Abalone, two decades ago, I have just loved abstract games that were not Chess. While Chess has endured the test of time, these new games give an agile mind the ability to do something more than memorize movement patterns. The great masters of one game, cannot necessarily be good at another game. Therefore, I am naturally inclined to like new abstracts. I like the idea of starting a new game, and mastering many of the winning ideas in short order. Therefore, if you like abstracts, I think you will likely also enjoy Zendo.

Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion

The age range suggested is 12+. I think this is not taking into consideration that this type of logic puzzle can allow a younger mind to learn the basics of abstract gaming at a very young age. My daughter is nearly 6, and understands the concepts of this game VERY well. She doesn’t always do well, but she always knows where she is going with a puzzle. I would guess this age range has more to do with child safety concerns, rather than the ability for a smart child to understand the concepts.

Conclusions

Zendo, easily makes my buy recomendation. It is however, overshadowed on my shelf by some other abstract games I would likely play more. However, I can see playing this regularly with my daughter, to help her learn how to critically analyze a game, and to grow with the knowledge of being able to play any abstract.

If you like the idea, of an abstract, that is truly abstract, like a Picasso (he was abstract, right??), then I would not hesitate to add this to your collection.

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Josh
#regeeked

Josh

Josh Hale is an avid TT gamer and loves the process of learning something new not by reading directions, but by playing through a round. He also is a single father and lawyer, so staying busy is never a problem.
Josh
#regeeked

Josh Hale is an avid TT gamer and loves the process of learning something new not by reading directions, but by playing through a round. He also is a single father and lawyer, so staying busy is never a problem.

This article has 3 comments

  1. Laurie Menke

    Thanks for the review, Josh! We’re glad you enjoyed Zendo! I just wanted to clarify that this game has been fully tested and passes all safety standards for children. The reason for the 12+ age recommendation is because the logic required doesn’t usually develop until about age 11 or 12 (it’s what Piaget called the “formal operational” stage of development). Though kids love the pieces and can definitely play simpler games with those pieces, they will likely find the level of logic in Zendo quite frustrating until they reach upper elementary school. We just want young gamers to have a successful and enjoyable experience! Thanks again for the review… happy gaming!

    • Josh

      Thanks Laurie!
      We appreciate the feedback. We do understand that you are limited to what you can claim, as an appropriate age. We also test for the cognitive capabilities for other ages. Choking is always a hazard for young gamers, but we also realize that as adults, our job is to make sure they only have access to this sort of product when they are being supervised. I love Zendo, and by extension, Looney Labs. Please stay in touch!

  2. Laurie Menke

    Slight clarification: This game is safe for children 3 and older. It has pieces that are a choking hazard for children under 3 years old.

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