OBJECTIVE OF ZENDO: The objective of Zendo is to be the first player to guess the rule that the Master has set. 

NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 3 to 5 Players 

MATERIALS: 5 Stashes of Pyramids, 20 Black Stones, 20 White Stones, 20 Green Stones, and Instructions 

TYPE OF GAME: Deduction Board Game 

AUDIENCE: Ages 8 and Up 


Zendo is an interesting game where players must use inductive logic to determine what the rule is that the Master has set. They do this by building and studying various configurations of the game pieces. The goal is to become enlightened, guessing the correct answer, and winning the game! 


One player is chosen to be the Master throughout the course of the game. The other players are referred to as students, as they must learn from the master. The students are given a black stone and a white stone, which they will use to answer questions. The rest of the black stones and white stones are used as marking stones. The green stones are used as guessing stones.  

All of the guessing stones and marking stones are placed in front of the player acting as the Master. All of the pyramids are placed in the middle of the playing area where all of the students are able to reach them. The game is then ready to begin. 


The Master will begin the game by choosing a rule for the students and building two koans. A koan is an arrangement of pyramids. The Master must place a green stone in one of the koans to show that it has Buddha-nature. There are some rule examples on the rulebook, under the “Rules for Beginners” section.  

The Master is not competing with the players, but rather acting as a facilitator between the two. During a turn, a student must build a new koan, say “master” aloud, and they can try to guess the rule. To build a new koan, a player can use the pyramids in the stash. The Master will mark the koan when the student says “master”.  

When a player makes a guess, they must have guessing stones and give it to the Master. Players are allowed to clarify their guesses if needed. The Master will then continue to disprove the guess if they are able to. They will do this by building another example. If the Master is unable to disprove the guess, then the player wins the game! 

If the player is proven wrong, then the next player will take their turn. The game will continue in this manner until a player is able to correctly guess the rule. 


The game comes to an end when the Master is unable to disprove a player’s official guess of what the rule is.  In this case, the player has finally achieved enlightenment and wins the game! 

Ellie Phillips
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