One of the first games that I was introduced to once I moved to Philadelphia was Zendo. (As a note, you can't buy Zendo anymore as a standalone game, but it utilizes the "Icehouse Pieces", so you can easily make your own version of the game, as I intend to do.)
Zendo is a game all about patterns and rules. Yet, there are very few rules to actually playing the game. To start each round, one player determines a "rule" (pattern) that all of the other players are attempting to discover. He then creates two examples - one that matches the rule (or the "Buddha nature") and one that does not. After this, each other player builds a structure and either says "master" or "mondo". "Master" simply asks the moderator (rule creator) to tell everyone whether that structure matches the pattern. "Mondo" allows all of the players to guess whether or not the structure matches the rule - and each player that is right gets a guessing stone. On your turn, if you have a guessing stone, you are allowed to guess what the rule is (and if you're wrong the moderator will create an example that disproves your guess). The first person to guess it correctly is the winner, and they get to make up a rule for the next round. That's the whole game - you keep playing as many or as few rounds as you want, and you make the rules as simple or as complicated as you want (and your group is willing to put up with; if you came up with a 5-part rule, I would probably never play with you again. Especially since it would take us hours to figure it all out.)
|What's the rule?|
Secondly, I like that the difficulty of Zendo is scalable based on the group. I'm not incredibly dedicated to the game, so I probably won't ever play where there are complex rules (such as there has to be a red pyramid and there must be a small pyramid). However, for those people that do enjoy more complicated patterns, this is perfectly legal. You can make the pattern as complicated as the other players are willing to accept.
|Can you figure out this one?|
I don't really have any direct cons for Zendo, but at the same time I realize that this isn't a game that I'm going to get together specifically to play. This keeps it out of my upper echelon of games. However, this doesn't mean that Zendo isn't something that everyone can enjoy. I could easily see this being played at coffee shops, or any other gathering of friends.
Overall, I give Zendo an 8.5/10. I try to reserve 9+ for games that I would get together specifically to play, and that's really the only thing that keeps Zendo from scoring quite a bit higher! If you somehow find a copy, or if you happen to have Icehouse Pieces (or were thinking about buying them for a different reason), I would definitely recommend that you try it out.
It's hard to recommend games "like" Zendo. But, you might check out Tsuro, Jin Li, and Blue Moon City.