Zendo FAQ

If you don’t see your question answered among these, please email us at:

Q: I found reference to a deck of beginner Zendo rules sold separately, but the link to your store seems to be dead. Are those still available?

A: Those were probably the cards which were included in the original stand-alone box set. We used to sell those separately for folks who wanted them, particularly after the original stand-alone set was no longer available. Recently we published a new stand-alone version with different shapes, and a vastly improved rule-generation system in a card deck.

The old set of cards was just a handful of cards for beginners, with one rule per card. With the new set now available, we stopped selling the vastly inferior old cards intended for use with pyramids only. The new deck has several variables per card, meaning each card can generate more than one rule. Also, the old set had only beginner rules, while the new set has a range of difficulties (easy, medium, hard).

If you don’t have pyramids, and are looking to try Zendo, we encourage you to buy the new stand-alone version with the improved rule-generation deck.

If, on the other hand, you already have pyramids (at least five trios each in four colors, preferably red, yellow, green, blue), and want to try playing Zendo with pyramids… you’re in luck! For the Pyramid Quartet Kickstarter, we created a rule-generation deck in the new style, but for use with pyramids instead of the new shapes.

See also If I get the Pyramid Zendo cards, will I be able to play Zendo with my Pyramid Arcade set?

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Q: Is there any time-limit for how long someone can take on their turn?

A: There’s no time-limit on how long someone may take for their turn, but annoying the other players by taking forever to make decisions may make them decide they don’t want to play with you very often. In other words, the only time limit is the tolerance of your fellow gamers.

We’d suppose this applies to… almost any game, though what is considered a reasonable amount of time for a turn probably varies from game to game. As long as you are within what is considered average for that game, you’re probably fine.

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Q: What do the + and ++ signs next to the numbers on the Pyramid Zendo rule card deck mean?

A: The rules in the pyramid-zendo deck are “translations” of the same rules from the standalone box set, such that analogous rules have the same number, but the pyramid-zendo rules are also coded as follows: those marked with a + are the same concept but with superficial changes, like pyramid-size to piece-shape, and those marked with a ++ are rules that required more significant rewrites.

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Q: If I get the Pyramid Zendo cards, will I be able to play Zendo with my Pyramid Arcade set?

A: Well, sort of. The trick is piece supply. The reason we didn’t feature Zendo in PA is that the piece mix is optimized for games that need a lot of colors, but only a few trios of each, whereas for Zendo you need lots of the same pieces in just a few colors, hence the standalone version’s inclusion of just 3 colors.

The new cards are designed to be as flexible as possible with regards to color, since we can’t know what particular colors you might have in your collection of pyramids, but it still considers just red, yellow, and blue, and plenty of them, to be the best set of equipment. That said, many rules don’t use color at all, and these cards certainly work with the PA set.

If you pick up a Homeworlds set to add to you your Pyramid Arcade set, you will have 6 trees each of red, yellow, and blue which is a great set of pyramids for playing Zendo.

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Q: We noticed that in some places, Zendo is listed as playable with just 2 people? Where can we find the instructions for that?

A: Yes, we had previously listed Zendo as needing a minimum of 3 players, but when we came out with the second standalone box set, we worked out some ways to play with just two people. Eventually we hope to update those older online references. In the meantime… you can find those instructions HERE!


Zendo was originally designed for three or more people, but there are a couple of ways to play with just two.

Puzzle Mode:
This option is basically assisted solitaire. One player simply serves as the moderator for the other, marking new structures when called upon, and building counter-examples as needed when guesses are made. There is no need for guessing tokens or quizzes.

Head-to-Head: If you’re feeling competitive, players can alternate roles and compare scores. A game will consist of two rounds, with each player solving once and moderating once. After each round, the player will receive a score, based on how long it took them to guess the rule. The player with the lower score wins!

Score: Your score will be the total number of structures on the table at the end, with additional points added for any structures that were broken down during the game. You also receive two extra points each time you guess and are incorrect. Guessing tokens are used to track extra points for incorrect guesses and dissolved structures. There is no need for quizzes, so guessing stones will not be used for any other purpose. Be sure to make a note of the first player’s score before starting the second puzzle.

Equal Difficulty: Before starting a head-to-head match, players must agree on the difficulty level of the rules they will be using. If the players choose to create their own rules rather than using the cards, they must still attempt to scale the difficulty level of their rules to match the challenge they agree upon.

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Q: What size are the new Zendo pieces, relative to regular pyramids? Would they fit in a Volcano board?

A: The pyramids in the new Zendo set are the size of a medium Icehouse pyramid, and the other Zendo pieces have the expected proportions, in other words the square base shape of all of them is the same size. So they will fit in a Volcano board just fine, but they’ll be a little smaller than the squares, since the Volcano board is designed to hold a large.

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Q: Could I get the Rule cards from the new Zendo to use with my pyramids?

A: You won’t be able to use the Zendo cards from the current version with pyramids, because Zendo 2.0 uses three shapes (blocks, pyramids, wedges) and three colors (red, yellow, blue), and one size (medium, as it were), instead of one shape (pyramids), four colors (red, yellow, green, blue), and three sizes (small, medium, large).

However, as part of the Pyramid Quartet Kickstarter, a deck of cards in the new style was created for use with pyramid-based Zendo games. Pyramid Zendo Cards

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Q: When using a Rule in Zendo which has a decoy spot, am I required to put a clip on it?

A: Usually, but not necessarily. You should always be putting two clips on the Rule card, but in some cases there are two halves of a Rule you could mark, and you only need to use the decoy spot if you’re only using one half of the qualities listed.

There are just three cards in the base set where the decoy spot might be left unused. Those cards are:

5: A structure must contain at least one:
[yellow/blue/red] [decoy] [block/pyramid/wedge]

26: A structure must contain at least one UNGROUNDED:
[yellow/blue/red] [decoy] [pyramid/block/wedge]

32: A structure must contain ZERO:
[yellow/blue/red] [decoy] [blocks/pyramids/wedges]

So let’s take a look at the first one, and see what kinds of rules we could make out of it, using two clips.

Using the top section and the decoy, we can get:
• A structure must contain at least one yellow.
• A structure must contain at least one blue.
• A structure must contain at least one red.

Using the decoy and the bottom section, we can get:
• A structure must contain at least one block.
• A structure must contain at least one pyramid.
• A structure must contain at least one wedge.

Using the top and bottom sections, with no decoy, we can get:
• A structure must contain at least one yellow block
• A structure must contain at least one yellow pyramid
• A structure must contain at least one yellow wedge
• A structure must contain at least one blue block
• A structure must contain at least one blue pyramid
• A structure must contain at least one blue wedge
• A structure must contain at least one red block
• A structure must contain at least one red pyramid
• A structure must contain at least one red wedge

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Q: We think we broke the game. Are we doing it wrong?

See this answer in a video!
Little Answers

A: A good rule of thumb for any game is that if you find that you have several possible interpretations of a rule, the one that breaks the game is probably NOT the correct way to play.

Note that if you only see ONE way to play a card, and it seems broken, please do search our FAQ for known errata or clarifications*, or contact us. It could be a typo, or a new interaction that we have not considered.

*The fastest way is to search on the name of the card you’re having a problem with.

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