Koans I-III can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming I (December 2009). Koans IV-VI can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming II (April 2010). Koans VII-IX can be found in The Tao of Board Gaming III (October 2012).
X. The Serious Gamer and the Silly Game
Once there was a serious gamer who enjoyed playing more thoughtful games. He loved riding the edge of the bankruptcy express in Age of Steam, and enjoyed tallying his precise incomes and expenses in Power Grid. If there was a game that could make your eyes water as you counted out the math or that could make you wince as you figured out your moves three turns in advance, the serious gamer loved it.
But then a new game appeared at the gaming club, where you took on the role of monsters. You flicked discs around, threw wooden vehicles, and collapsed buildings constructed out of cardboard and meeples.
The rest of the gaming club was surprised when the serious gamer volunteered to play the game one evening. They were less surprised by the fact that the serious gamer did horribly. His flicks were awful, he failed to collect sets, and he had all of his teeth knocked out by the other monsters. When the serious gamer announced his score, the other players were shocked that anyone could do so poorly.
They were even more shocked that he immediately asked to play it again.
“But,” said one of the players. “This is not your sort of game, and you did terribly besides. How could you want to play again?”
The serious gamer shrugged and said, “Sometimes you choose the game, and sometimes it chooses you.”
XI. The Worthy Fear
A gamer asked a follower of the Tao of Gaming how he stayed so calm when they gamed.
The follower smiled and said, “I could become angry when another player hit me with a Take That, but doing so would only obscure my game play and hinder my ability to Take That in return, and so I do not.”
The follower continued, “I could become fearful of what an opponent might do on his turn, when he waxes strong with armies and resources, but doing so would prevent me from considering the current state of my own game and would so stop me from making my own best plans.”
The follower concluded, “So I do my best to keep my emotions in check, and by doing so ensure that my gaming is unadulterated by them.”
The other gamer said, “Well, I’m pretty happy that you weren’t worried about me attacking you.” He then proceeded to stomp his armies through the follower’s territories and within a few turns had eliminated him from the game.
XII. The Spirit of the Game
One day, a student of the Tao of Gaming came upon a startling discovery.
He already knew that a game of Agricola could be awful if it was played with others who angsted over their moves, who thoughtlessly placed workers, and who ignored basic tenets of strategy.
However on this day, the student discovered that Zombie Dice could be quite enjoyable if players screamed when brains were rolled, jeered when shotgun blasts appeared, and occasionally mimed the eating of the brains of other players.
This pair of contradictions confused the student, so he went to his master and said, “How is it that a game of Agricola can be bad, when it is rated third on the website of our desires, and how is it that a game of Zombie Dice can be good, when it is rated one thousand, one hundred and nine?”
“You must ask yourself this,” said the master. “Is the spirit of the game within the game box itself or does it arrive with the players?”
So the student was enlighted.