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Current version 1.0 (released May 2000).

Requires: Windows 95 or better

2nd January 2002 - Also now available as part of several value bundles.

ZEN is a unique new 2-player game, based on the 'Life' cellular automaton. Manipulate the evolving cells to advance your followers and destroy the enemy. Play one-on-one or test the strong computer opponents!

Here's a screenshot of the game. It's easy to play - just place a new cell of your colour each turn - but will require all your tactical and strategic abilities to win.

Typical game in progress

The above board is quite small - you can go up to 60 x 60, and the rules can be customised in quite a few ways.

The basic idea is this: cells evolve turn by turn according to certain standard rules. New cells are born when three live cells touch an empty square. The colour of the new cells depends on the colour of its three 'parents', but this does not affect the pattern of cells born. Some patterns are stable, some expand strongly, and some die off over time.

The board starts off filled with neutral (grey) cells, but these are pushovers for the two real players, Green and Red. A new cell is green or red depending on whether more of its parents were that colour - otherwise it is neutral. Soon all the neutral cells are gone, and Green and Red slug it out, trying to expand patterns of their own colour into empty territory, and killing off the enemy patterns.

For your turn, you place a single cell of your colour in an empty square - then the board evolves one step. Now your opponent takes his turn, and so on. In the standard game, you must play beside a living cell, and you can't play in any cell touching an enemy cell unless it also touches one of yours. (By default there are also three 'free' plays at the start before cells start evolving, allowing both players to carve a little territory before the battle proper begins.)