**Part 2: Downsides of letter strings**

Consider Zendo with strings of letters A-Z and Zendo with strings of digits 0-9.

Letters have some nice properties: Some are vovels, they have an alphabetical ordering, some have straight lines, some have only round strokes, some letters enclose hollow areas (A, B, D, O, P, Q, R), some form Roman numerals.

The problem with letters is that, no matter what rule you play, the set is too big at 26 different letters A-Z.

For example, the letters A-Z have an inherent ordering (A, B, C, ..., Z) and this **order requires mental energy**. Can you tell at a glance whether KLMUTW is alphabetically sorted? We had rules like "the first letter comes alphabetically earlier than any other" and, for this particular game, the set of letters was not optimal. It would have been easier to play this rule with digits as pieces. Digits require little mental energy to order. The rule works perfectly well with 10 game pieces instead of 26.

Consider the rule "contains at least one Roman numeral, and no misformed Roman numerals". This would have been easier to play with far fewer **noise pieces**. All of A, B, E, F, G, H, J, K, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, W, Y, Z are pure separator pieces. The rule was hard, and it didn't help that there were 19 pieces of noise when a single separator would have been enough. Similary, the rule "must contain at least one of AKHTBN and all such letters must appear sorted like this among the other 20 noise letters" was very hard. At least, both of these rules generated helpful single-letter koans, pointing exactly to the important few letters. But will you always analyze all 26 single-letter koans? Both of these rules would have been easier with fewer noise letters.

Even with 3-dimensional pieces, 3 different colors make the game very interesting already with 99 % of all rules. 4 different colors aren't needed, they make the game more colorful and I like the 4th color, but it won't enrich the game much. If the 4th color is already expendable, surely some of the 19 or 20 noise letters were expendable.

The set of letters is okay if you absolutely require the exact same set for all games, but even then, the digits 0-9 seem preferable with fewer pieces and a much clearer ordering.

Next part: 3-dimensional pieces make for better games than any string game (letters, digits, or emoticons).

-- Simon