Pentago, the Finnish Adult Game of the year for 2006, is a twist on good old naughts and crosses. Players try to form five in a row on a 6×6 grid. That’s fairly boring, but fortunately that’s not all. The twist is in the board, which is divided into quadrants of 3×3 spots. Each quadrant is a separate piece and after a marble is placed on the board, a quadrant is rotated 90 degrees. That creates a shifting and dynamic environment for the old classic.
Pentago is a very simple game. Rules can be explained in single sentence. Despite being so simple, the game has depth and strategies that are not obvious. It’s not a really deep brain-burning abstract, but more than enough for most people, I suppose.
The game is pretty. The board is small, but made of oak with metal grid to keep the quadrants on their places. The pieces are black and white marbles. It’s quite a sight, and definitely pretty enough to keep on your desk or coffee table. Thanks to easy rules and short length, it’s easy to lure passers-by to give it a go.
I found the game fairly dull. The game has won several awards, but I don’t think it’s really a sign of the game’s excellence, but rather tells the juries are a conservative bunch. Rewarding Pentago with an award or two is almost too easy. While I’m sure a lot of fun can be had with this game, there are many games that are almost as approachable, yet a lot more inventive and interesting.
If you’re looking for a simple yet beautiful coffee-table game, Pentago is a good choice. If you’re looking for something that offers exciting games and interesting experiences, look further. I’d recommend the Gipf project, particularly Dvonn.