A favourite board game pastime for me recently has been seeking out games created and designed by Canadians. The list is well over 300 titles, most of which are just names on a list as I have not yet found the games to actually try.
Pentagonia is one game that I do have, and not only is it Canadian, but actually from Saskatchewan. It was designed by Jacob Zunti and published by Saskatchewan Internet News Ltd in 1998.
The game is really just a modernization of a much more ancient game Nine Men's Morris, a game which dates back more than a thousand years, and has been played all over the world in varying forms.
Everyone has played the old root game, where you move pieces on a square board to get three-in-a-row, at which time you can remove an opponent's piece. The goal is to make it so the opponent can no longer move, or is down to two pieces so that they cannot get a line of three.
Pentagonia changes up the old game in a few ways, in an attempt to update what is essentially a game that has been relegated to children.
To start with, as the name implies, Pentagonia is played on a five-sided board. The extra side creates a bit of new strategy, but isn't exactly a revolutionary addition to the old root game.
As far as mechanics go, Pentagonia borrows heavily from Nine Men's Morris.
In the first stage of the game players take turns placing their pieces on the board, attempting to make a line of three. Once all the pieces have been placed players may slide them, still attempting to make a line of three. Whenever a player makes a line of three they remove an opponent's piece of his choice.
When a player is left with five pieces, or less then can start jumping from any space in the board, to any open spot. The idea here is to give the player on the short end of the stick some added ability to block their opponent, or to create three-in-a-row in order to get back into the game.
If both players fall to five, or less pieces, both can take advantage of the leaping mechanic.
Components wise, Pentagonia has a basic heavy cardboard game board, functional but not particularly special. It is quite large and would be more convenient if it folded so the box would be smaller for storage, or transporting to a friend's to play. The big box hints at more than you get once you open Pentagonia.
The playing pieces are simple glass beads, so if one is lost, they can easily be replaced at any thrift store.
The rules are on an 8 ½ by 11 sheet, but realistically there is way too much detail. The designer tried to make the rules look beefier than they need to be. For example there is a hint that you need to be careful how you initially place your pieces since those choices will impact the game. My there's a revelation which deserved to be in the rule set.
I would like to like this game since it is a Saskatchewan product, but it simply doesn't offer enough beyond Nine Men's Morris, a game which you can buy a set for a dollar at almost any thrift store.
Find this one at a yard sale cheap, and it is worth a pick-up for the Saskatchewan novelty – if you are from the province – otherwise Pentagonia isn't worth much effort to find.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper April 22, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada