A game that I've been drooling over since I first laid eyes on it, and was very excited to demo at GenCon (partially because I didn't expect to get to demo it) is Pentago.
"Play one, spin one; try to get five in a row." That is the entire rule summary that I provide when teaching the game. Granted, they have the board in front of them, and so it helps my summary to make a bit more sense. The gameboard consists of four 3x3 quadrants (see the picture for clarity). Each of the four quadrants can slide out and spin. As stated before, each turn a player will place one of his marbles, spin one of the four quadrants by 90 degrees, and then pass to the next player. Play continues in this manner until one player has successfully placed five marbles in a row.
The first pro to Pentago is how simple it is to teach. It truly takes about 30 seconds to teach the game to someone. Whereas they may not immediately grasp all of the strategy, they can begin playing very quickly. I have played a large number of games ranging from incredibly simple to ridiculously convoluted, and I believe that Pentago may be the easiest game that I have ever taught - it's easier to teach than Uno!
Whereas you would think that the simplicity of teaching Pentago would imply that the strategy is simple, you would be wrong. I have been impressed with the amount of strategy involved in this simple 10 minute game. I do not claim to be an expert by any means, but I have played it a dozen times or more - and the games continue being different. Now, obviously, I have gotten to a point that I can often beat a new opponent quickly, after a few games, they will be able to master the basic strategies and move on to become a much greater challenge. In fact, according to the strategy guide (that comes with the game), there are only four different combinations to get five in a row. And yet, even with these limited choices, thwarting your opponent's strategy while attempting to execute your own can be quite difficult.
A neutral point of note about Pentago is that I'm unsure of it's replayability. As of the time of this writing, I have played Pentago a dozen times or more, and I am still more than willing to continue playing it. However, I do not know if I will remain as eager to play it, or if that eagerness will eventually begin to dissipate; if I will ever start to feel like I have "mastered" the game. Either way, playing a game over a dozen times and still being more than willing to play it is a testament to the quality of the game itself.
The only "con" that I can say for the game isn't really much of a con. More specifically, this paragraph is more of a disclaimer of why Pentago's score won't be a 9.0 or higher. I do not see people getting together specifically to play Pentago (which is one of my current criteria for giving a 9.0 or higher). Now, I can see people bringing Pentago with them whenever they plan to go visit friends, but I think it would be more of a secondary thing. For example, I can see someone saying to himself, "Hey, while I go visit Steve, I should bring Pentago," but I don't see people saying "Man, I really need to play Pentago; I think I'll go see if Steve wants to play." (By the way, Steve is fictional.) This game would also make a great filler game while waiting for people to arrive to your local game store, or when waiting for people to make decisions about what to play, where to eat, etc. It would also make a great game to take to a coffee shop or local cafe. I just don't see it as being the driving factor to motivate people to meet up with each other.
Overall, I give Pentago an 8.5/10. This game is great, and I really recommend that everyone look for a copy of it. With a retail price around $20, I would say that this game is definitely worth the price.
If you're interested in Mindtwister's games, I also have reviewed Multiplayer Pentago, Repello, and Quadrago.
I would like to thank Mindtwister USA for providing a review copy of Pentago for me to play.