Were you a Testris-head when you were younger? I most definitely was. Terrible at it, but loved it nonetheless. So, when I spied Katamino, there was an instant attraction. Big, chunky, colourful, wooden polyominos. And this solo puzzle (with 2 player variant) does not disappoint.
Katamino has 12 lovely, chunky, colourful, wooden polyomino pieces and a wooden grid board. If you have played any polyomino game (3D or otherwise), you’ll be familiar with their formation. But here the pieces are called “pentaminos” as they are made up of 5 square blocks that cover 5 spaces on the game board.
The board itself is a nice solid wooden construction with numbers 3-12 printed along the top and bottom. Between each pair of numbers is a groove in which to slot a wooden divider. The divider effectively shrinks or extends the space in which you will be solving each puzzle.
To start playing, all you do is remove all the pentaminos and divider from the board, set them to one side, and then flip to page one of the book!
The puzzles themselves are found in the included spiral-bound book. Starting with puzzle A, the easiest setting is a 3 pentamino puzzle. To solve it, you place the divider between 3 and 4 and then select the 3 pentaminos shown in row A up to the number 3.
Your goal is to completely fill the board space between the edge and the divider (known as a “penta”) with the allotted pieces. When you have solved that penta, you move the divider up one space along to between 4 and 5. Now, you use the 4 pentaminos shown in row A to completely fill what is a larger board space.
Carrying on along row A, you add another shape each time the slider moves across one space to complete the penta each time. Once you have completed all the pentas in row A, you move down to row B and the process beings again. By the time your reach spot 8 on the last row of the last page, you’ll have solved over 500 puzzles!
Katamino can also be played competitively (and even in teams). Using the 8x8 paper grid provided in the back of the spiral-bound book rather than the board, the first player takes a pentamino and places it somewhere inside the grid.
Then their opponent does the same. Play continues until somebody can no longer place a pentamino in the grid. When that happens, the other player is declared the Katamino Queen or King!
I was rubbish at geometry at school and I struggle with spatial puzzles. Translating 2D images into 3D shapes and getting them to fit a defined area is a real mind-melter for me. So, I really feel like I am achieving something when Katamino clicks into place and I complete a penta!
Whilst I am hugely enjoying Katamino, my husband (the knower of all things spatial!) is also really enjoying the challenges in Katamino. He often finds polyomino based games very easy. And although he quickly raced ahead of me in the book, he is now grappling with a sticky slam in a very frustratingly fun way! Knowing a penta is possible but not being able to “see” it, keeps him coming back to Katamino again and again! But, just like me, he won’t give up!
And it is funny because I say frustration, but I also find Katamino relaxing. Having a puzzle in front of me that requires only a few pieces and no set pace or time gives me a chance to focus on something small. To block out the rest of the world’s noise. I use board gaming for mental well-being a lot.
Practically every day if life allows. And being newly diagnosed as neuro-diverse, Katamino gives me a chance to concentrate on one thing. Sitting and turning the pieces over in my hands as I puzzle it out is a really grounding as well as a fun experience.
The quality of each component is excellent. Gigamic really knows what they are doing when it comes to wooden games – and just holding the pieces feels really nice. The finish of the blocks seems hard-wearing, and, despite lots of pentastic action we haven’t had any chips or paint scuffs to date!
Katamino is a clever, tactile, puzzly solo experience that can keep your brain busy for hours! You might not want a mental marathon – dipping in and out might suit you better. And the first few pentas are definitely easier which helps to build confidence. But the challenges ramp up quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be arranging and re-arranging and re-arranging some more to try and fit in that last piece!