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How Pentago Works

The Invention of Pentago

Here's something to think about the next time you have to sit through an exceptionally boring meeting: Why not invent an award-winning board game?

That's exactly what Swede Tomas Floden did in 2003 during a meeting at the firm where he worked as an account analyst specialist. He and his friends enjoyed playing the game so much -- and so often -- that within a year they'd formed a company, Mindtwister AB, to produce and market the game in Sweden. If it hadn't been for a Christmas gift, however, Pentago may never have become a household favorite in the U.S.

In 2005, Mathias Ringstrom, an expatriate and professional skateboarder living in the U.S., returned to his childhood home in Stockholm for a winter holiday. However, when Ringstrom, a professional skateboarder, opened a Christmas present from his mother, he thought it must be a mistake. Although the game exhibited the hallmarks of Scandinavian design, including clean lines and a well-proportioned aesthetic, it appeared to be made for a child.

Ringstrom's mother quickly proved him wrong as he lost a series of Pentago challenges to her -- he then spent much of his two-week holiday puzzling over potential strategies. By the time Ringstrom returned to southern California, he was hooked. He introduced the game to Tony Mag, a fellow expat and pro skateboarder who, like himself, had experience developing and marketing products for the youth action sports market. Before long, they'd contacted Floden's company and reached a licensing agreement to manufacture, market and sell the game in North America. It seemed like a natural progression -- after all, Mag had already replicated a hand-built copy of the game in his garage so that he and Ringstrom didn't have to share their single official copy.

Under the umbrella of Mindtwister USA, they began developing a U.S. version of Pentago. They redesigned the packaging and added a more comprehensive play and strategy guide. Then, without an established network of contacts in the board game industry, the two set up a booth at the New York Toy Fair -- where Pentago drew scores of fans who praised the game for its versatility, both in complexity and player age range. Pentago even garnered the attention of Frank Martin, one of the toy trade's most experienced salesmen, who eventually joined Mindtwister USA in developing a national network of sales representatives and introducing the game to retailers [source: Mindtwister USA].