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How Pentago Works

How to (Not) Lose Your Marbles

Pentago is as much about recognizing your opponent's strategy as it as developing your own. As the game quadrants turn, the composition of the board constantly changes. With each turn, you'll need to decide whether to be on the defensive or the offensive before you place your marble. Your success at Pentago hinges upon strategy more than luck.

If you're new to the game, start with a basic strategy. Try to place three marbles in a row in one quadrant and two in a row in another, which, when you twist the blocks, will line up to create a row of five, hopefully without tipping off your opponent and leading to a blocked line.

According to the Pentago rulebook, there are four variations on this basic strategy. First, we'll take a closer look at the diagonal strategies.

Monica's Five: This five-in-a-row placement runs diagonal across two quadrants and always starts at one corner on the board. It's one of the easiest techniques to master, but also one of the easiest for your opponent to block by simply placing a marble anywhere in the diagonal. Fortunately, the strategy's simplicity can work to your advantage; a masterful opponent may be on guard against more complex strategies and overlook the basic diagonal. (It was named for the girlfriend of one of the game designers who often used this strategy -- and won, much to the designer's chagrin.) To use this strategy, start the game by placing marbles on the center of two quadrants that are diagonal from each other. Proceed by placing three in a row in one quadrant and two in a row in the other quadrant, and then lining them up.

The Triple Power Play: Difficult to defend against and even harder to spot, this strategy is a killer. The goal is to build a diagonal row of five across three quadrants -- two marbles on quadrants that are diagonal from each other and one in the corner of a third quadrant that connects them. Start by picking out such a line on the board -- if you can keep its position in your head, you can quietly fill it in as the game progresses. (This play is perhaps the most tricky when you place that corner marble as your K.O.) Although this strategy may be relatively easy for an advanced player to notice when the board's empty, it becomes nearly impossible to see as the board begins to fill and rotate [source: Pentago].