Get ready for some fun geometric gymnastics in Gigamic’s fun and challenging wooden puzzle, Katamino!
Favouritefoe score 8/10
*Solo * Wooden Components * Spatial * Puzzle * Two Player * Pattern Building * 3D * Polyomino* Geometric*
Did you love Tetris as a kid? Were your spare moments filled with trying to stop a little grid being maxed out by raining polyominos? I confess that a good portion of mine were. I had a Gameboy (always thought it was a rubbish name!), and I would crack it out ever car journey, flight, and holiday.
So when I saw Katamino, there was an instant attraction. Big, chunky, colourful, wooden polyominos. A dream from all those years ago wafted back into my mind……”if only I could hold the Tetris pieces”…….
Well, folks, the lovely people at Gigamic have made it happen, and I couldn’t be happier. And what’s more, I get to be super selfish and play it all to myself! Okay so there is a two player/team mode, but shhhhh……more on that later. For now I am revelling in the brainteasing solo joy that is Katamino!
Set it out!
Katamino is made up of 12 lovely, chunky, colourful, wooden polyomino pieces. If you have played any polyomino game (3D or otherwise), you’ll be familiar with their formation. The designer of Katamino actually calls them “pentaminos” as they are made up of 5 square blocks that cover 5 spaces on the game board.
The board itself is also 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, setting them to one side, and then flip to page one of the book!
All the puzzles are printed in a glossy, spiral bound book. Starting with puzzle A, the easiest setting (called a “slam”) is a 3 pentamino configuration. To solve it, you place the divider between 3 and 4 and then select the three pentaminos shown in row A up to number 3. Your goal is to completely fill the board space between the edge and the divider (known as a “penta”). 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!
Solo No More!
Katamino can also be played competitively (and even in teams). Using the 8×8 grids provided in the back of the book, the first player takes a pentamino and places it (flat) somewhere inside their grid. Then their opponent does the same. Play continues until somebody can no longer place a pentamino in their grid. When that happens, the other player is declared the Katamino Queen or King!
I was rubbish at geometry at school and as a result I struggle with spatial puzzles. Translating 2D images into 3D shapes and tessellating them to fit a defined area is a real mind-melter for me. So I really feel like I am achieving something when it literally clicks into place and I complete a penta!
And although I am not the target audience for Gigamic’s educational resources, they have produced brilliant supporting materials to encourage #learningthroughplay. There is a Katamino Family edition made specifically for younger gamers (which I would really like to try with Mini-Meeple), but having the option to use the standard version to support and encourage development is excellent.
I have been working through the educational sheets with Mini-Meeple and I am seriously learning as much as he is! And it is definitely helping me solve the pentas when I play. In fact, thanks to his daddy’s engineering genes, he is already able to visualise spaces and structures far more intuitively than me! If you would like to download the resources yourself, click here to go to Gigamic’s website or download it at the bottom of this review.
Whilst I am hugely enjoying Katamino, what is even better is that my husband (the knower of all things directional and spatial!) is also really enjoying the challenges in Katamino. He often finds polyomino based games very easy, too easy. And although he quickly raced ahead of me in the book, he is now grappling with geometry in a very frustratingly fun way! (He won’t admit that he is stuck…..but he totally is! Haha). Knowing a penta is possible but not being able to “see” it, keeps him coming back to Katamino again and again! The long T is his nemesis 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 noise. I use board gaming for mental wellbeing 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, one penta,. And being able to sit and turn the pieces over in my hands as I puzzle it out is a really grounding as well as fun experience.
The quality of each component is superb – Gigamic really know 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!
Overall, Katamino is a superb tactile, puzzly experience that will keep your brain busy for hours! The first few pentas are a breeze 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!
And, as well as coming in a handy pocket sized version, if you’re heading to Airecon, UKGE or Tabletop Scotland this year, you’ll also get to try a gigantic version of Katamino!
[Please note that a copy of this game was kindly provided by the publishers for review. I am not paid for my comments, however, and all opinions are my own]. I am also not affiliated to or sponsored by any retail store.