Katamino & Katamino Family
Katamino was originally designed by André Perriolat in 1992. It's a pentominoes challenge game and it's been published over the years in numerous editions and variant forms. All tho' involve at their core puzzling out how to fit a set number of pentominoes into a defined size of grid.
The Gigamic edition of Katamino is primarily a solitaire game. It comprises a solid wooden grid that's 5 squares tall and which can be up to 12 squares long. It's filled with 12 brightly coloured pentominoes in variety of five-square shapes. Tip them out and you'll have the challenge of working out how to fit them back in, but the real challenge begins when you use the 'slider' to mark off sections of the grid. Put the slider in position 4 on the grid and you have a 4 x 5 mini grid into which you have to fit four pentominoes.
The game comes with a ring-bound book explaining the rules and setting out the challenges; listing the colour/shapes that have to be used and organised by difficulty. There's what comes across as a rather tentative suggestion of a two-player abstract strategy game variant where you take it in turns to place a piece anywhere on the 5 x 12 grid until a player is unable to place down a piece. To be honest, it's not much of a game. By definition, it's ultra-quick with just 5-6 'moves'. This edition of Katamino is really just for solo play. You'll appreciate the way you can ramp up the challenge and, tho' it's not directly suggested in the rulebook, you can challenge yourself further by playing against the clock.
If you're looking for a two-player version, Katamino Family may be a better choice. Also published by Gigamic, this edition comes with a similar 5 x 12 wooden grid but it has two 'sliders' for dividing up sections of the grid. This means you can mark off two equal mini-grids so that two players can play head to head. This edition comes with seven rather than 12 pentominoes but it also includes five tetraminoes (four-square shapes) and six of what the rules describe as 'miniminoes' (one-, two- and three-square shapes). In place of Katamino's ring-bound book of challenges, Katamino Family comes with a deck of puzzle cards but these too are ranked according to difficulty. The idea is that each card shows two batches of pieces (a mix of pentomino, tetramino and minimino). Players each take one of these sets and they race to be the first to fit all their pieces on their grid.
Gigamic have evidently put a lot of thought into balancing Katamino Family for different pairs of players. There are some challenge cards expressly designed for a child to compete with an adult (note: it's the child that's given the easier challenge!) and there are rules offering ways of making things easier for a player by substituting easier-to-place miniminoes for one of the larger pieces. This is the Katamino equivalent of a Croquet bisque.
Katamino Family is certainly a versatile package. It offers solo variants - tho' you won't find these as challenging as some of those in the solitaire edition. It also suggests games that can be played by pre-schoolers using the Katamino Family pieces to make 2D and even 3D animal shapes. Also abandoning the grid, there are rules for a dexterity game where the Katamino Family pieces are stacked, and there's a wide range of 3D construction challenges.
Purists who enjoy solitaire challenges will be best advised to go for Katamino but those looking for a competitive two-player version and those who want to encourage children to play should go for Katamino Family. Either way, you'll be getting a very solid well-made game with wooden pieces and a lot of replay value. Katamino and Katamino Family are both distributed in the UK by Hachette Board Games.
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