In Pentago, there are four ways to connect five marbles in a row for a win. Each one is illustrated on pages 7 and 8, with a few comments on its relative strength as a play, along with some inherit advantages and disadvantages.
The game board can get infinitely complexand provide a challenge to the most logically minded people. Because Pentago is so easy to learn, beginners can play the game right away and enjoy the simpler nuances of Pentago strategy and game play.
In three of the four ways to win, you need three marbles in a row on one game block, in order to complete the winning five-in-a- row. In most basic strategies, you'll want to place marbles in ways that creates three in a row on any one game block while preventing your opponent from achieving the same. You'll also need some strategically placed marbles on other game blocks to work with your set-up. Then on your turn, you strategically place a marble on another game block and twist a game block to almost magically form a winning row of five.
The play example on page 3 is a good example of first forming three in a row on one game block, then creating a winning move by placing a marble on another game block and twisting it into a victory.
Lets take a look at the four ways that a winning row of five marbles can occur on the Pentago board...
1. Monica's Five
This is one of two diagonals plays and it goes right down the diagonal middle. It's a fairly obvious strategy and it's easy to defend against. It's called Monica's five because one of the designers girlfriend favored this technique. The designer considered this a weak strategy and mostly ignored it and ended up losing many a games to Monica. So while it is considered the easiest strategy to defend against, it can obviously be rather effective in certain situations.
Advantage: your opponent can consider this position weak and easy to defend against and ignore it.
Disadvantage: it is easy to defend against by placing just one marble in the middle of the cross corner opposite the game block that your opponent is building this set-up on, that stops your opponent from winning on this strategy.
Ways to increase its effectiveness: place marbles on both middle positions of the cross corner game blocks (as indicated by the arrows), before developing three in a row on one game block.
2. The Middle Five
This play is a horizontal or vertical row of five in the middle of two game blocks. Like Monica's five, it's fairly easy to defend against, Advantage/ if you have three marbles and the middle of an adjacent game block, it is a powerful position, especially if you have both middles of both adjacent game blocks, then it's almost always a certain victory.
Disadvantage: It's fairly easy to defend against and it's somewhat obvious. You just need to block two positions on the game board, the middle positions of the adjacent game blocks from the one that your opponent is building a three on.
Ways to increase its effectiveness/ use in combination with other plays, especially the Triple Power Play.
3. The Straight Five
The straight five is one of the most powerful plays on the board in that it takes a lot to defend against it, and even though the three in a row on one game block is obvious, its versatility makes for a powerful play.
Advantage: versatility that results in a powerful position that creates many deceptive ways of winning.
Disadvantage: it's not too hard to always make sure that you prevent an opponent from ever achieving the three in a row necessary to make this play. If your opponent does achieve three in a row on one game block, it's not too hard to make sure it's always twisted out of the way to prevent a win.
Ways to increase its effectiveness: after building three in a row on one game block, achieve several set-up positions for the win by strategically placing marbles on the adjacent game blocks that causes you to win no matter which way your opponent attempts to twist the game blocks away from defeat.
4. The Triple Power Play
This is the most powerful play of the game in that it is deceptive and versatile and it doesn't require three in a row on any one game block in order to set it up. It's fairly hard to defend against, and it has several different ways to set it up.
Advantage: deceptive, versatile and hard to defend against. While seasoned players will be able to spot the set-up early in the game, it is very deceptive once the board fills up.
Disadvantage: it's a bit vulnerable to your opponent twisting your set-up out of shape, even inadvertently.
Ways to increase its effectiveness: make sure that you build positions where indicated by the arrows on cross corner game blocks, as the game develops.