Pathagon Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 5 and up (publisher suggests 6+)
  • For 2 players
  • Approximately 10 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Visuospatial Skills

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • None

Endorsements:

  • Game Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

It has been said that the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line. This is an incorrect statement in a non-Euclidean universe and in the game Pathagon. The shortest distance is exactly what each player is attempting, but with limited game board space, players must quickly find alternative routes and make constant adjustments. This is a game that depends on a player to act and react at the same time. As the paths are built and destroyed, it becomes clear that the only way to connect the two points is to bridge it with mind power.

Pathagon, by Maranda Enterprises, is comprised of 1 wooden game board with small raised squares that divides the entire board into 49 equal sections, 14 dark wooden octagons, and 14 light wooden octagons. This is an abstract board game, and as a result, there is very little pomp or pizzazz in the game’s overall presentation. However, the quality of the game is outstanding being made entirely out of wood. All the game bits are sturdy, durable, and worthy of putting on your coffee table when not in use.

An example of a game in progress

Game Set Up

To set up the game, remove and separate the 28 wooden octagons into a dark and a light pile. Place the game board in the middle of the playing area and have one player take all the dark octagons and the other player takes the light octagons.

That’s it! Let’s check the watch…yep…30 seconds. Pick a player to go first and begin!

The Way of the Path

To play the game, each player will take turns placing one of their octagons on the board. The goal of the game is to connect two sides of the board with a continues path of octagons. Two sides match the color of the octagons pieces. The player using the light octagons will attempt to connect the two opposite light sides and the player using the dark octagons will attempt to connect the two opposite dark sides. Because of the way the game board is designed, the players will eventually come into contact with each other, regardless of how they attempt to build their path.

On the player’s turn, they will place one of their octagon pieces on any open space on the game board. A player need not have their placed piece adjacent or diagonal to another piece they own, connected to a path, or touching a side. Once the player places their piece, the next player takes their turn. This continues until the endgame condition is met.

IT’S A TRAP!!!

Any placed piece can be removed from the board if it is surrounded on its two immediate adjacent sides by their opponent’s pieces. This is referred to as “trapping” an opponent’s piece which temporarily removes it from the game board. The space that is left cannot be claimed by the player who had their piece removed for one turn, but can be claimed as soon as possible by their opponent. Keep in mind, however, a player can only place one piece on their turn.

A player can only trap one opponent’s piece at a time unless a single piece placement traps two or more pieces in each of the four adjacent directions (up, down, left, and right). A piece can never be trapped diagonally and is protected from being trapped in a row where it is adjacent to a same colored piece.

Shifting Balance

If all the pieces have been placed and the endgame condition has not been met, players continue to play the game by removing one of their placed pieces and playing it to an open space on the game board. Breaking existing paths is permissible.

A Path to Victory

The game immediately ends when the first player successfully connects two sides of the game board with a continues path that matches their octagon pieces. The path must us pieces of all the same color and each piece must be directly adjacent to each other (diagonally touching pieces do not count).

House Rule

We created the following House Rule to play Pathagon with 4-players. Note that these rules are not part of the game and were created by fans to address the strong desire to play the game with a larger group of friends. They are offered here for your amusement and further refinement.

Set up the game as normal, but divide the players into 2 teams. Have each team member sit opposite of each other so they are both facing the same colored board side. Give each player 7 octagons of their team’s color (should match the game board side they are sitting behind and in front of). Game play is the same, with each player taking a single turn with turn order going clockwise. The winning team is the first to connect their two sides.

To learn more about Pathagon, see the games web page.

Prediction

Pathagon is a very simple game when it comes to its rule set and its game length. This will make it very easy to teach and to get to the table. The only limiting factor is the number of players, but the exceedingly short game play length should be able to allow a quick game turn over for new players waiting on the sidelines. A must for a family of 5 who all love to play games.

I also think the game will have some real staying power. There is no learning curve really to speak off, but the game’s complexity is based around the skill level of the opposite player. I have observed that these types of games can be exceedingly frustrating for poorly matched opponents, but a wonderful training ground for the mind. A more skilled player need not dumb down their plays, however. In fact, with such games, players should play to the best of their ability and use the opportunity to explore new ways of winning the game.

I taught the game to all 3 of my little geeks at once. With only a few questions and a quick demonstration of piece placement and trapping, everyone said they were ready to go after only about 5 minutes. I can already see the minds of my 8 and 5-year-old working through their strategy, but I’m pretty sure my 2-year-old just wants to play with the game and use it like building blocks. Nothing wrong with that, but not the goal.

As my 8-year-old reset the game, I asked them both their thoughts on Pathagon from what they had learned so far.

“Looks like a mix between Checkers and Go.” ~ Liam (age 8)

“Can I be first player, Daddy?” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

“I can have game, Daddy?” ~ Ronan (age 2)

Interesting observation by my 8-year-old. I think he’ll find the game a much different experience, but I like how his mind is already seeing the depth of play the game can provide. Let’s see if Pathagon is time well spent or a wasted effort in the wrong direction.

Final Word

As expected, my 2-year-old just wanted to build towers with the game pieces. His stacking skills are elite, but he showed little interest in the game itself. My 8 and 5-year-old, on the other hand, were fully engrossed by it and played game after game against each other. Seeing them locked and focused over the game board, it was clear who was the stronger player. My 8-year-old often won, but not always. My 5-year-old held his own and only lost because he was out-maneuvered, not because he was any less skilled. When I played against both of them, they demonstrated excellent use of tactics and I could see their strategies as well as personalities emerge by the way they played. My 8-year-old, for example, is rather headstrong and often pushes the limits. He was very aggressive in piece placement and focused more on simply slowing me down versus blocking me off in order to race to the finish line and victory. My 5-year-old is a deep thinker and he took his time when playing against me. He is also prone to analysis paralysis, but seldom hesitated while we played. His moves were efficient and tended to be focused on the immediate concerns rather than the final goal. Both little geeks did exceedingly well and really enjoyed the game that easily accommodated their different playing styles.

Parent Geeks couldn’t stop talking about the game’s quality. Wooden board games always get a lot of attention, especially from those Parent Geeks who are always looking for a neat way to decorate their home. Once I got them to play the game, they thought differently about it. Or, better put, started to see Pathagon as a game rather than a decorative piece for an end table. Both gamers and non-gamers enjoyed it, but were not happy with the limit of 2-players. Parent Geeks want a more social experience, and while the game’s length and ease of play was applauded, everyone agreed they wanted it to be a 4-player game. We then created a 4-player experience with some House Rules, which we are providing in this review. The final result was loud cheers from all the Parent Geeks and grumbles from the Child Geeks who were impatiently waiting for their turn.

Gamer Geeks also enjoyed the quality of the components, but focused more on the game play. They at first found it exceedingly simple until their opponent made them re-think their moves or squash them. One Gamer Geek suggested that this game was like a bag of potato chips; you could not just sit down and play it once in the same way you could not just eat one potato chip. This analogy proved to be further reinforced by every Gamer Geek playing the game at least 3 times (breaking any ties). At the end of each playing session, there were smiles all around, but the Gamer Geeks were hesitant to fully endorse it. We tried the 4-player House Rule and everyone was won over.

While everyone in the family enjoyed the game, my 5-year-old simply couldn’t get enough of it

Game Geeks, this is a light and potentially challenging abstract strategy and critical thinking game that will have you fully engrossed. I say “potentially” because the level of challenge is based on your opponent’s abilities. Do not expect a brain burner if you are playing against a Child Geek, for example. Play against other players who are equally matched to your talents and skills, and you will have a real battle on your hands. The level of critical thinking in this game rises exponentially as pieces are placed on the board. A simple race to the other side suddenly becomes a dance for best positioning. An excellent game for quick plays or a change of pace for a 2-player game night. Try our 4-player House Rule at your next game gathering.

Parent Geeks, this is an excellent game to play with your little geeks and a refreshing change from Checkers or other traditional abstract 2-player games. Game length is short, but the game play it deep. You’ll be very impressed with how the game can be learned in less than 5 minutes, completed in 10, and thought about for the rest of the day. I won’t go so far as to say it is addictive, but we have yet to see any player not immediately ask for another game. Non-gamers also had no problem liking Pathagon and were ready and willing to go head-to-head against anyone who wanted to play. The only limited factor is the 2-player limit. This will make the game impossible to bring out during a party or a social gathering of friends. Try the 4-player House Rule we provided and see if that works for you.

Child Geeks, this is a wonderful game you can sit down and play anytime of the day. The game plays simple can be set up in less than a minute, but you’ll be challenged. Your depth of play is dependent on you, but the strategy and tactics you will need to use in the game is dependent on your opponent. Regardless of who you are sitting opposite of, you’ll find the game to be a fast one, fulfilling, and sometimes surprisingly short. Feel free to request another game as soon as possible and use your lessons learned from your previous game to be that much stronger of a player.

Pathagon is a wonderfully crafted and smartly designed abstract game. I have played it many times and keep learning something new about my own way of thinking and my opponent’s. The game cannot be won by randomly placing pieces. Every move is meaningful and should be thought of as a step towards victory. Limited pieces and game space make the jockeying of board dominance a must as players quickly find the path of least resistance through their opponent’s strategy. Elegant in its design, simple in its execution, and highly enjoyable, Pathagon is an abstract game that is sure to please the mind as well as the eye. Do play this game the first chance you get.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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