Katamino is based on a geometric puzzle called “Pentominoes.” “Pentominoes,” reports the Association of Teachers of Mathematics, “can be used to develop children’s understanding of the concepts of area and perimeter, transformational geometry including enlargement, congruence and symmetry, nets, volume and classification.” Katamino takes the concept further, into a series of games and puzzles that can absorb the spatial reasoning faculties of children as young as three, and adults as old as they want to think they are.

The multi-language instruction booklet includes illustrations for hundreds of puzzles and several challenging games. At its simplest level, it is a building toy, which, like all good building toys, can become very challenging. Then it becomes a puzzle. The it becomes a more and more challenging as players attempt to put more of the pentomino pieces together in larger and larger rectangles. There’s a very useful bar that gets placed in different positions on the board to limit the playing area. This same bar is also used to divide the board into two different halves so that two players can race each other to complete a rectangle. Another game variation involves using an 8×8 board (printed on the back of the instruction booklet). Players take turns placing the pentominoes on the board. The last player able to play wins. To make the game easier, or the constructions more complex, the manufacturers include one- and two-unit blocks.

The pieces and frame are all made out of wood. Though the colors of the wooden pieces don’t precisely match those in the instructions, their shapes are easily discernible and the colors are close enough for players to figure out all the rules and variations as well as the two- and three-dimensional puzzles. Don’t be misled by its similarity to other games. Katamino is a unique invitation to a lifetime of challenging fun.

There is now, (revised Feb 1, 2012), a plastic, portable edition available. We are happy to report that the fun you can have with it is equally Major.

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