Cameron Browne (c) 2007

Pentalath is an abstract board game for two players, designed by computer.

News: Pentalath is now available from nestorgames (follow Yavalath).


Players: White and Black.

Start: The board is initially empty.

Play: Players take turns placing a piece of their colour at an empty cell. After each move, any same-coloured groups with no freedom (i.e. no adjacent empty board cell) are captured and removed.

End: Players win by making a line of five or more pieces of their colour.

First move equaliser: The second player has the option of swapping colours in lieu of making the second move. This stops the first player from making too strong (i.e. central) an opening move.


An example of a capturing move is shown below. The next player to move at x will capture an enemy group (Black in this case).

Pieces may not commit suicide but may create their own freedom through capture.

It may at first appear difficult to form 5-in-a-row on such a small board; 5-in-a-row games like Gomoku and Renju are typically played on much larger boards. However, the fact that surrounded pieces are captured means that at least one player's blocking pieces will eventually be captured, opening up the board for further line development.

It is generally good to keep all of your pieces in a single connected group if possible. Stray pieces isolated from any supporting groups are easier to capture, and the player who makes the first capture will generally win the game.

The central cell is the strongest as it has the greatest number of potential lines of 5 running through it.

A good strategy is to force the opponent into placing isolated pieces that can be cut off and captured. Such forcing moves may be achieved by making a line of 4 or an open-ended line of 3 that threatens to form an unbeatable open-ended line of 4.


Pentalath rules by Ludi by Cameron Browne and copyright (c) Cyberite Ltd, December 2007.

Pentalath was designed by machine. The rules were created by a programme called Ludi that evolves rule sets from existing games into new combinations, then measures the resulting rule sets to determine whether they actually constitute viable games and, if so, how likely they are to be of interest to human players. Out of all of the games synthesised by Ludi for my thesis project, Pentalath was the game rated most highly by both human players and the automated measurement process.

The machine initially proposed Pentalath on a trapezoidal board of similar size, but the board shape was eventually changed to the more attractive and widely used hexagonal shape with no significant impact on the game. This allows Pentalath and its sister game Yavalath to be played on the same board using the same equipment.

The name Pentalath was suggested by Nestor Romeral Andres to replace the game's rather ugly original name (Ndengrod) with something more akin to its sister-game Yavalath.

Pentalath can be played on Richard's PBeM server as Ndengrod - check out the help file for more details. Many thanks to the server regulars who helped test the game. Please challenge me (camb) to a game any time.

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