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Universe and Pan-Kai

Universe is a pentomino placement game invented by Alex Randolph.   Universe precedes the popular modern game Blokus by 25 years.  It looks very similar, and requires similar perceptual skills, but it's a quite different game.    In universe, you can place anywhere except you cannot fence off an area smaller than 5 spaces.  In effect, any areas of size 6-9 become dead zones where no one can play.   The 2 player version, which is the oldest pentomino game, is called Pan-Kai.

Rules:  Players take turns placing any of their pieces on any unoccupied squares where it fits, except you cannot fence off an area less than 5 spaces large.

Winner: is the last player to place a piece.

Strategy: the standard strategy is to try to create spaces with exactly 5 tiles, which fit one of your remaining pieces which your opponents have already played.  This effectively reserves that space for you to fill later.

Robots:  Universe and Pan-Kai use a UCT random-playout robot.  The Pan-Kai version is adequate, but surprisingly, the same logic seems a lot stronger when there are 3-4 players in Universe.

Universe rankings at Boardspace   
Pan-Kai rankings at Boardspace
Universe at BoardGameGeek Pan-Kai at BoardGameGeek
Universe  win/loss database
Pan-Kai  win/loss database
Universe game archives
Twixter's rules and notes on Universe

The back story:
Pentomino games have been on my radar a long time.  I was spurred to action by reported instability of the blokus server.   More pentomino games may be coming soon.

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