When I first picked up Pente at a Junior Classical League convention--for ten dollars--I was enchanted by the Greek art and its charming tria--tessera--pente hierarchy of moves. I immediately set up a booth, labeling myself the Pente Sphinx: One Drachma and won back the money I had paid for the game from passers-by. The beauty of it was its appropriateness to the setting; we were classics students, and it was Greek. Or was it?
I learned, to my dismay, that someone had devised my new favorite board game in the 1980s. He had combined the five-in-a-row theme of Go-Moku, a Chinese game, and the Capturing idea of Go, also Chinese. Why, then, the Greek design and play-calls? There was a man in a chiton on the box, so the game had very well better be Hellenic, or else.
In a conversation with my best friend's mother, I was informed that Pente was similar to a Roman game--possibly the game the legionnaires played when they cast lots for the robes of Christ. I have no information as to whether or not this is accurate, however appealing it sounds.
Nevertheless, Pente is a fast-paced and fascinating game. As someone whose attention span for board games can be painfully limited, I have nevertheless amused myself with this game for hours on end. No two games are identical, and the board itself--with shining, refractive glass pebbles for markers--appeals to my sense of aesthetics. I can believe it's Greek. Really, it is. I believe.
Hey, I study Latin for a living. Give a boy a break.