About Penguins On Ice

Penguins on ice is a one player game I invented for SmartGames that you really need to see in action. What makes this puzzle different you can only experience when you hold it in your hand.

“Penguins on ice” is a brainteaser that I developed in a different order than most other Smart Games. Normally I start with a theme or an image that inspires me. The concept and game rules follow later. For this game I also had the mechanical puzzle concept first. If you are interested, you can read more details about all the different steps in the product development of Penguins on Ice on my blog.

What's so interesting about pentominoes?

It always interests me to look into things that are fascinating for other people, although I don’t necessarily share the same fascination. Pentominoes are such a thing. Already for more than 10 years Odette De Meulenmeester, a math teacher in a Belgian school works around pentominoes in her class room. In case you don’t know, a pentomino is a shape that is formed by putting 5 equal squares together edge to edge.

Like in most of my other puzzles, I always try to keep the number of puzzle pieces to a minimum. So in order to have also enough possibilities with a small set of pieces, I needed something special. The solution was to make each puzzle piece in such a way that it can be shape-shifted. This way each puzzle piece can have 3 or 4 possible shapes, but of course you don’t know which shape you need for the solution. Although you only have 5 puzzle pieces in Penguins on Ice, you can create 13 different pentomino shapes with them (of 18 one-sided pentomino shapes that exist). Some shapes can be formed by different puzzle pieces.


example of a puzzle piece that can be shape-shifted

Initially, Odette helped me finding the right combination of pentomino -shapes that had enough possible combinations. After that, Saskia wrote a computer program to look for challenges with unique solutions. So who said again that my games are more for boys/men?

After I found a technical solution, I started looking for a theme. I always want the theme to form a coherent story with the game concept and that it is not used to make the puzzle just “look” interesting. But what in real life is based on squares and can transform? Ice floating on the sea is sliding and gliding all the time. And so do the penguins who live on it. And by dividing these ice floes into squares, they look like ice cubes, which is a perfect base for pentominoes.

Penguins on the rocks

The object of the game is to pack the ice so that every puzzle tile can fit on the game board AND to make sure that all the penguins are in the right spot. At STARTER level you are given the form and the position of one or more puzzle pieces to show you how the game works. The more difficult challenges only show the position of the penguins. When the challenge shows fewer then 5 penguins, you can choose where to put the other ones. The game looks complex at first sight, but once you get to know the different possibilities, it’s not that difficult.

example of challenge (left) and solution (right)

High Five

The final product is truly a pentomino game: It uses only pentomino shapes (made of 5 squares), but also uses 5 of them on a 5 x 5 grid. And of course there are 5 penguins on them. Only minor default, it doesn’t include 5 challenges, but 60.


Penguins On Ice