Icehouse: The Martian Chess Set
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An Icehouse set is a collection of pyramid-shaped game pieces, 60 total, 15 in each of 4 colors, evenly divided among 3 different sizes. Like a chess set, it can be used to play a complex abstract strategy board game, for which the game set itself is named. But like a deck of cards, it can also be used to play a bunch of other, completely unrelated abstract strategy games--some easy, some complicated.
I've loved the IceHouse piece-set since I first bought it. There are a pile of great games that have been written using the IceHouse pieces; The spontenaity of Ice Towers, a one-minute long real-time stacking-possession game, is great to pull out at a convention, since it only takes 30 seconds to teach to someone. Zendo is great; their version of Eleusis, a 'rule-guessing game'. And the original Ice House game is an excercise in abstract real-time reasoning and strategy...impossible to describe, but fun to play. Naturally, there are a PILE of games that use the pieces posted on their site. Buy it! It's been one of my best investments.
I do not regret for a minute my purchase of Icehouse. The only disappointment was that it did not come with rules for playing 'Icehouse'. Instead it came with rules for 'Ice Towers', 'Martian Chess', and a few others. We didn't care for the idea of using Tarot cards for the 'Zarcana' rules, but easily printed our own cards for the game which we now affectionately call 'Zarcanoids'.
I concur with others that one of the great things about Icehouse is its versatility. We play mind-numbingly simple games like Ice Towers through incredibly complex strategy games of our own design.
We have introduced 'non-gaming' friends to the Icehouse set and they have all purchased their own. That says a lot to me.
Having put a paper Icehouse set through its proverbial paces, and being perpetually unable to play any of the stacking games listed on the official Icehouse site I was starting to really itch for a real Icehouse set. One that could stand up to repeated use without falling apart.
These pieces are great. If you have an iota of creativity in you, you will no doubt come up with rules for a pretty good Icehouse game just by handling these things. I chalk it up to Pyramid Power.
For those unaware, Icehouse is a set of 60 plastic pyramids: 5 in each of three sizes in each of four colors. These work rather like a deck of cards in that they can be used to play a variety of very different, incredibly addictive games unlike anything else seen by mortal men. Well, mostly unlike anything else seen.
Included with the package are complete rules for four of the basic Icehouse games: Martian Chess, Zarcana, Ice Towers, and Ice Traders. Martian chess requires a chess or checkerboard (not included) and Zarcana requires a deck of Tarot cards or regular playing cards (Tarot preferred). The games are very imaginative and play solidly, although Ice Towers and Ice Traders verge on requiring 3 or more players despite saying they can be played by 2.
Rules for new Icehouse games can be found at the official Icehouse site, although one such game (Volcano) requires the Black Ice expansion (sold separately, and apparantly not carried by Funagain). I don't personally recommend Black Ice at the price offered, although it does include a cloth chessboard and a carrying bag.
Anyway, buy Icehouse now. Right now. Pray that you're not too late.
Sixty plastic pyramids in four colors open up a world of gaming. This company's zany and unique Icehouse has long been winning admirers. Its website (www.looney-labs.com) contains a treasury of rules for Icehouse and related games. The Martian Chess Set offers you four exotic games, one of which requires a deck of Tarot cards to create the board.
For Martian Chess, you'll need a chessboard. You and up to three other players start by controlling nine pyramids (pieces) each in your 4 x 4 quadrants. Size determines how a pyramid moves and captures; its location indicates who controls it. When an opponent captures your piece, the capturing unit joins your army! The game ends when any player's sector is vacant. Points are awarded for captured pieces, with the highest value winning. This set of games will keep you warm on many an icy night.