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Icehouse: The Martian Chess Set
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Icehouse: The Martian Chess Set

deluxe edition

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Ages Play Time Players
12+ 15 minutes 2-4

Designer(s): Andrew Looney, John Cooper

Manufacturer(s): Looney Labs

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Product Description

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.

Product Information


  • 60 beautiful plastic game pieces, packed in a clear plastic box
  • 3 booklets containing complete rules for 4 different games:
    • IceTowers
    • Zarcana
    • Martian Chess
    • IceTraders
  • 2 reference cards

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.5 in 6 reviews

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A totally awesome game(s).
September 04, 2002

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.

Excellent fun for experienced gamers and newbies alike
December 26, 2001

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.

Buy this! Buy it now! Now now now!
February 10, 2001

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.

Budding game designers: Buy these.
December 06, 2000

My Icehouse set is probably what I carry around to gaming things the most, because it is like a deck of cards, you can play a multitude of games with it. Zarcana (on the site) and Zendo are probably my favorites, Zarcana because it's like Magic meets a wargame, and Zendo (a very Zen-flavored Mastermindish logic game) because of the degree of cooperation between players.

But the real prize here is if you like to think up new games, you can use these pyramids for pieces to design them around. There are already quite a few Icehouse games in existence, and more appear on the discussion list frequently.

The spiffiest set of game pieces in existence
February 05, 2000

I bought an Icehouse set with some trepidation, as I had no idea what to do with them, and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to pick up the games that come with one. And the first thing I've got to say is that I'm very glad that I did. An Icehouse set approaches a deck of cards when it comes to versatility, thanks in no small way to the Looneys who developed many of the games to play with them and the Wunderland Toast Society that made plenty more. Indeed, if you go to their website you'll find links to tons of other Icehouse games that were invented for use with the set.

The games that are included are quite nice, with my personal favourite being IceTowers simply because I can always convince my family to play it with me. Zarcana is neat, but it really needs a Tarot deck for the full feel, and I lost half of my Rider-Waite ages ago. Erp. Martian Chess is an interesting twist on Chess, and IceTraders reminds me very much of something I did a long time ago with the decidedly campy Star Empires game--namely, making it remotely interesting.

Another great thing about the Icehouse set is that you can use the pieces as supplements for pretty much anything else. They make great pieces if you don't own a copy of Can't Stop but don't mind using a big sheet of graph paper to represent the board, they're useful in Risk when you start running out of armies, and they're handy for making weird Freddy Kreuger fingertips . . .err. And they take a beating -- I've had them bounce all the way across the room with nary a dent, except for perhaps in my wood floor.

Overall, an Icehouse set is a solid investment, much like a deck of cards. Even if what's in the box gamewise doesn't impress you, there's plenty more where it came from.

Not worth the price
October 10, 2001

I've had Icehouse for a while but only recently had the opportunity to play--there is not much about the Icehouse games to attract people. We played Ice Towers, and it was fairly shallow. The other games for which rules are provided with the Icehouse set also seem to offer little reward for the investment of time in learning and playing them.

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