PLAYlist 23: Ice Cool

Apr 09, 2018 By Austin Trunick
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Earlier this year I had the pleasure of attending New York’s Toy Fair. Sprawling across four showroom floors of the absolutely massive Javits Center, hundreds of toy manufacturers set up booths to show off their latest products to retailers, press, and other industry persons. I was only able to allot a single day for the show, and could sadly only take in less than half of the show. As much time as I could have spent perusing fancy action figures, high-powered squirt guns, and NERF battlements, I was there to check in with board game publishers in attendance and get an early peek at new releases they have coming over the horizon.

Considering the complexity of the games I typically choose to play, it’s easy to forget they're technically toys. (Take Yokohama, for example, which doesn't even look like it belongs to the same species as something like Mouse Trap.) Outside of the fantastic dexterity game Flip Ships, our coverage has skewed towards think-y strategy games and away from ones that feel more like play for play’s sake. Both ends of the spectrum can be fun ways to share unplugged entertainment time with friends and family, but they’re fun in very different ways.

Ice Cool, though, wow. It’s a board game that screams “I’m a toy!” in the best possible way. I found myself jogging through a back corner of Toy Fair that was sectioned off for board games, trying to scan the wares from as many publishers as I could before the convention closed down for the day. Passing the Brain Games booth, Ice Cool stopped me in my tracks. “Play me,” it whispered. “You know you want to.”

Catching my breath, I approached the table with slight trepidation. The game spread out across two tables in front of me looked more like a doll house or Mighty Max battle arena than any of the dense, meeple-stuffed Euro games that had occupied my kitchen table on recent game nights. “Play me,” Ice Cool beckoned. “I look so much fun.”

“I’m not that kind of guy,” I told the inanimate piece of cardboard before me. “I play deep Euros like Feast for Odin and eight-hour-long space games!”

But before I realized what I was doing, I found myself giving one of the game’s roly-poly penguin pawns a good-natured flick. I tried to pull my hand away, but it was too late. I’d given in to Ice Cool’s playful allure.

From designer Brian Gomez and Brain Games, Ice Cool is two-to-four player game that plays in less than 30 minutes. The most eye-catching element (and what pulled me in) is its three-dimensional board, which lays out like a school, with walls dividing the various rooms connected by doors. (Ice Cool = “Ice School.” Get it? You probably figured that out already, but I’m man enough to admit it took a nine-year-old to point out the pun to me.)

Players take rotating turns as naughty penguin skipping class, darting around their school and trying their best to avoid being caught by the hall monitor. The goal is to dash through the doors of the school, collecting all four of your color’s fish markers that are pinned above them. The last player of a round will take their turn as the hall monitor, and he or she will be try to catch all of the ill-behaved students. The round ends when one student has collected all of their fish, or the monitor has caught all of the delinquent penguins.

Movement isn’t dictated by cards or dice, but by flicking your character pawn across the board with your fingernail. Ice Cool’s pawns use advanced Weeble Wobble technology, with round, weighted bottoms so that they’ll wobble “but they don’t fall down.”

It takes some getting the hang of. Starting out, you’ll be flicking your poor penguin straight into a wall at 30 miles per hour, or over the top of the school’s boundaries and completely off your kitchen table. Play for a while, though, and your skills will start to improve. (The manual does provide four different flicking techniques for you to practice.) Eventually you should be able to jump walls from one room to the next, or pull off cool, curving trick shots like the one in the video above. I’m not there yet, but my nine-year-old playtesting partner got very good at it very quickly.

Players draw cards when they collect a fish, avoid being caught, or catch their opponents; these cards are worth a random number of points at the end of the game, but can also be used in pairs to take extra turns. The game ends after all players have had their turn playing the hall monitor.

Ice Cool is a blast. It’s light-hearted, silly fun which can be taught in under a minute, and is great for a mixed age group. (It’s fair to wonder whether children, with their smaller hands which better squeeze into tight corners, have a natural advantage over their grownup counterparts.)

One final thing that needs mentioned is Ice Cool’s coolest design element, and that’s the box itself. The bottom lid of the box is actually the game’s largest playing field; the rest of the boards fit inside of it, like a nesting doll. This makes the game a breeze to set up and put away. It’s ingenious.

Ice Cool is available from Brain Games for an MSRP of $39.95. (Search around online, though, and you'll find it for much less.) 

For this column’s playlist, we’re all in on the “ice” theme, even if that means kicking off our jams with Robert Van Winkle himself, Vanilla Ice. Spring has supposedly sprung, but it’s 32 degrees in NYC at the time of publication, and so these tracks don’t feel that far off base from my current reality. (My original thought for this column was an “Ice Coolio” soundtrack, so just be happy I’ve spared you that.)

Enjoy!

***

Previous PLAYlist columns: Food Truck ChampionArs Alchimia & LemuriaA Game of Thrones CatanTroyesTwilight Imperium: Fourth EditionFlip ShipsNMBR 9UnearthEscape from 100 Million B.C., Orleans (plus Trade & Intrigue)Whistle StopCaverna: Cave vs CaveTwilight StruggleHonshuBärenpark, Notre Dame & In the Year of the DragonYokohamaClank! A Deck-Building AdventureVillages of ValeriaNew York SliceWatson & HolmesHanamikoji.



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April 19th 2018
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Nice post.I too a fan of ice cool

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May 21st 2018
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