I learned from the printed rules, um, probably ten years ago now. So, well before the version in PwP. I think that makes me and Eric Zuckerman almost the only self-taught IIT competitors.
I learned from the printed rules too, originally. Though having them clarified and in use in examples by someone who understood the game helped a lot. But my first few games, were largely "meh". The thing is, it's not really the *rules* that are the problem, but the *strategy*. Just like in chess, it's relatively easy to state the rules: (Here's the set up, here are the 6 different pieces and they each move like this, the object is to put the opponent's king under an attack such that it cannot escape from being attacked). But there are a lot of principles of strategy that can be taught, and would take someone who only knew the rules a lot of time to learn from scratch. IN fact, I would hazard a confident guess that no current Grand Masters have learnt just the rules and then figured out everything else for themselves. Simple things like the Pin, the Fork, and endgame practicalities (such as how to win with King and Rook on King) are simple to learn but may be not entirely obvious just from the rules. In the same way, some of the features of Icehouse (fortressing, snowballing, restructuring, shotgunning, sharing the pain) come out of playing the game, and seeing what happens. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure which of the strategies like fortressing and restructuring were already in mind when the game was created. I'm also not sure *how* Jake Davenport came up with the shotgunning strategy, and I would love to know how it came about. In any case, my point is, Icehouse is far more about understanding strategy than understanding just the rules. Timothy