Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

[Icehouse] How icehouse spent my summer vacation

  • FromCarl Worth <cworth@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateThu, 23 Aug 2007 13:58:45 -0700
I was travelling for a week or two, and playing icehouse games at
every opportunity, (with a little Fluxx and Chrononauts thrown in for
good measure). I've got a random assortment of comments on various
games and issues, and rather than making lots of separate posts
connected to various threads, I'm going to dump them all here for
anyone to read or ignore as desired.

There are some Drip- and Zendo-specific notes below, (which is why
I've copied the respective game designers on this message).

Treehouse packaging
I had known about icehouse for a while, but only started buying pieces
after the introduction of Treehouse. So the transition to Treehouse
only hasn't had much impact on me. On the way out of town, I stopped
by my FLGS and grabbed two Rainbow sets. This finished my collection
of complete stashes of the 11 standard colors (hurrah!), and also gave
me a spare set to cut down into ZPIPs.

Zero-pip Icehouse Pieces
I finally got around to cutting some pyramids down to the tiny ZPIP
size according to Andy's instructions[1]. I had originally thought his
description sounded very expensive. If I started with 3 of my 5 TH
sets for Homeworlds and cut down all the larges to size zero, I
would have to buy 3 replacement sets for "full-size" playing such as

But then when people pointed out that any size can be cut down to a
ZPIP, it's easy to see that I could just buy one additional TH set,
cut it down completely, and have my Travel-size Homeworlds pieces, and
all the original full-size pieces as well.

Now that I've done that, I can definitely say that I can't distinguish
a 1, 2, or 3 after being cut down to 0---at least according to the
slope of the pyramid faces. So any size seems to function just fine
for this. However, the shape of the space inside the ZPIP is
noticeably, (though subtly), so that might come into play when
stacking ZPIPs. And here, surprisingly enough, the size-1 pieces seem
to work the best when cut down to ZPIPs, (the space is generally
larger and more uniform, and there's not as much "bubbling" in the
plastic above the space).

  [1] Making a Travel-Sized Homeworlds set

Travel-size Homeworlds
I'll still need to find the perfect case for holding my nice, new
portable set. I believe Andy mentioned using a plastic case from a
deck of playing cards. The one I have on hand here is definitely not
deep enough for the medium pieces to fit comfortably, (nor have I
succeeded in cramming everything in). Maybe I can find a case from a
deck with thicker cards, or more than 52.

And when I sat down to actually play, I realized that the correlation
of pip-count to sacrifice actions is slightly altered with the
cut-down. Clearly that wouldn't be much of an issue for an experienced
player, but it might trip up a new learner slightly. But it's easy
enough to fix by mentally thinking of the pip counts on the pyramids
as being the number of "extra" actions beyond 1 that are granted by a

Drip[2] is definitely my favorite new "filler" game with icehouse
pyramids. In fact, after I introduced the whole icehouse system to my
brother along with several simple games, (Treehouse, Black ICE, etc.),
my brother said, "Those others were fun, but I think I'd actually buy
these things in order to play Drip."

We did play with a rule variant that makes the game more interesting:

  1. Each player starts with 3 pyramids of each size, (playing with
     this rule pushes the game out of the single-stash category).

  2. The game is played in multiple rounds. When a player drops a
     piece that sticks out of the top of the tube, that round is over,
     and that player loses that piece for subsequent rounds.

  3. If on a players turn, he/she has no more pieces, that player
     loses the game.

I think the variant plays very well, and adds some richness to the
game. I haven't added it to the wiki, since I'm not sure what the
protocol is for altering/adding instructions to another designer's
game. Suggestions? Tyler, do you have any feedback?

  [2] Drip instructions are mentioned briefly here:


    and more completely here:


Zendo was the original reason I purchased the pyramids, and is still
one of my favorite games. I love the experience of being entirely
stumped by a simple rule that's difficult only because the master
invents a property I don't even think to consider, ("vertically
overlapping pieces", "M-shaped silhouette", etc.).

One memorable game last week was interrupted by a power outage. We
were deep into a great rule, and weren't about to allow a lack of
electricity slow us down. So, with a couple of laptop displays, and a
few flashlights we played the game out. We probably made quite a
sight, (I took some photos, but I doubt they do it justice). One of
the most interesting new aspects of flashlight play was being able to
see what players were studying as they moved their flashlight beam
back and forth between koans.

I was really intrigued by the "risky mondo" variant that Kory
introduced a while back. A lot of the Zendo playing I've done lately
has been with introducing new groups to the game. In that setting,
I've decided that I don't like risky mondo at all. People seem overly
shy about calling "mondo" at first even when there's no penalty, and
adding the risk makes that worse. I'm still interested to try out
risky mondo with a more experienced group at some point.

Black ICE
Black ICE rocks. I don't really have much else to say about it. It's
definitely a perfect 3House game. Well done, Andy! It's definitely got
more lasting appeal than Treehouse, (in my experience), while still
being near universal in initial appeal, (like Treehouse).

Now, I just need to find the perfect "black box" to carry around for
it. Oh, and the DIG mechanic is a bit awkward for some players---oh

A new Icehouse dexterity mechanic?
While my wife was taking her turn driving on our road trip, I
attempted to entertain myself with an open Treehouse tube. Here's
something I came up with, (more of an amusement than a real game, but
feel free to explore the mechanic as you'd like):

    Ice Lobster - A diversion for two people (with one TH set)

	You're lobsters that have been washed up onto an iceberg, (you
	can blame the funky currents due to global warming).


	Each person takes two large pyramids, and jams them onto thumb
	and forefinger of one hand. These form your (slippery) claw.

	Sprinkle the medium and small pyramids into a pile, and tip
	over all upright pyramids so that they are all resting flat.


	Players race simultaneously to see who can form the tallest
	tower of stacked, upright pyramids.

I was curious if anyone had played with that kind of mechanic
before. It can be fairly entertaining, (my wife laughed at me a lot
anyway). Though with a fairly short session of play we very nearly
broke the game entirely by coming up with a single motion for reliably
picking up a flat pyramid and setting it onto the top of a
stack. Anyone else want to try?

And if someone wants to explore other game ideas around related
mechanics, I'd be interested to see what you can come up with. There
are certainly some ballistic opportunities in squeezing the "claw"
described above in just the right way against a pyramid. (But watch
where you aim those things---they can fly off pretty fast and sharp.)


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