GenCon 2016 Game review – Ice Cool
At a glance –
School is almost out in Antarctica but a few of the penguins are too hungry to wait! They skip out on class and, racing through the hallways, make their way to the cafeteria to grab an afternoon snack. Will they make it before being caught by the dreaded hall monitor? Welcome to “Ice Cool”.
“Ice Cool” is a surprisingly fun and innovative “flicking” game for 2-4 players published by Brain Games. The gameplay is fast and intuitive. Although it’s geared to younger players, I’ve played the game with several different age groups, including a mixed session, and the result is always the same, LOTS OF FUN!
The Object -
The players choose a color and collect the corresponding penguin and ID card. One of the players is chosen to be the Hall Monitor (called the Catcher). The other players (called Runners) take turns flicking their penguins, trying to get them through the doorways that have their fish clipped to the top. If they make it through, they collect their fish and score a fish card. On their next turn, they begin making their way toward their next fish.
The Catcher has a different goal. He or she is trying to collect the IDs of the Runners by flicking their penguin so that it touches the penguins of the Runners, thus, collecting their ID cards. A round ends when either, one of the Runners collects all of their fish, or the Catcher has all of the IDs. There are as many rounds as there are players so that everyone gets a turn to be the Catcher. Also, there is a bit of a “rubber band” mechanic built in. You look at the ‘fish cards” as you collect them. If, at any point in the game you have collected two cards that only have a “1” on them, you can “ice skate”. You turn over your two “1” cards and get to take an extra turn. After all of the rounds have been completed, the players total up the numbers on their “fish cards” and the highest total wins.
The board for this game is a VERY innovative design called “Box in a Box”. Inside the box are 5 smaller boxes with holes in the sides and art depicting the different rooms of the school. These all clip together with the holes matching up to create the doorways and a kind of obstacle course for the players to navigate by flicking their penguins from room to room, collecting fish and (hopefully) avoiding the Hall Monitor. The art on the board/boxes themselves is a convincing depiction of what a penguin school would look like, complete with overhead views of desks, chairs, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, all of which are complete with nice little touches like posters, drinking fountains, and basketball rims. (Even though I’m sure that penguins are terrible at basketball)
What’s in the Box? -
(4) Plastic penguins;
(5) Cardboard boxes – rooms;
(16) Wooden fish tokens (12 fish in 4 player colors and 4 fish in white color);
(45) Fish cards (each showing 1, 2 or 3 victory points);
(4) Color reminder cards;
(4) Penguin ID cards;
(1) Rules booklet
Several re-sealable bags for component storage
The components for this game are quite nice. The cards are of good quality, and the “fish” are solid wood and seem to be very durable. The real features of this game are, as described above, the board itself, and the adorable little penguins. The penguins are rounded at the bottom, and weighted so that they can’t lie on their side.
For those of you who know what they are, think Weebles.
When flicked, they flop and flounder, spin and turn, but what they don’t do, is lay still. With a little practice, you can begin to steer them around corners, make them jump over walls and, if you’re really good, you may even be able to get them to travel in a straight line!
Check out the “Ice Cool” promo video on YouTube to see an AMAZING shot near the end.
If you’d like to listen to our interview with the man who, both, made that trick shot, and helped design this game, it can be found here:
Learning Curve –
This is an easy one to grasp for kids and adults alike. If you’ve ever flicked things on a table you already have the basics down. Spend a few minutes reading the rules and a couple of minutes setting up the board and you’re ready to go. There is a bit of a learning curve as you figure out how to make those pesky penguins do what you want, but not so much as to make the concept unattainable. In any case, in a game like this failure can be just as entertaining as success!
As I said before, I’m absolutely enamored with this box. Not only does it hold all of the smaller boxes, but, because there is no insert for the smaller pieces, the designers included small, re-sealable bags for storing the other components. This allows “Ice Cool” to pass the “shake test” with flying colors. Store it however you’d like!
The rules document for this game is clear and concise, has little comic-style penguins all over it making it fun for kids to read, and even covers some of the unpredictable things that can happen when you get a few people around a table flicking plastic things through cardboard things.
Play time – 30 minutes
The “Sweet Spot” –
The game is rated for 2-4 players. The sweet spot for this game, in my opinion, is 4 players. The more pieces that you have flying around the board, the better!
Replay Value –
Due to the shape of its components and the nature of dexterity games in general, the replay value of this game is quite high.
Price Point - $39.99
Even though most of the components are cast or printed in bold primary colors, color blindness may be a concern. That said, because of the gameplay and the mechanics involved, this could be overcome with just a little assistance by other players. The cards are easily read, but the penguins and wooden fish are all the same, only differing in color. However, adding multiple casts to a game is extremely expensive, sometimes adding tens of thousands of dollars to a game’s initial bottom line. This would have probably priced it out of its market and, all things considered, is probably not necessary for our chromodysoptic friends to enjoy it.
Rating – 9 out of 10
Final Thoughts -
Even though “Ice Cool” is targeted toward younger players, I think gamers of all ages will have a lot of fun with it. I’ve seen older gamers pull the chairs away from the table so that they can line up their perfect shot as if they’re playing a tiny game of billiards, while a game with younger players looks and sounds exactly like what you may think;
Raucous excitement sometimes mixed with the spell cast by a basketball circling the hoop in an Antarctic gymnasium.
I highly recommend this one, particularly if you have children. However, I think this game would be a welcome addition to any collection, whether it’s found in a kid’s closet or the college campus.
In a word, “Ice Cool” is white-hot!
But then again, this is just my humble opinion.
(CarpeGM.net Game Reviews)
A review copy of Ice Cool was given to me at GenCon 2016 by the game designer. No money or further compensation changed hands or has been promised for a good review. They earned it!