Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Ice Cool School

Launched at UK Games Expo 2016, Ice Cool proved to be one of the hits of the convention. Indeed it won the UK Games Expo Award for Best Children’s Game bringing as it did two major additions to the flicking game. Flicking games, such as Crokinole and the recent Push It, have long been popular, but more recently game designers have been adding theme to the flicking. Rampage or Terror in Meeple City added Kaijū attacking a big city, whilst Flick ‘em Up! takes the flicking game to the wild west. What Ice Cool does is take the flicking game back to school, all the way down to the South Pole, and lets the players—or penguins—run round and jump about it!

Published by Brain Games, whose game the Game of Trains won the UK Games Expo Award for Best Card Game, Ice Cool is designed for two to four players, aged six and above. The story is simple. It is almost lunchtime and the penguin pupils have been promised fish. Greedy to gobble down their lunch, they have decided to race round the school grabbing fish, but the Hall Monitor must adhere to his duty and catch the miscreants before the fish is gone, confiscating  their Hall Passes when he does. Played over multiple lunchtimes, the penguin player who gets the most fish and the most Hall Passes is the winner.

 Two things stand out about Ice Cool. One is the ‘Box-In-A-Box’ set-up. Open up the box and nested inside are several smaller box lids. These together with the box base that Ice Cool comes are laid out and clipped together—using the tan wooden fish—to form the school and its rooms. Between each of the rooms there are doors and over some of these doors are clipped the fish that the penguin pupils are after. 

The stars of Ice Cool are the penguins themselves. Made of plastic, each has a round bottom with a ball bearing weight inside it. A bit like a Weeble. What this means is that when flicked, a penguin will roll. Of course a penguin can roll straight, but flick it from behind on the righthand side and a penguin will curve to the right and flick it from behind on the lefthand side and a penguin will curve to the left. Which means that it can go round corners! Yet if you flick a penguin in the head, you can get him to jump, even jump over the walls of the school!

You can see a quick demonstration here.

Ice Cool is played in rounds, one round per penguin. In each each round one penguin is the Hall Monitor. His job is to catch the other penguins who are trying to get through the doors with the fish and so claim the fish. When a penguin goes through a door with a fish of his colour, he grabs that fish and a Victory Point card. If the Hall Monitor touches another penguin, then he confiscates that penguin’s I.D. Card. Everyone continues flicking their penguins around the school until either one penguin has grabbed all of his fish from over the appropriate doors or the Hall Monitor has confiscated all of the other penguins’ I.D. Cards. At the end of the round, the Hall Monitor receives a Victory Card for each I.D. Card he confiscated. Then the I.D. Cards are handed back and another round begins with play continuing until everyone has been the Hall Monitor and the game ends. The penguin with the most Victory Points wins the game.

The Victory Point cards are worth one, two, or three points. A penguin—but not the Hall Monitor—can use a pair of Victory Cards with a value of one can use them to have another go at the end of his turn. These cards are marked with skates as well as one Victory point. If a penguin uses them like this, he does not lose the Victory Points.

Ice Cool is an attractive game with physical presence. It looks great on the table and it really is simple to play. The rules themselves are easy to grasp, but they are not written for the young audience that the game is aimed at. So an adult will need to read through them and teach them to younger players, but they are simple enough to both teach and play. Having done, what players young and old will find is that Ice Cool is fun. The design of the penguins means that skill and trick shots can be taken to get the rolling fish fiends to curve and jump to grab the fish and avoid the Hall Monitor. This physical element means that young and old can play on a level ice field and younger players have a good chance of beating adults. Both of course can get better and better with practice.

In fact, adults will enjoy Ice Cool as much as children, despite it being a children’s game. At Afternoon Play it proved to be a hit, despite it not being the type of game normally played at the regular meet-ups. Two games were played, one with just four players and another with eight, with two players per penguin. The team game proved to be a lot of fun.

If there is an issue with Ice Cool, it is that there is just the one layout that can be created using its ‘Box-In-A-Box’ set-up. It would have fun if the game allowed for a variety of school layouts to be created. That aside, the design of Ice Cool is clever in its simplicity and the design of the penguins means that tricks can be flicked around and over the walls of the school. Overall, Ice Cool is heaps of fun, a game that can be enjoyed by young and old, making it a terrific family game.