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Brian Gomez

Brain Games

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Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

As the days become shorter and the nights grow longer, the season for boardgames begins again. And why not start with a game whose name perfectly fits to this cold and wet season? Why not start with IceCool by BRAIN GAMES? OK, it has been quite some time since we last could skate in the meadows here in Essen. But I still remember the times when my sister regularly went to the river Ruhr nearby with her ice skates. And every year I am once again dreaming of a white Christmas, sometimes it works, more often it doesn't. So maybe IceCool is the perfect substitute for my dreams....

IceCool is a family game in which we take the role of penguins who hunt for fishes in some very icy rooms. As everybody knows, penguins are quite famous for their skating skills and so they do not walk or run through the rooms. With their ice skates they move as fast as they can, skating, jumping, pirouetting and - as if that were not enough - they play tag in the meantime. So one penguin acts as a catcher while all other penguins are runners who try to collect their three fishes that someone else has stuck above the doors.

The set-up is done quickly: IceCool uses five cardboard boxes to build up the rooms. The biggest one is the bottom part of the game box itself. All other boxes are a little bit smaller, so that they are nestable. So there is no folding or crafting: You just take the cardboxes out of the box and arrange them door by door. A clever idea that BRAIN GAMES has named Box in a Box. Simple clothes-pegs that are put on four fitting edges of the cardboard boxes are used to hold the boards together. My first thought was: That won't last long. But even with three small children vividly resting on the walls of the card boxes with their arms, the game has withstood. Finally three wooden fish tokens for every player, again in form of clothes-pegs, are attached on three marked doors of the cardboard boxes.

After the set-up procedure every player takes one of the plastic penguin figures and the respective ID card of his penguin. One of the players begins as the catcher placing his penguin in the kitchen room. All other players are the runners and begin the game in the classroom which is the farthest room from the kitchen. To retrieve one of his fishes a player has to move his penguin figure completely through a door with a fish token of his peguin`s colour above the door. And he does so by flicking the penguin from one room to another. Flicking turns out to be tricky. Well, of course it is easy to just move your penguin. But if you want to be successful you must be fast and you must prevent the catcher from touching you. Because once the catcher touches another penguin he may take his ID card and if the catcher is able to collect all ID cards, the round immediately ends.

So, it is quite important to keep your penguin away from the catcher (who flicks his penguin always after all other players). And with growing game experience flicking becomes more and more controllable. It is a little bit like playing billiard: if you flick your penguin right from the center, it gets a right twist and - depending on the velocity - it turns to the right after a short distance. So with just one flick you can move through several doors. Well at least theoretically, de facto it is quite hard to control your penguin. But as said players are getting better with every shot and sometimes a player even jumps for joy. Especially if a player learns how to jump, he takes great delight in flicking his penguin. Jumps are really pretty cool moves. You just flick your penguin on the very top, so it will hit the ground hard with his head. Maybe that is not a nice way to deal with your penguin, but as a result it will jump high, even over walls. And of course this is also allowed, so it is a legal move.

A round of IceCool ends if either the catcher has collected all ID-cards of the runners or if one of the runners has caught all of his three fishes. For every fish a player collects he immediately draws one of the fish cards and at the end of the round all players (including the catcher) additionally draw another fish card for each ID-card they have in their hands (collected or still in hand). So there can be one more card for the runners ( their own ID-card, if this was not stolen by the catcher) or as many fish cards as there are players for the catcher. Fish cards have values from 1 to 3 and count as victory points at the end of the game. After all players have once taken the role of the catcher a game of IceCool ends.

I must be honest. At first sight I could not believe that IceCool would fascinate me. I only had a closer look at the gam, after I saw all the children with their parents having a lot of fun playing the game and trying to flick their penguins. And it is true. Whenever I had unboxed the game since then, all children in the room immediately want to play the game. And they want to do it again and again. I personally developed a bit of sporting ambition to control my penguin. Of course IceCool is not Carrom, not even Flick em Up, but you still get better with every shot. It is really a wonderful family game and probably that's why it also won at the UK Games Expo for the best children's game of the year. So take your penguin, flick it gently and try to collect all of your fishes with a single flick, before the catcher gets you. Let us see who is the true champion in those icy rooms...

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