Stack pyramids and press your luck in our review of Ice Dice from Looney Labs

IceDice

There are games like Dominant Species or Conquest of Nerath that require a dedicated group of people getting together for the expressed reason of playing that particular game. The rules are a bit dense, and you need to concentrate on what you’re doing. Then there are the middle of the road games like 7 Wonders and Small World Underground where the rules are definitely there and you kinda need to concentrate but there’s more of a social “hang-out” thing going on.

Then there’s the 3rd group of games, where there’s only a few simple rules and are better played while socializing. Zombie Dice (and to a much much lesser extent Cthulhu Dice) is the epitome of this game. You take your turn, pass the cup to the next person and go back to socializing and ignoring the game in general until it comes back around to you. We’ve done this with large groups at the bar and at PAX and it’s perfect. Ice Dice isn’t quite as simple as Zombie Dice, but I’d still put it in the same category and will definitely be packing it the next time we’re at PAX or another con.

Ice Dice is based on the popular Looney Labs “pyramid” games that all use these nesting translucent pyramid pieces that can be stacked onto each other. It comes in a pyramid shaped zip bag that holds all the pieces, a few dice and the instructions. You’ll have some extra room for other items as well that will let you play other games with the pyramid pieces.

Ice Dice is a simple press your luck game where you don’t score anything until you stop playing and busting out means you lose all your progress. The pieces are laid out in an area known as the bank. The goal is to create 3 similarly colored “trios” which is a large, medium and small pyramid stacked up to kind of look like a tree.

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To get pieces out of the bank and into a players area is where the entire game is played. You take turns rolling two die, one tells you which color piece to take and the other what size. Some of the die faces give you a choice of different sizes or let you take any color. You’ll make your selection and move it into an adjacent area known as the counter. You can then roll again and take another piece, again adding it to the counter. If the piece you want to select isn’t in the bank you’re able to steal it from an opponent, removing it from their play area and bank into the counter.

You can roll as many times as you like, but you don’t move the pieces into your area and claim them until you decide to stop rolling. The danger is if you roll the color die the same color as one you’ve already claimed this round then you “bust out” and all the pieces in the counter go back into the bank. So if you’ve got a small red, large green and medium black in the counter and roll green on the die your turn ends, all the pieces go back to the bank and you get nothing. SO the secret is to push it a bit and stop before that happens.

You’ll take turns acquiring and stealing pieces from each other until some one has those 3 stacks of the same color (so a total of 9 pieces in 3 sets) at which time the game ends and they’re the winner. It’s a quick little game that takes about 10 minutes max to play out, which is nice since sometime your luck just seems cursed and the game is lost before you barely start. You don’t want games like that to last 30 minutes. The games are short enough that you just say “wanna play again?” as soon as it’s finished.

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One of the really nice and unique things about Ice Dice is that it uses the Looney Labs Treehouse system of pyramids. The company makes the analogy (rightly I think) of comparing the nesting pyramids to a deck of cards, of how using that deck of cards you can play hundreds of different games. The same goes for the Tree House pyramids. So Ice Dice is really just a new game in this system, but is being packed this way because it includes two sets of the pyramids (required for this particular game). But once you have this set it opens up being able to play lots of different games either officially or created by the community.

We both said while playing that the game and system was interesting enough to lead me to search out more games to play with the pyramids. To get interested parties started in this endeavor they actually include a second game that’s played with the same pieces and dice called LaunchPad 23, which is played on an included 3X3 grid (though they tell you in the instructions you don’t need the grid and can just lay out the pieces without it. Instead of building pyramids in front of you by taking pieces out of a bank you’ll be adding and moving pieces around this grid trying to build a 5 stage rocket, which is one pyramid of each color in the same size stacked up on your launchpad. It’s actually harder than it sounds even in 2 player since you can much up your opponents rocket build. I cant even imagine how chaotic the 4 player games are, with all those pieces and strategies trying to move around the same 3X3 grid.

On a totally unrelated note I plan on using these awesome pyramids in my Dungeons and Dragons game to denote obstacles or auras or something. They’ll be perfect on the game grid.

At 20 bucks it’s hard to argue against the value proposition in Ice Dice. It includes 2 games and the components to try out a ton more. It’s not going to win any awards for complexity (similar to the Fluxx series, but a good game collection covers all the bases ya know? As a starter or filler game it’s perfect, and if you’re into it would play well at a bar of as I said earlier downtime at the nerd convention of your choice.

Looney Labs is sort of famous for this type of game. Light, easy to pick up and at times kind of random but with flashes of strategy. We’ve been impressed enough with Ice Dice and it’s pyramid possibilities that I bet you’ll be seeing us cover more games using it very soon.

Daniel Zuccarelli

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