Review: Ice Cool
September 21, 2017 /
Designer: Brian Gomez
Artist: Reinis Pētersons
Publisher: Brain Games
Category: Action / Dexterity, Animals, Children’s Game
Price: $29.00 Amazon
Ice Cool is a dexterity game where players flick thick penguins into classrooms to either gather fish or play tag. Brian Gomez has one other published design, Social Network.
Brain Games is a board games publisher who distributes internationally, but has published Logic Cards, Game of Trains, Om Nom Nom, Voila!, and more in the U.S.
A simple family and children’s game, Ice Cool puts players in the webbed shoes (feet?) of one of four vibrant penguin students. The life goals of these chubby bobblers involve skipping class and grabbing fish. Lucky for them, these will be fattened birds after 15-30 minutes of gaming.
Players take one of four wobbly penguins, with one player becoming the hall monitor. One at a time, students set up in the classroom and flick their way into another section of the penguin school. After all students have moved, the hall monitor takes his turn.
Yes, by flicking, I mean flicking—you know, with your fingers. A swift thumping motion using your index or middle finger will do.
The rulebook instructs three separate techniques for flicking.
A forward flick is the most basic and will send your penguin shooting forward with reckless abandon. The second sort of flick involves a careful action toward the bottom left or right side of the penguin. This initiates forward momentum, but motivates the penguin to curve left or right. This is excellent for getting into rooms and hiding in corners for safety.
The third and final flick is delivered to the head of the penguin, in what I describe as a “head shot.” This flick disturbs the plastic bird so much it sends the bird flopping into the air and over boundaries, landing dangerously in a new room. The tops of penguins are slim and light, so a strong fingernail flick into the head will send bottom-heavy birds flying. Over time, and depending on your ferocity, this might hurt your finger a bit, but trust me—it’s worth it.
Players must grab more fish than anyone else. After sliding underneath a door with a fish above, that player takes the fish and a fish card, giving between 1-3 points. Combining two single-point cards allows an extra turn.
The hall monitor must slam into the other player’s penguins to steal their ID cards and report them to the penguin authorities. Each penguin hit will give an extra fish card to the hall monitor. Rounds end once either all of one player’s fish have been nabbed, or when the hall monitor hits all penguins in the game.
After all players have been hall monitor, players tally points from their cards and the player with the most points wins.
It’s frivolous to discuss portentous musings on Ice Cool. The game is simple, goofy, sometimes fascinating—overall, just good fun. It doesn’t try to be more than a children’s game, but the dexterity element of Ice Cool is what makes it accessible for more than just kids. I’ve had a riotous time playing with plenty of folks my age.
While I’d hope players wouldn’t put too much stock or unnecessary bragging rights on their career in Ice Cool, scoring is messy. One player might perform quite well, gathering at least two or three fish on each round, only to pull 1-point fish cards. Another player might not grab as many fish (read: less skilled) and pull 2- and 3-point fish cards. This “not as good” player might very well be declared victor simply by the luck of the draw. If you’re playing with kids, this is fine, but I opted for “tournament play” provided by Brain Games. In fact, I also had a lot of fun with a home-brewed Penguin Olympics solution.
The joy of Ice Cool isn’t necessarily the end result, it’s more the journey.
As a student, one must carefully contemplate where all other players are on the board. Determining the skill of the current hall monitor is a huge part of the decision. I might purposefully opt out of a close room with a fish in order to avoid the hall monitor located in the next room. Instead, I might flick down my own hallway and wait it out a turn, hoping the monitor will chase down another player. I don’t lose much for getting caught, but it does decrease the overall margin of points, as the hall monitor gets a card for their troubles.
The endless chase of a lucky hall monitor who bounces into your room is exhilarating. This simple game can bring so much chaos and fear in just a few seconds. The bloodthirsty hall monitor wants fish and when they finish their wobble so close to you, it’s horrifying. A misflick will land you in the same room you started, with the hall monitor only needing a powerful thump to slam all around the bouncy walls of the room and smack into you.
As a hall monitor, nothing builds adrenaline at the table like “head shot” flicking yourself into a room of three penguins that thought they were totally safe on the other side of the board. Getting good at the room-jumping trick is somewhat essential to the game, and makes for hilarious imagery of a chubby bird body-slamming into a group of their friends.
In a fascinating design choice, the rooms of Ice Cool break down into one another, with each room varying in size. The entire game essentially folds into itself for fast setup and teardown, making each game of Ice Cool a pleasure and not a chore.
One gripe I have is no room for variability. Playing by regular scoring rules, the only variability offered was which cards you’d draw. I’d love for a bit of extra variance by adding one or two extra rooms with only one door in and out, or a room only accessible by “head shot” flicks. One must acknowledge the audience Ice Cool is designed for, and that should put to rest any displeasure with variability, but it still bugs me some.
It’s a bizarre game, but provides lots of silliness with just the right amount of skill. Oh, and did you miss the pun in the title?
A review copy of Ice Cool was provided by Brain Games.
The Bottom Line