To see the sheer joy tinged terror in my six-year-old’s face as he thought the chaser was about to tag him was just hilarious, and the whole of the twenty to thirty minute playtime is peppered with big laughs and huge smiles.
Over my well spent time around the gaming table I’ve encountered tabletop play in many forms. There have been quick blast games, games with so much depth they echo when you open the box, card games, dice games, war games, hidden role games, and so much more. But, one variety that had eluded me was that of the dexterity game. Until now. And this one has penguins.
Ice Cool was my first dip into the frantic and often hilarious waters of the dexterity, or flicking, game. In it we encounter a group of four penguins enjoying a typical school day of three of them whizzing around classrooms trying to grab fish as the fourth attempts to tag them and steal their ID cards. You know, normal everyday penguin business. And the first thing that needs to be noted is that it’s an absolute riot of tension, laughter and wizard-like flicking skills!
The game proved to be ridiculously simple to play. It literally takes a couple of minutes to devour the rulebook, and within a couple more, everyone is involved and grinning like some cat from Wonderland.
The board is particularly clever with its ‘box in a box’ tag, which basically means each room in the game is a separate box that all live within the main game box itself. Each piece links together and is held in place by a small wooden clip. It’s devilishly clever and looks really eye-catching when laid out at the table. The artwork means the whole thing drips with silvery ice and looks fantastic in line with the penguin theme.
Gameplay is fast and fluid with no real bumps in the road to disrupt the whizzing penguins. We played with four of us so it makes sense I give you the basics of that. Each round begins with three players playing as penguins trying to catch fish of their colour. This is achieved by passing completely through a door where a fish is hanging and requires some pretty nimble flicking fingers. There are three fish of each colour and the aim of the runner penguins is to nab their three before the chaser catches up with them. The fourth penguin, the chaser, or hall monitor, has to try to intercept and tag the runners before they can get to all their fish. If the chaser tags a penguin, they take said penguin’s ID card. The round ends when either one runner has grabbed all three fish or, the chaser has tagged all three runners. The game runs until everyone has played as the chaser.
Scoring is recorded by the drawing of cards from a deck, and the collecting of ID cards. Every time a runner grabs a fish they also draw a card. Upon this card is a value of either one, two or three, and this translates into points at the end of the game. After each round every player also draws a card for the number of ID cards they have. So, if the catcher caught all three penguin runners, they would receive four cards, one for themselves and one for each of the penguins caught. Simple.
And that is all there really is to it. Ice Cool keeps things straight forward and relies heavily upon the sheer fun of playing to keep the game feeling fresh and keep players returning for more. If my short time with the game is anything to go by, you will be returning to this game quite regularly. It fits neatly into that place where all you want is a game to throw off the seriousness and simply play for laughs.
Now, in terms of a game that requires flicking, I don’t think I’ve entered this realm since Subbuteo way, way back in the day. But, firing my little penguin around the school rooms was surprisingly easy and a whole lot of fun. The penguin pieces are really well made, nicely weighted and work like a dream. Thanks to being built with a weighted bottom it is possible to add a little technique to the flicking action. A hit on the left or right adds swerve to the move, and believe me, when you pull some Brazilian free kick magic and see your little penguin buddy zip through a couple of doors and nick a couple of fish, it’s a true big head moment. It’s also possible to hit the piece on top of the head and make it jump over walls. This takes some real technique, but does look cool when you pull it off.
Having so far lavished praise upon Ice Cool, there are a couple of mini niggles to discuss. Rather than being game changers or issues concerning play, my only real thoughts here are in ways the game could have been potentially better. This boils down to just two things, and these are almost intertwined. The main one is that myself and my players all felt the game could have benefitted from another couple of rooms in addition to what is already there. Although the play area is a decent size, we found that rounds often went a similar direction, the addition of a few more box rooms might have alleviated this and seen rounds become more varied. The other niggle was that all the fish are gathered together above three doors. So, each penguin has one fish of their colour above the same three doors. If the fish were spread around the board a little more it would have saved each player adopting a similar route to one another. These are only minor gripes and they certainly don’t take any of the fun from the game, they just add a little hint of repetition that could otherwise have been avoided.
One for the Kids?
My plays of Ice Cool involved my sixteen-year-old son, my eleven-year-old daughter, and my six-year-old son, and each one of them loved the game! In fact, the little ones enjoyed it so much they have taken it from the shelf every night and played again, sometimes just with the two of them.
The rules are so child friendly, and set-up is so easy, that the little people in the family can happily play Ice Cool without any adult help.
Watching them play is also an absolute pleasure. To see the sheer joy tinged terror in my six-year-old’s face as he thought the chaser was about to tag him was just hilarious, and the whole of the twenty to thirty minute playtime is peppered with big laughs and huge smiles.
Ice Cool completely ticks boxes for kids, kids of all ages that is, including the slightly older ones such as myself.
Ice Cool is brilliant. It’s as simple as that. It delivers the sort of fun that will see it pulled from the shelf often. The build is solid, the pieces are weighty and beautifully made, and most importantly, the gameplay is fast, frantic and blessed with copious amounts of great moments that will have all at the table laughing, cursing and leaping for joy. In short, add this one to your collection now, you won’t regret it…and well, everyone loves penguins.