Game Name: Ice Cool
Publisher: Brain Games
Designer: Brian Gomez
Players: Two to four
Playing Time: Thirty to forty minutes
Genre: Dexterity flicking game
Retail Price: $39.95
4 plastic penguins
5 carboard boxes — rooms
16 wooden Fish tokens (12 fish in 4 player colors and 4 fish in white color)
45 Fish cards (each showing 1, 2 or 3 victory points)
4 color reminder cards
4 penguin ID cards
Outside the Box
I have to begin by saying my first exposure to Brain Games’ Ice Cool was in the 2016 Gen Con press room. The game had been set up as a display and quite a few folks, including myself, took a quick peek not necessarily knowing what we were looking at. Ice Cool sold out early at the show too so many attendees weren’t able to add the title to their Gen Con hauls. The game has gone on to win a multitude of awards over the following year and, thankfully, Brain Games was back at Gen Con again this year so I was able to secure a review copy.
Ice Cool’s box cover declares the game contains a “box in a box” and the boxes within are actually clipped together to create the Ice Cool High School. This makes for a cleverly thought out storage system as each box is sized slightly differently than the others, and clearly marked with a number, so they all fit neatly back into the game box when you’re finished. Kudos to the designers for going the extra mile to make break down a snap.
For the uninitiated, Ice Cool is a dexterity game where each player has a bottom weighted penguin (along the lines of the Weebles children toys) which they’ll attempt to flick around a frozen high school. These penguins are aimed to travel through three doorways, with colors corresponding to each player clipped above, in order to draw fish cards and score points. The cards are numbered from one to three and these points are tallied at the end of the game to determine the winner.
Once you’ve cracked open the box you’ll find the room boxes are made of nice stock, the penguins are well done with little faces on each, and the wooden fish and box clips sufficiently chunky. The hall pass and fish cards may seem a touch small but, in reality, it isn’t as if they display a lot of crucial game information so I was fine with the size. Set up is a breeze as icons on each of the boxes tell you how to connect them with the clips. I will mention when the rooms are clipped together there are small gaps on the game board but there are rules regarding what to do should your penguin get caught on a gap. Each player then chooses a penguin and its corresponding I.D. card.
I’ll also point out the artwork used to bring the rooms to life is fun as it displays a classroom, kitchen, rec room, cafeteria, and gym. Honestly, I didn’t realize penguins played much basketball but what do I know. These rooms also display red boxes, looking a lot like hockey red lines, which indicate areas where players may relocate their penguin prior to their next shot if they found themselves stuck in a corner or up against the wall. Not only does this make flicking easier but also cuts down on a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the room boxes.
Your penguins aren’t going to just bop around the high school snagging fish at will though as there’s a hall monitor who’s trying to stop the shenanigans. To begin the game, one of the players will take on the role of the hall monitor (also referred to as the catcher) who will need to strike each of the other penguins (called runners) with their own penguin to collect the others’ I.D. cards. With a full complement of four players, this means three will be trying to score fish while one sets out to stop them. The runners will each begin the round by placing their penguin on a red dot located in the classroom and take their first flick. The hall monitor, who begins in the kitchen, may now begin their pursuit of the runners.
Players will take turns flicking their penguins until one of two things take place: A) one of the runners scores all three of their fish tokens or B) the hall monitor has collected all of the other players’ I.D.s. The runners need to be careful during their turns as striking the hall monitor will cause you to have to hand over your I.D. Losing the card doesn’t knock you out of the round though as you can continue to play until one of the two aforementioned conditions take place.
Once a round has been completed, the players will get to draw additional fish cards for each I.D. Card they possess. It’s entirely possible for the hall monitor to draw four cards; one for each of the runners plus their own I.D. Card. A nice little catch up mechanic in Ice Cool is the ability for a player to reveal two fish cards with a value of one in order to take an additional flick. These cards remain face up so those specific pairs are essentially used as a one-shot but will still count toward final scoring. The game continues until each player has had an opportunity to be the hall monitor once.
As the game comes to a close the players will tally the values of their fish cards. Whoever ends up with the highest total is the winner. In the case of a tie, the player who holds the most fish cards is declared the victor.
All in all, I found Ice Cool to be a fun experience. The game itself is pretty clever and it’s interesting trying to learn the best way to flick the penguins around the school. In the games we played, there was plenty of good-natured smack talk when someone would shank a shot. We enjoyed some laughs with a few chilled adult beverages on hand. Ice Cool should appeal to many light gamers of all ages and I can certainly see kids loving the penguins while spending time flicking them around without actually playing within the rules.
While Ice Cool is entertaining, the game probably won’t hold a lot of staying power for more serious gamers. The reality is the game is exactly the same each time you play and, outside the randomness of the fish card draws and the actual shots people make, it’s a lot of rinse and repeat; the runners always begin in the classroom and the hall monitor in the kitchen while the fish tokens are placed over the same openings every round. This lack of variety will cause the bloom to fall of the rose rather quickly for some folks.
I truly believe Ice Cool is an interesting game and design which plenty of people will want to check out. It’s good amount of fun for an hour or so every once in a while but the game isn’t one which I image will come off the shelf too often for my gaming gang. It also doesn’t help that the game is relatively boring with only two players as you really need a full complement of four gamers to get the most from this title. I don’t want to dissuade anyone from purchasing Ice Cool as it is fun but be aware you need the right crowd around the table and the gameplay does eventually become rather redundant.