Today we’re going to talk about a game that everyone can enjoy which took all of the conventions by storm last year and has also been the winner of multiple international awards. Adorable penguins, penguin school, chasing your family and friends around a board at high speeds… Ice Cool has a lot going for it… Let’s dive in!
Ice Cool is an interesting dexterity family board game with a unique “Box in a Box” design. Essentially, when you unpack it you’ll use nested boxes, pinned together with unpainted fish-shaped clips to form the game board. These make up the school that our little penguin friends are trying to move around in order to find their fish and avoid the dreaded Hall Monitor. Now, that covers the basics of the story, but they’ve included a little comic strip which illustrates it much better:
First off, Ice Cool is a dexterity game, this means that you’ll be flicking, pushing, and nudging your little penguin all around the board and through open doorways cut into the box. This does take some skill and practice. Push in the center of the penguin and they will slide forward, more to the side and they will spin in curved paths, flick them in the head and watch them flip up into the air. This is certainly where a lot of the fun comes from in this game, trying to take those trick shots and making narrow escapes over walls and around corners is awesome.
Much as the story of the game goes, the gameplay involves all but one of the players starting off in the classroom box and running through the school, sliding through doorways and jumping over walls (ok, maybe not as thematically sound as the other movement options, but jumping a wall and landing where you want is just so satisfying!) These “runner” penguin are each on the hunt to be the first to collect all three of the fish in their color. Once they get a fish, they draw a score card.
Meanwhile, the hall monitor (also referred to as the “catcher” by the rulebook) starts off on the opposite end of the board and heads out to find and bump into the other penguins. If he/she manages to catch (touch) another penguin’s figure, the catcher gets to take their ID card and will draw 1 score card for each ID they have (including their own) at the end of the round.
So, what ends a round? Well, the “runners” are competing to collect 3 fish of their own color. As soon as one of them does so, the round ends. But they’re also trying to escape the “catcher” and if he/she collects all of the ID cards, that will also end a round. At the end of a round, the catcher gains their score cards and returns all ID cards to the corresponding player, and then a new round begins with a new player as the catcher. Play continues this way until each player has had a chance to be a runner and a catcher. Finally, tally up the scores and determine the winner.
The components for Ice Cool are few in number, but I love the penguin figures, they are really cute and fun to play with. Everything is very well made as well as being perfectly functional within in the game. While I suppose there could be more detail on the fish clips, it really isn’t necessary—they do the job they need to do and don’t distract or pull focus away from the real gameplay and design of the boards, cards and figures. Honestly, the game does a good job at keeping the focus right where you want it… on the little penguins zooming about all over the board.
Let’s talk a moment about the board. They’ve done a fantastic job at keeping everything contained and easy to set up. As a colorblind gamer, every now and again I’ve mixed up one or two sides, but it is very easy to correct them. But they work wonderfully well, and this design takes less than a minute to set up and cleanup is also very fast and easy.
The Rulebook is well organized and is available in multiple languages. Thankfully, for younger gamers, the game is not at all language dependent, so if you can teach the game to someone, you can all enjoy it all the way through. There are multiple diagrams and images to help you along as well as notes, tips and tricks to help everyone enjoy the game as quickly as possible.
With its cute aesthetic and design, engaging and optional challenging trick-taking gameplay for a wide range of players, I can highly recommend Ice Cool. I love playing it with my 5 y/o and other family and friends. While this game is not likely to dominate your next game night, it is a great quick game that could be setup and played quickly between other games or brought out for more casual get togethers and it will likely be well-received by all.