Ice Cool- Fishy Flicking Fun!
I first saw Ice Cool while mooching around at UK Games Expo. Despite being there for the whole weekend, I didn’t get a chance to play as every time I tried to, all of the demo tables were full. My wife and children also came up for the day and they did manage to have a go, much to my chagrin. Mind you, the fact that the tables were full every time I tried gave me a heads up that in Ice Cool, Brain Games may have developed something a little bit special.
So did they?
Too Cool for School
Ice Cool is a fun dexterity game made by Brain Games for the whole family. It’s a game for 2 to 4 players and you are all playing as penguins skiving off of school to go catch and eat fish. You collect fish by flicking your penguins through connecting doorways which have fish on them. One player per round also plays as the “catcher”, which behaves something like a hall monitor in a school. It’s the job of the catcher to catch the other penguins out and take their ID, presumably to hand it over to the teacher like a good hall monitor.
Ice Cool is played in a set amount of rounds depending on the number of players so that each player has a turn at being the catcher. If you collect a fish as a student, you get a card from the draw pile which remains hidden from the other players and has a number from one to three on it which count as your victory points at the end. There is a different rule set for 2 players which you can check out in the rule book.
Ice Cool has hands down the cleverest mechanism I have ever seen for storage. Annoyingly, the box is pretty oddly shaped compared to other games but the thing which Ice Cool has that other games don’t is stacking boxes! What would normally just be the bottom of the box is actually part of the school which your penguins go roaming the halls of. Once you have taken the lid off of the box there’s a Matryoshka Doll setup of all of the boxes you need to set up the course with the other components nestled neatly inside of the smallest box.
The other Ice Cool components you get inside the box are the penguins that you have to flick around on their fishy quest, the fish which you’re aiming for, and the cards which you’ll collect for victory points at the end of the game.
Is it Ice Cool to Set Up? It sure is!
The setup for Ice Cool is an absolute frosty breeze. Firstly, you need to take all of the boxes apart. Easy peasy! Then, (really cleverly) the board tells you where everything needs to be placed. After the setup, the Ice Cool school looks really awesome… a cross between an ice rink and what I’d imagine an American school might look like.
The premise of Ice Cool is fantastically simple, but the implementation, not so much. The penguins which are roaming the halls in search of those frisky fish have weighted bottoms so they behave like Weebles, but are much smaller. This means that with some practice you’ll be able to get your penguin to bend through doorways at will, or even jump over walls should you want, but before that your penguins will roll around like drunken monkeys and seldom do what you want them to.
You need to flick your penguin through the designated doorways to collect the fish. Once you have collected the fish you then get to collect a card from the draw pile to count as victory points at the end of the turn. The caveat with the victory point cards is that the cards with one fish (or victory point) on them also have a picture of an ice skate on them. If you collect a pair of ice skates then you can display them to the other players to bag yourself an extra turn. The two and three point cards are just used for victory points.
PvP: Penguin vs Penguin
As previously mentioned, one player every turn plays as The Catcher. Their sole objective is to catch the other penguins and steal their ID. The catcher cannot score points by catching fish, instead they score point cards for each ID they manage to collect. Even if the catcher doesn’t manage to catch anyone they still score a point card for having their own ID. It is quite easy to be the person to turn on the other players when you become the catcher as you build up a level of mistrust when playing as the penguins. There’s nothing more frustrating than having someone steal victory from you by being a dominating catcher and catching all of you out through a combination of sheer luck and the occasional small amount of judgement, especially if you’re having “flappy fingers” and can’t aim your own penguin through a door to save your life. By the same token there is some satisfaction to be had if you can take out all of the other players by some completely flukey shots.
The round is over once someone has either caught all of their fish or the catcher has gotten the ID of all of the other players and the game is over once every player has had a turn as the catcher. Depending on the amount of players, a game can take anywhere from around 15-35 minutes.
Ice Cool or Fishy Failure?
I won’t lie, I had quite a lot of anticipation for Ice Cool. For me it was almost “the one which got away”, since I never got to try it at UKGE, but I was assured by my family that it was quite good. So, was it worth the wait?
Don’t get me wrong, Ice Cool is definitely a little bit gimmicky, but gimmicky doesn’t always translate to being bad and I’m glad that my expectancy didn’t sour the game once I finally did get to play it.
I have had several games both with adults and my kids and have enjoyed all of them. Brain Games recommends Ice Cool for people aged 6+, but I have been playing with my 4 year old and whilst we have to make allowances for him not being as dexterous as the rest of us, he can hold his own pretty well.
This is definitely a family game to start with but I am starting to think that 4 adults with some beer could put a completely different spin on it. There’s no real animosity involved in this game as everyone plays the catcher once, and although you’re all aiming for the most amount of victory points, you can all bask in the glory of a truly amazing shot, no matter if it was for or against you. Ice Cool is also one of those games which has the addictive quality where you can never have just one game.
The very quick setup and equally as quick play time is also a massive plus for this game. It means that someone with a very short attention span will still be able to play it and enjoy it. We all know what it’s like to lose the will to play in the tedious process of setting a game up don’t we!
One completely unexpected but certainly welcomed side effect of playing Ice Cool is that it gets all of the gamers up and moving. Since your penguin ends up in different rooms all around the school, you have to move around the board to keep up with it. It means that you’re not all sedentary and you’re unlikely to wear yourself out, but equally as unlikely to get lots of aches and pains from being sat in the same place for too long.
I really enjoyed Ice Cool and I’d definitely recommend it as a family game night kind of game, or as a 4 player adult party game.
If you’d like to pick up your own copy of Ice Cool then you can find one right here:
For more information and to check out the other games which Brain Games sneakily placed in to Ice Cool then you can check out their website here:
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I am just a regular guy that fell into board gaming. That's why I am no longer allowed in my local Toys R Us. I'm a huge fan of deckbuilding games and games with unusual themes or mechanics. OK, maybe I'm not that regular after all.