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Icehouse and the Geek

7mar2009: I don't know when Spring officially starts, but I count it as having started once I have to do yard work. By that criterion, Spring in Albany began yesterday. The weather was warm enough to melt the last berms of ice. So I was out with a shovel and a saw, clearing a strip of lawn that is destined to be a rhubarb patch and cutting back the dogwoods.

I have not posted much here lately. Although I could say that I've been unproductive and under the weather, that'd just be kvetching. I have been posting things elsewhere on the web, the kinds of things that I would have posted here a few years ago.

Here's a rambling post about one of these other outlets.

The game Icehouse was originally described in a short story by Andrew Looney. The game, in the story, "had come to replace chess and backgammon as the standard board game for intellectual competition." The story was eventually expanded into the novel The Empty City, which is available free on-line.

Looney's friend John Cooper invented actual rules for the game in the late 1980s. It became popular and developed a fan base, spreading mostly by personal contact and word of mouth. Looney went on to form his own game company. In 1999, funded by the success of some of his other games, his company started manufacturing Icehouse pieces.

Icehouse pieces are little pyramids. They can be placed upright or pointed in different directions. As described in the story, they come in three different sizes and each player gets pieces in their own colour. Since 1999, the pieces have been hollow, meaning that they can be stacked on top of one another.

Although the game Icehouse still has devotees, hundreds of games have been invented for the pieces. They are now a general purpose set of bits for playing Icehouse games. They are a game system, rather than just being one specific game.

I remember reading about the pieces years ago in Games magazine. I didn't know anyone who had a set, so I hadn't played any of the games. Recently, I bought some pieces and traded for more. By using the BoardGameGeek trade finder, I've been able to make trades with strangers all over the country. Old games that I never played have become games that are new to me, and I've only had to pay postage.

To bring this rambling discussion back to the point: I have documented my adventures with Icehouse pieces in a list at BGG.


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