Martian Backgammon
an Icehouse game designed by Kristin Looney
Version 2.0


  • 2 stashes of stackable Icehouse pieces
  • 2 dice
  • 2 players
  • 3 small objects (such as coins, stones, extra dice, Icehouse pieces of a third color, little wrapped candies, etc.)
  • an imaginary gameboard featuring a 5x5 grid of 1" squares


Begin by stacking up all of the pieces into "trees", these being towers consisting of a Pawn atop a Drone atop a Queen. Now push these towers together into two lines of five, with a gap in-between and with the two colors alternating as shown in the above photo. Place the three small objects in the gap, as shown. These will not move or be interacted with in any way, but they help define the playing field. Finally, move the first Pawn off of the tower nearest the Exit Portal for each player, then roll the dice to see who goes first.

Routes of Movement

This game doesn't require a gameboard, but it helps if you visualize one, as shown in these illustrations, which depicts the pathways you'll be moving pieces along during this game. The first diagram shows where your pieces go and where you want to move them; your opponent will be doing the same thing on the other side, with your opposing pathways interweaving, as shown in the second diagram. Also notice that there's a "safe spot" in the center row for each player, which the other player cannot enter at all.


Moving your Pieces

Your pieces are all waiting in line, in teams of three, in a long hallway with a U-turn in the middle. Your goal is to move all of your pieces out through the Exit Portal at one end, following after your first piece. However, pieces can only leave through the Exit Portal in a sequence that causes them to stack into "nests", these being the opposite of Trees, i.e. stacks consisting of a Queen atop a Drone atop a Pawn. Also, when your pieces move forwards (or backwards) through the hallway, they can only stop when landing atop a piece of the same color which is of the same size or larger.

Rolling the Dice

On your turn, roll the two dice. For each die roll, you may move one of your pieces up to that many spaces along the track. You need not use all of your pips. A piece may move forwards, or backwards.

Whenever you roll doubles, it counts as triples. Thus, when you roll doubles, you get to move 3 pieces. (You could also move one piece 3 times...)

When rolling, be careful not to let your dice crash into the game pieces.

Stepping on Singletons

When possible, you want to keep your pieces together in teams as they wait in the hallway. If you leave a solitary piece unattended (ie with no other pieces on or under it) and your opponent lands on that piece, it gets moved to the Re-Entry Point, a spot opposite your Exit Portal, at the other end of the Hallway. When stepping on another player, you must end your movement there, leaving the piece in the newly-emptied location. That said, you may move the piece again with the other die roll if you wish (and it's still available).

Sliding Down the Stockpile

As your pieces move out through the Exit Portal, they must arrive in a sequence that causes them to stack into a Nest. When a fresh Pawn moves out through the Exit Portal, slide the last completed Nest down one "space", pushing any others ahead of it, to make room for the assembly of the next Nest.


The winner is whichever player gets all 15 pieces through the Exit Portal first. In this photo, green is about to win.


Designer: Kristin
Playtesters: Andy and Alison and Dale
Rules and pictures: Andy

Design Notes

  • This is version 2. For comparison's sake, the version 1 rules are still online.
  • The invention of this game was described in the WWN for 9/13/01.


also see Volcano and Blockade - other Icehouse games designed by Kristin


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