Welcome to the online version of the rules for the original Icehouse Game, called Icehouse. Here you will find the contents of the original book, The Icehouse Handbook, with some additional material culled from the various issues of Hypothermia.
The Story of Icehouse
It may seem odd to you that the rules for the game known as Icehouse are not included in the Icehouse game set currently offered for sale. The short explanation for this is: it's kind of like duct tape. Few people who use duct tape actually use it on their ducts... yet everyone still calls it duct tape.
In the decade since the first small press publication of this ancient Martian board game, modern game designers have been coming up with lots of other uses for the colorful little pyramids, observing that they are remarkably well suited for use in designing games. These new games have come to surpass the original in popularity, so much so that only the four most popular of the new games were included with the new edition of the game published in 1999, with the original game rules being made available only online.
The original game of Icehouse is played without turns, and involves strategy, diplomacy, fast thinking, physical dexterity, and etiquette. It's a little hard to learn though, so it's only recommended for advanced gamers (and enlightened masters of the ancient Martian arts). For those intrigued by the challenge of Icehouse, the complete rules, as well as strategies, variations, playing tips, a detailed sample game, and a FAQ file, are all available here. There's also an internet mailing list and a long standing annual tournament, now held each July, at the Origins gaming convention in Columbus, Ohio.
The Icehouse experience actually begins with an unusual game
played by some characters in a piece of short fiction. In the
original draft, only the game pieces were described with much
detail; the actual rules of play were unclear. The story later
grew into a novel, entitled The Empty City, which advances
the theory that Icehouse was actually played a thousand centuries
ago, in the ancient crystal cities of the planet Mars. The full
text of The Empty City is
also available online.