Sunday, February 18, 2007

Precarious Crystalline Structures

On Saturday my wife went to a scrapbooking and rubberstamping party hosted by her sister-in-law. A little bit before the festivities started I got a call from one of my nephews. The menfolk over there were looking for a place to lay low until the whole thing blew over, so they came over and played some games. We started out playing a couple games of Betrayal at House on the Hill. I got to mangle people with Frankenstein's monster in one of the games, so that was pretty cool. We then played a few hands of Fluxx, which sometimes has as much strategy as everyone rolling some dice and the high number wins, but I enjoy playing nonetheless.

Then, for a little change of pace, I got out the Icehouse set. These little plastic pyramids from Looney Labs are game equipment usable with several different games, in the same way that a deck of cards can be used to play a whole bunch of different games. The game we played was Thin Ice, a stacking game kinda like Jenga but everyone has their own structure they work on. You start with nothing and each turn someone picks on or two pieces that must be added to the structure (e.g. "one large piece" or "one medium and one small"). You are out if you end up with more than 3 pieces on the table or if you have more than two in your hands. Here are the last two pyramid towers left standing in the final round we played.

My nephew Ian's tower. He would have won if he just stopped fidgeting with the darn thing. But one adjustment too many caused him to topple the thing.


My structure, which won the final round by virtue of me placing my pieces and then waiting for Ian to self-sabotage.

The fun thing about Thin Ice is that it tests an entirely different set of skills than most boardgames. A steady hand and 3-D spatial thinking won't do you much good in Puerto Rico or Power Grid.