Episode 5: Game Systems: Icehouse & piecepack, Alien City

Here is episode 5. It’s been a LONG time since episode 4, sorry about that! I should be better about this in the near future. I want to apologize for the delay. I spent a lot of time working through an injury, a sick/dying/dead family pet, a tree falling on my car, audacity problems, and more. Sorry all.


  • The travel piecepack sets are valued at $40. I included shipping and rounded up.
  • The stackable plastic Icehouse pieces were originally sold in a boxed set of four stashes with the rules to four games (Icehouse was not one of them), not as single stashes. I didn’t go back far enough in time when I was thinking about how they “were originally” sold.


As always, I’m very interested in feedback. Here are some of the links from the show:

I finally listened to this after I uploaded and I need to apologize for the sound quality. I think the level control s/w that I ran on it really distorted things. The music between the sections got reduced to virtually nothing and the outro got very distorted. I may try to regenerate the MP3 w/o the level control or the noise cancellation.

Some clarifications: There are currently over 160 of both Icehouse games and piecepack games listed on their respective wikis. I don’t think I said anything that was incorrect, but I was implying that there were more Icehouse games. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I was only looking at the games on piecepack.org and stuck with a preconceived notion.

The prize:


The music was found at: http://www.incompetech.com/

  • Funky Rap Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 2.0″ http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
  • Whimsy Groove Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons “Attribution 2.0″ http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

10 Responses to “Episode 5: Game Systems: Icehouse & piecepack, Alien City”

  1. rwhe says:

    Hi Joe,

    Your link to episode 5 is actually a link to episode 4. Could you please fix this? I am eager to hear the episode.

    Ron Hale-Evans (author of the “Game Systems” series for _The Games Journal_)

  2. :blush: Okay, it’s fixed. Sorry about that. Gamestorm got in the way of me noticing and fixing this. It turns out that my uploads all failed and I didn’t notice.


  3. ludio_king says:

    Nomic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomic
    Online Nomics : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomic

    Dvorak: http://www.dvorakgame.co.uk/index.php/Main_Page
    Online Dvorak: http://www.dvorakgame.co.uk/index.php/DvorakMUSH

    Play the following games online:
    Barsoomite Go (2-player)
    Barsoomite Go (4-player)
    Fluxx (version 3.0)
    Fluxx (version 3.1)
    Space Station Assault

    Idea for essay: What makes a good abstract game? What do you look for in an abstract game? Ideas for those who are creating new abstract games on how to make them attractive to you as an abstract gamer.

    Strategy section:
    1) don’t underestimate the value of what seems like trivial strategies. They may seem trivial to you, but may in fact be over looked by others, especially if they are always playing with the same group of players.

    2) quote any strategies you find in the rules or found at BBG.

    3) perhaps create a blog entry announcing the game you are going to review before the strategy section is recorded, asking readers for their strategy hints. this adds to the sense of community.

  4. ludio_king says:

    Online games
    http://volity.net/ with the following games
    Barsoomite Go (2-player)
    Barsoomite Go (4-player)
    Fluxx (version 3.0)
    Fluxx (version 3.1)
    Space Station Assault

    Nomic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomic
    Online: http://www.nomic.net/~nomicwiki/index.php/AliveStatus

    Dvorak: http://www.dvorakgame.co.uk/index.php/Main_Page
    Online: http://www.dvorakgame.co.uk/index.php/DvorakMUSH

    Idea for podcast: Anatomy of a good abstract game. What do you look for in an abstract game. How can aspiring abstract game designers make better abstract games?

    Strategy Section:
    Don’t underestimate the value of “trivial” strategies. Often they can be overlooked, especially if a group of people only ever play amongst themselves.

    Don’t be afraid to quote strategies found in print (often in the rules, which some may not have even read!) or from BGG.

    Announce the game in a post prior to recording the strategy section, requesting listener’s strategy hints. You may get more content this way, and it adds more sense of community.

    Take notes while you are playing. This may help you remember or voice the choices made.

    Don’t be afraid to include a diagram on the site and refer to it. It may be a little annoying for those listening away from the machine, but being able to refer to a situation and have a diagram could help.

  5. Merseine says:

    1) Ping! Feedback! (I’m officially entered…) As for other sites… I’m sure you know about AsoBrain, right? (add a www in front and a dot com behind, and you’ve got it) I don’t know if they’ve got the style of games you’re looking for, but I thought I’d toss it out here.

    2) Essay portion: how about your take on “Competitive Games vs. Cooperative Games” ? Or what about Game Awards – and what they mean? Spiel des Jahres is not necessarily the best game of the year – but is the best recommendation that one set of judges could give to German families for their family game play. Or “what makes a 2 player strategy game different (better/worse – you choose) from a 3-6 (or more) player game? Just ideas… flesh out as you see fit or toss in the dumpster, I’m cool.

    3) How to structure the strategy section. Wow… you could do a lot of research into Game Theory, but looking at Military Strategy (all hail wikipedia…) I see this breakdown:

    The Objective
    Concentration (Mass)

    Look at a game and tell us strategies for Offence – or how to cooperate with your opponent to have him/her help you get to your own goal. Or explain for that game how concentrating your pieces (or not) is a good idea. Are there ways to surprise your opponent, or can you set yourself up securely?

    Just another angle that might help.

    Great podcast – I’m glad you posted it on the lists. It’s a “must hear” for me now.

  6. Krisjohn says:

    Response for the competition.

    Okay, that’s one entry 😉

    On-line games: You can play Zendo inside Second Life http://secondlife.com
    “Zendo in a box” is free from Perry 226, 34, 37. It’s basically just a set of four colours of pyramids plus black, white and grey stones. If you know your way around the editing interface, you can conceivably play any Icehouse game with it, except maybe Cracked Ice, since there’s no real gravity in SL. The Looney Labs Fans group is currently finding a home for a Treehouse set. (Feel free to join the group.)

    Essays: There are two Geeklists on BoardGameGeek that I would recommend as starting points for essays;

    My search for the ultimate group/party game
    (This is a list of geeklists detailing my attempts to find games that are suitable for a large group of people.)

    Game Interventions
    (How to get people to try games outside the mainstream by showing them something similar to the current game they enjoy.)
    You could probably use a similar concept to transition people from themed to abstract games.

    That’s two entries.

    I was also going to suggest seeding your discussion with strategies from BoardGameGeek.

    There are some interesting videos popping up on YouTube. I’ve been collecting Looney Labs related ones at http://youtube.com/group/looneylabsfans — I think there’s at least one where Andy Looney talks about Homeworlds strategy. Here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=081STRjOFMw

    In that video he talks about a specific strategy, or “gambit”. If you have problems discussing complete strategy, you could instead discuss specific gambits.

    That should be three. Thanks for the compo!

  7. palindrome says:

    I’m kind of at a disadvantage here: I’m not a board game “geek”. Not to disparage those who are. I’m just not. I do however subscribe to the piecepack yahoo group (where you posted an announcement for this particular podcast), and made piecepacks for my family and in-laws last Christmas. I stumbled onto piecepack a few years ago and love the idea of a public domain game system that was simple but allowed for complex and interesting games. I play with my wife and my second-grader and my kindergartner. The kids love Powerlines and Worm Derby and Froggy Bottom(the name always makes them giggle). My favorite piecepack game is currently Sarcophagus.

    I enjoyed the podcast (even though I’m probably not your target audience), but since I haven’t purchased an Icehouse set yet, I didn’t follow your discussion of Alien City strategy very well. Your enthusiasm for the game and your discription of the Icehouse pyramids made me want to buy a set and play the game (well done). Discussion of strategy is invariably dry, unless your audience is as at least as well-versed in the game under consideration. I’m reminded of the Red Dwarf episode where Rimmer described in minute detail a Risk game he had played in Cadet School. Not that yours was so bad. I listened all the way through, so that’s saying something, anyway. I guess this goes back to my previous point: I’m not your target audience. Would your target audience be familiar with Alien City or are you trying to hip them to the new and awesome game? This would help determine your strategy in discussion of strategy. Whether you highlight game mechanics that augment the playability of the game, or delve into opening moves that consolidate good board positions might be considerations you take into account.

    The podcast is nicely structured; you’ve got a good voice, and a passion for your subject. To be honest, I’ve been a podcast virgin up to today. I’ll be checking back to see what you’ve got in the future. You’ll always have a special place in my heart as my first time ;).

    I want to win the freakin’ Blue Panther set. I’ve been drooling over those for a while.

    Rock on.

  8. Thanks to everyone for the feedback so far. Please keep it coming. Either here or via e-mail to abstractgamer@yahoo.com. You can also leave it on the thread on BoardGameGeek.com where I announced this episode.

    Palindrome, you make a good point that made me think. The strategy tips I’ve been thinking about are really only useful for people who have played the game. I will need to sit down with my mission statement and really consider how I want to deal with this. It was asked for by the listeners in the first few podcasts, so I’m inclined to figure out a way to include it.

    I think I know my next essay. There have been a couple comments that lead me to it. I’m going to dust off some things I’ve written about strategy and tactics in general and make sure that it’s usable for a podcast.


  9. Tuxhedoh says:

    JEEP – I’m looking at the BluePanther piecepacks. How’s the fit of the pyramids on the travel tiles? Do they fit together well? If I’m going to buy one and money’s not an issue, would you think that I should get the full-size plastic ones?

    Thanks for the podcast.

  10. The one point Icehouse pyramids fit almost perfectly on a quarter of one of the travel sets. If I had some Zero Point Icehouse Pyramids, I could play Alien City with it. 😉

    I am regretting not holding out for the plastic pieces. I’m happy to have my wooden oak set, but I think that plastic is the way to go. I’m happy to have done my part in getting Blue Panther to really understand that there is a market for piecepack, though.

    And you’re welcome for the podcast. Next week should be busy. I’m going to put out the next episode AND a the first in a new Learn to Play series.