We Don't Need No Education - An ICECOOL2 Review
Dexterity games are an odd subset of board games. There is very little long-term planning. Mentally, you aren’t mathing out which is the better decision or tabulating your resources. The state of the board is a more spatial state as opposed to static conditions where your player pieces are rarely influenced once placed. Even emotionally, dexterity games evoke a sense of laughter and awe while traditional games offer more poised players, even when deserving the same “awe” that dexterity games provide. And this is without mentioning the actual physicality of playing dexterity games.
ICECOOL2, the standalone expansion to the 2017 Kinder Spiel winner ICECOOL, is one of those easy-to-play games that takes multiple plays to even be decent at. Like other modern flicking games that offer something different from the competition, ICECOOL2 (which I will be calling ICECOOL from this moment on unless 100% necessary) uses weighted plastic penguins shaped like round-bottom bowling pins to flick instead of discs. As a result, you can perform some really cool shots (more on that in a second) and the birds bob like inflatable punching bags after each shot.
In the game, you flick the penguins around a frozen school, ducking under doors to grab your player-color fish that are clipped to the frames of three doorways. All but one of the players are trying to flick their penguin through the door to take their fish off the top, which allows them to draw a fish card with a point value hidden from the others. While everyone is sliding around to gather food, the final player acts as the school’s current hall monitor. Their objective: collide with the other players to take their hall passes, which ends the round once all are collected. Otherwise, once a player collects all of their fish, the round ends.
The penguins themselves are the huge draw to playing ICECOOL vs other flicking games. You can thwack the penguin and it will maybe go the direction you’re aiming. But if you tap the base of the piece on either the left or right, it will roll while pivoting to the side you flick. So if you’re wanting to go through a room, but think that a straight shot would be a close call, you can try to curve it into the doorway and then potentially even curve it through the next frame too. You can even punt the penguin over walls by flicking one on the head to bounce it into the neighboring rooms. It’s always a spectacle when someone pulls off a near-impossible shot.
It also has a clever way to assemble the playing space. The layout of the frozen school is made from cardboard squares that slide into the bottom half of the box. You set them out the way the rules instruct, and clip them together at designated markings that line up at the top. One of those parts is the bottom part of the box where all those rooms sit for storing. And to help with the board’s stability, the fish you are racing to collect are used to clip the doorways together.
Other than that, it’s a very basic game, which makes sense since this is a game for kids. One nice addition is that if you own both ICECOOL 1 and 2, you can combine them into multiple different maps to play a larger version of the game. It also offers you a new racing mode of play. I have no experience with said variant, but it’s great to know for fans and owners of the original that there is still a reason for purchasing ICECOOL2. And it brings the total number of players up to 8, which makes it fun in larger groups.
I’ve spoken a lot about the positives of this game, but that’s not to say there aren’t some cons. The biggest one is scoring. Unless playing the tournament mode, you have a deck of fish cards that have scores of 1-3. When you scoot through a doorway, you will draw a card at random with a numerical value to score your fish. Basically, your score is all up to the card draw, which is great to keep kids engaged and excited at the thrill of drawing a card. But for the adults, I see it as fairly lame.
While playing with that method of scoring, the cards do offer a way to have some special abilities. You can reveal two 1’s to activate ice skates, which gives you back-to-back turns. You can also reveal two 2’s to move fish from one doorway to another. While those are nice, you still have the luck of the draw. And, as we found out in our last game, even though you reveal those cards, you do not spend them. They still count as points at the end of the game. You can also play with tournament rules, which removes all 2 and 3 scoring cards and makes all fish worth one point, eliminating the luck. It also removes those special abilities I just mentioned.
I had a game that boiled down to one player flicking his penguin around the starting area until he was able to react to where the hall monitor was heading. The experience was soured by that strategy. It made for the first turns of the game to be pretty sluggish, but really it’s a minor quibble. He was also quite intoxicated at 9:00am, so we can give him a pass for not being interested in participating.
To counter that example, the game is not a huge time commitment. Compared to scenario-based dexterity games like Catacombs or Flick ‘em Up, a game of ICECOOL takes anywhere from 10-30 minutes at max. We had one round where Nick and I had pretty miserable first moves and ended up close to one another. Joel made the bold decision to jump over the entire school with his penguin into the starting room where Nick and I were standing. And somehow he pulled it off. That penguin soared over the middle room, bounced off a wall or two and collided into us.
Like I mentioned prior, this is a kid’s game first and foremost, so my thoughts on the game have a slight asterisk to them. But judging ICECOOL against other flicking games, I have to say that it’s not at the top of that category. Still, for those looking for a game with simple rules, fun trick-shots and low time commitment, this is a good one to play, especially with kids. It’s an overall fun game, but hard to determine how long the legs are on it when reviewing it without having kids of my own. I may reflect back on it once I get it played with my friends’ kids.
Median Score - 4 out of 7
Dylan’s rating: 5 out of 7
Scott’s rating: 4 out of 7
Nick’s rating: 4 out of 7