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"To The Fluxx Crew: Wow! What a great Game. First I'd like to thank you all for your efforts in making a wonderful game. I purchased a pack of 3.0 Fluxx last night and have played at least 20 games. My wife and I were up all night laughing at the insanity of it all. When I woke up this morning I could only think of one thing... I've got to get more! I just knew the pack of cards I had couldn't be it. I quickly found your website and browsed the many wonderful card ideas..." -- message with a SASE request from Travis H.

Thursday, September 1st 2005
by the Writer's Guild of Wunderland

What's New?

Oct 10, 2005

What's Going On? Giant Cardboard Pieces Are About To Sell Out

Just as the standard Icehouse set has gone through various format changes during its evolution (from solid plastic to wood to paper to hollow plastic), so too has the room-sized version of the system gone through various phases.

In the beginning, there were pillows. Shown here is the earliest photo I could find of people playing with giant-sized pyramids. This was taken in 1991, at the 3rd International Icehouse Tournament. (You can tell it was a long time ago... that's me showing off the hairy top of my now-bald head!) The other player is #12's sister, Cora Dickson (who recently helped us verify the translations of the forthcoming Japanese Fluxx of Fluxx -- Thanks Cora!) and the game we're playing is an Icehouse variant called Mercenary Icehouse, designed to improve the 2 player game by starting each player off with a trio of neutral prisoners. (That's why there are some blue and white pieces mixed in with the red and black sets.)

These "Jumbo" Icehouse pieces were made for Keith Baker by his mom, back in the days when the only way to get any kind of Icehouse set was to make one yourself. We thought it was so cool we begged Keith to get his mom to make us a set, and amazingly enough, she did! Thanks again for all that work, Keith's Mom!

Our set of giant stuffed pyramids debuted at Balticon in 1991 and featured blue, green, purple, and white pyramids (a color selection chosen to play nicely with Keith's set, for those times when our pyramids rendezvoused with his). For several years in the early 90s, we carried these sets around with us (in a pair of giant cloth bags I made) to various conventions, promoting Icehouse in hotel hallways even when we had no booth or products to sell. (We even made sets of T-shirts, in colors matching our 4 stashes, for 2-player teams to don as they played Giant Icehouse, one for the actual player (labeled "PLAYER" ) and the other for that player's "THROWER", this being someone who served as a sort of Icehouse caddie, sitting with the Player's stash of unplayed pieces and throwing to the player whatever piece he or she called for next.)

But truth be told, the "Jumbo" class Icehouse pieces were flawed. The original Icehouse game -- the only one we had back then -- is all about precision placement, and the puffy, flexible nature of pyramid pillows make abuse far too easy. ("What do you mean I can't fit my piece in there? Here, I'll just squish it a bit...") Obviously, the pieces were very bulky (since they can't nest for storage like modern stacking pieces) and while it was fun to have them scattered around the house as throw pillows, they were also magnets for cat-hair and we were always worried about a spill or something staining them. So they went into storage when we dissolved Icehouse Games, Inc, and they haven't been touched during the entire Looney Labs era. Maybe I should sell them off on eBay?

But the Jumbo pyramids inspired many things. While a complete Jumbo set proved to be more trouble to drag around that it was really worth, the smalls were so much fun just to toss around and play with (they had bean-bags in their bases) that we ended up creating more of those (with little faces yet) to sell just as plushies... and these proved very popular. (Hopefully we'll manage to start making those again someday.) The small plush pyramids in turn inspired other adventures; they led to my bizarre online cartoon, Iceland, and also played a small but endearing role in the courtship of Keith Baker and his lovely wife Ellen.

Just as some people now see IceTowers being played with giant cardboard pyramids and assume it's the basic and original game, some people who saw Jumbo Icehouse being played undoubtedly assumed that the pillow fights it sometimes devolved into were all it was really about. This is the explanation for the cryptic phrase on the classic Bates Discordian's T-shirt: "Icehouse: It's more than just a big pillow fight."

And as long as I'm describing the complete history of the giant Icehouse pyramid, I have to also mention Steve Strassmann. He made the first pillow-shaped pyramid, a huge furry black bean-bag chair sort of a thing. It was a wedding gift to me and Kristin, and it's still in use as an object to lounge upon in the Looney Labs office (as Luisa is demonstrating here). It was this first giant plush Icehouse piece that inspired Keith to get a complete functional set created.

The 2nd type of really-big Icehouse that appeared on the scene was the Gargantuan foam pyramids Mike Sugarbaker showed up with at the very first Big Experiment, at Origins 2000. Somehow Mike got a place to carve perfectly-shaped pyramids out of dense, industrial-strength foam, in 4 colors. With their perfect, smooth sides and sharp, clean edges, these foam pyramids were a joy to play giant Icehouse with... but I think they cost Mike a small fortune. Plus of course, by this time, table-top Icehouse had gone stackable, and it was immediately obvious that the game people really wanted to play with over-sized pieces was IceTowers.

But the Gargantuan set inspired Kristin to begin figuring out how to get stackable Giant pyramids made, which led to the availability of the Giant Cardboard Pyramids. Sold by the stash for $22, this edition was also pretty expensive to invest in, particularly since they all start out as plain white pyramids and must be painted by the end user. But this is an advantage too, since these pyramid-shaped white canvases have lead to the creation of some really beautiful custom-decorated Icehouse stashes.

Giant IceTowers is now a standard part of the show we put on at the conventions and gaming events we attend now. They'll be attracting the attention of passers-by and pulling in gamers this weekend at Dragon*Con as usual.

But the Giant Cardboard era of the over-sized Icehouse set is also about to come to a close. We have just 13 stashes left (as of this writing) and when they're gone, that's all we'll be making, so if you've been putting off joining the Giant Pyramid Club, now's the time to place your order.

What's the next step in the evolution of the giant Icehouse set? Corrugated plastic. They'll be just like the current version except made from sheets of colorful corrugated plastic instead of plain white corrugated cardboard. They'll also come assembled, with some sort of plastic riveting system bonding them into shape, with rivet marks that also mirror the pips that appear on the table-top pieces. You won't need to do any painting, and if you're playing with them out in a field and it starts to rain, they won't get ruined! Cool, huh? Kristin's already working on how to get these made, but it's hard to say when we'll actually make them, so in the meantime, enjoy those cardboard pyramids!

AndyThanks for playing our games and reading our webzine, and have a great week!

PS: Our hearts go out to all the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Thought Residue
"My eating habits are terrible. I don't like fruits and vegetables. I kind of like meat. I like doughy things, fried things, and sugar things. That's what I like. And dips. I like things with dipping sauces. And glazed. Things that are glazed. Or have frosting, in some way, or are some sort of a layered, something layered with other things inside that are sugary. Also, I like butter. I like things that rise. Cakey, cupcakey, doughnutty... I like breaded stuff is good. I like breaded bread." -- Kathy Griffin, "My Life on the D-List"

"The foundation of the manfood pyramid is, needless to say, meat. A typical manfood meal has a meat course followed by another meat course. The 'mixed grill' is a shining example of manfood... and 'yes' is the invariant answer to the question of whether you want cheese on that. (Nachos drenched in cheese is a kind of transitional layer between the chip and cheese layers of the manfood pyramid -- or is that getting too technical?)" -- Joel Achenbach, "Kale? Not for This Male," The Washington Post Magazine, August 28, 2005, page 11
Start with Kathy Griffin's eating habits, replace the part about "kind of" liking meat with Joel Achenbach's theory of Manfood (minus the beans and beer), pour on some chocolate sauce, and you've got the perfect recipe for what Andy Looney likes to eat.

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