Under the Hood of the Modern Icehouse Set

Looney Labs Design Memo, 7/29/99

Our plans for the overall design of the Icehouse product have evolved quite a bit in the scant week since I posted the first details of those plans. I've updated this design document accordingly. Again, remember that the future is always in question and everything here is subject to change.

The modern icehouse set will include 3 books and 3 informational cards, plus of course, 60 beautiful plastic pyramids.

The Pieces

The pieces themselves will be very much like what we speced out in the quote request we posted here last winter: hollow, with thick walls; designed to fully nest without sticking together; and molded in translucent crystal polystyrene, in red, blue, yellow, and green. The pieces will conform to the established traditional sizes. Each will have our URL etched in tiny letters on the base.

The Packaging

The packaging for the modern icehouse set will be as unusual as the game itself. Instead of hiding the pieces inside a cardboard box, we're going to use a crystal-clear plastic box, with 4 sides exposed, so that you can see the pieces rattling around inside. The box we've chosen is nearly cube shaped, being 4.5" tall, with a square base measuring 3.5" x 3.5". We will pack the books and cards in on either side of the box, so that you'll be able to see and read the fronts of the 2 cards even when the box is sealed and shrink-wrapped. The 2 cards then will fulfill the functions of the top and bottom panels of a traditional board game box, with one card sporting full-color splash art, and the other providing as much info about the product as we can cram onto a slightly narrow index card. Lastly, the lid will bear a new round black Icehouse sticker.

The Name of the Product

An issue we've been struggling with for quite some time has been the name of the product. Years of test marketing and focus group feedback have convinced us that Icehouse itself is too complex and inaccessible a game for most players. Although the rules will still be made available on the website, they will not be included with the game set.

Nevertheless, the product will still be called Icehouse, because even though we don't include a game called Icehouse in the product, we do still call them Icehouse pieces. We're moving away from thinking of Icehouse as a specific game, and instead focusing on the image of Icehouse pyramids as general use game pieces from another planet, used to play a bunch of different games, in much the way we use a deck of playing cards. The full name of the product, therefore, will be Icehouse: The Martian Chess Set.

To suggest that Icehouse is an alien word meaning "chess set", Alison created a really cool logo for us that looks like the word Icehouse written in Martian text.

The Books

Book 1 - IceTowers/IceTraders: The first of the three books will focus on games that can be played without any additional equipment: IceTowers and IceTraders.

Book 2 - Zarcana: The second book will feature the complete rules for Zarcana, designed by John Cooper.

Book 3 - Martian Chess: The third book will feature the rules for Martian Chess, accompanied by a previously unreleased work of Icehouse related fiction by Andrew Looney, entitled "The Martian Archeological Society." This newer piece of fiction will help put Icehouse into perspective, promote the original fiction that started it all, and explain why the cover art features an alien cityscape composed of pyramid-shaped buildings.

The Informational Cards

The Mars Card: Facing out on one side of the box will be a color glossy card, a little smaller than a postcard, with a new Martian cityscape, painted by Dawn Petrlik, and the words "Icehouse: The Martian Chess Set." Seen through the crystal clear plastic and shrink-wrap, this will serve as the top of the box. The back of the Mars card will feature some background information on Icehouse and its glorious 100,000 year history.

The Box Bottom: Facing out on the opposing side of the box will be another card, with a description of the games within, plus the UPC, contact info, etc. Here's what the current draft looks like:

The Zarcana Reference Card: Because of the frequent need to consult the major arcana translation key, we'll be including that key on a handy reference card.

Release Schedule

We've scrapped our plans for a 2 version release schedule, and plan to have everything ready to begin assembling and shipping product as soon as the factory delivers the pieces.

We plan to make a special pre-order offer available soon. Tune in next week.

At some point we will also make available a spiral bound volume containing a complete printout of the Icehouse website, as well as the rules for the other icehouse games (Focus, Igloo, DNA, Trice, Ice Chess, etc) that aren't included in the actual game set, for the benefit of those without web access.

Lastly, we will also stock and sell the Londa Tarot, the deck we prefer/recommend for use when playing Zarcana. These will go on sale at the same time we release Icehouse: The Martian Chess Set.


Well, what do you think? Any questions or suggestions?