The gameplay area in Ice Team is made up of four unique tiles which players place as they wish to make their course. There’s only one rule: the tiles must be placed so that you have to go through all four to reach the village. Players also randomise and place the ice tiles, meaning each game is totally unique. This means you can have a good few games in one sitting without it feeling repetitive at all. Paired with how quick each game lasts (roughly 20 minutes), Ice Team is a really easy way to play a board game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the complex beasts like Gloomhaven, but sometimes you just aren’t in the mood to spend ages setting up and want to get straight into something. For me, that something is often Ice Team.
There is also a surprising amount of strategy in Ice Team. Players can lose the game if they end up not being able to make a move, either because so many ice tiles have gone that they are stranded, or if they end up trapped by the other player. The former is, according to the game’s instructions, quite rare, but the latter is how Ice Team can get competitive. With this in mind, each movement can become strategic as you plan how to get to igloos while attempting to block off your opponent. There are other ways to play the game, and so if aggressive blocking doesn’t sound like you then don’t fret. So whether your playing style is more ‘keep to yourself’ or ‘stop them at all costs’, Ice Team has you covered.
Fish Are Friends…
For such a small game, I wasn’t quite expecting the level of quality Ice Team offers when it comes to… Well, everything. Small, quick-play games can be great but can lack that depth to make you want to play again, and I can find that their components lack the quality of the more expensive games. This isn’t to say that small games are worse; it’s just that once you’ve dipped your toe in the world of funky miniatures and flashy box art, it can be hard to get excited by smaller releases.
Ice Team impressed me. From the box to the bears, every detail is just delightful. The boards are made of quality material and feel gorgeous and sturdy. The same goes for the ice tiles, which are thick and just scream quality. And the bears… My gosh, the bears. Not only are they beautifully made, but they’re just so cool to look at. Even the end tile is so sweet, who doesn’t love polar bears knitting! Every aspect has been designed with care, even the box that’s small enough to be so easy to carry but not so small that you have to cram anything in to put it back. In fact, after playing you can just swipe your table clear, and everything just sits nicely in the box.
What’s cooler than being cool? Ice Team. Bad paraphrase of a great song aside, Ice Team is a cooler than cool two-player racing game where players see who can be the first to get their four polar bears across the finish line having collected the most fish from igloos to be crowned coolest of the ice caps.
Bear to Igloo Four
For anyone out there who struggles to pick up board games, this is the one for you. Ice Team (or as Shut Up and Sit Down aptly named it, Bear Chess) is a delightfully simple game that takes as little time to set up as it does to teach. Ice Team allows players to only take one type of action: a move action. Players take it in turns to hop their team of four polar bears across the board, collecting fish from igloos as they go, racing for the village tile at the end. It really is that simple. There are four different types of tiles that have different abilities, but these are explained really clearly in the rule book so no need to worry there.
… Not Food
Overall Ice Team impresses me on every front. While it might not be as eternal as, say, snakes and ladders, it is certainly one of the best small games I have had the joy of playing, and I don’t see it going anywhere. Given the current pandemic too, this is the perfect game for board-game newbies locked down with their partners or families, as even your grandma can learn how to play.
From the design of the box to the components to how the game plays, every piece of this game has been beautifully crafted. It provides a nice new spin on the classic two-player games like chequers. If you’re looking for something to play with your kids on the weekend, or to pass the time during this lockdown period, Ice Team has your back, and you won’t be disappointed with it.