a heavy duty interactive space opera by john cooper
Note: these rules have been updated.
Setting: IceTraders is a starship colonization and domination game. Players control many ships, each with a different set of technologies, and they move these ships between star systems which also have sets of technologies. Some players may be working together while others are attempting to win independently.
Materials: Full 60-piece icehouse set. When pieces are played standing upright they are "systems". When pieces are played lying horizontally, they are "ships". Ships are pointed away from the owner of the ship, so as to indicate the owner.
Players: 2-5, best with 4. Game time is from 15 minutes to an hour.
Goal: Before play begins, players privately write down if they are going to be Good or Evil. If an Evil player eliminates any other player, then he or she wins. If all the Good players eliminate all the Evil players, then they win. If a Good player eliminates another Good player, he or she becomes Evil and play continues. All players' alignments are revealed once any one player is eliminated by another player. A player who eliminates himself or herself loses the game, and other players do not reveal alignments. If every player except one is eliminated, that surviving player is the winner.
Elimination: For a player to be eliminated, the player must lose his or her last large ship. If the player never had any large ships, the player must lose all of his or her ships. The player who destroys the key ship that causes another player's elimination is said to have eliminated that player. If a player eliminates himself or herself, nobody is indicated as having eliminated that player. If the eliminated player still has small and medium ships in play, they remain in play but the eliminated player may not take any more actions with them.
Setup: Each player selects two icehouse pieces without revealing their selections to the other players. This can be done by writing down their selections or by honor system. Then these pieces are revealed and become the initial set of star systems in the game. They are placed upright in the center of the playing area with some space around each system.
Stash: All the pieces which are neither ships nor systems will be available to players as the rules allow. These pieces should be set aside but be within reach of the players, who will often bring them into play. The players are limited to the pieces in this stash, and a particular type of piece may, at some point in the game, no longer be available in the stash.
Starting: Two systems are said to be "Connected" when they have the same size or the same color, but not both. The player who chose the system with the most connections goes first. If there is a tie, then the tie is broken by the player who chose the pair of systems with the most total connections. Play proceeds clockwise from this player.
First round: Each player must place one small piece of any color next to any of the systems, lying horizontal and pointed away from the player. This is the player's first ship. All of the player's ships in the game will be oriented horizontally pointed away from the player's side of the table.
Subsequent turn options: Subsequent turn options: On a player's turn, he or she may do any of the following actions with his or her own ships:
  • Ship's Power: A ship may use its own power.
  • System's Power: A ship may use the power of the system it is in.
  • Sacrifice: A ship may be discarded to the stash and its power may be used on any of the player's own ships. The ship(s) using the sacrificed ship's power must belong to the owner of the sacrificed ship and may come from any system. The ship(s) using the sacrificed ship's power may not be the same color as the discarded ship. Small ships may be discarded and have their power used once; Medium sized ships may be discarded and have their power used up to twice for one or two of the player's own ships; Large ships may be discarded and have their power used up to three times in one turn. (As an example -- if a player sacrifices a large yellow ship, any non-yellow ship belonging to that player may move up to three times that turn, or several ships can move, as long as there are no more than three total move actions taken that turn.)
  • R&D: Three ships that are in one system may all be discarded to the stash and replaced with any one ship (any color and size) of the player's choice from the stash. 
  • Discovery: A ship may be turned upright to become a system. This system is initially empty, and should be moved to a clear place in the playing area.
  • Pass: The player takes no action this turn.
Powers: There are four colors of icehouse pieces, and each represents a different set of technological power. They are:
  • Yellow - Navigators: Move the ship from one system to a connected system.
  • Blue - IceTraders: Swap the ship with any equal or smaller sized ship of any color from the stash.
  • Green - Colonists: Switch the ship with a larger ship of the same color from the stash. Alternatively, if a system has less than four ships of any ownership, a ship of the same color and the same size or smaller may be added to the system from the stash.
  • Red - Warriors: Destroy a smaller or equal sized enemy ship in the same system as the acting ship. The destroyed ship is discarded to the stash. A larger ship is reduced to the next smaller size by swapping the larger ship for the next smaller sized ship in the stash. If there is no ship of this size in the stash then this option is not available to the player. Players may attack their own ships, but a ship may not attack itself.
Concentrations: If five or more ships of the same color are in the same system at once then the concentration of technologies causes one of the following to occur:
  • Yellow ships - Hyperspace - the system marker must be discarded to the stash. The ships are now in a hyperspace, and have a one way connection to any of the other systems. A ship may only enter a hyperspace from another hyperspace. A hyperspace has no system power.
  • Blue ships - Enterprise - the player who moved in the last blue ship may select a piece from the stash which is smaller than the system marker and place it next to the system marker. If the system marker is a small piece, or if there is already a second system marker, then nothing happens. This system is considered a dual system with both technologies, but the connections to other systems are still based upon the original larger system marker.
  • Green ships - Revolt - the player who moved in the last green ship may take ownership of one of the other ships in the system, by turning the ship so that it is pointed away from his or her side.
  • Red ships - Armageddon - the system marker and all the ships in the system must be discarded to the stash.
(Note:  Hyperspace and Armageddon are mandatory, Revolt and Enterprise are not.)
[Strategies for IceTraders] [Other Games by John Cooper] [The Icehouse Game Set] [top]
updated 4/5/99