Ice Weasels Game Review

iceweasels top

The Basics:

  • For ages 5 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 5 players
  • Approximately 15 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Help save the weasels frozen in blocks of ice for fun and profit!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

The local population of weasels have been trapped in ice! Now it’s up to you, a fearless animal rescuer, to venture out onto the ice floe and chip them free. But be warned. Not all weasels are the same and some of them you downright dislike. With so many weasels trapped in ice, you can afford to be choosy, but make sure you time your selections perfectly! You are not alone on the ice and there are others who might want the weasels you are trying to save.

Ice Weasels, a self-published game by Tom Kiehl and P.D. Magnus, is comprised of 72 cards. Within the deck are 7 “standard” weasels types (8 of each), 2 “wild” cards that are essentially weasels wearing a clown costume (as in, “joker”),   2 Weaseltoniums (bonus point cards), 8 Preference cards (double-sided, image of each weasel type with different borders to suggest preference, plus special creature), and 4 helpful scoring cards (double-sided). The cards are nice and thick, easy to play with, and the artwork is colorful. Each of the weasel types is illustrated and colored differently, making them easy to identify.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first find and remove the 4 scoring cards and 8 Preference cards. This can be easily done by simply flipping the deck over so you are looking at the back of the deck. The scoring and Preference cards will be the only ones that do not have the common card backing.

Second, give each player a scoring card and place the Monster Weasel type (green weasel) off to one side of the playing area with the “hate” preference side face-up. No one likes a monster weasel.

iceweasels likehate

Example of the “like/hate” sides on the weasel cards

Third, set the Razorbeak (a bird) Preference card aside for this game and have the players either randomly draw or select a Preference card. This card is placed in front of the player with the “like” preference side face-up. Any remaining Preference cards, including the Razorbeak, are removed for the duration of the game.

Fourth, shuffle the remaining cards (should contain only weasels and 2 Weaseltonium cards) and deal out 15 cards in a single row in the middle of the playing area, face-up. This is the initial ice floe which is full of frozen weasels.

iceweasels floe

You are now ready to save these very unfortunate mammals!

Saving Weasels

The game is played in rounds with each player taking a turn in a single round. On a player’s turn, they can take one or more actions. These actions are summarized here.

Take a Card

For their action, the player can take one card from the end of any ice floe. Initially, the ice floe is a giant line comprised of 15 cards. As the game progresses, the ice floe will be whittled down to smaller sized ice floes. A player can take a card on any of the ends of these ice floes and place it in front of them, face-up. Unless a player can thaw a trio, this ends the player’s turn.

Split an Ice Floe

For their action, the player can take any ice floe and cut it in two. A player need not cut an ice floe so the card distribution is equal, but no ice floe can contain less than 2 cards. Initially, the first ice floe is made up of 15 cards. A player could cut this into 2 different ice floes, and then again, and then again. In this way, cards that were unavailable to take become end cards in new ice floes. Note that no cards are collected when this action is taken. Unless a player can thaw a trio, this ends the player’s turn.

Thawing a Trio

This is a special action and can only be taken when a player has collected 3 or more weasels of the same type and after they have either taken a card or split an ice floe. A player can also use the clown weasels (used as “wild cards”) to represent 1 of the necessary 3 weasel cards in the trio. To complete this action, the player shows the table the 3 weasels cards of the same type they are going to thaw and then places them face-down in front of them. These weasels are now considered “thawed” and should remain face-down for the duration of the game. The player can now take one more action (take a card or split an ice floe) but cannot thaw a trio again this turn.

New Ice

If at any time during the game all the ice floes in the playing area have 2 or less cards, deal out a new line of 15 cards. Keep the current ice floes and make sure the new line does not connect to any existing ice floes in the playing area. In total, 4 ice floes (including the initial line) will be dealt to the playing area.

Scoring

The game ends as soon as the last card has been collected. Once the player completes their turn, all the players now score their points.

First you score thawed weasels…

  • For every thawed trio the player has that matches their “like” preference, they are awarded 5 points
  • For any other thawed trio the player has, regardless if they match the “hate” preference, they are awarded 3 points

Then you score the frozen weasels…

  • For every frozen weasel the player has that matches their “like” preference, they are awarded 1 point
  • For every frozen weasel the player has that matches their “hate” preference, the are penalized 1 point
  • All other frozen weasels count as zero points

Finally, any collected Weaseltonium cards are worth 2 points each.

Once all the points are tallied, the player with the most points wins the game! Hilariously, the game rules suggest the following if there is a tie.

If there is a tie, then the players with the most points should stare at each other with smoldering enmity and whisper, hoarsely through their teeth, “I guess we share”.

Game Variants

The game includes three rule variants that modify the standard game. They are summarized here.

  • Pirates Are Magenta Monsters: this game variant adds the pirate weasel type with the monster weasel type, creating two “hate” Preference cards that affect the entire table. Game play and scoring remain the same.
  • The Razorbeaks: Some of the weasels have a small bird on them. These are Razorbeaks and they are ignored in the standard game. Using this game variant, the Razorbeak Preference card is placed “hate” side face-up next to the monster weasel Preference card. Game play remains the same, but scoring changes. Any frozen weasel cards that shows the Razorbeak will penalize the player 1 point instead of being awarded 1 point. Additionally, if the frozen weasel matches the hated preference type AND has a Razorbeak, it penalizes the player 2 points.
  • Personal Preference: This game variant works best for 2  or 3 players. Instead of each player having a single “like” preference and a shared “hate” preference, each player gets to select 2 Preference cards during game set up and then decides which one they love and which one they hate. There is no longer a shared Preference cards in this game variant, meaning each player now has their own individual scoring rules. Points earned and lost will be done on an individual basis and based of the player’s Preference cards. Scoring is slightly different than the standard game. Thawed trios that match the player’s “hate” preference count as zero points.

To learn more about Ice Weasels and read the full rules, visit the game web page at the Game Crafter.

Prediction

This looks to be a delightful little card game with some meat to it. Collecting sets is certainly going to be beneficial (more points and more actions), but a player is limited to what they can collect by what is available on the ends of the card lines. The ability to chop and divide the lines is going to allow players to get to weasels they want, but they’ll have to do it in a way that reduces the possibility of the weasel being taken by another player. Using a thawed trio to get another turn will certainly help with that, if they can time it right.

Just from the rules, the game would appear to be easy to teach and easy to follow. The available actions are small, game play looks to be fast, and the cards are easy to work with. Yes, I think this game will go over nicely with the Child and Parent Geeks, but will most likely be snubbed by the Gamer Geeks. Even with the needed logical thinking and timing, the game lacks much in the way of strategy or tactics other than collecting sets to get more actions per turn.

Teaching the game didn’t take long. All I did was put out two Preference cards and dealt 15 weasels in a row to demonstrate the actions, the thawing of a trio, and the final scoring. Very simple. None of the players had any questions. Child Geeks all the way to Gamer Geeks understood the game’s objective and mechanisms on the first pass.

And so, as I reset the game for my family, I asked my little geeks their thoughts on the game so far.

“Looks easy. Let’s play!” ~ Liam (age 8)

“Why are the weasels in ice, Daddy?” ~ Nyhus (age 5)

It is never explained why the weasels are in ice, by the way, but something of a moot point as the goal is to get them out of it. Let’s get the game going and see if the players have a good time or if it leaves them cold.

Final Word

The game was a big hit with the Child Geeks. The game is easy to play and fun. A player is sometimes forced to take a card they do not want, but most of the time, this can be avoided. Of course, if everyone is avoiding the cards the players “hate”, players will eventually be forced to take them before the game will end. The trick here is to try to time it so you take as few of those cards as possible and have more than enough points to offset the penalties  This wasn’t lost on the Child Geeks, but it did take one full game until they truly appreciated how important it was to duck and dodge the negative points. Our youngest playtester, at 5-years-old, could play the game just fine. Wasn’t the strongest of players, mind you, but he understood the rules and how to play the game without issue.

Parent Geeks enjoyed the game as much as the Child Geeks, both with their families and their peer group. The game is very casual and fast. Perfect for quick games and when the next room over is full of screaming kids and the adults at the kitchen table want to play a light game with a lot of noise in the background. Non-gamers had no problem picking up this game and were just as competitive as their peers who had much more game experience.

Gamer Geeks played the game, acknowledged that it was a good, descent rules, and way too lite for their taste.

iceweasels play

A quick shot of one of our many games we played and enjoyed!

Gamer Geeks, this is pretty good game but falls woefully short of being the type you would want to play on any given game night. It is, however, a good enough game to bring out and play with friends and family who are not Gamer Geeks and still have a great time playing it. You’ll most likely have to dumb yourself down a bit when you play with inexperienced or non-Gamer Geek players because you’ll see what needs to be done and how to collect the most points well before the first card is taken. Don’t let that stop you from trying this game, however. It’s a good one.

Parent Geeks, your peer group greatly enjoyed this game and found it to be perfect for family gatherings and playing with friends. The game is easy enough to teach in a few minutes and can be completed in less than 15 minutes. The ice floes will quickly get chopped and the card selection options will just as quickly increase. Timing is the primary focus of this game so as to ensure the right card at the right time is available to you when you need it. This can cause a few players to become confused at first, or even frustrated. Never to a point where they wanted to stop playing the game, however.

Child Geeks, this is an easy to learn game that will require you to think through your moves instead of quickly picking a card. Of course, you could just pick a card at random, if you really wanted to, but you won’t win the game. To stay competitive, you need to consider all the cards available to you and how best to set yourself up to collect sets and the cards that make the most points. In the standard game, you won’t be competing for the same “like” weasels, but everyone will be avoiding the one weasel everyone “hates”. This will cause you and all the other players to avoid them as much as possible, but don’t be afraid to take a card that will cost you points if you can gain twice as many points by doing so. Keep track of what you have, what the other player’s are collecting, and just have fun.

Ice Weasels was a delightful surprise. The packaging the game came in was just a blank card box, leaving me feeling initially pretty lukewarm about the game itself. When it came time for the game to be reviewed, I opened the box, read the rules, and slapped my forehead for not opening it up sooner. Here was a game that would have been perfect just a few nights before and would have been warmly received  Shame on me for not even opening the game when it arrived. Never again will I make that mistake.

Gameplay wise, this is a pretty quick one. It can be very challenging to win the game if you are playing with skilled players, but the final scores will always leave players with points. This makes it easy to lose the game and not feel terrible about it. An important point for those Child Geeks who are easily upset when they lose. From a Gamer Geek perspective, I can easily suggest this game to non-gamers and parents as the game is well designed and genuinely entertaining to play. It provides enough challenge to keep the players interested, but from a Gamer Geek perspective, not nearly enough to make me feel satisfied with the game. From a Parent Geek perspective, the game is perfect for family gatherings and playing with other couples. And according to the Child Geeks, the game is “super good”.

So, if you are a Parent or Child Geek who is looking for a fun and fast card game that will require you to think without causing a brain freeze, then do make room at your table for Ice Weasels.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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