Simple Life or Death

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Simple Life or Death
Fred Poutre
:Players Players:
:Time Length: unknown
:Complexity Complexity: High
Trios per color: 5
Number of colors: 1 per player
Pyramid trios:
Monochr. stashes: 1 per player
Five-color sets:
- - - - - - Other equipment - - - - - -
Large grid (>16x16), 1 deck of cards for every 2 players, set of polyhedral dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20)
Setup time: 5 minutes
Playing time:
Strategy depth: Medium
Random chance: Medium
Game mechanics:
Theme: Abstract
BGG Link:
Status: complete? (v1.0), Year released: 2987

Simple Life or Death has placed Seventh in the Fourth Ice Game Design Competition.

The Board

Grid requirements: I personally just drew out a very large grid on a piece of butcher paper, which ended up being 17 by 42 squares. It would be very easy to replace this with several chessboards. Two wide by five or six long (for a grand total of 10-12 chessboards). Any grid system will function, that was just the layout I used for the first several times we played. As long as there is plenty of spaces for movement. The minimal size must be at least 16 by 16. One could layout the chess broads in any shapes they feel fit. Even role-playing maps could work well for this game.


Start with an empty board. Remove jokers from the playing card deck(s). Shuffle the cards and deal out ten cards for each player. All players roll one 6-sided die. The one with the highest roll goes first, and then play continues either clockwise or counter-clockwise, as players agree.

Does Size Matter?

The only thing effected by the size of the piece in question, is the number sided die use for movement.


Placement and Movement

Pieces can be placed on any square on the board. If a square is already occupied, subsequent pieces are placed on top of all pieces already there. On a player's turn, if not all of their pieces are on the board, they must place at one piece on the board. Then they must either move one piece, or place one additional piece on the board.

To move a piece, declare which piece they are moving, and in which direction it will travel. Pieces may move in a straight or diagonal line. No turning or zigzagging is allowed. Then choose which die you will roll for movement:

  • Small pieces use either the 4-sided or the 6-sided die to move.
  • Medium pieces use either the 8-sided or the 10-sided die to move.
  • Large pieces use either the 12-sided or the 20-sided die to move.

Roll the chosen die and move the piece a number of spaces in the chosen direction equal to the result of the die roll. The piece must continue moving until it has finished its movement, or one of the following scenarios occurs:

  • If a piece moves off the board, it is removed from play.
  • If a piece would move over a piece of a different color, it is placed on top of that piece instead.
  • If a piece would move over a piece of the same color, you choose whether it stops on top of that piece or continues its movement as usual.

When moving a piece that is part of a stack, take all pieces above it in the stack with it. A piece can move from any position in a stack.



The playing cards are used for attacking and defending. Black cards are used for attacking, and red cards are used for defense. Two is the lowest card, while ace is the highest card; with all others falling in the normal order. When attack, each player places their cards face down. When both cards are down, the players then turn those cards over. The card with the greatest value wins. In cases of ties, the defender is assumed to have won. If the attack wins, the defending piece is removed from play, by the attacker, and placed in their trophy pile. If the defender wins, the defending piece is left in play.

When and Where

When any opposing players' pieces are in an adjacent (straight or diagonal) or same square, they may be attacked. One attack per each piece, per opposing target is allowed. As an example, there are four pieces stacked (red, orange, yellow, and green), in adjacent squares there are two more pieces (red and yellow). On red player's turn each piece is allow one attack on orange, two attacks on yellow, and one attack on green. On orange player's turn that piece is allow two attacks on red, two attacks on yellow, and one attack on green. On yellow player's turn each piece is allow two attacks on red, one attack on orange, and one attack on green. On green player's turn that piece is allow two attacks on red, one attack on orange, and two attacks on yellow. Players must declare which piece they are attacking before they place cards down.

Replacement of Cards

After cards are used they are place in a discard pile. Each player then draws one replacement card. If the replacement deck is depleted, then the discard deck is shuffled and placed in the replacement deck place.

Winning and Losing

If the game is played out completely, the winning is the player that has at least one piece left on the board, when all other pieces have been removed. If they game is not played out completely and the game is closed earlier, then the winner is the player that has captured the most number of the opponents' pieces.

Variant Rules

  1. Instead of using playing cards for attacks/defenses, use rolls of 2d6.
    • Use rolls of 1d12 instead of 2d6.
  2. Instead of using different polyhedral dice for the different sizes of Icehouse piece, use 1d6 for small, 2d6 for medium, and 3d6 for large.
    • Use d8 or d12 instead of d6.
Entered in the Icehouse Game Design Competition, Spring 2005
Winner: Torpedo 2nd (tie): Cold Spell and Spectra 4th: Armada
5th: Ice Market 6th: Transformartian 7th: Simple Life or Death