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Steven Traver
Players use icehouse pieces to grow forests, build mountains, start fires and melt glaciers.
:Players Players:
:Time Length: unknown
:Complexity Complexity: Medium
Trios per color: 5
Number of colors: 4 (1 basic set)
Pyramid trios:
Monochr. stashes: 4 (1 basic set)
Five-color sets:
- - - - - - Other equipment - - - - - -
Terrafex board
Setup time: 5 minutes
Playing time:
Strategy depth: Medium
Random chance: None
Game mechanics:
Theme: Terraforming
BGG Link:
Status: complete? (v1.0), Year released: 2987

Terrafex is a strategy game of terraforming for two players.

Under development

This game is currently under development, in the Playtesting stage. Feedback is strongly encouraged! Feel free to give comments on game design or structure on the talk page.

Sometime during the Earth's great Ice Age, the leaders on Mars began a long-running campaign to make the third planet suitable for colonization. During those years, there appeared a game, apparently inspired by the terraformers' planning work, the name of which is best translated "Terrafex."

When they left Mars, they didn't leave the game behind.

Overview and Goal

The board is a 7 x 8 grid of squares-within-squares that are sized to contain the three sizes of Icehouse pyramids. The green pieces are used to represent forests, the red pieces represent fire, the blue pieces represent glaciers, and the yellow pieces represent mountains.

The players earn points at the end of the game for any forests or mountains contained in squares of the player's color, and lose points for any fires in such squares. The game ends when all of the glaciers have melted, and the player with the highest score wins.


  • Place the board in the middle of the table.
  • Select one of the initial layouts provided in the appendix, and set up the Icehouse pyramids on the board accordingly.
  • Set in the four labeled squares four large pieces, one of each color, as turn trackers.
  • Put the remaining pieces aside, within reach of both players. These will form the pool.
  • Put the Icehouse container within reach of both players. This will be the fire pit.
  • Decide by some random means who will play white. The other player will play black.
  • Play begins with the player who is playing white.

Playing the Game

On a player's turn, he or she has one action to perform with each of the four different piece types. The player may perform the four actions in any order. In all cases where the option exists to play a piece from the pool, if there is no available piece of the desired size, then the action is invalid.

After each of the actions is performed, the player should topple the turn tracker corresponding to the color of the piece used in the action. This helps to track the progress of the turn, and keeps the players from playing too many or not enough actions. At the beginning of subsequent turns, the turn trackers should be placed back upright. The turn trackers are not considered part of the pool, and the pool should probably be placed non-adjacent to the turn trackers, to keep players from playing the turn trackers as if they were in the pool.

Do the Math

Most of the actions of and interactions between the pieces has an arithmetical basis, where a small piece has a value of 1, a medium piece has a value of 2, and a large piece has a value of 3. These values are used in simple additive or subtractive operations that should make the different actions and interactions logical and easy to remember.


Throughout the following sections, a piece on the board is said to be allowed an alteration. When used, the terms describing such alterations are italicized. Those terms are defined here.

  • Grow - Exchange a piece for a piece from the pool that is one size larger and the same color. Large pieces may not be made to grow.
  • Shrink - Exchange a piece for a piece from the pool that is smaller (by one size, unless otherwise stated) and the same color. Shrunken small pieces are not exchanged; they are put into the pool only.
  • Start - Play a small piece from the pool to any unoccupied square.
  • Spread - Play a small piece from the pool to any unoccupied square orthogonally adjacent to any large piece of the same color.
  • Burn - Play a fire from the pool to an occupied square. Shrink the larger of the two pieces by the size of the smaller piece, remove the smaller piece. If the two pieces are the same size, remove them both. Any fires that are removed in this way are put into the fire pit; all other piece types are put into the pool.
  • Merge - Add the sizes of the merging pieces, and exchange them with a piece from the pool of that size and color. If the total size exceeds three, use a large piece.
  • Melt - Shrink the larger of the two pieces by the size of the smaller piece, and put the smaller piece into the pool. If the two pieces are the same size, put both into the pool.
  • Split - Exchange a piece with pieces of the same color from the pool, of sizes that add up to the original piece's size. So small pieces may not be split; medium pieces may be split into two small pieces; and large pieces may be split into either three small pieces or one small piece and one medium piece. Play the resulting pieces to the board in the manner described below for those pieces.



A forest is any green piece. As the forest action, a forest may be made to grow or spread.


A mountain is any yellow piece. As the mountain action, a mountain may be made to start or grow.


A fire is any red piece. As the fire action, a fire may be made to start, spread, grow, burn a forest or burn frost. Frost is described later.

Unlike the other three piece types, fires are always played to the board by the opponent, after the fire is selected from the pool by the active player.

When a fire is made to grow or burn, the participating red pieces that are not played to the board are put into the fire pit. So as the game progresses, there will be less red pieces in the pool from which to select.

When a fire is made to burn, and the result would be a red piece played to the board, and there is not a red piece of the appropriate size in the pool, then such a piece may be taken from the fire pit. If there is not a red piece of the appropriate size in either the pool or the fire pit, then the burn is invalid and the action may not be taken.

If there are no red pieces in the pool, then no fire action may be taken.


A glacier is any blue piece that is not frost (which is described later). As the glacier action, a glacier may be made to move, and as a side effect of the move may split, melt, merge, cap or frost. Capping and frosting are described below.


A glacier may be moved to any orthogonally adjacent square, so long as it is moving orthogonally away from a mountain, the edge of the board, or another glacier. If that square (referred in the following sections as the target square) is unoccupied, the move is complete. Otherwise, the glacier and the occupying piece are affected as follows.
Glacier to Glacier
Merge the two glaciers into the target square.
Glacier to Mountain
In most cases, the glacier will be split. The glacier pieces resulting from the split may be played to any of the three squares orthogonally adjacent to the mountain (but not the square beyond the mountain), no more than one glacier per square. The result is determined by the size of the mountain, as follows:
  • Small mountain - The glacier will push the mountain. Move the mountain two squares away from the glacier. Put the glacier into the target square. This move is only allowed if the square where the mountain will go is unoccupied.
  • Medium mountain - Shrink the mountain. If the glacier is medium or large, split it into two pieces. In any case, play the resulting glaciers as described above.
  • Large mountain - Shrink the mountain. Split the glacier into a number of glaciers equal to the glacier's size. Play the resulting glaciers as described above.
Glacier to Fire
Melt the two pieces into the target square. Put any participating red pieces that are not played on the board into the fire pit.
Glacier to Forest
Shrink the forest. Place the glacier atop the resulting forest. Note that the shrinking of a small forest will remove it from the board, placing the glacier in the square atop nothing. When topped by a glacier in this way, a forest is said to be either capped or frosted, depending upon the sizes of the participating pieces. If the glacier is bigger than the forest, then the forest is capped; otherwise, the forest is frosted.

Special Configurations

Capped Forests

A capped forest is any forest that has stacked atop it a glacier that is bigger than the forest. A capped forest is considered removed from the game (even though it is kept under the glacier), until the capping glacier is either split or melted, at which time the forest is considered returned to the game, and in the square occupied by the glacier prior to its splitting or melting.

Capped forests interact with other pieces as follows, and are otherwise treated as glaciers until melted or split.

Glacier to capped forest (or vice versa)

Merge the glaciers into the target square. Put the forest under the resulting glacier.

Capped forest to capped forest

Merge the glaciers into the target square. Regardless of the sizes of the participating forests, put a single medium forest underneath the resulting glacier, and put any remaining forests into the pool. If there is not a medium forest available, either in the pool, or underneath the two glaciers, then the action is invalid, and may not be taken.

Frosted Forests

A frosted forest is any forest that has stacked atop it a blue piece that is the same size or smaller than the forest. The blue part of a frosted forest is called frost. A frosted forest may not be made to grow.

Frosted forests interact with the other pieces as follows, and are otherwise treated as forests, not glaciers.

Fire to frosted forest

Burn the frost. Both the frost and the forest may not be affected by fire on a single turn. That is, playing a fire on a frosted forest will only affect the frost, regardless of the size of both the frost and the fire.

Glacier to frosted forest

Merge the glacier and the frost, putting the result atop the forest. The forest will become frosted or capped, depending upon the size of the merged glacier.

Game End

The game ends when the last glacier melts. A player need not perform all four actions for the game to end. When the game ends, the score is tallied, and the player with the highest score wins.


A player's score is determined by the total value of forests and mountains in the player's squares, subtracting the total value of fires in the player's squares. A piece is in a player's square if, when the piece is centered in the square, it is immediately surrounded by the player's color, be that black or white. So a board square will have two scoring opportunities for one player, and only one scoring opportunity for the other, depending upon the size of the piece in the square.

Appendix A - Game Board

  • Board Game Geek - Terrafex Game Board[1]

Appendix B - Layouts

In the following initial layout diagrams, the letters represent the color, not the type of piece; and the number represents the size. So a B3 would be a large blue piece, a G1 a small green piece.

Layout 1

      G2       B3
B3   G2          
      G1 G1      
          G2   B3
B3       G2      

Layout 2

G2             G2
  G1         G1  
    B3 B3 B3 B3    
  G1         G1  
G2             G2

Designing your own layouts

It's important to note that the rules do not provide for the addition of new glaciers or new forests to the board. So an initial layout should contain at least glaciers and forests.

Credits and Copyright


This game is licensed under a Creative_Commons License and is copyrighted © 2000-2006 by me, Steven Traver