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My Design Principles for Games with Icehouse Pieces

n.b.: This is very much a work in progress, and is my personal thoughts on what makes a "good" Icehouse game without violating the theme, aesthetic, and abstraction of the pieces. However, I believe that unless you have a Really Good Reason (tm), keeping the following rules will help you create games that leverage, rather than fight, the Icehouse Piece game system. You wouldn't design a card game where a three stacked on an eight behaved as one card with abilities unrelated to either of its constituent cards: in the same way, using consistent principles when designing games using Icehouse Pieces allow the games to share a common bond.


  • Different piece types should be differentiated by size alone.
    • Obviously, some very good games (such as Homeworlds) violate this rule.
  • Colour should indicate relationship, not symbolise role.
    • Indicate controller, owner, territorial relationship (see below), or nothing.
    • Again, Homeworlds demonstrates this can be violated thoughtfully.

Martian Coasters

  • If you use multiple Martian Coasters, board manipulation should be part of the game.
  • Coaster colour should be related to piece colour.
    • Controller or owner
    • Friendly or unfriendly territory

Chessboard Sections

  • If you use chessboard wedges, the game should be playable with two to six players.
  • Establish control by location rather than colour.

Combining Pieces

  • Stack composition should be manipulable.
    • e.g. Using "special stacks" as physical symbols for standard chess pieces (which cannot be altered during play) would violate this principle.
  • Stacks that move together should have their behavior defined in relation to the behavior of one or more of their constituent pieces.
    • Stacks should always remain associations of independent pieces, and not entirely new pieces with their own rules and behavior.
    • e.g. If a pawn moves one space orthogonally and a drone moves one space diagonally, a stack of one pawn on one drone should not perform a knight's move.


  • Colour precedence to indicate turn-taking
    • Rainbow: Red -> Yellow -> Green -> Blue
    • What for xeno?
    • Only valid where pieces are controlled by colour.