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Tom Vasel
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I often have a good feel for a game, after reading its instructions, as to how it will be received by the different groups I play with. Occasionally, I’m dead wrong. A game I bring out will be greatly hated by those I show it to (and I thought they’d love it!), or the opposite would happen. Thus was true of Igloo Pop (Zoch Verlag and Rio Grande Games, 2003 – Klaus Zoch and Heinz Meister). When I first heard of the game, it sounded like a silly children’s game. Once I got it and read the rules, it sounded like a fun, but still silly children’s game.

I thought that the game would be enjoyable but would pass with the children and fail with the adults. To my surprise, this is currently one of the top games at my teenager game club, and the adults love to play it as much as the kids. And I agree with them – while there is no great strategy (a little), the game is just so much fun! And the idea is certainly unique, even though the theme is one of the most ridiculous ones I have ever heard of in my life. Fun is the key word here, and Igloo Pop provides it.

Twelve plastic igloos are placed in the middle of the players, mixed up, with each igloo containing from two to thirteen glass beads in them. There is a sticker with the number on the bottom of each igloo – denoting how many beads are in them, but when all the igloos are sitting on the table – they look identical. Each player receives ten “thalers” (round wooden discs) in the color of their choice. A stack of cards is shuffled and placed on the table, after nine cards are dealt face-up and placed in a circle around the pile of igloos.

One player counts to three, and a round begins. All players simultaneously take one igloo and shake it (without looking at the bottom!) If they think that the number of beads in the igloo is the same as the number depicted on one of the face-up cards, they place one of their thalers in the igloo and then place it on top of the card. This igloo can no longer be touched by other players. Otherwise, they place the igloo back in the center, and play continues. Once all igloos are placed on a card and/or no players want to place the igloos left in the middle of the table, the round ends, and cards are scored.

All the igloos are turned over and compared to the numbers on the cards. Each card has one to three numbers on them, with the cards with only one number being worth more points. If an igloo matches the number on a card, the player who matched the number gets their thaler back and also the thalers of any other player who placed incorrectly on the card. They also receive the card, which is worth points. If no igloo on a card matches the numbers shown, all the players lose the thalers in the igloos to the box, never to be recovered. If more than one igloo matches the numbers on the card, the igloo with the higher number wins the card, but the other correctly matching players get their thalers back.

All the cards that were claimed during the round (if any) are replaced by cards from the deck, and the game continues. The igloos are shuffled, and another round begins. If the deck is exhausted of cards, or if any players have run out of thalers, the game ends; and scoring commences. Each player scores points for the cards they have taken (1 – 3), and one point for each thaler they have (their own, and their opponents’). Whoever has the most points is the winner!

Some comments on the game….

1.) Components: One would hope that igloos that are going to be shaken hundreds of times would be nice and sturdy, and they are. Each blue plastic igloo comes in two parts. And before playing the game for the first time, they must be assembled with the correct amount of beads placed in each one. The bottoms then snap on, and it’s practically impossible to get them apart – a good thing, unless you put the wrong number of beads in them! I do wish that the bottoms had been made of a clear plastic, because occasionally people won’t believe me that I put the right number of beads in – I DID! The thalers are your typical wooden colored discs found in any self-respecting euro game these days. The cards are nice, and everything has a nice Arctic theme about it, and fits in the nice, small, square box well.

2.) Theme: Speaking of theme, this has to be one of the most contrived themes of a game I’ve ever seen. A giant is going around, shopping for fish sticks. He is shaking igloos, trying to find the right number of fish sticks, and then takes the igloo home. But there are Eskimo children inside instead! And shockingly, they aren’t dead, injured, or frightened, but happy, and the giant forget about fish sticks. I’m not making this up, and it makes me laugh whenever I read it. It doesn’t really affect game play, and the igloos are neat to shake and hold, but it’s weird, I tell you!

3.) Rules: The rules are six pages long, in a nicely colored booklet that has cold, wintry illustrations, and every example, exception, and rule that could possibly be in such a simple game. Of course, it’s always better to have more than to have forgotten a rule. The game is really easy to teach, and everyone, after one round, immediately understands the game, and it’s strategies.

4.) Strategy: I noticed that there is an entire article for strategy at BoardGameGeek, but frankly, folks, there isn’t much here. It’s mostly a guessing game, and a tactile one, where you try to figure out if the igloo you are shaking is holding two beads or three, and whether you should risk more by putting it on a card with one number, or go for the safer one with three numbers.

5.) Cheating: Because the numbers are on the bottom, a player could conceivably cheat easily by tilting the igloos so that they can see them. If you have a player like this in your group, watch them closely, because it’s not that hard. I do caution against this before playing the game in my groups, threatening bodily removal of the person, and we haven’t had any problems.

6.) Fun Factor: The game is piles of fun. It’s really exciting to see that the number you picked is the perfect one, and very satisfying to see when the know-it-all in your group got it wrong! And who doesn’t like to shake little things that rattle? As soon as a game finishes, everyone I play with asks to play it again. I think that this will be a filler that will see lots of play this year!

Because the games are so short, and because they are so fun, this will probably become one of my most-played games this year. When I can fit an enjoyable game for six players in this time frame, it will come out quite often. It’s requested for by the teenagers, and always enjoyed when it’s played. Fun, short, exciting – all good qualities in a game – and all qualities in a game that I recommend you add to your collection.

Tom Vasel
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Jason Thomas
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I'm getting into dexterity games more and more, and saw this one at Thought Hammer, and had the very same reservations about it as you did.

Okay, I will have to check this one out.

Jason
 
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