Nov 122007
Chicken Run
David Artman
A barnyard sport simulation
Players: 2
Icehouse stashes: 2 Treehouse sets: 1 Rainbow and 1 Xeno (or 3 matched sets)
Other equipment: A 5×9 grid (a chessboard is suitable; see below)
Setup time: 3 minutes
Playing time: 10–30 minutes
Rules complexity: Medium
Strategy depth: High
Random chance: Medium
Mechanics: Chessboard, Dice
Theme: A whimsical chicken roundup with overly enthusiastic spectators
BGG Link: 33846
Created in November, 2007


There are three basic problems, annotated next to the rules (below) which attempt to resolve them:

  • The Stall Problem (S)
  • The Roll-Off Problem (R)
  • The Blockade Problem (B)
  1. A tied roll can always be used to move a Chicken, even if it is captured.(S)
  2. A larger family member may tackle smaller opposing family members, pushing them to an adjacent orthogonal square.(S)
  3. High-roller (or tied-rollers) must use all movement points, even if that requires uncapping a Chicken. If the highest roll results in no possible moves, then the high-roller must move Spectators instead of family members (but not Chickens).(S,B)
  4. Both sides may use their rolls, high-roller moving first. In ties, previous low-roller moves Spectators or Chickens first, then previous high-roller moves Spectators or Chickens.(R)
  5. During a roll, low-roller moves Spectators or Chickens first, then high-roller moves his or her family members. Ties resolve the same as current (previous low-roller moves only Spectators or Chickens, previous high-roller does nothing).(R,B)
  6. In a tie, both players may move Spectators or Chickens (previous lowest roller moves first).(B)
  7. A family member or Spectator may trample same-size-or-smaller pyramids.(B)

The folks down in Looney Hollow ain’t famous for their culture, which is most evident when one notes their favorite sport: chasing down chickens. People come from all around the Hollow to watch when two families challenge each other to a Chicken Run. The only problem is that the spectators are usually so unruly and fanatical that they feel obliged to join in the game.



Be the first player to capture (put a pyramid on top of) two chickens with family members of the same size as the captured chickens, while dodging and trampling (moving over top of) unruly spectators and opposing family members.


Two Treehouse sets: one of the Rainbow spectrum, one of the Xeno spectrum (or three matched sets, with an alternate setup).

Any 5×9 grid of squares. A chessboard works fine, if one player is willing to have his or her pyramids start on the border (i.e. off the squares), in “imaginary” squares.

Two six-sided dice (d6), ideally one black and one white, though the players can be careful to roll into separate areas, to keep each player’s die distinguishable from the other.


Set the board between the players so that the five-square-wide sides face each player.

Give each player a d6 (ideally, use a d6 that matches the color that the player will be playing).

Use the white opaque pyramids to build one nest (the large on top of the medium on top of the small), and use the black opaque pyramids to build another nest. Each player takes his or her color nest and sets it on the center square of the edge of the board that is nearest to him or her. The pyramids in this nest comprise the player’s family.

Place the yellow chickens upright in the center of the board, and place the spectators upright along the edge of the board, as shown:

Chicken Run Setup - Rainbow and Xeno
Chicken Run board setup: Rainbow and Xeno sets

Note: The colors that you use for the spectators do not matter; but the placement of the large, medium, and small pyramids does matter.

If you have three matched Rainbow (or Xeno) sets, this is an alternate way to setup the board:

Chicken Run board setup: three matched sets


Determine who will go first.

Chicken Run is comprised of rounds during which one of the players will get to move either his or her family or the spectators and chickens. There is, however, a slight twist to the standard turn-based play common to other games.

Beginning A Round

At the start of every round, each player rolls his or her d6. One of three outcomes is possible:

  • Black’s result is higher than White’s result – This round is Black’s round to act.
  • White’s result is higher than Black’s result – This round is White’s round to act.
  • The results are identical values – This round is the round to act for whichever player least recently had a round to act (i.e. if Black acted on the previous round, then White gets this round to act; and vice versa).

Note: If the results are identical on the first round of the game, roll again.

Determining What Moves

Those same die-roll results also dictate what pyramids the acting player may move:

  • Black’s result is higher than White’s result – Black may only move black pyramids (i.e. his or her own family).
  • White’s result is higher than Black’s result – White may only move white pyramids (i.e. his or her own family).
  • The results are identical values – Whoever gets to act may only move transparent pyramids (i.e. chickens or spectators).

Moving Pyramids

Once you know whose round it is to act, the result of his or her die roll represents movement points that the player may use to move pyramids that he or she is allowed to move. Pyramids always move orthogonally—never diagonally—for these movement point costs:

  • A small pyramid uses one movement point to move to an adjacent orthogonal square.
  • A medium pyramid uses two movement points to move to an adjacent orthogonal square.
  • A large pyramid uses three movement points to move to an adjacent orthogonal square.

A player need not use every movement point on his or her turn.

If a pyramid legally moves into an occupied square (see Movement Restrictions) then one of two things has happened:

  • The family member is capturing a chicken, if the square is occupied by the chicken that is the same size as the capturing family member.
  • The pyramid is trampling the occupying pyramid(s), if the square is occupied by non-chicken pyramids smaller than the moving pyramid.

Note: Capturing a chicken is not like it is in chess or checkers: at no time are pyramids removed from the board. Rather, a capture must be maintained—tying up the family member—until the game ends or until the player who controls that family member decides to release the chicken (move off of a capture), for whatever reason.

Movement Restrictions

There are a few restrictions on how pyramids may move:

  • Only the top-most pyramid in a stack may be moved; a captured or currently trampled pyramids may not be moved.
  • Family members and chickens may not leave the central 3×9 area (see the yellow lines on the images in the Setup section). A spectator may move freely around the full 5×9 area of the board.
  • Spectators may not capture chickens nor trample family members, though they may trample each other.
  • Chickens may not trample any other pyramid.
  • A family member may not capture (or even trample!) a chicken of a different size.
  • A family member must be larger than opposing family member(s) or spectator(s) to trample them (e.g. a large family member may trample a medium and/or small, opposing family member and/or spectator).


The first player to capture two chickens is the winner. For example, if White captures the medium chicken with his or her medium family member and captures the large chicken with his or her large family member, then White wins.


Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SAThis work is distributed by David Carle Artman under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Entered in the Icehouse Game Design Competition, Winter 2008
Winner: Martian 12s 2nd: WreckTangle 3rd: Timelock 4th: Chicken Run
5th: Timberland 6th: Hunt 7th: Virus Fight 8th: Martian Gunslinger

Atom Smasher

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Oct 052007
Atom Smasher
David Artman
A game of dexterity inspired by billiards, carrom, and marbles
Players: 2–10
Icehouse stashes: One Treehouse set or Icehouse stash
Other equipment: One token per player, some form of relatively smooth playing surface
Setup time: 1–5 minutes
Playing time: 5–30 minutes
Rules complexity: Low
Strategy depth: Low
Random chance: Low
Mechanics: Dexterity, turn-based
Theme: Science
BGG Link: not ready yet
Created in October, 2007

When particle physicists compete for grant money, they usually do it with proposals and plans. But this time around, a lunatic angel investor has asked you to prove yourself worthy of his full support by competing on a different level: the atomic level. He has gathered the world’s most capable physicists to demonstrate their prowess with a particle accelerator, using it to carefully and precisely chisel off subatomic particles from a huge atom.


Players take turns flicking or sliding a small opaque pyramid (called the smasher) into a cluster of pyramids (called the atom). Each pyramid which is smashed a sufficient distance from the atom scores points equal to its pip count for the player.


One Treehouse set or Icehouse stash (or more, for a truly massive atom to smash).

One token for each player, which can be a stone, poker chip, coin, or whatever is handy.

A relatively smooth playing surface, which may be of any shape or size. One need not use an entire table, but a chessboard is probably too small to be a challenge. A surface about three feet in diameter is ideal.


Set aside the smasher, and then determine who will go first and the order of play.

Put one token for each player in an easily accessible location (called the sink).

Starting with the small pyramids (except for the smasher), give one to each player in reverse order of play. When the smalls run out, immediately switch to mediums, then to larges. This process should ensure that the first players to play have to place fewer and larger pyramids than those who must wait to play, which in turn tends to ensure that the more valuable large pyramids are closer to the center of the atom.

Building the Atom

Starting with the first player, each player places all of his or her pyramids onto the playing surface, flat or upright. Every pyramid that is smaller than the player’s largest pyramid must be placed so that at least one full edge of the pyramid completely touches one or more other pyramids; that pyramid is said to be bonded to the other pyramid(s). Further, the player’s largest pyramid must be bonded to one or more of the pyramids already in the atom (if any). The goal is to create a contiguous cluster of pyramids with few (or no) small gaps between them, when viewed from above.

For example, if a player has only a medium and a large to place, he or she must make one edge of the medium completely touch the large (and/or other pyramids already in the atom, if the player wishes) to bond to it; the large, in turn, must be bonded to one or more of the pyramids already in the atom (again, if any).

The first player to place is encouraged—but not required—to place his or her pyramids in a position equidistant from every edge of the playing surface. Doing so maximizes the challenge of smashing, which extends the length of the game.

Smashing the Atom

On each player’s turn, he or she attempts to separate pyramids from the atom by flicking or sliding the smasher into the atom. Though the player may shoot from any side of the playing surface, the player’s wrist may not cross the edge of the playing surface (which means that the smasher must be placed very near the edge of the surface, of course, before flicking or sliding it). Violation of this wrist rule causes a meltdown (see below).

It is recommended that another player be the assistant for the shooting player by moving to be opposite the shooting player, so that an errant or over-powered smasher can be caught before it heads off the table (or under a lab bench or behind the reactor).

A pyramid is split from the atom if the shooting player can completely circle the pyramid with the smasher in upright position—using only one finger that is touching only the smasher tip—without touching or otherwise disturbing any pyramid on the playing surface. If the player touches any pyramid while trying to circle an allegedly separate pyramid—including the pyramid that he or she is trying to circle—then the player causes a meltdown (see below).

Do not remove and score any pyramids until every pyramid that the player wants to try to circle has been circled without a meltdown. A pyramid that is smashed completely off of the playing surface need not be circled, though it still may not be claimed until all other attempts have been made and no meltdown occurs.

The wrist rule does not apply when the player is trying to circle pyramids. Once the shooting player begins to remove and score successfully circled pyramids, he or she may not try to circle other pyramids later on that same turn.

Every circled pyramid is worth its pip count in points to the player who successfully circles it.


A meltdown occurs when a player violates the wrist rule or tries to circle an allegedly separate pyramid and touches another pyramid (separate or not). A meltdown must be called by another player, and there must be at least one other player who agrees. In a two-player game, be honest and be civil: generally, if a meltdown is called, take it like a stoic physicist should; there will be other grants!

A player that is guilty of a meltdown immediately ends his or her turn, without picking up any pyramids, be they successfully circled or not. The player must take a token from the sink; and on that player’s next turn, he or she returns the token to the sink instead of smashing the atom.

It should be obvious that causing a meltdown is bad for the guilty player, as it results in the effective loss of two turns and (usually) leaves separated pyramids for the next player to try to claim. In general, a player should not try to circle an allegedly separate pyramid unless he or she is nearly guaranteed to avoid a meltdown.

Ending the Game

When all pyramids in the atom have been removed and scored, the player with the most points is the winner. It is traditional for the now-wealthy grant winner to buy a round of beverages for the other players, though all players should agree to this price of victory prior to play.

In the event of a points tie, the player with the most larges wins. Should that be tied, the player with the most mediums wins. Should that also be tied, the player with the large opaque wins, regardless of whether or not that player has the most points, most larges, or most mediums—the lunatic investor likes opacity more than bickering physicists.


Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SAThis work is distributed by David Carle Artman under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Entered in the Icehouse Game Design Competition, Summer 2008
Winner: Ambush 2nd: Logger 3rd: Albiorix 4th: Virus_Fight 5th: Atom_Smasher
6th: Dog_Eat_Dog & Martian_BattleSpires 8th: Pass_The_Pyramids 9th: T-Minus 10th: Tresurion
Aug 052007
David Artman
A mind-warping space battle for 2 or more players.
Players: 2-10 (see Equipment)
Icehouse stashes: 1 Treehouse set per 5 players
Other equipment: One set of Martian Coasters per 4 players, plus up to two Black Coasters; one six-sided die
Setup time: 5 minutes
Playing time: half hour to an hour
Rules complexity: Medium
Strategy depth: High
Random chance: Medium
Mechanics: Dice, Move & Fire, Placement
Theme: Space
BGG Link: not ready yet
Created in August, 2007

The Ancients thought space was mostly empty, a vacuum, a void through which a spacecraft could creep for eons without getting anywhere important. They were wrong.

Space is teaming with wormholes: bridges between regions of space that are free of time, through which spacecraft may instantly travel. But space is also teaming with Others: sometimes allies, ofttimes enemies.


For any number of players, Wormholes requires a Treehouse die and a six-sided die (d6) numbered 1 through 6.

Further, each player needs a stack and a Martian Coaster of a color different from every other player. Common ways to break this down based on Looney Labs products is as follows:

  • A two- to four-player game requires one Rainbow Treehouse set and one Martian Coasters set.
  • A five-player game requires the above plus one of the following:
    • A Black Coaster
    • One stack from a Xeno Treehouse set and the corresponding coaster from another Martian Coasters set, marked to indicate that it is associated with the Xeno set.
  • A six- to eight-player game requires a Xeno Treehouse set and another Martian Coasters set, marked to indicate that it is associated with the Xeno set.
  • A nine-player game requires the above plus a Black Coaster.
  • A ten-player game requires the above plus another Black Coaster, which is marked to indicate that it is the White coaster.

Note: Everywhere “Rainbow” or “Xeno” appears above could be switched to “Xeno” or “Rainbow,” respectively; the point is that everyone has their own color stack with that color coaster, and the Xeno coasters are marked to distinguish them from their Rainbow counterparts.


Determine the order of play by whatever means. Determine who will play what color. Each player gets his or her color coaster and a small, medium, and large pyramid of his or her color1.

The first player places his or her coaster in the middle of the playing area; this is that player’s home system. Then, in turn order, each player places his or her own home system on the playing area such that his or her coaster is squarely and completely adjacent (i.e. lines up “cleanly”) to at least one other coaster. After placement, all of the coasters are collectively referred to as the galaxy.

After all coasters are placed, each player then, in turn order, places a nest of his or her pyramids flat on any square on his or her home system, with the point of the pyramid stack pointing in any orthogonal (non-diagonal) orientation. (Throughout play, pyramids are always flat and are always orthogonally oriented.) These nests are the players’ ships, with two ablative shields (the large and medium pyramids) and an inner hull (the small pyramid).

Throughout setup, players tend to notice and comment upon the relative strengths and weaknesses of various home system placements in the galaxy. Such observation typically leads to early advice, alliances, and deals: all such “table talk” is perfectly legal throughout the course of play, but it is never enforced by the game rules.


A player’s turn consists of rolling both the d6 and the Treehouse die, moving his or her ship, and firing on another ship (in that order).


The d6 result is that player’s movement points for this turn.

To move from one square to another square, the ship must be oriented to point at the destination square, there must be an arrow (called a wormhole) pointing from its currently occupied square to the destination square, and the destination square must be unoccupied. (There is no “collision” or “capture” in Wormholes.) A player uses one movement point per wormhole crossed (but see “Double Movement” and “Warping” below) or per 90 degrees of rotation (see “Turning” below).

A ship may not move out of the galaxy (i.e. all ships must remain on squares on coasters).

Double Movement – If the player’s ship is moving in or into its home system, each movement point is worth double movement (i.e. half of a movement point to move one square or to turn 90 degrees). Likewise, if a ship is moving in or into an ally’s home system, each movement point counts double, but only if the ally agrees to it during the player’s turn: the ally must confirm the alliance.

Warping – If the player’s ship is resting on the center square of its (or an ally’s) home system, it may “warp” to the center square of an ally’s (or its own) home system. As with double movement, the ally must confirm the alliance to permit the warp to or from its center square; and as with any movement, the destination square must be unoccupied. Likewise, a ship may warp between two of its ally’s center squares if both allies confirm the alliance and the destination square is unoccupied. A warp uses half of a movement point.

Once a player is eliminated from play (see Damage), that player’s home system becomes “allied” with all other players for purposes of warping, but not for purposes of double movement. In other words, anyone may warp to (or from) that system’s center square, from (or to) one’s home system or an ally’s system.

Finally, a player is not required to use all of his or her movement points on a turn, and any unused movement points or half-points are lost at the end of the player’s turn.


A ship must use movement points to change orientation, at the rate of one movement point per 90 degree turn (or half of a movement point per 90 degree turn, in its or an ally’s home system). Thus, a ship may make a complete reversal of course if it uses two movement points (or one movement point, in its or an ally’s home system).

It is permissible (but pointless) to “spin in place”—use four movement points to end up in the same orientation—or to “go the long way around”—use three movement points in one direction to effect a 90 degree turn in the other direction.

Cosmic Flux

The Treehouse die represents cosmic flux, and its result indicates one of the following:

  • TIP = “Turn In Place”—The wormholes are unstable; the current player may only use movement points to change the orientation of his or her ship within the square that it currently occupies.
  • SWAP2 = One time before, during, or after the current player’s movement, the current player’s ship swaps places with another player’s ship (do not change the orientation of either ship). This swap does not use up a movement point.
  • HOP = One time before, during, or after the current player’s movement, his or her ship may “hop out of space-time” to move from its current square to an unoccupied orthogonally adjacent square (do not change its orientation). Unlike normal movement, neither the ship’s current orientation nor the wormholes on the current square are relevant when choosing a destination square. This hop does not use up a movement point.
  • AIM = One time before, during, or after the current player’s movement, he or she may orient his or her ship in any orthogonal direction. This aim does not use up any movement points.
  • DIG = One time during the current player’s movement, his or her ship may “dig through space-time” to enter a square at which it is pointing even if there is no wormhole pointing from the current square to the destination square. This dig does not use up a movement point.
  • WILD3 = Choose one of the above.


At the end of a player’s movement, he or she may choose to fire a torpedo. An imaginary missile travels out of the front of the ship in a straight line until (a) it hits a ship and does damage or (b) it hits the edge of a square with no wormhole pointing to the next square in line and detonates harmlessly or (c) it goes off the edge of a coaster completely and leaves the galaxy.

Put another way, the torpedo “moves” like a ship that has unlimited movement points and can not turn or warp, but can leave the galaxy.


When a ship it hit by a torpedo, that ship immediately removes its outermost shield: the large first, then the medium on a subsequent hit. If a ship with no more shields (i.e. just its hull, the small) is hit, it is destroyed and that player is out of the game.


The last player with a ship on the board is the winner.

Two or more players can win if they are in an alliance and are the only players with ships on the board. Alliances may be formed overtly or covertly throughout the course of play; but to break an alliance, a player must declare his or her split from it before (or at the same time that) the alliance declares victory. Should such a last-second break occur, play continues as normal until only allied ships remain on the board (even if it ends up an “alliance” of one!).


Players should decide in advance whether any of these game variations are in effect:

  1. Tag Team: Players choose more than one color each. All of that player’s colors are considered allied to each other. Regardless of the number of colors that each player controls, make sure that turn order is preserved and that color order remains consistent. Thus, a player should never be allowed to take a turn with the same color as he or she used previously until every other color that he or she controls has been used on turns subsequent to the one on which the first color was used.
    For a variation on this variation, allow players to take their turns with whatever color they want, each turn.
    Both of these variations help to make a more dynamic game for smaller play groups. At no time, however, should a player be allowed to use all of his or her colors on a single turn: that sort of mass, uninterrupted coordination will make for very fast, lop-sided games that favor those who take their turns earliest.
  2. System Swap: SWAP = Choose any two home systems: those coasters swap positions in the galaxy (do not change the orientation of either coaster).
    This variation is best suited to smaller games where a critical system swap can temporarily save a lone player from an early assault by an alliance. In larger games, the frequency of system swapping will make for a game with a lot of movement compared to firing, which some players might find tedious.
  3. The Wild Shot: WILD = When you fire your torpedo, if it reaches the edge of a square with no wormhole pointing to the next square in line then it turns to the right in that space and tries to continue. It will continue until (a) it hits and damages any ship, including your own, (b) it must turn right twice in the same square, which makes it self-destruct, or (c) it goes off the edge of a coaster completely and leaves the galaxy.
    This variation is best suited to smaller games or games where the players appreciate more complex turns. A wild shot requires significant pre-planning of movement to end up in the right square at the right orientation to send a torpedo careening across the galaxy to hit someone who never expected it. Such pre-planning can make for much slower turns.


Wormholes was inspired by and borrows much of its mechanics from Chris Kice’s Zamboni Wars and Andrew Looney’s Martian Coasters.

Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA
This work is distributed by David Carle Artman under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Aug 052007

Created in August, 2007

I have this idea for a pyramid soccer game that works something like Subbuteo.

I’m thinking basic position play plus some effect due to pyramid size: maybe determines who wins a tackle attempt, or determines the “range” within which a piece can “receive” a pass that doesn’t directly hit it.


  • Position pieces and ball for kick-off.
  • Take turns flicking a piece:
    • Basic move – Piece doesn’t hit an opposing piece (else Foul) or the ball (else Tackle Attempt).
    • Dribble the ball – Ball doesn’t hit an opposing piece, and your piece ends up within its “range” of the ball after all motion ceases.
    • Pass to another piece – Ball hits recipient piece without hitting an opposing piece and ends up within the recipient piece’s “range.”
    • All tipped over pieces are set upright (by pivoting at base edge in contact with table) at the end of their player’s subsequent turn (ball position is unaffected by tipping a piece).
  • Attempt to tackle by flicking a piece into an opposing piece in possession of the ball (or the ball itself).
    • Foul if you knock the opposing piece flat.
    • Tackle won by largest piece; tie goes to piece in possession prior to the Tackle Attempt.
  • Flick-kick into the goal (past the keeper?) to score:
    • Must be past Shooting Line: half way between goal and midfield.
    • Reset to opening position afterwards.
  • Timed game or play to predetermined score.

More to come….