Apr 052007
David Artman, David Cherryholmes
A two-fisted spell-casting battle for 2 or more players.
Players: 2 or more
Icehouse stashes: 1 Treehouse stash per player
Other equipment: 1 stash pad per player
Setup time: 3 minutes
Playing time: 10–30 minutes
Rules complexity: Medium
Strategy depth: High
Random chance: None
Mechanics: Dexterity, turnless
Theme: Mystical
BGG Link: not ready yet
Created in April, 2007

Inspired by Spellcast (AKA Waving Hands, by Richard Bartle), Icecaster is a game of dueling wizards battling to be the last mage standing. Each player uses both hands to setup spells (similar to Zendo koans) which are finally cast by tipping a pyramid to point at the target.

But using magic has a cost: the very pyramids you use to build spells are those which comprise your life force. Further, when damaged, you lose pyramids from your life force, reducing your spell casting options. Run out of pyramids, run out of life force and lose the battle.


One Treehouse set per player.

A stash pad for each player to put pyramids on until they are cast or lost due to damage or overload. This can be as simple as a small napkin, or could be a Looney Labs’ Icehouse Stash Pack pad, if you are lucky enough to have gotten one—anything which clearly shows available pyramids versus lost pyramids.


Players first organize their sets on their stash pads in whatever way they feel will best suit their play style and strategy.

Icecaster is turnless, so there is no “first player.” Rather, all players signify readiness by putting the tip of one finger of each hand on one pyramid each. When all players are ready, the game begins immediately.


Each player places pyramids either into a left hand spell configuration (with only the left hand) or into a right hand spell configuration (with only the right hand). Furthermore, at any given moment, a player may only handle one pyramid per hand, whether that involves placing a pyramid into that hand’s spell or reorienting a placed pyramid in that hand’s spell. As such, a player may place or handle a pyramid with each hand simultaneously.

A player may choose to remove a pyramid from a spell, placing it back on his or her stash pad. Usually, such a removal is done to shift the spell being cast to another spell.


An overload occurs whenever a player catches another player doing one of the following:

  • Touching a placed pyramid while holding another pyramid in the same hand.
  • Holding more than one pyramid in a single hand.

The player who notices this calls “Overload” plus the offender’s name, and the pyramids involved are immediately removed from play (i.e. set aside, not on the player’s stash pad or near a spell configuration).


Various combinations of pyramid size and orientation combine to create a spell (see Spell Lists, below). A spell is cast at a target when the requisite pyramid in the spell is tipped or reoriented to point at the intended target. The casting player then announces the spell name, target, and effect; and the target must immediately do what the effect requires, after first setting any held pyramids back onto his or her stash pad.

If a spell has an instantaneous effect then, once it is resolved, the casting player may put the spell’s pyramids back onto his or her stash pad or may begin to reorient them to setup another spell. As with any pyramid manipulation in Icecaster, only the hand that controls that spell may be used, and only one pyramid at a time may be handled with each hand.

Damage and Winning

Many spells do damage of some kind to the target. Whenever a player is damaged, he or she loses a pyramid (or pyramids) from his or her stash pad, per the spell effect.

When a player has no more pyramids on his or her stash pad, that player is eliminated from the game. The last player with pyramids on his or her stash pad is the winner.

Spell Lists

There are two levels of complexity to Icecaster—Neonate and Magus—which are primarily distinguished by whether or not color is relevant in a spell configuration. Beginning players should use the Neonate Spell List, but more experienced players (or those with better memories) might prefer the Magus Spell List.

A spell is defined with a spell name, the pyramids it requires, and a brief description of the effect.

Pyramid size is designated using the the following letters:

  • “L” for large
  • “M” for medium
  • “S” for small

The pyramid which must be tipped to point at the target and cast the spell is surrounded by parentheses ().

In the Magus Spell List, the pyramid color follows the size designation, using the following letters:

  • “bt” for blue or cyan (referred to as “teal” to avoid confusion with clear)
  • “ro” for red or orange
  • “yc” for yellow or clear
  • “gp” for green or purple
  • “kw” for black or white

Finally, if a spell requires both hands to cast (i.e. the configuration must be setup in both hands) then the whole spell is surrounded by curly braces ({}).


Neonate spell:

L(M)S (large, medium, and small; tip the medium to cast) Do foo to target.

Magus spell:

LbtMro(Syc) (large blue or teal, medium red or orange, small yellow or clear; tip the small to cast) Do bar to target.



[pyramids] [effect]


[TBD-color using]


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


 Games, Strategy Game  Comments Off on Ikkozendo
Dec 052006
Kory Heath (Original), David Artman (Variation)
Players achieve satori when they discover the secret rule that explains which koans have the elusive Buddha-nature
Players: 2–4, and 1 master
Icehouse stashes: 1
Other equipment: 2 colors of marking stones (1 of each)
Setup time: 2 minutes
Playing time: 5–30 minutes
Rules complexity: Medium
Strategy depth: Medium
Random chance: None
Mechanics: inductive logic, real time, turn-based
Theme: Abstract
BGG Link: pending
Created in December, 2006

“Ikko” – one, a fragment, single

“Zendo” – the way of Zen, a mind-expanding game

“Ikkozendo” – a whole game of Zendo in one pocket!

Ikkozendo is a variant of Zendo that is played with a limited number of people who all are present at the game start. All must be present at game start because Ikkozendo is a single stash game and, as such, there will not be enough pyramids for the Students to build koans to seek the secret rule or for the Master to build koans to disprove a rule guess. Because no more than two koans are made during a game, the players’ memory of previous configurations of the koans is critical to finishing the game. Thus, if players come and go, as is allowed in Zendo, then the game can get stuck in “cycles,” as the same configurations are reused over and over again to disprove already-attempted guesses.


A single stash of Treehouse pyramids. In a pinch, you may also use a single monochrome stash, though you will not be able to use color as a potential element in the secret rule (obviously!).

One or two marking stones (of different colors, if two). In a pinch, you can use the Treehouse die to mark the koan that conforms to the secret rule–I use the DIG side upright; can you “dig” it?


Begin as in normal Zendo: the Master thinks up a secret rule and makes two koans, one marked as conforming to the secret rule and one marked as not conforming to the secret rule. The koan that conforms to the secret rule is said to “have the Buddha-nature.”

Determine who goes first any way that is legal in your area, and proceed clockwise around the table with each turn. Alternately, for a real time variant, the Master may permit Students to shout out rule guesses as they come up with them. In this real time variant, the Master must gently restrain any Student who is rapidly making rule guesses to the exclusion of other Students’ chances to guess.


Students do not build koans and do not ask “Mondo” or “Master” and do not acquire guessing stones.

Instead, on a Student’s turn, the Student attempts to guess the secret rule or must pass. In the real time variant, a Student just shouts out a rule guess when one occurs to him or her.

If a Student guesses and is incorrect, the Master must adjust one of the koans so that it disproves the guess. In doing so, the Master may remove pyramids from the koan or add pyramids to it. The Master also may use pyramids from the other koan or adjust the other koan in any way, as long as, after all adjustments, one of the koans disproves the guess while both retain their original relationships to the rule (i.e. the true koan remains true and the false koan remains false).

Note that, if the secret rule involves color, the Master will often have to add or remove pyramids from both koans, because there are only three pyramids of any given color (and only one of a given size and color!) in a Treehouse stash.

After the Master’s disproof, it is immediately the next Student’s turn. In the real time variant, the Master must be sure not to let a Student double-up guesses and dominate the game, which can happen as an excited Student begins to close in on the secret rule.


If the Student’s guess matches the Master’s secret rule, that Student has won: shake his or her hand as everyone laughs… or groans. That Student is the next Master (or, alternately, rotate the role of Master counterclockwise each round… or let the loudest whiner be next).


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.