Jan 202007
Martian Shuffleboard
David Artman
A game of dexterous strategy for 2 to 10 players.
Players: 2–5 normally, up to 10, with Rainbow and Xeno sets
Icehouse stashes: 1 Treehouse set per 5 players
Other equipment: A table or large game board off of which pieces can slide
Setup time: 1 minute
Playing time: 5–30 minutes
Rules complexity: Low
Strategy depth: Medium
Random chance: None
Mechanics: Dexterity, Turn-based, Miniatures
Theme: Martian
BGG Link: not ready yet
Created in January, 2007

Note: [?-…-?] indicates elements still under consideration or open for variation.

A game of dexterous strategy for 2 to 10 players in which players attempt to flick upright pieces so that they slide into scoring positions without tipping flat or sliding off of the playing surface.



A playing surface, which could be a relatively small table with no edge rails (i.e. pieces can slide off the table) or a relatively large, thick game board. The slicker the playing surface, the better the game.

One Treehouse set per 5 players. For 6 to 10 players, the second Treehouse set must contain different colors from the first one (i.e. one must be Rainbow and the other Xeno).

An unused Small (e.g. the solid white or solid black one in the set). In a 5 or 10 player game, you will need either the Treehouse die or a spare Small from another set, to measure piece proximity.


Give each player a monochrome stack—one Small piece, one Medium piece, and one Large piece of the same color.

Determine randomly who will go first, and then follow traditional turn order.

The first player places a single upright piece of any size [?-alternates below-?] at the center of the playing surface.


In turn order, players attempt to flick a single upright piece with their finger(s), from the edge of the playing surface, so that it slides across the surface and stops in an upright position with the potential to score (see Scoring below).

A player may slide only one piece per turn.

If a slid piece hits another piece and moves it without knocking it over, then that piece remains where it stops (see Crashing below, for what happens if either piece is knocked flat or off of the playing surface).


If any piece is ever knocked flat (no longer upright) then its owner gets that piece back, to re-slide on one of his or her subsequent turns.

If a piece falls off of the playing surface, then one of the following results:

  • If the piece belongs to the player whose turn it is (i.e. who just slid a piece to cause the crash) then it is removed from play until the end of the game.
  • If the piece belongs to any other player then its owner gets that piece back, to re-slide on one of his or her subsequent turn.

The game ends when no one has any more pieces to slide into play.


Each piece that is within a Small height (laid flat) of any larger piece—regardless of that larger piece’s color—scores points for its player equal to the value of that larger piece. Thus, it is possible for a single piece to score from several pieces, including the player’s own pieces.

Example: The Small blue is within a Small height of the Large blue and the Medium red; the blue player scores 5 points. 

The Medium red is within a Small height of the Large blue; the red player scores 3 points.

You might have to use the Treehouse die as an alternative measuring device, if you are playing with 5 or 10 players. The longest measurement possible with a die—the length between any two completely opposite corners, through the center of the die—is almost exactly the height of a Small, though you will have to “eyeball” measurements of that length from above, as it is impossible to set that length flat on the playing surface.

Of course, you may also measure with the width or diagonal length of a face of the die, which makes for slightly lower scoring games because those lengths are shorter than a Small height.


The winner is the player with the most points after all scoring is concluded.

Some groups may elect to play a number of games equal to the number of players and take turns being first, to mitigate the disadvantage of being the first player, who must place a piece to begin play and thus hang it out there to be scored on (or, worse, use his or her Small at the very beginning of play, losing the best tool in the game).


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.


Remaining Design Issues

  1. Is there an obvious strategy? By the current rules, it clearly is no good to start with a Large, as you’re just hanging it out there to be scored on and it isn’t likely to be crashed by a smaller piece trying to score on it. But see below.
  2. I have observed that you can save the Small for last and use it to bump around pieces while crashing the Small, getting it back each time (well, until you screw up and fling it off the playing surface, that is). I have tried forced piece order (i.e. always must use your smallest piece on your turn) and I have tried alternate scoring (pieces within a Small height of smaller pieces score the smaller’s point value). Basically, there’s this range of possible play variants:
    • Use what you want + Smallers score on largers. (above)
    • Use what you want + Largers score on smallers. (intuitive, but it’s easier for everyone to score, as largers don’t “bounce off” smallers that much.)
    • Forced to use smallest every turn + Smallers score on largers.
    • Forced to use smallest every turn + Largers score on smallers.
    • Forced to use largest every turn + Smallers score on largers.
    • Forced to use largest every turn + Largers score on smallers.
  3. Is there too much skill required? This is the first game I’ve seen in which manual dexterity plays such a large role in success.