My Saga of Learning Icehouse

I posted this to the Icehouse Mailing List. I don't know if anybody else is going to take the slightest bit of interest in it, but my story is unusual in that I'm self-taught; I wasn't taught to play icehouse by an experienced icer, like most of the other players out there.

Erratum: I have since discovered documentation proving that I misremembered when I learned the game. It was March of '92. Similarly, I apparently visited the tournament mere months after my first exposure to Icehouse.

Date:  Tue, 23 Jun 1998 16:51:58 -0700
From:  "Eric Zuckerman" 
Subject:  LONG: Saga of learning icehouse

   (Sorry, I can't actually reproduce the quotes that
went before.  That mail's been downloaded to my home
machine, and I'm here at work.)

   (And for those of you who are into the "thread as 
game metaphor" here, I'm just putting out all 15 of my 
pyramids defensively, really quickly...)

   Some folks on this list were talking yesterday, or 
the day before, about how Icehouse has been kind of 
promulgated at least partially by oral tradition up
until this point.  Actually, I had to teach myself!

I had seen, ever-so-briefly, a game being played at
LunaCon (NYC-area convention that I used to go to when
I lived on the East Coast), and gotten a flyer from 
Number 12.  "This looks way cool," I said to myself, 
and resolved to buy an origami set.  That was March of 

   I did, but the concept of a "condensed" handbook, 
when I didn't have anybody else to teach me the game, 
kind of bothered me.  I conducted delicate phone (this 
was before the Web, so I didn't get onto the CMU list 
and get email addresses for folks until after I placed 
my order and got my set and a couple of 
_Hypothermia_'s) negotiations with Kristen -- I'm sure 
she thought that I was at least lightly kooky -- to get 
the Real Deal handbook with my origami set.  Maybe I
went overboard, but I still think that I *really* 
benefitted from the "sample game" in the full handbook.
As I kinda mentioned, I also got my hands on as much
other verbiage as I could, asking for all the _Hypo_'s
that were available...

   I taught a smattering of my friends.  To my chagrin,
my better half turned out to dislike the game.  (This 
has been an impediment to my playing, as you might 
imagine.)  Most of these friends insisted on playing 
in a tutorial mode involving turns, which made for 
boring games (and almost caused Andy a conniption when
I related it to him later) but allowed them to get one
Major Unfamiliar Concept at a time -- first the 
free-form structure, and then the real-time aspect.
A few people kind of enjoyed it, but nobody really got
into it the way I did, with the exception of one
dude's prepubescent boy (who, for all I know, still
has my original neon origami set) -- but he was too 
annoying to play with...

   Over a year after learning the game, I had the happy
accident of scheduling a trip to Washington DC that 
centered on Memorial Day weekend.  I dropped in on the
'92 tournament briefly -- our major charter was, after 
all, sightseeing -- over the course of two of its
days, and I finally got to play icehouse with someone 
*I* hadn't personally taught.  I have no memory of who
I played with; possibly even some of *you*.

   Over the years, I've usually made it a point, when
I go to SF conventions (Icehouse is stuck in my brain
as associated with LunaCon and Disclave), to spend
some time sitting in the hall (sometimes at a table, 
sometimes on the floor), with all 4 colors set up in 
front of me.  People *invariably* drop by and inquire;
rarely do I get to teach them.  I think an inherent
problem with the operation is that they are
usually passing by me in said hallway while they are
en route to somewhere, and learning a new game doesn't
trump that.  At my last Lunacon before leaving for the
West Coast ('93, musta been), I did teach someone the
game.  One year at BayCon (also Memorial Day weekend, 
some 3000 miles from Disclave), I was just out of time
to sit around, had somewhere to be, and was starting
to pack up when this woman showed up and said,
"Ooh, Icehouse!"   %-P   Never saw her again, but she
does prove that those Martian gods have a sense of

   Last year, just before BayCon, someone posted to 
this list, asking if anyone wanted to play "at the 
convention Memorial Day weekend."  I piped up, 
something about yeah, who's going to be at BayCon in
San Jose?  Astonishingly -- talk about timing! -- Dr. 
Cool said he would be in the area on busness.  We met
up at the hotel, and played a game of Icehouse with
a friend of mine (one of 2 friends who'd wanted to 
learn and was at the con) and this total stranger,
who liked it enough to be annoyed when he found out
the game was out of production (I think I still have
his business card; maybe I should tell him that he can
get a set for $2!).  He also introduced us all to 

   Since then, me an' my honey have started up a 
monthly games group, and the session before last, a 
friend of mine (who I'd showed the basic mechanics of
Icehouse) brought a Fluxx deck!  Four of us played 
Fluxx while my wife and the rest of the group were in 
the kitchen playing Risk, and from there it was a
short hop to, "Wanna learn something else from the
same lineage?"  Finally, I taught the game to people 
who *totally* loved it!  The friend with the Fluxx
deck has even been working on making his own pieces
(through an innovative process that will be
publicized on this list, I'm sure, when we can prove
it works).

   Anyway, *I'm* self-taught.  And while I am perhaps
the rare case, who became a total IceHead and sought
out all the information I could lay eyes on, I don't
think I'm that uncool of a player.  (Mailing list
poster, OTOH...   %-}   )


Last updated 1998/12/20

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