An Icehouse Pyramid Game
Abstract strategy for three or more players
by Geoff Hanna
  A game of simple mechanics but complex interactions where players compete to win “hands” and ultimately control the construction of the Ice Palace.
  You Will Need
  • One differently-colored tube/stash of Icehouse pyramids per player plus two other colors (rules assume Black and White)
  • A flat surface
  • One bowl, bag or box to contain pyramids – “The Pool”
  • One coin or other object – the “Turn Token”
  Players begin with one pyramid of each size of their color. Remaining pyramids are mixed into a drawing bag (the Pool). Players blindly draw another pyramid of each size – small, medium and large – to form their six-pyramid hand.

Players alternate playing out of their hand by placing a pyramid into a temporary common structure (the Yard), following size and color rules. The Yard will continue to grow during the hand.

The hand continues until all players pass their turn. The last player to add to the Yard wins the hand.

The hand winner takes all of the pyramids from the Yard and adds them into the Ice Palace (a second, permanent common structure that will grow throughout the game), following a reversed set of size and color rules.

Players replenish their hands by blindly drawing from the Pool until they again have two pyramids of each size.

When a player cannot replenish their hand from the Pool, the Ice Palace is scored: each stack with one color on top earns points for that player, one point for each pyramid in the stack. Highest score is the winner.

A three-player game already in progress
  Game Setup
  Each player should have a full tube/stash of their color. Everyone selects three pyramids - a small, a medium and a large - of their own color. All remaining pyramids are tossed into the “Pool” along with a Black and a White stash/tube.

Once players are seated, randomly draw one pyramid from the pool to determine the first player (redraw on Black or White). The first player receives the “Turn Token”. Replace the drawn pyramid into the pool.

Each player randomly draws three more pyramids, one of each size, to complete their starting hand.
  Game Play
  The player that has the Turn Token begins the Yard structure by placing any pyramid from his hand into the middle of the group (the “lead”).

Moving around the group clockwise, each player must choose whether to Pass, or Play a pyramid into the Yard.
  Playing a Pyramid
  The player adds to the Yard by placing a pyramid from her hand according to the Yard building code:
  • Any color pyramid may be added to a stack if it is bigger than the current top pyramid (nothing can stack over a Large pyramid)
  • You can start a new stack adjacent to any existing stack as long as the pyramids are the same color
  • Black is Null and matches no colors, not even itself. White is Wild and matches all colors except Black
A Cyan pyramid could play in
imaginary grid squares 2, 4, 6 and 8:
1, 3, 7 and 9 are not adjacent
The Yard and Ice Palace are both built using imaginary grids that stretch to infinity in all directions. An “adjacent” pyramid is laid next to an existing pyramid, side-by-side, as shown in the illustration to the right.

You may choose to pass at any time. Exception: players that have no possible legal placement must pass.

Passing during one go-round of the hand does not prevent you from playing in future rounds of the hand.

Players may not trade pyramids. Eveything else - whether to pass or play, what pyramid to play, where to play it, how to build the Ice Palace - is open to negotiation
  Winning the Hand
  When all players pass consecutively, the hand ends. The player who played the last pyramid wins the hand and controls the construction of the Ice Palace for that hand.
  Building the Ice Palace
  Any Black or White pyramids in the Yard are discarded and removed from play.

All of the other pyramids are built into the Ice Palace, one at a time, according to the Ice Palace building code:
  • Only smaller pyramids can be stacked onto an existing pyramid and nothing can stack over a Small pyramid
  • You can start a new stack adjacent to any existing stack as long as the new pyramids is the same color as the adjacent top pyramid (this is essentially the same as the Yard code)
The hand winner may add to the Ice Palace in any order and configuration desired, as long as the result will use up ALL of the pyramids from the Yard.

It is possible that the builder cannot satisfy Ice Palace building codes and also use up the entire Yard. The builder must use the maximum possible pyramids - everyone must agree to the maximum possible number - and the builder still decides exactly how to reach that number. Unusable pyramids are discarded and removed from play.
  Finishing the Hand
  All players randomly draw back up to six pyramids, two of each size.

The Turn Token passes one player clockwise.
  Ending the Game
If this were a portion of the Ice Palace, Green would score 4, Yellow 2, and Cyan would get nothing
The game continues until one player is unable to draw back up to a full hand of six pyramids. This event ends the game immediately; the Ice Palace is scored to determine the winner.

Each player determines their score by totalling the number of pyramids in the Ice Palace that have their own color as the top pyramid in a stack.

Ice Palace (C) 2004 Geoff Hanna
  Strategy & Tactics
  On Dealing
  There is room for a lot of negotiation in this game, for instance: "let me win the hand and I'll make sure you get at least X points in the Ice Palace" or "whatever it takes, we all have to work together to keep player Y from winning the hand!"
  On Scoring
  Your small pyramids are the key to scoring; even if someone else is building the Ice Palace, small pyramids will always be worth at least one point to the owner.
  On Leading
  Black pyramids can become unplayable hand weight, particularly small Black pyramids which cannot be played at all. Leading is an opportunity to get them out of your hand. If you lead a large Black, no one will be able to play and the hand is already over.
  On Passing
  Occasionally a situation will arise where one player is the only one with any legal plays and easily wins the hand. More commonly the hand is won by a player that passed early in the hand and hoarded their pyramids. Pass or Play becomes particularly strategic towards the end of the hand: "If I pass now, I won't control the hand, but I think someone else will make a play and the hand will not end yet..."
  On Hoarding
  At first glance it seems wise to hoard any opponent's small pyramids that you draw. This can be true, but be aware that hoarded pyramids become unplayable hand weight too. Another hoarding tactic: save up your own pyramids and one or two Whites and try to win one particular high-scoring hand. Some feel that the "perfect" set of pyramids for winning a hand is four of your own color plus two Whites (and you begin the game with at least three of your own color...)
  On Winning
  It will be difficult to win the game without winning at least one hand. But winning a hand is hard in itself; choosing which one to win can be very important. The last person to build the Ice Palace has a great deal of control over who scores what. But it is also critical to insure that you are the player building the Ice Palace on any hand that includes several of your small pyramids!