Release Date: 2023Players: 1-5
Designer: Bragou, Samson F. PerretLength: 90-120 minutes
Artist: Léonard DupondAge: 12+
Publisher: This WayComplexity: 2.5 / 5
Plastic (by weight): 5%Air (by volume): 15%

The snowshelf reached from horizon to horizon in all directions. We were in the Valley of the Ancient Ones, which was a frozen region, pounded by deadly storms, but which had made space for a single, lone city. It was summer and time for the guilds to go on their annual pilgrimage and explore this tundra. As one of the leaders, you were about to take your guild to look for vestiges of a civilization whose existence had been passed down through myths and stories. If you were successful, you would bring riches and prestige to your lodge. You knew the risks, but you were prepared to go out onto the I C E by Bragou and Samson F. Perret from This Way.

Time It Right

I C E is another game with an epic introduction. It has its own background story with a seemingly rich history. In that way, it reminds me of Scythe, which draws players deeply into its own world with the wonderful illustrations, a convincing setting and even some small story elements. Both games are definitely visually appealing and play on the toy factor. However, while Scythe‘s plastic mechs are lovely, they aren’t critical to gameplay. I C E‘s five layers of hex tiles, on the other hand, are vital and a big attraction for this game.

Yet, while there are a few similarities between the two games, they are very different. I C E is all about the efficient use of your action points, or exploration points as they are called in this game. Everything you do has a cost and timing can be important.

While you are eager to dig up the ice and remove an available hex from the board to gain bonuses or work toward collecting sets of artefacts, you need to gather enough explorers to allow you to do so. Once you have excavated a tile, you need to move to the next possible dig location.

You also want to make sure that nobody else commandeers the explorers you brought along to work for them, thereby undoing your efforts. There is also often a race to get to the perfect spot so you are the first to get hold of valuable artefacts,

The game is also limited to a maximum of seven days, the equivalent of rounds, which end when everyone has passed or run out of action points. That is not a lot and the game will be over quicker than you think. So timing is key in I C E.

A Feast for the Eyes

The setup does take a while, because you need to separate the 143 hexagonal tiles by type and then start building the five layers that make up the ice sheet. However, snapping together the four parts of the game board, which have magnets on them to ensure nothing falls apart, is very satisfying. The hex tiles are chunky and the custom wooden components are lovely, making for a very tactile gameplay experience. It’s a pleasure to dig up one of the hexes or move your leader or the explorers over the board.

In fact, it’s the multiple layers of tiles that attracted me to I C E. A game where you (almost) literally dig into the ice is very appealing. Not only is it fun to remove the tile, but there is excitement when you discover what is underneath. You always reveal the edges of three more hexes on the lower level. You hope that at least one of them is exactly what you need to complete your or the shared objectives. At the same time, you wonder if the other leaders are close enough to get to the layer before you do.

So there is definitely a huge toy factor at play here. However, that is definitely not a bad thing. It is perfect and will appeal to a lot of people. It’s surprising how satisfying it is to finally go down another layer, after grafting so hard to open up the hexes above to give you access to another tile. Players are likely to need to help each other with the digs, but at the same time, everyone wants to have first dibs on what is uncovered.

a number of wooden components, some black, some while and three layers of the hex tiles
digging into the ice sheet is very satisfying

Let’s Do It All Again…

There is a lot to I C E. There are a number of different actions everyone can do and each faction has a unique power. Most of the actions should be instinctively clear. For any remaining questions, the rulebook does an amazing job of explaining everything really well. Sure, there is a misprint, where two paragraphs were swapped around and ended up with the wrong illustrations, but that’s not a biggie.

So far, so good. However, unfortunately, I C E can become quite monotonous. You move around the ice, take explorers along with you and dig up a tile – and then you do it all again. You do have to keep an eye on what everyone else is doing, but ultimately, it’s a lot of move, dig, repeat. Except for the excitement of discovering what the next layer has to offer, there just isn’t a lot of variety.

I C E feels a bit too long. Your ultimate aim is to uncover the fifth layer, but that can be tricky to achieve within the seven-day time limit. That sounds like a contradiction, but in reality, those seven days easily take an hour and a half, probably more if you play at a leisurely pace. That’s a long time when you keep doing practically the same thing, maybe with the odd interruption of an event or another player jumping into your excavation site and stealing the precious artefact you needed to score big.

I suppose, the gameplay does reflect the setting very well. An icy wilderness can be very monotonous and the harsh conditions slow everything right down. What would normally be done in no time at all can take hours. Yet, for a board game, that doesn’t quite sit well.

All is Still

Now, I love the feeling I get from playing a game set in freezing conditions, see my review of K2 for example. I also love puzzly set collection games with a limited amount of action points. Even more so, I love a game that’s very tactile. I C E ticks all of those boxes. Yet, you do have to accept that this game can drag on a bit, just like K2 does. So while it does indeed outstay its welcome, I C E is still a game I enjoy. The problem is, I’m unable to find people who enjoy games where you can feel the cold getting into your bones. However, if you have a group of intrepid adventurers to hand, then I’d strongly recommend you bring your snow gear and assemble a team of explorers around you to dig deeper into the I C E.

Useful Links


Transparency Facts

I feel that this review reflects my own, independent and honest opinion, but the facts below allow you to decide whether you think that I was influenced in any way.
  • I bought and paid for the game myself.
  • At the time of writing, neither the designers, nor the publisher, nor anyone linked to the game supported me financially or by payment in kind.

Audio Version

Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

Sound Effects: – © copyright 2024 BBC

Music: Die Unendliche Geschichte by Sascha Ende
Free download:
Licensed under CC BY 4.0:


These are the songs I listened to while I was writing this review:

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