These comments copyright 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated March 14, 1997

You know, I must be crazy, but I've always wanted to go to the Arctic Ocean, between mainland Canada and the polar ice cap. I've read Farley Mowat's Ordeal by Ice and loved it, and have longed to see the midsummer sun roll around the horizon without sinking below it. I've longed to see if I can do better than Lord Franklin. Maybe someday I'll go. But in the meantime, I'll play Icebergs.

Icebergs, 1980 from TSR, is a Tom Wham game. It is Tom's second best game, in my opinion, right after Awful Green Things, and his best multiplayer game. There are those who claim Kings & Things is better, but I disagree. Icebergs has a delightful simplicity about it that Kings & Things lacks.

The only real problem with the game isn't the designer's fault: it's a microgame. Moving stacks of cardboard chits in tiny hexes on a tiny map is tough for someone as clumsy as I am. I'm making a miniatures version, with inch-long icebreaking tankers and 3D icebergs in large hexes - I'm hoping it'll be much easier to play. I'll update this file when I finish, and let you know how it turns out.

The game simulates oil tankers racing from Newfoundland across the Arctic Ocean to Alaska, then back again with full tanks of oil. While there is no direct combat in the game, there are a lot of ice floes and icebergs, and you get to move them in the way of your opponents' ships. I've had my ship surrounded by so many ice floes that I couldn't move - a very uncomfortable feeling!

The game isn't complex. The board starts with 20 ice floes and six icebergs scattered around the map, and one ship per player on the eastern edge of the board, representing coming from Newfoundland. (The game is for two to six players, but works better with three or more.) Each player has a ship record with a full fuel tank and an empty cargo hold. There are 16 other ice floes, set aside, in case you need them later.

Each turn, you roll a single die, and can move your ship and/or floes and bergs that many spaces. If you roll a "5", for example, you could move two ice floes one space each, out of your way, then move your ship three spaces. It costs three movement points to move an iceberg, one to move an ice floe or your ship. However, if your ship moves into or out of a space with ice or another ship, it costs one extra movement point for each floe or ship, and three extra for each berg. Thus, a ship in a space with three ice floes and one iceberg can't move it all - it would take one movement point to move, plus six for the ice, and you can't roll that high.

There are two ways to get out of such a situation, however. It doesn't cost any extra to move ice out of such a space, so you could spend your next turn moving ice away from your ship. Also, if you ever roll a "1" on the die, you have a choice: you can either drift your ship one space, regardless of ice, or you can add an ice floe to the board, anywhere you want (even in an opponent's space). You also get to roll again when you roll a "1".

Every time you move, drop your fuel by one. This is whether you spend one movement point or six on movement: drop your fuel by one. The only exception is drifting, which is fuel-free. It's the only way to move if you run out of fuel, BTW.

Once in Alaska, you spend a turn loading your cargo and refilling your fuel, then head back. The first to make it back to Newfoundland, with some cargo intact, is the winner. It's possible to lose cargo or fuel en route, by the way - encounters with icebergs can scrape your ship up something fierce. Best to avoid them - but if your opponent rolls a "6", you might find an iceberg suddenly in your space when you weren't even next to it the turn before . . .

A very well designed game - my congratulations to Tom Wham. I wish a publisher would put it out in a decent size, though. Making my own large game will allow me to play it easily, but it won't get the recognition it deserves. A great family game - recommended.

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