Arctic-tecture: An Igloo Mania Review

by Corey Whelen
31 July 2019

2-4 Players, 10-20 Minutes, Low Complexity, Low Strategy, Ages 5+

Parka Pete balances delicately atop his lovingly made igloo, frozen in horror as his home is slowly surrounded by Antarctica's most fearsome predators- penguins with ice picks. With a silly premise, silly pieces, silly gameplay, and (with luck) a few silly players, Igloo Mania will have you and your friends laughing faster than you can say “get the igloo glue”!

While all birds share a passion for mayhem and destruction, the flightless ones are really good at it.

In Igloo Mania, you will play as a penguin competing to tear down as much of Pete's home as possible, without letting Pete himself tumble from the roof of his igloo. This premise is wonderfully ridiculous, and I immediately appreciated how completely destroying the man's home is fair sport, and even encouraged, but letting them drop ten feet and sprain an ankle will lose you the game. That's just too far!

Parka Pete just looks so SMUG up there!

This game is a pure dexterity game, and one of the more tense ones I’ve played. It’s as if Jenga and Operation got together and had a baby named Igloo Mania. Sure, there’s a bit of strategy to be had, and it will challenge your understanding of structural integrity, but primarily, this game tests how steady your hands can be. This is a wonderfully simple mechanic to base a game on and it’s been around for decades, with good reason- it’s a whole bunch of fun.

Players each get a small plastic ice pick (with a different coloured penguin on each) that they'll use to remove a single ice block from the igloo on their turn. Usually, the player with the fewest blocks will be the winner at the end of the game. You get any extra blocks that fall outside the igloo on your turn, but any that drop inside stay there for the duration of the game, being "awarded" to the player who collapses the igloo and drops Parka Pete inside. This is a fine way to play, although I recommend playing with the tie-breaker rules- the player with the highest point value wins. Each block has a number value- the ones near the top of the igloo, or the "high-risk" pulls have higher numbers then the more stable ones at the base. The player who collapses the igloo is eliminated, which means first place generally goes to the player who took the most risky pulls during the game.

This is a really clever form of scoring that results in a nice risk/reward-style of gameplay. That desire for those high-value blocks was real in our practice games. There was an element of braggadocio as players tried (and often failed) to snag the more difficult blocks, and there were plenty of cheers and the occasional gasp when they succeeded.

This game is hilarious in the same way that Jenga is so funny. You'll either be laughing when the igloo collapses on someone, or they'll be laughing because they broke the laws of physics in order to keep the igloo from falling to shambles. There's a surprising amount of tension to be found in that plastic igloo. I was genuinely delighted by how sturdy it was and how many of the ice blocks remained viable (if extremely risky) options late into the game.

Your most important tool- and worst enemy.

Overall, I think Igloo Mania is a great alternative to traditional dexterity games. The theme is more interesting, the pieces are much cuter, and forcing your (relatively) giant hands to steady that tiny ice pick is inherently amusing. Igloo Mania doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s hard to take yourself seriously while you play it. That said, if you don’t mind looking a little silly, I’ve entertained fully-grown (if somewhat childish) adults for hours with this game. Manipulating the tiny ice picks is more fun than it has any right to be, and the tension is palpable as players hold their breath and try desperately not to bump the table.

If you’re looking for an engaging, tactile game that transcends barriers like age and language, then I would highly recommend Igloo Mania.