Dean Conrad &
John Streets

Ludorum Games

No. of players:



G@mebox author Doug Adams writes about the game :

Ice Flow is a boardgame published by Ludorum Games. I first heard of this game while surfing Boardgamegeek. I began reading about it, and the more I read, the more intrigued I became. I ordered it direct from Ludorum, and eight days later I had a copy in my hands.

Ice Flow is a race game, inspired by the Karl Bushby Goliath expedition (walking from South America to Europe by foot). Players control three explorers, and are racing to be the first to get their team from Alaska to Siberia. Anyone familiar with geography will quickly realise there is a chunk of water in between called the Bering Strait. Players have to move their explorers across the Strait by a combination of swimming and hopping between ice floes.


Ice Flow creates a positive first impression when you open the box. There are three full colour rulebooks included, in English, French and German. Also included are a colourful game board; custom made wooden pieces featuring polar bears, explorers, fish and rope; a small deck of cards; and the transparent plexi-glass ice floe pieces. When you play the game, you realise a lot of thought has gone into getting the components right, especially the floes, which are remarkable.


The game board is nicely done, illustrated in a cartoon style, yet retaining an attractive appearance. It features Siberia and Alaska, separated by the Bering Strait. A hex grid overlays the play area, regulating movement and stacking of explorers. The Strait is divided into channels, or lanes, which the ice floes move along at speeds between one and three hexes. The lane speeds are also colour coded so even if you can't see the speed indicators, you can tell at a glance how quickly the ice is moving along a particular channel.

On the Alaskan side there are six stations where the explorers depart from. There is an illustration of a rugged adventurer on each of these stations, with a determined look on his face. In the centre of the straits are the Diomede Islands - Little and Big. (Trivia time - the date line passes through here, so depending on which island you're on, it's either yesterday or tomorrow on the other one!). The destination side, Siberia, features four stations representing the finish line for the explorers. Each Siberian station depicts an explorer enjoying a warm foot bath!

Players set up a game by taking turns to place out twelve ice floes on the board. A card is drawn for each floe to it with some equipment - rope and fish. Sometimes an unwelcome polar bear will turn up on a floe. Once placed, the players take turns placing their explorers in Alaska - no more than two explorers per station. The game is now ready to begin.

Ice Flow is a combination of race game, resource management game, and puzzle game. Once players are familiar with the game, turns are very quick. During a turn each player must take an "Ice Action", and can optionally perform an "Explorer Action".


An ice action consists of doing something with a floe tile on the board. A player can either move an ice floe one to three hexes down a channel, depending on the channel speed, and whether any other floes obstruct the movement. Alternatively, a player can rotate a floe, spinning it in the hex by one hexside. Finally, a player has the option to enter a new ice floe onto the board - drawing a floe card and loading it with equipment (and a possible bear) - and placing it at one of the eight entry hexes on the board. One of the three options must be taken every turn, and this gives the game a nice sense of a body of water in a constant state of flux.

An explorer action is optional and is limited to two choices. Either move an explorer, or catch fish. Catching fish is straightforward - you hand in a piece of rope and take two fish from the supply - end of action. Movement is more complex... a player on their turn can move one of their three explorers. Movement is free, unless it costs something! Explorers can move from hex to hex for nothing, as long as they have a nice path of ice floes in front of them. However, there are exceptions ... if an explorer moves across a "crinkly" edge of an ice floe tile, it costs one rope to climb the ice wall. If a player enters a floe tile containing a polar bear, they must toss the bear a fish. If a player wants to swim a water hex, it costs them a fish to sustain them. Rope and fish used during a turn must come from the player's backpack card in front of them.


If a player does move an explorer, they may take one item from the hex they end up in and store it in their backpack. The backpack is a card that sits in front of the player, and holds three items (fish or rope). The backpack is communal, that is, each of your three explorers shares the items inside it, regardless of proximity to each other. As the ice floes are usually stocked with stuff, picking up something at the end of movement is a common occurence. However, as the game progresses, resources get used up, and equipment becomes scarce. Players have to carefully watch their equipment - if you are trying to get your last guy to the finish line, with an empty backpack, you'll find it tough going.

Players reaching Diomede Island usually take a breather there. Given there are two cards in the ice flow deck for Diomede Island, it's a good place to gain new equipment - mainly because it's the only hex in the Strait that can't move!


Ice Flow features a light layer of player interaction. The main one to watch out for is not setting up a highway for the player playing after you to milk. This means carefully looking at their backpack to see what they are capable of, and trying to manipulate the ice to benefit you more than them. Sweeping up equipment ahead of trailing players can be annoying for them. Another area of interaction is the locking of floe tiles - once you have an explorer on a tile, no one else can move or rotate it, unless they have an explorer present as well. As stacking on each hex of the board is two explorers, it's quite easy to lock down nicely positioned ice floe tiles. The big area of interaction, though, is moving the polar bears around...

If you move onto a floe with a polar bear, you must toss it a fish. You then have two options - continue to move your explorer, or move the bear. One of you has to go. If you move the bear, you send it off on a straight line until it exits the board, or lands on another ice floe. Bears moving onto other occupied floes have to be dealt with, via either escaping the tile, or tossing it a fish to keep it moving. You have to be careful here though, because allowing opponents to exit the tile may actually help them - I've even seen a player land in Siberia courtesy of a roaming bear! Ideally though, a moving bear will cause opponents to be emergency evacuated back to Alaska (a.k.a start again!), or help advance one of your other explorers courtesy of a free move.

A game of Ice Flow ends when one player gets their third explorer into Siberia, claiming victory. Each explorer must end up on a different Siberian station, which forces players to cover a wide swath of the board. It's not as simple as setting up a nice path of floes, and running your three explorers quickly across. I've found two player games take around 20 to 30 minutes, which feels perfect. I've had a couple of four player games which have taken an hour, and this feels a little long for a game of this "weight".

Ice Flow is a good game, and one I'd recommend. It pushes a lot of my buttons - it is easy to teach, looks good, has clear rules, plays quickly, and has good appeal as both a gamer and family game. Downsides? Perhaps some will find it dry, and deep ponderers may bog the game down with careful thought. For me, Ice Flow is a keeper.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany