I’ve not played Ice Cool, a dexterity game created by Brian Gomez, but I watched a group of people at this year’s Essen Spiel 2021 getting hands-on with the second game in the series and got the gist of things pretty quickly. That’s the great thing about dexterity games; they’re such a visual genre of board game that even if you’d never heard a single rule you can get a rough idea of how to play just by watching.
The other game demo found at the Brain Games stand was a prototype of Iron Forest, a spin-off from Ice Cool set to hit Kickstarter on February 8th next year. Despite apparently being set in the same universe as Ice Cool, Iron Forest immediately stood out in comparison to its dexterity brethren thanks to the use of a raised board and little robot miniatures. Though the core gameplay of Iron Forest is very similar to Ice Cool and Ice Cool 2 - you flick and slide pieces across a board made up of different rooms separated by gateways - this newest entry in the series features a more mature setting and develops further on the gameplay elements featured in the previous titles.
Update: Dicebreaker has been informed by its publisher that the player count for Iron Forest is from two to four players, it does not support up to eight players. This article has been updated to reflect this information.
Focusing on the conflict between a faction of nature warriors called the Animal Clans and a faction of industrial fighters named the Iron Forest, Iron Forest has up to eight players battling against one another in a variety of different scenarios. The scenario we played was an objective-based mode where we wanted to collect our faction’s respective tokens by firing our pieces through the gates and holes indicated. According to Gomez, the game will also feature player-versus-player combat that will involve each factions’ miniatures directly fighting with one another, similarly to miniatures games such as Warhammer.
Matt and I took multiple opportunities to damage opposing machines by launching our mechs into them.
In fact, despite it not actually being the objective of the scenario we were playing, Matt and I took multiple opportunities to damage opposing machines by launching our mechs into them - with a second strike taking the targeted machine temporarily out of the game and giving the attacking player an extra action - which required more of a swish motion than a flick with your finger. The miniatures themselves were balanced on a rounded base, sort of like the penguins in Ice Cool, but these seemed to need a decent amount of force to fire them further than two inches. Once we got our heads around that, we were shooting our respective miniatures through gates and into holes with much more success.
The holes are the most exciting part of Iron Forest - apart from, perhaps, its intriguing setting and premise - with the game taking place across two levels, with one board being suspended over another via four plastic support poles. The miniatures we could activate on our turn depended upon the cards we drew from our faction’s deck, with each card corresponding to one of the four different mechs we controlled. Should our mechs ever need any extra assistance, we were able to use one of our factions’ special abilities on our turn - with one of mine being to reposition an active mech before I flicked it.
In one particularly exquisite move, launched one directly into one of the target holes for my faction.
While some miniatures begin the game on the top floor, others will need to be fired up there using a nifty little launcher that players can drop their pieces into before slamming their hand onto the launch button. As with flicking the miniatures, I was a little too delicate with the launcher to begin with, before Gomez encouraged me to apply plenty of pressure to the fire button.
All of these fun little elements - needing to get miniatures through both gates and holes, as well as the additional level - made for a dexterity game that was incredibly easy to get invested in, with a small crowd eventually gathering around to watch us battle it out. After a sadly sizable amount of duff shots, I was eventually shooting my miniatures through gates and, in one particularly exquisite move, launched one directly into one of the target holes for my faction.
It’s the kind of game that transcends the barriers of board game knowledge and gets people interested from the moment they see it.
Iron Forest is essentially Ice Cool but with more depth to it, keeping the gameplay mechanics that made the original two dexterity games work and adding a more engaging setting, new ways to play and a more visually elaborate setup that serves to immediately draw the eye. It’s the kind of game that transcends the barriers of board game knowledge and gets people interested from the moment they see it, with hopefully even more mechs, maps and scenarios planned to keep their interest beyond the initial appeal.