In this article we’ll discussing the Second Edition of ICE (which will launch on the ICE UNLIMITED Gamefound campaign in May), why the need for some changes, and what it means for the two types of audiences that are reading this: The original backers who got ICE during our first two campaigns, and those that missed out and are waiting for ICE to return. By the end you should understand exactly why some changes are needed — all to improve ICE and keep the game (and This Way) around for a long time to come.
ICE has been a several-year dream of ours that finally became a reality this year (after a long birthing process) — and it’s been a big hit with backers, even getting a “Seal of Excellence” from The Dice Tower.
So with ICE suddenly being hotly in demand, you would think we would be all ready with a new “reprint” campaign soon, and have ICE selling all around the world in retail stores by now.
Well, that was indeed the original plan…
…but as long-time readers of our This Way blog already know, it didn’t quite work out that way, and the first version of ICE became an extremely limited edition of just under 4000 copies, that will never be reprinted again (at least in its current form, anyway).
ICE was a hugely ambitious project — a game that has never been done before: featuring 5 levels of tiles that definitely has a “wow” effect when it hits the table. But as the original Kickstarter backers were made aware of in our updates, the actual process to create such a unique board proved way more difficult than we, and Panda Game Manufacturing, ever realized. Due to skyrocketing costs of materials during the pandemic, the multiple layers, as well as multiple revisions of the board to get it “just right,” the per-unit cost to make what ultimately became the first version of ICE proved to be way too high to be sustainable. We decided to complete the game in order to deliver our promise to original backers, but this was at a major loss for us.
It became quickly apparent that there was no way we could continue making the game in this same way going forward, and there was definitely no way the game was ever going to make it to retail in this form. (The original Standard version had an even lesser profit margin for us than the Deluxe — so it was an even worse model for us).
We were left with a major dilemma: We had a hit first game that was hotly in demand, and would probably be more successful with a 2nd printing — but we couldn’t make an exact reprint. The intention was to have ICE be our “flagship title,” eventually with a few expansions and even standalone games set within the same universe (like our prequel game FOUNDERS — which you can late pledge for here).
But there was no way to continue ICE without making major changes to its production to reduce costs. We had already known for some time that getting rid of the final (5th) layer of tiles (the Edifice tiles) was an obvious choice. (Please note that we do not mean getting rid of Edifices themselves — the discovery of them, and the gameplay changes that they bring to subsequent games, was an important aspect to ICE that we didn’t want to lose). But the actual physical layer of tiles themselves was completely unnecessary. The “spaces” for an Edifice could simply be printed directly onto the bottom of the board — and when that space is “revealed,” instead of flipping a physical tile, players could randomly flip an undiscovered Edifice card instead. (Yes — this is mainly why the Edifice deck, which was part of the ICE Companion Set that was offered in our “ICE Limited: This Way to the Future” support campaign, was created).
The Edifice layer of tiles is still really cool for the version 1.0 backers to have, but it was the most logical first layer to remove to help reduce production costs — because removing it didn’t change anything to the gameplay (and the card system works just as well, if not better). Keep in mind that it’s not just the 12 hexagonal tiles that would be reduced here (that alone is not that costly), but every new layer added to the board itself actually multiplies the production costs considerably. And we soon realized that removing just one (unnecessary for gameplay) layer was not quite enough to reduce overall costs, and even more changes would have to be done (like removing one of the three levels of artifacts) — which… actually would change the gameplay some. This created a bunch of obvious problems, but — we at This Way are gamers at heart, and this was just a big puzzle for us to solve, and we believe we have found the solution!
At the same time, ICE was being delivered around the world and was getting great reviews — but there was some very minor (yet valid) complaints we heard of some gameplay elements that gamers felt were a tad random, unbalanced or too “take that” for their tastes. So a version 2.0 could potentially address some of these issues as well, since we were going to make it anyway.
We know what original backers are probably thinking: “ICE was just delivered this year after a considerable delay. And now This Way is talking about possible changes to the game going forward? What does that mean for us???”
We also know what NEW potential backers who have been waiting for a chance to finally get ICE for a long time now are probably thinking: “We’ll finally be able to back ICE next year, but now you’re saying it’s going to be possibly different??”
We are very aware of both of these audience’s potential concerns, and we thought long and hard about how to address the production issues, find a solution so we could continue making ICE as our flagship title in a way where we could continue as a company, while also finding ways to appease both of our audiences — all while improving the game!
It took many long hours, meetings, discussions with other knowledgeable people in the industry, and we believe we found solutions that will make the vast majority of you happy. (We know we won’t be able to satisfy 100% of you, but please understand we don’t take any of these decisions lightly— they are needed for This Way and ICE to continue having a long future in the industry. The only other alternative is to pack our bags and stop making any more games or ICE expansions — and I don’t think anyone wants that).
So if you fall into one of the two audiences we mentioned and only care about how this affects you, then we’ve divided the next two parts of this article into two sections:
FOR ORIGINAL BACKERS ONLY:
ICE: The Second Edition, for the reasons we explained above, needs to be different. It will now have 3 layers of superimposed tiles instead of 5. So the question that may be most on your mind is: will this affect original backers and their game? Well… only if you want it to! The upcoming RELICS expansion (that will also be offered during the ICE UNLIMITED CAMPAIGN) will be compatible with BOTH the original 1.0 version and new Second Edition version. Not only that, there will be a way to make the original game like the new version IF original backers actually want that. We expect many won’t, but others might — and for those that do, there will be a “Conversion Kit” offered in ICE UNLIMITED. It will come in 2 forms: both a free print-and-play of digital files to access version 1.5 (which will be available immediately during the next campaign), as well as a physical version that will contain some replacement components for playing version 2.0 (mainly tiles, and one big piece that can be placed during setup to make fewer levels) that we will offer at manufacturing cost (so we’re not making profit from it). This is completely optional, and as mentioned, a lot of you will be perfectly fine with the version that you have and just continue playing 1.0 and getting the expansions that will continue to work with it.
Before we go any further, we want to remind our OG backers of what they have:
- The only game in the world with 5 layers of tiles!
- An extremely limited edition game (less than 4000 copies).
- A game that Mike DiLisio of The Dice Tower gave a 9/10 rating and a “Seal of Execellence.”
- A chance to play ICE for a minimum of two years before anyone else can (ICE UNLIMITED is currently planned to deliver in December of 2025).
- The game at the absolute best price possible.
We say all that because we know that there may be a small percentage of you that might think a Second Edition version of the game is going to be somehow “better.” It’s not necessarily better, or worse — just different. (Although there will be definitely some minor gameplay improvements in what we’re calling ICE version 1.5 — a free digital file with modifications that original backers can implement easily, if they want, without changing anything else in their game and keeping the five layers forever).
New editions of games with changes have a long history in this hobby. Take Twilight Imperium, for instance — with each new version improving and the BGG rating increasing. Or more recently, Dune Imperium: Uprising — a standalone version of the original game that is almost like a 2.0 version (although also an expansion). While new versions often have great receptions, there are always some gamers that feel upset because they might think the earlier version they got will become outdated. We want to ensure original backers that ICE version 1.0 will be supported and always stay relevant.
You will NOT need to buy the new version of the game, and can continue playing your game as 1.0, or using just the free 1.5 modifications. But if you would also like to experience the modified Second Edition version of ICE, you will have the option to make your game like The Second Edition with the Conversion Kit (free as a print-or-play, or at a very affordable cost for the physical component replacements). Essentially you will have two versions of the game in one. The choice is entirely yours.
NEW POTENTIAL BACKERS WANTING ICE
ICE is finally returning!! 🥳
But yes, it will be different. We know there may be concerns about eliminating 2 of the original 5 layers of ICE — but as explained above, the last (Edifice) layer from the original 1.0 version was completely unnecessary. The other layer we’re removing is one of the three Artifact layers (which will now be two), which indeed changes the gameplay a bit. This required some exciting new actions and, as a result, we have discovered the game is more streamlined, tighter, and flows better with more options. We knew that there would be a concern that removing an Artifact layer may remove some of the “depth” in the game (pun intended), and we absolutely had these concerns ourselves. But we were surprised to learn that wasn’t the case at all — and the additional action options actually make for a more varied game with additional scoring possibilities.
With one less layer, it meant the potential that less Artifacts would be excavated — which are needed for the all-important Request card scoring in the endgame. But because the last Edifice layer would now be printed directly on the bottom of the board, it meant we now had more flexibility with how to present it. Now the bottom is essentially one giant Edifice that is broken into “zones” (which are essentially the same size of two regular hexagon tiles put together). The new endgame condition is activated whenever a number of zones equal to the number of players is fully uncovered — which in the game will mean an Edifice has been discovered! (So for example, in a 3-player game, an area the size of 6 regular hexagons needs to be fully uncovered). This means more tiles will have to be excavated, and the end result is that the number of excavations will be roughly the same than in a regular 1.0 version of the game.
In addition, new actions provide more alternatives to scoring Request cards: “Study Artifact” allows you to get an Artifact token of the same color that your Expedition Leader is standing on (and these tokens can be used to validate Requests that require those color of Artifacts). But this action ends your Day, so it must be used wisely. Also, when you’re standing on an Edifice zone, the “Study Edifice” action allows you to get a Prismatic token. And because the Edifice zones are twice as large as normal tiles, it means you can move across them much faster.
Finally, because we want the game to go to retail, there will be a base game plus an EDIFICES expansion, which combined make up the closest to what ICE 1.0 is now today. This means you can start playing ICE with just the base game, if you want, at a more affordable cost.
If you back the new 2.0 version of ICE you will get:
- The same gorgeous illustrations and impressive table presence of the original! Even with just 3 layers of tiles on a 4-layer board, the game STILL has a great impact and “wow” effect.
- A quicker setup time
- New gameplay with new actions that bring more options for how to play.
- A chance for a more affordable “entry” into the game with the base version.
We know there we still be potential backers who will want the original 5-layer version because of how unique a novelty it is, but we simply won’t be able to reproduce that ever again. Luckily we came up with a new version that still has all of the amazing gameplay of the original, with a few new exciting actions and modifications that bring a more balanced game.
ALL ORIGINAL AND FUTURE BACKERS: A NEW RELICS EXPANSION
It’s still too early to release ALL the info about this expansion, but we can tell you a few exciting elements:
- Introducing Relics — a brand new tile type that will replace some Artifact tiles in specific (known information) places during setup. These powerful tiles work very differently than what ICE players are used to, and when “completed” they will bring either Renown or activate incredible new abilities.
- Our amazing artist Leonard Dupond returns, with more amazing illustrations, including for the cover and two brand new asymmetrical Guild player boards.
- A truly special guest artist we’ve been wanting to work with for quite a while now will be illustrating the Relics themselves — think of them as objects of art within the world of ICE, which is why they will have their own unique style.
Keep paying attention to our newsletter and socials as we slowly reveal more information about RELICS in the coming months.
MORE INFO TO COME!
We will be revealing a LOT more about ICE: The Second Edition and ICE: Relics in the months leading up to May’s campaign, diving deep into what changes will be made, and exactly what it will mean for all original and future backers of ICE.
If you would like to playtest some of the new additions in ICE 1.5 as well as ICE: The Second Edition, be sure to join our Discord channel and sign up for playtests when they get announced!