The nefarious Boris Boddington the Third is trying to steal all of the ice cream in the world, using his sprinkletonium-powered robots. Hop into your ice cream truck, prepare your weaponized ice cream, and shoot down the robots before it’s too late!
At a glance: Robots Love Ice Cream is a game for 1 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. It’s currently on Kickstarter, with a pledge of $18 for a copy of the game (or $6 for the print and play). The game is semi-cooperative—one player will win by saving the most ice cream, but there’s also an “everyone loses” condition if you don’t work together enough. It’s fairly light and fun, so the age recommendation seems about right.
Note: My review is based on a pre-production prototype, so component quality is not final and artwork and design is subject to change.
- 65 Weaponized Ice Cream cards (15 each Single Serve, Rapid Pop, Boomsicle, Funday; 5 Brain Freeze)
- 4 Ice Cream Truck cards
- 13 Ice Cream tokens
- 15 Planet cards
- 24 Boost cards
- 40 Sprinkletonium cards
- 3 Spinston Beam Track cards
- 1 First Player card
- 60 Robot cards:
- 3 Spinston
- 3 Spinston 2.0
- 12 Little Chip
- 8 Little Chunk
- 8 Peaboty
- 6 Pewboty
- 8 Punk Rockit
- 6 Scrambles
- 6 Ray
Most of the game consists of cards except for the ice cream tokens, which are cardboard punchouts. The artwork is cute—it’s inspired by the Robots Love Ice Cream app (which incidentally, I wrote about way back when it was on Kickstarter) but a lot of this is actually new artwork, not just pulled directly from the app.
The Sprinkletonium cards act as currency, and I think would be more fun as tokens rather than cards (particularly since all of the cards are worth 1 Sprinkletonium) but they work fine. Likewise, there are some things that are absolutely necessary, like the Spinston beam track cards, but add a little to the thematic flavor of the game. The cards look like Spinston’s tractor beam: in the app, Spinston will hover over a building and start pulling up a man holding a crate. If it gets all the way to Spinston, he steals the ice cream and runs away. In the card game, each of the three cards can be flipped over to show the man and the crate getting pulled up the beam.
The ice cream trucks are larger cards, sized to allow for more room for putting upgrades next to them. The truck card also has space on one side for game effect boost cards, and a small turn order reminder at the bottom. Plus, of course, you can store your ice cream tokens on the truck. The planet cards (which show the setup for each round) are also oversized cards.
How to Play
The goal of the game is to prevent the Spinston robots from getting away with the ice cream—you must save at least 10 of the 13 ice creams over the course of 5 rounds or everyone loses. If you succeed, the individual player who saved the most ice creams and sprinkletonium wins.
To set up, give each player an ice cream truck card, and then select the set of planet cards that match the number of players. The planet cards are numbered from 1 to 5, showing the order you will use them. Shuffle the ice cream cards and deal 7 to each player, placing the deck within reach.
Shuffle the robots (not including the Spinston cards), and then arrange Spinston cards and randomly drawn robot cards to match the planet card. There will be some number of columns of robots, with Spinstons at the top. The 3 Spinston beam track cards are placed near the playing area, arranged to form the beam, and the bottom one is flipped over to show the man holding the ice cream. Then place one ice cream token per Spinston on the bottom beam track card.
Choose a player to go first and give them the start player card. Players will take turns one at a time, and then the robots will get a turn.
During your turn, you first draw 2 ice cream cards and choose 1 to discard. (Starting at the 3rd planet, if you have no ice cream cards and no sprinkletonium, you may draw up to a hand of 7 cards.)
Then, you may fire ice cream weapons. You must play a matching set of ice cream cards (Brain Freeze cards are wild and match anything) equal to the robot’s health in order to destroy it, and you may only shoot at the bottom-most robot in any column. The destroyed robot is discarded, and you get sprinkletonium as shown on the robot card. If you destroy a Spinston, you also take an ice cream token from the beam track.
At the end of your turn, you may optionally spend 1 sprinkletonium to draw back up to 7 cards.
Once each player has taken a turn, the robot phase begins. The robots activate from left to right, row by row from bottom to top. Each robot has its own effect. Lil Chip moves to a new column, Pewboty causes everyone to lose sprinkletonium, and so on. Any Spinstons that are left at the top will pull ice cream tokens up one level. Flip over beam tracker cards to show the man being pulled up, and move any remaining ice cream tokens along the beam as well.
Each planet will last up to three rounds of play—if the Spinstons have not been destroyed by then, they will get away with some ice cream tokens, which are removed from the game.
After the planet is over, there’s a store/upgrade phase, where players get a chance to buy boost cards using sprinkletonium. There’s a market of 3 available cards—if you buy one, you replace it immediately, and you may spend as much of your sprinkletonium as you wish. You may also spend 1 sprinkletonium to refresh the market. Some boost cards are truck upgrades: typically you can have up to 2 upgrades loaded on your truck for any given planet, and you can swap them out between planets. There are also game effect cards which have various abilities—some are discarded after use.
The player with the least sprinkletonium gets to purchase first. Once everyone has had a chance to make purchases, pass the first player card, and set up the next planet.
After the end of 5 planets, check if the whole group saved at least 10 ice cream. If so, you win—and the player with the most ice cream and sprinkletonium wins: ice cream is worth 2 VP each, and sprinkletonium is worth 1 VP each. Ties go to the player with the most ice cream.
There are variant rules included for solo play, as well as challenge variants to make the game easier or harder.
The Robots Love Ice Cream app (it’s free to download!) is a cute arcade game: you drive left and right on a very tiny planet, launching various ice cream types from the roof of your truck at the various robots flying around in the sky. As you defeat robots and collect sprinkletonium, you can purchase other types of weaponized ice creams and upgrade them to make them more powerful. The card game is a fun adaptation of the app, though there were a few things I wish they had done more thematically. For instance, the different ice cream types in the app all have different powers: boomsicles are slow and explode to cause splash damage, while rocket pops are rapid-fire but not as strong. In the card game version, all of the ice cream types are equivalent, except for Brain Freeze, which serves as a wild card. It would have been nice to have some of that—ahem—flavor in the tabletop game.
The game itself is not too difficult: a little bit of set collection in the hopes of getting the right cards to shoot a few robots when it’s your turn. The two primary decisions you’ll make during the main gameplay phase is in which robot to shoot, and whether to spend sprinkletonium to draw back up to 7 cards, or to save your money but risk not having enough cards on your next turn. You do get to draw a full hand at the start of each planet, so if you think somebody will finish off the rest of the robots before your next turn, sometimes it’s better to hang onto your sprinkletonium to buy boost cards.
The various boosts can be fun, and some are definitely more powerful than others. Since you can only take two truck upgrades to a planet each time, you’ll have to choose wisely (or take a guess), setting aside any that aren’t equipped. One thing we ran into, though, was feeling that later in the game we had a lot of money to spend but there weren’t very many things left to buy. And in the last round, anything you earn is simply points because you won’t have a chance to spend anything.
With the standard ruleset, the game is fairly easy, and good for kids and newer players who want to be sure to win. I think you’d have to play fairly poorly to lose more than 3 ice creams over the course of the game. We also found that the semi-cooperative nature of the game made it easy for a less-cooperative player to run away with the lead. If you happen to shoot more robots the first round, you’ll have more sprinkletonium to spend on upgrades, allowing you to shoot even more robots the next round, and so on. Unless players are inclined to share the robots—particularly the Spinstons, since they award the ice cream tokens—it seems that there’s not much of a catch-up mechanic if you fall behind. The designer, Chad Elkins, suggested that for more experienced players, use the optional rule that you may only shoot one robot per turn—it will require a lot more teamwork and planning to get to all of the Spinstons with that rule in play, and a selfish player may instead cause you all to lose.
Overall, I think the app and the tabletop version are both light fun: neither is too challenging, but there’s a lot of fun eye candy and the theme is very cute. I like the designs of the robots and the weaponized ice cream, and it’s a fun treat, but if you’re looking for heavier strategy it may leave you hungry for a bit more.
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the Robots Love Ice Cream Kickstarter page.