an Icehouse battle of wizards
by Glenn Overby

Töframenn is an Icehouse game for two players, requiring stackable Icehouse pyramids and a chessboard. Each player will also need one coin or other marker for use as an Archmage token.

Each player has one stash of 15 pyramids, five small, five medium, and five large. However, unlike other Icehouse games each player's stash may use any number of colors. (Both players may even have some pyramids of matching colors!) Multiple colors are almost always desirable, but no color has an advantage.

Color Relationships

Standard Color Table: For most games of Töframenn, the colors are related to each other as outlined below.

Black   darkness  Attacks red, white 
Blue    water     Attacks clear, red 
Clear   metal     Attacks orange, purple
Green   earth     Attacks blue, yellow
Orange  wood      Attacks green, purple
Purple  chaos     Attacks black, white
Red     fire      Attacks blue, clear
White   light     Attacks black, yellow
Yellow  air       Attacks green, orange

Limited Color Table: If both players limit forces to the four basic Icehouse colors of red, yellow, green, and blue (as found in the Martian Chess Set edition and the upcoming Zendo release), use the following table instead. The nine-color table is balanced if any color might show up, but plays boring games favoring green with only the original four colors in use.

Yellow  air       Disperses green (earth)
Green   earth     Drinks blue (water)
Blue    water     Quenches red (fire)
Red     fire      Exhausts yellow (air)


Determine by agreed means who will play first. The first player will play Light, and sets up the board with a light square in the near right-hand corner. The second player will play Darkness. (The actual colors of the pyramids in each stash are irrelevant to this. Either player may or may not have black pyramids, and may or may not have white pyramids.)

Both players stack their pyramids into five trees, a small on top of a medium on top of a large. Each tree represents a wizard and their mastery of the elements.

Once all wizards are built, Light places a wizard on a light square in either of the two nearest rows. Darkness then places two wizards on dark squares in either of the two nearest rows, across the board. Light then places two wizards, Darkness two, Light two, and Darkness one. Each player then marks one wizard with a token as their Archmage, Light first.

Only one wizard at a time may occupy a given space. Light wizards will always be on light squares, and Darkness wizards will always be on dark squares.

Light then takes the first turn, and turns alternate.

Taking Turns

On each turn, a player may take one of three actions: Move, cast a Bolt, or fight a Duel.


A wizard may Move diagonally forward (toward the opponent's side of the board) any number of squares. A wizard cannot skip over an occupied square, and cannot skip over any square which is adjacent to an opposing wizard.

Examples of Move

Diagram of moves

If it is Light's turn, there are eight possible Moves, shown by the dots in the diagram. The blue and yellow wizard has five moves (one line stops short because of the wizard it's trying to pass) and the white and blue wizard has three. The Archmage at the top has no Move.


A wizard may cast a Bolt in any direction, horizontally or vertically. The Bolt may be of a color corresponding to the caster's medium or large pyramid. It targets a specific pyramid in an opponent wizard, which must be of a color the Bolt attacks (according to the Color Table).

  • A Bolt from a medium pyramid can target a wizard exactly three squares away (to the second square of the opposite color).
  • A Bolt from a large pyramid can target a wizard either three or five squares away (to the second or third square of the opposite color).
  • A Bolt cannot reach a target if any intervening square is occupied.

The Bolt will remove the legally selected pyramid from the targeted wizard. The pyramid used to cast the Bolt is also removed from the casting wizard, unless it is larger than the targeted pyramid.

Examples of Bolt

Diagram of bolts

If it is Light's turn, there is one possible Bolt, from the blue and yellow wizard. (Yellow can attack green.) Since the yellow pyramid is the same size as the green target, both would be removed if this Bolt was cast. The Archmage at the top would like to cast an orange Bolt at the green wizard, but its orange pyramid is only a medium and can't shoot that far. A large orange pyramid would succeed.


A wizard may Duel one opposing wizard in an adjacent space. There are two parts to a Duel: the Duel-Leap and the Removal.

Duel-Leap: The active player's wizard will first leap over its opponent to the next square in line, if that square exists and is vacant. (This is the only way a wizard can ever move backward.)

Removal: After the Duel-Leap (if possible), the active player's wizard will Remove one chosen pyramid from its opponent if permitted by the Duel Values of both wizards.

  • Active wizard equal or weaker: No Removal will occur.
  • Active wizard at least 1 point stronger: A small pyramid may be Removed, if a Duel-Leap took place.
  • Active wizard at least 3 points stronger: A small pyramid may always be Removed. A medium pyramid may be Removed if a Duel-Leap took place.
  • Active wizard at least 5 points stronger: A small or medium pyramid may always be Removed. A large pyramid may be Removed if a Duel-Leap took place.
  • Active wizard at least 7 points stronger: Any pyramid may be Removed.
  • The active wizard must Remove one of the opponent's pyramids if permitted to do so by the Duel Values.

Computing Duel Values: An Archmage token is worth 2 points. Each pyramid is worth a basic value of 1 for a small, 2 for a medium, or 3 for a large. Each pyramid's value increases if its color attacks the color (as defined in the Color Table) of one or more opponent pyramids:

  • A pyramid attacking one opponent pyramid counts double.
  • A pyramid attacking two opponent pyramids counts triple.
  • A pyramid attacking three opponent pyramids counts quadruple.

The combined value of all pyramids (after adjustment) and a token if present is the Duel Value of that wizard in that Duel.

Examples of Duel

Diagram of duels

If it is Light's turn, there are two possible Duels.

Top Duel: First, the Light player's wizard must Duel-Leap as shown. (A Duel-Leap is required if it is possible.) Then the Duel Values are compared. The Darkness wizard scores 9 (the red large doubles against blue). The Light wizard scores 11 (the white small doubles against yellow, and the blue large triples against one clear asnd one red). Winning by 2, Light can only Remove the small pyramid from the loser...a margin of 3 would get the medium, or 5 would get the large.

Bottom Duel: First, the Duel-Leap is taken. Then, Darkness scores 11 (the white large doubles against yellow, and the Archmage token adds two points). Light scores just 7 (the blue medium doubles against clear). Since the moving wizard is weaker, no Removal takes place.

If the bottom duel was Light's choice, it's instructive to consider a rematch. If Darkness Dueled back on the next turn, with the wizards in the new positions there could be no Duel-Leap. The score is still 11-7, a victory by 4 for Darkness. But since there was no Duel-Leap it takes a win by 3 for a small or 5 for a medium. Light, with no small to Remove, escapes.

Winning the Game

A player wins the game by destroying the opponent's Archmage.

The game can also end if all remaining wizards have moved past each other to the point that no more Duels or Bolts can be arranged. In this case, count the basic value of each pyramid remaining in play. The player with the greater surviving value wins.

Organized Play Suggestion

In tournaments or organized series of games, it is recommended that each player submit a roster of their five wizards to the organizer before the first game begins. This list may not be changed during the event. The player will start with the same stash built as the same wizards in each game. However, their positions and the Archmage designation will usually vary.


  • Töframenn is my first Icehouse game to use all nine colors. It has kinship to Brad Weier's Martian Mids and my own Litróf.
  • Which colors to pick? In an abstract sense, it makes no difference. It's pleasing to play with one's favorites. Or pick cool elemental associations. If you know your opponent, you can build up colors that trash that opponent. Of course, if they get wind of that, they acquire the colors to trash your colors. And so on.
  • When two players have a single Martian Chess Set or other four-color edition, it works well to give each player two pyramids of each color and size (a total of 24) and let them pick a stash from those pyramids.

The Story of the Colors

There is a method to the interrelationship of colors and their designated elements. Briefly:

  • Classical Alchemy: The four Western alchemical elements were traditionally two opposed pairs, Air vs Earth and Fire vs Water. This accounts for four relationships.
  • Chinese Philosophy: The Chinese recognize five elements with various cyclic relationships. For our purposes, Earth drinks Water, Water quenches Fire (this is already accounted for), Fire melts Metal, Metal chops Wood, and Wood eats Earth. This accounts for four more relationships.
  • Order and Chaos: With six elements already introduced, I needed three more. Light vs Darkness makes an age-old third duality. Chaos opposes the order of this duality and attacks both Light and Darkness. But Chaos is in turn thwarted by the order of growing things (Wood) and the creations of man (Metal). This accounts for six relationships.
  • Game Balance: To balance the colors against each other, four attackers remained to be paired with four targets. Darkness blots out Fire, Air blows away the Wood, Water rusts Metal, and Light cuts through the Air.

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