Aliens know that the best thing in the universe is ice cream. Players have been saving the world from them for years now on their mobile devices. But Fairway was asked to save the universe, yet again, in today’s preview of the cooperative card game: Robots ❤️ Ice Cream.
Robots ❤️ Ice Cream is a one- to four-player, semi-cooperative card game. Players take control of ice cream trucks in order defend the universe from aliens who are trying to steal various planets’ ice cream supplies.
Initial Impressions ^
- The cutesy ice cream and alien art that make the video game popular have found their way into this game. It’s nicely presented and just as adorable as you’d expect.
- My skepticism of card game adaptations of mobile video game was unwarranted. They’ve implemented some interesting game play mechanics that don’t merely try to replicate the game.
- The powers, both robots and upgrades, seem well-balanced and mostly useful.
- Some levels are really, really hard depending on your robot mix. I’m not entirely sure some of our planets’ invasion forces were actually beatable. But you can’t win all the time!
Game play ^
Robots ❤️ Ice Cream is a semi-cooperative game. Players need to cooperatively stop the aliens from taking too much ice cream, while at the same time score more points than their ice cream truck driving comrades.
The game itself is played over a series of five planets. At each planet, players have three rounds to stop a group of aliens from taking a new planet’s ice cream. If the aliens are able to capture enough of the ice cream, the players lose.
To start, a new planet is revealed. Each planet has a different number of aliens that are trying to invade and steal ice cream. The players set out a number of alien cards representing the invaders in columns according to the planet card. At the top of each column is a “Spinston” alien and below it is, typically, a random arrangement of other robots.
Then, there are three rounds consisting of two game play phases: players’ actions and robots’ actions. During the first phase, each player takes a turn drawing weaponized ice cream cards and playing sets of those cards that match the defense value of an invading robot. Each time a player defeats a robot, they collect “sprinkletonium” cards. These sprinkletonium cards can be turned in for more ice cream cards or saved for upgrades. Also, if a player destroys a spinston, they collect an ince cream token.
Once the players’ have completed their turns, the robots get to take their actions. Each robot has their own power which is evaluated in order. The Spinstons cause ice cream to be beamed up a round tracker.
Finally, once the planet is completed: either the robots collect all the ice cream (bad!) or all the robots are destroyed (good!), players can use sprinkletonium to buy upgrades.
If the players win, by saving most of the ice cream from all the planets, a winning player is picked by totalling up victory points. The victory points are awarded based on ice cream saved and robots destroyed.
On the green ^
Semi-cooperative. A semi-cooperative game is hard to construct where players don’t feel compelled to undermine their frenemies. It often feels forced. Robots ❤️ Ice Cream somehow manages to avoid that issue. Players face a common objective but are rewarded for their individual contributions. If you end up doing more, you score points. There’s real “reward” here.
Another upside is that it avoids the other issue of a single player “solving” the game for everyone and directing their actions. Each player has an incentive, in this case, to do what is best for them.
Overall, well done.
The Art and Presentation. Robots ❤️ Ice Cream is a game that’s going to do really well on Kickstarter by virtue of its art and its existing mobile fan base. The card game successfully manages to port its fun, video game art style. The art assets are well-presented and utilized.
The theme. The entire concept and theme of Robots Love Ice Cream is adorable. It is a I’ve ice cream cone with a cherry and sprinkles on top adorable. When I brought the game to a public game event, everyone was both smiling at it and intrigued by it.
The upgrades and weapons. The game does a good job of balancing out the upgrades available to the players. It would have been easy to go overboard by presenting players with over powered weapons. They present a good options to the players and the two-upgrade maximum means players have to actually decide.
Solo! By my own play, it works well. The same basic game play is used. I found it on par with the regular game. My son (8yo), who has played that version more times than me, reports that he thinks it’s easier.
Play time and learning. The game is a breeze to teach. Most of the complexity in the game comes from the set up at both the initial phase and at transitions to new planets. The upside is that the basic game is easy to teach: match cards until you can take out the invading aliens. And because the actual game play is pretty quick, the game itself goes by pretty quickly.
Where it comes up short ^
Those sets. The primary way players advance through the game is by collecting matching sets of weaponized ice cream. And if I have one complaint about this game its the reliance and focus on this aspect. For me, using the weaponized ice cream cards this way has two game play consequences:
Luck. One consequence is that the early portions of the game rely heavily on luck of the draw. It’s unmitigated and can, and did, end a few games pretty early because players couldn’t draw the right cards. If you’re able to survive those early rounds, the upgrades do a good job mitigating the effects of luck.
Minimizes strategy. Th second consequence is that it doesn’t present players with many strategic options. Generally rounds consist of divvying up of who should attack what. But that limits the strategy to just maximization.
Neither of these are tragic for a light card game. It may, however, limit the appeal and replayability of the game for people expecting something more from a game.
So many cards. Very minor quibble, but this game has lots of cards for lots of different purposes. As a result, it feels like we were constantly sorting cards frequently. This definitely extends initial set up, but also the set up when changing planets.
In the hole ^
Robots ❤️ Ice Cream is a light, smile-inducing, semi-cooperative game about ice-cream-loving aliens. What’s not to like? By matching adorable art with alien-blasting card play, I have no doubt that this will melt the heart of Kickstarter backers. You should definitely take a look at Robots ❤️ Ice Cream if you’re a fan of the mobile game, you’re a family of gamers, you love ice cream, you love cooperative games, or you’re looking for a light change of pace game.
Robots ❤️ Ice Cream is in the hole for a birdie. ^
Fairway was provided a pre-production copy of the game in order to write this preview. He was not otherwise compensated for his opinion.