Thursday, March 1, 2012

1972 Milton Bradley Ice Cube Game

Recently acquired: the holy grail of vintage board games! The now oh-so-rare-and-insanely-pricey Ice Cube was made by Milton Bradley in 1972, and is one of the most sought and most expensive vintage board games in existence. How expensive? Well, a mint example recently sold for as much as a brand-new iPad...so if you spot one at a yard sale, snap it up!

Inside the box.

Here's what happens: basically, players take turns torturing ice cube men (made of real ice) with devices like "The Salt Mine," "Warm Shower," "Hot Head," and "Bucket of Warm Water." The last ice cube man to melt wins the game, although this is a short-lived victory at best.


The game has elaborate prep: first, the tray of specially molded ice men (called "Meltin' Miltons") has to be filled with water and put into the freezer. It takes a couple of hours for the ice men to solidify, and, speaking from experience, you'll be sorry if you try to rush it. If the player's interest hasn't waned by the time the ice men are ready, they are popped out of their tray and...oh, look! They have cute little faces! They're even smiling at us! How adorable! Of course, the cheery, trusting faces of the ice men make their ensuing tortures even more horrible to behold.


Turns out taking a photograph of an ice cube's facial features isn't easy. If you look very closely, you may be able to make out an ear on each side, a big nose, 2 eyes, and a smiling mouth. It's a little clearer in the box illustration:


The newly molded ice men are inserted into little stands, which enable the players to move them around the board. The stands consist of a pair of plastic feet and a dapper little hat with a bow. A spike attached to the feet slides through a hole in the center of each ice man and sticks out the top of the hat, holding the assembly together and providing a handle for each player to grasp.


Each ice man is placed at his starting position on the board, then it's just a matter of spinning the wheel o' tortures to see which fate will befall each one. Will he have to stand under the hot shower? Take a bath in a tub of warm water? Be doused with a sprinkling of salt? Have a bucket of water dumped upon him? Or perhaps the most dreaded fate awaits him: the "Hot Head," in which a heated metal washer is placed atop the ice man! The game instructions cheerily call these possible spin outcomes "mission events."

The wheel o' tortures with icicle spinner.

The Salt Mine sprinkling.  

The Hot Shower.
The infamous Hot Head torture. Poor ice cube man...he's melting fast!

Whichever he spins, the ice man remains there, slowly melting away, until either his next turn or until another player spins that fate. If he's very lucky, he'll spin "enter Deep Freeze," which gives him a brief respite in a chamber of comforting crushed ice. The tortures continue until only one ice man is left standing.

Ice Cube is, as you may imagine, an incredibly messy game. Melted water, crusty salt, and flaky rust from the heated metal washer eventually coat everything if not carefully cleaned off after each game, and, if not dried thoroughly before packing away, the result is stinky mold. Countless spring-cleaning mothers tossed these games out in disgust. Consequently, Ice Cube is hard to find today, especially in good, complete condition, and when found, it commands high prices. Sure, you could buy an iPad for what you'll pay for an Ice Cube game...but would you have as much fun? I don't think so.

20 comments:

  1. I have the perfect accessory for this game! I bought it for my garden, but I would feel so much better about the purchase if it had multiple uses. I call it a flame thrower; it's a propane fueled torch that makes short work of weeds - and ice cube men (insert sinister laugh here).

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  2. Hi Tracy - fantastic site. Is there a means of me sending you a private email to ask about one of the toys featured? Thanks a million.. Paul

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  3. I loved this game as a kid!!!! Wish I kept it....lol

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  4. Loved this game as a kid...played it all the time!

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  5. This was my most absolutely favorite game as a kid. I wish they would remake it, because the chances of finding one used are pretty low. Looks like you got a perfect set, lucky you!

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    1. They will never remake it. Salt is bad for you, you could swallow and choke on the hothead. There's a chance of frost bite and the fact that your playing counters are faces and melt could cause psychological damage to children....Joking but sadly probably not far wrong.

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  6. Hi!
    I was wondering if I could upload these Space Race pictures to Boardgamegeek, a site about indexing and discussion of board games.
    Thanks!

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    1. Hi! Absolutely, upload away. Thanks for asking first!

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. (Also, you should provide a way of cotnacting you in your blog.)

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    1. I know, I know. I used to, after similar complaints from others, but it led to lots of spam and requests from people who wanted me to appraise their toys, neither of which I have a lot of time for. And the spam got really annoying. But here you go: spudbrain1 at yahoo dot com.

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  8. Loved playing this game! We always made sure the little heads were in the freezer and ready when we wanted to play. Thanks for the memories!

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  9. Tracy, love your website! This was also my absolute favorite game as a child. Unfortunately, my mother threw it out. She thought it was too messy. :( I recently acquired the board and all the pieces except the ice tray and box. I can't remember what it means when you spin a star. Can you enlighten me? I want to play it with my kids, but don't have the rules to read. Also, do you know of an ice cube tray that would make cubes that could work as a Meltin' Milton substitute? Thanks!!!

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    1. Hi! My directions say:

      1. The first player to spin a white star on the spinner goes first and play continues clockwise.

      2. In each turn, a player spins the Mission Spinner to determine which Mission Event his ice man must perform in that turn. The Mission Events are described below in detail.

      3. A player always returns his ice man to his home star space, if it is not already there, before he spins the spinner to take his turn. He would also remove the Hot Head before his next spin, if his ice man were wearing it since his last turn.

      4. When the ice completely melts or slides off the feet of the ice man, its player is out of the game.

      Explanation of Mission Events

      A. Deep Freeze
      This well contains ice chips or cubes and helps preserve the ice man by letting him rest there until his player has his next turn, or unless an opponent's ice man moves in before then to replace him.

      B. Bucket of Water
      A little bucket of water is dumped over the hat of the ice man, while on his home space, by the opponent to the left. That player replaces the water in the bucket, so it will be ready for its next use.

      C. Salt Mine
      The ice man is placed on space under salt container. While he is there the salt container is given 5 turns of the crank by the opponent to the left. The salt is sprinkled on the ice man with his hat on, or with his hat removed, depending on the spin. After the salting the hat is replaced, if off, and the ice man is returned to his home star space.

      D. Take a Bath
      The ice man is placed in the bath standing up, until his player's next turn or until an opponent's ice man may take his place.

      E. Hot Head
      The metal disk which has been resting in warm water is placed on top of the ice man's head and under his hat while he remains on his star space. The disk is not removed until the player's next turn or before if an opponent spins Hot Head, and takes it from him.

      F. Take a Warm Shower
      The ice man is placed under the Warm Shower and the Water Tank is emptied over the ice man by his player turning the shower tank lever to the ON position. The ice man takes a shower sometimes with his hat off, depending on the spin. After its shower, the player returns his ice man to his home star space and refills the shower for its next use.

      The Home Star Spaces
      When a player spins ANY of the four Star Spaces, his ice man remains on his home space and is safe for that turn.

      As far as replacement ice cube ideas: I searched for "novelty ice cube trays" online. At amazon.com, I found Homer Simpson ones that might work, and also a set of Tiki idols that look like a good substitute: they are called "Fred & Friends Stone Cold Ice Trays."

      Good luck, have fun!

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    2. Oh my goodness! Thank you so much Tracy. :) My kids will get a kick out of the Stone Men ice cubes! Homer's pretty funny too. Thanks so much for the response and I'll let you know how the ice cubes work out. :)

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  10. I received this game one Christmas. I loved it, but it did become mess and eventually got thrown out.

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    1. Yep, sadly that was the fate of most Ice Cube games, and why they are so rare now.

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  11. I am 48 yrs old and could never remember the name of this game. Everyone always looked at me like I was crazy when describing the game. Today, during my daughter's dance class another mom searched and found your site. I loved this game and now finally know what it's called. The other moms thought it sounded cool when I described it. :-)

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    1. Hi Lisa,

      No, you're not crazy! :0) Glad this post was able to help!

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  12. LOVED LOVED LOVED this game. Wish I still had it and could introduce my kids to real games not virtual games

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