Appearances can be deceptive. The Cold War subtitle doesn't mean this is a tussle over the Berlin Wall or mutually assured destruction. The theme is altogether lighter: it's a snowball fight between rival groups of kids.
So this is a lightweight children's game then? Nope. Appearances can be deceptive, remember. The artwork and theme may be cute but, beneath that veneer, this is tactical 'capture the flag'/tower defence style war game.
Depending on the number of players (the game takes 2–4), you control one or more pairs of snowballing avatars on your own 8x8 grid board which connects to those of the other players. If you play this as a two-player game, for example, you'll each control two pairs of snowballers and you'll position your two boards so that you and your opponent sit on opposite sides of the table. The boards indicate starting position for 'snow fort' walls (which offer defence and which slow movement) and for your snowmen. You can place your snowballers anywhere in your rear four rows.
On your turn, each of your snowballer avatars can take any two actions: move, throw, build a fort wall, build a snowball, break a fort wall or knock down a snowman.
The idea is that the snowballers move around the board (orthogonal movement of 4 squares, with additional movement possible by sliding on the 'ice') and, when in a 7 square range of a targeted snowballer, they can throw a snowball at them. A 12-sided die determines whether or not the snowball hits: on open ground, the snowball hits on a roll of 3 or more. If the target is behind a snow fort wall, the attacker has to roll 7 or higher. If the wall is stacked two layers high, the attack only succeeds on a roll of 11 or 12. the snowballer avatars can each take just three hits before they have to return to their base, where they have to take a number of time out turns before they can rejoin the fray.
Taking avatars out of the game is not the object, however. To win Snow Day, you have to knock over all of your opponents' snowmen (there is one for each colour) before they knock over all of yours. This is the 'capture the flag' equivalent, and to knock down a snowman you need to move one of your snowballing avatars to a square adjacent to it with no fort wall between you.
The rules then for Snow Day are really quite straightforward, which makes this a game that's easy to learn, and with no fiddly icons to have to look up or worry about. Nonetheless, designer Andrew Voigt has incorporated ample scope for strategy and tactics; for example, over when and how best to deploy snow forts. Avatars each start off with just two snowballs, so you'll have to set aside actions to make more. The flexibility of initial set up can mean that a player could put an avatar within striking distance of your snowman, so you'll need to shore up your defences by surrounding your snowman with some protective snow forts.
When you want to add another layer to Snow Day, you can flip over the snowballer avatar cards and play using the unique special abilities that each character has. These shake the game up because they mean you will need to vary your strategy, especially in order to make optimal use of the characters' different abilities when deployed in combination. Often when players have different special abilities one or more feels overpowered but we found those in Snow Day to be pretty well balanced; albeit that some are largely defensive and others more obviously favour attack. We'd just like to have seen an option for allowing snowballs to be passed between avatars in relay as that would add to the opportunity of using the characters in combination.
If you're playing this game with a higher player count, there's player elimination. With just two players, the early elimination of a snowman creates an inbuilt catch up mechanism because your avatars have one less snowman to protect. Indeed, we found it could actually be a viable strategy to deliberately leave one snowman as a soft (unprotected) target and sacrifice it in order to draw the enemy out and better position your avatars to take out both of your opponent's snowmen.
You're attacking other players so Snow Day is inevitably a 'take that' game; so not a game for snowflakes :-) but the theme makes this a light and accessible tower defence game that will appeal to players who would not normally even consider playing a more conventional war game.
Shown here on Board's Eye View is an early preview prototype of the game so expect some changes between this and the final published version. Publishers Vitamin D Games are launching Snow Day shortly on Kickstarter. We'll add a link to the campaign when it goes live.