Icehouse + Decktet strategy game by Ryan Hackel

Decktet,Icehouse,gaming Dectana is a game of occupying and defending the most valuable territories on a board made of cards which changes during play. You will need to grow an army of pyramids, make best use of your hand of cards, and even invoke the powers of the board itself. Can you retain your stake at victory against your opponents' competing endeavors?

If you've played Zarcana, Gnostica, Zark City, or Pantopia before, this game will feel very familiar. However, knowledge of those games is neither necessary nor assumed.


You Will Need:

2 - 5 players
30 - 60 minutes
3 Icehouse nests per player
2 Decktets, shuffled together


Each player will need three nests of pyramids. (A nest is one small, one medium, and one large.) A 3HOUSE set (three Treehouse sets) will be sufficient to support up to five players.

Shuffle two Decktets together. Use nine random cards to build a 3x3 board. Alternate the card direction to highlight that corner-to-corner is not adjacent.

Deal three cards to each player. Choose one player to go first by whatever method you prefer.

In reverse turn order, starting with the last player, each player places a small pyramid on any territory or wasteland space, even if it is already occupied. Once each player has placed a pyramid, turns then proceed clockwise around the table, starting with the first player.


A space is any place on the board where cards and pyramids may be placed. Spaces are adjacent if they share an orthogonal side with each other. Spaces are never adjacent diagonally.

A territory is a space that contains at least one card. If there are multiple cards there, only the top card is considered. If the top card is removed, then the topmost remaining card is considered instead.

A wasteland space is a space that is not a territory, but is adjacent to one.

The void is any space beyond the wasteland, a space that is adjacent only to wasteland spaces. Pyramids and cards cannot be played here, and any pyramid in the void is immediately destroyed.

An upright pyramid stands on its base. It does not point at any particular space.

A flat pyramid lies on its side. It can point in any of the four cardinal directions. It points at the nearest adjacent space in that direction, whether wasteland or territory. It never points at spaces two or more steps away.

A piece on the board may point in any of the four cardinal directions or point straight up. To "orient" a piece is to change its direction to any of the five legal directions.


On your turn, choose and do one of these five options:

  1. Activate the power of a card on the board that you occupy. When you activate a card on the board, you may use any one of its suits.
  2. Use, then discard, a card from your hand. When you use a card from your hand, you may use any one of its suits.
  3. Reorient any number of your pyramids.
  4. If you have no pyramids on the board, place a small pyramid on any territory or wasteland.
  5. Discard your entire hand, then draw that many cards plus one.

When using option 1 or 2 above, you first must choose one of your pyramids in play to use the ability. Some abilities require the pyramid to be upright or flat. Please see "Suit Powers" for a full description of these requirements. If none of your pyramids in play meet the requirement, you cannot use the ability.

Treat Crowns as triples, bearing the same suit three times. Activating a Crown from the hand or from the board grants you up to three uses of that suit, provided you have enough legal targets. The same pyramid or different pyramids, can be used for each use of the power. Crowns have no point value (count as zero).

If your Decktets contain Pawns and Excuses: Pawns have three suits, and work just like a typical two-suited card, with the additional benefit of greater utility. However, Pawns have no point value (count as zero). The Excuse has no suits, no value, and serves merely as an inconvenience to anyone unlucky enough to draw it. Any card, even a card worth zero points, has a higher value than the Excuse. (If your Decktets contain Courts, treat them as Pawns.)

The maximum "cards in hand" limit is six. You can ignore this rule while you are drawing cards, but once you finish, you will need to immediately discard down to six, if you exceed the limit.

As a rule, you cannot do anything to a territory's card if there are any pyramids on it.


Each suit lets you perform one of its abilities each time you use it.

Suns have the power to Create Choose one of your upright pyramids. Add your small pyramid upright to that territory. If no small pyramid is available, you cannot do this.
Choose one of your flat pyramids that points at an adjacent empty wasteland space. Put the top card of the deck on that space.

Leaves have the power to Grow Choose one of your upright pyramids. Replace it with your pyramid that is exactly one size larger. If no such pyramids are available, you cannot do this.
Choose one of your flat pyramids that points at an adjacent empty territory. Take a card from your and place it on top. The new card must be larger in value than the old card. (Kings and Pawns have zero value. Aces are one.)

Waves have the power to Move Choose one of your flat pyramids. Move it in the pointed direction a number of spaces up to its pip count. It ends movement standing upright.
Choose one of your flat pyramids pointing at an adjacent empty territory. Move that card in the target direction to the nearest wasteland space. Any pyramids in that wasteland space now occupy the card.

Moons have the power to Steal Choose one of your flat pyramids that points at an occupied space. Use X movement points, where X is the pushing pyramid's pip count. Each point moves one pip one space. Pushed pyramids retain their orientation. Pyramids pushed into the void are destroyed.
Choose one of your flat pyramids that points at an adjacent empty territory. Put that territory's top card into your hand, then observe the hand limit of six.

Wyrms have the power to Destroy Choose one of your flat pyramids that points at an occupied space. Shrink X points of opposing pyramids from the target space, where X is your pyramid's pip count. If there are no pyramids of the suitable size available, use the smallest available size of the nearest value.
Choose one of your flat pyramids that points at an adjacent empty territory. Destroy (discard) the top card of that territory.

Knots have the power to Draw Choose one of your upright pyramids. Draw X cards, where X is the pyramid's pip count. After drawing, observe the hand limit of six.
Choose one of your flat pyramids that points at an adjacent empty territory. Draw X cards, where X is the territory's value, then destroy both the pyramid and the territory from play. After drawing, observe the hand limit of six.


At any time, after the deck has been shuffled at least once, anyone may discard three Aces to end the game.

You score points for each card your pyramids solely occupy. Crowns, Pawns, and The Excuse have no point value. Aces are worth one point. All other cards are worth their printed number. If you share a territory with any other players, no player receives points for it.

The player with the highest score is the winner.

If there is a tie for highest score, the tied player with more pyramids on the board is the winner.


At the beginning of the game, choose your first territory wisely. Suns and Leaves are more important early on, but starting next to an occupied Wyrm or Moon is dangerous. High valued cards are nice, but Crowns can give you an early boost. There is little reason to start on an Ace or the wasteland, except to set up a future attack.

Reminder: You cannot use Suns to add pyramids while you are flat.
Reminder: After moving, you stand upright.

You will get more mileage out of your Waves, Moons, Wyrms, and Knots by using larger pyramids. If you have a Crown, plan ahead so that you can use all three of its activations.

Large pyramids can move fast and hit hard. They are your best weapon, and your nemesis.

A pyramid in the void is instantly gone. Moons can push pyramids into the void; this is considered crueler than using Wyrms. Also, you can turn wasteland into void by removing all adjacent territory cards.

The draw pile is also the game clock. When it runs low, be thinking about your score. If you're ahead, grab for Aces. If you're behind, look for quick ways to grab points for you and take points away from the leader.

If you are looking for three Aces, you'll want to keep a dedicated pyramid upright on a Knot. You can also use Moons to pick up Aces from the board. Don't recycle your hand with turn option #5 if you can avoid it.

You can only attack rival pyramids on adjacent cards, never your own card! The safest place to be is right next to your opponent, if you can get past his defenses. Since shared cards don't score at endgame, moving onto an opponent's territory is a good way to deny him those points. The only way to remove unwanted houseguests is to move to an adjacent card and attack them from there with Wyrms or Moons.

A two-pip pyramid can destroy a three-pip opponent by using a Wyrm... if the opponent is out of smalls in reserve! If you're under siege, keep a small as a backup in case your big pyramids are shrunk with Wyrms.


This game is a direct descendant of John Cooper's classic Icehouse game, Zarcana, as well as Zarcana’s reimplementation as Gnostica developed by John Cooper, Jacob Davenport, Kory Heath, and Kristin Matherly. Much of Dectana's mechanics are directly ported over from those earlier works, and Dectana is heavily in their debt.

The Decktet itself is the work of P.D. Magnus. It is free to download and print, thanks to its Creative Commons license (by-nc-sa 3.0). You should have no issues with making a pair of your own Decktets for this game. You can also buy professionally-printed Decktets.

Lastly, Icehouse pyramids were developed by John Cooper and Andrew Looney, and are the intellectual property of Looney Labs. Fan-made Icehouse games are strongly encouraged, and this work is no exception. If you enjoy Icehouse games, of which there are dozens, you should buy a few Treehouse sets from the Looney Labs webstore or any of their retailers.

Revision History:

20 October 2009: Rules first posted.

21 October 2009: Rules download and player aids added.

29 December 2009: Clarification of rules text. Upright pyramids do not point at anything. Explicitly state "adjacent" spaces in suit powers. Clarify that "tied" player with more pyramids on board wins.

2 June 2010: Changed "Kings" to "Crowns". Treat Courts like Pawns.

18 June 2010: Updated tri-fold and player aid files to incorporate minor changes.


This game is still a work in progress; I reserve the right to change the rules as I see fit. But don't worry. You can keep with the game's development by revisiting this website. If you do download a copy of the game, please leave the filename as is. This will help you know if your copy is the latest version. (The download stuff is slightly out of date. Give the online rules precedence.)

Got a question? Contact me!

Dectana is listed on BoardGameGeek. Go there and rate it!

Last Updated: 18 June 2010

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