At one point during the 1960s, toy companies raised eyebrows with a line of games seemingly designed to bring out the megalomaniac in every child. With Ants in the Pants, kids launched plastic bugs into a pair of trousers. Cootie taught children the value of constructing even more bugs. But of all these games, nothing came close to being as diabolically fun as Milton Bradley’s Don’t Break The Ice.
Originally released by Schaper Toys back in 1968, Don’t Break The Ice was played by setting up thirty-six plastic blocks of “ice” into a tight-fitting square. Thirty-two 1×1 blocks snug around a 2×2 central block upon which sat an unsuspecting man in a chair known simply as “The Iceman.” Each player was given a thin green hammer and instructed to tap out one block of ice – and only one – without causing the whole grid to collapse. A turn wasn’t over until one block had fallen completely through and As the blocks held together by friction, every time one dropped, the whole structure weakened. Of course, the obvious way to not break the ice was to, ahem, not break the ice. But where would burgeoning super-villains learn to employ the steady hand of torture if childhood didn’t lend a helping hand? No, white knuckles must somehow be replaced with white hot nerves of steel and that poor schmo out in the middle of the glacier has got to go before he ruins our plans.
As the game wore on (after about a minute or so), the strategy began to play a role as pre-adolescent minds came to grips with the realities of physics. Iceman was going down, there was no question about that. But who was the oaf-fingered sap clumsy enough to topple him without exacting the full fruit of the torture process.
Over 40 years later, kids are still breaking the ice over a game of Don’t Break The Ice (which is now distributed by Hasbro). The little ones are welcome because of the high safety factor for everyone involved, and the Iceman has since been replaced by a more arctic climate-friendly polar bear. Whether this was in response to requests by parents or by secret agents remains unknown. One thing’s for sure: Don’t Break The Ice captures the quintessential element of childhood… milking the most out of the simple things.
If you sweated your way through a few rounds of Don’t Break The Ice back in the day, we welcome you to share your thoughts in our comments section.