Welcome back. Last week’s game was a real bummer. If you had the time and inclination to give it a shot, did you die as horribly as me? I sure hope not, but in case you did grab yourself a warm drink, and let’s dive into a bit of a grimdark palate cleanser with Into the Glacier by Peach Garden Games.
In theory I should enjoy the winter. My birthday’s right smack in the middle of it, snow looks pretty in all the pictures, migration patterns bring new birds, and most importantly, all the gnats and cicadas are dead. In practice however, it’s cold and wet, the two times I’ve seen snow in my life it’s sent my entire city into a panic, and despite all odds, the gnats persist. Into the Glacier allows me a chance to enjoy the magic of winter right from the comfort of my own home.
To play you’ll need a deck of playing cards with the joker removed, two six-sided dice, (or one die you roll twice), some kind of token to represent your character, and some way to write down your thoughts.
The titualer glacier is a place of power, the domain of winter. It’s untouched, and unwelcoming of humans. You will be playing as someone from a village that lives at its edge who’s in desperate need of supernatural help. The game opens with four short stories, and you’ll have to pick which one is the reason for your character’s journey into the glacier. For just four stories there’s a nice variety in goals, and the prompts are open-ended enough for you to elaborate on as much or as little as you’d like. I went with the tale of the Mountain Knight, an impending meteor had appeared in the skies, and I needed to rouse the knight from their slumber to protect the town.
The game is played much like a board game, with the cards laid out in a grid as the board. To start you pull out the ace of clubs and the king of hearts, along with a card corresponding to whatever it is you’re seeking. Draw 9-21 more cards, depending on how big of an area you want. Set the ace of clubs aside, then shuffle your goal card into the deck, along with the king of hearts as the only card face up. Now all you have to do is spread your cards out into a grid, (though I see no reason why you couldn’t go with a more funky shape if you feel so inclined), place the ace of clubs somewhere on the outside with your token on top, and you’re ready to go.
You start the game with eight warmth. You’ll lose warmth as you travel the board, and can recover warmth either by returning to your village on the ace of clubs, or through random events as you flip over cards. If you ever hit zero warmth you’ll fall unconscious and be moved to the king of hearts. There’s no way to ‘die’ in this game, though there’s nothing stopping you from implementing your own rules if you’d like something grittier.
Now with the game set up, and nothing but the clothes on my character’s back, it was time to set out in search of the fabled Mountain Knight. I moved over to the first card outside my village and immediately found them. Evidently I was having better luck here then I was when attempting to survive aboured the Wretched. I reshuffled the deck and then started the game.
I soon came across a cave in the ice and ducked inside, hoping to get some temporary respite from the winds. To my surprise however, it seemed colder inside the cave than it was out. Still, I soldiered on, still hoping perhaps after starting a fire things would start to warm up. I didn’t get very far before the light of my lantern caught on something shiny. As I held it up to get a better look around I saw that floor to ceiling the cave was filled with treasure frozen in ice. I realized this must be one of the many hoards of the fabled ice dragon, and quickly made my exit before it returned.
After I was some distance away from the cave, I came across the fresh footprints in the snow. They were small, like those of a child. As I realized I still wasn’t that far out from the village I broke into a sprint, quickly catching up to the lost child. I carried him back home as he told me about the pretty lights that had led out into the glacier. Back at the village the distraught parents thanked me for returning their son by giving me supplies for my journey to find the knight.
Back out on the glacier my trek was uneventful, until after some time I caught sight of movement below the ice underfoot. It was a massive school of silvery fish. At some point I must’ve wandered onto a frozen river. Not sure how far out on the river I was, I resolved to continue crossing it. It was slow going, but by the end of the day I’d made it to the other side.
Out on the flat plains of snow and ice, it was difficult to tell how much progress I was really making. The next day I made my way towards a nearby thicket of trees, hoping to use the forest to help guide my way. It was only part way into the day before I came across it. A brown bear that easily rivaled the size of a draft horse. Having no way of defending myself against such a beast, I ducked into the snowbanks, and waited for it to move on. A day of travel lost. The next morning I left the forest in an attempt to avoid running into the bear again.
Leaving the forest worked to my favor as I spotted a towering hill on the horizon. The Mountain Knight perhaps? As I drew closer I started to make out more and more details. The horns of their helmet sticking out to the sides of their head, an arm resting on a folded leg, a mighty sword thrust into the ground next to them. I started to yell and jump for joy, my village would be saved! But they did not respond to my calls. I then realized that they were asleep and I was too small for them to hear this far away.
I would have to climb up to their shoulder to speak into their ears.
I dropped what supplies I could onto the ground, and bundled myself tightly against the cold. It would be a long climb up their frozen clothes, and I was running low on daylight. It must’ve been hours but at last, I’d made it up. When I at last yelled in their ear they startled awake, almost knocking me loose, but I held fast, and was able to explain my plight to them.
Safe on their shoulder, they carried me back to my village. When the meteor drew close enough they were able to cleave it in half with a single swing of their blade.
All in all, Into the Glacier is a fun, low stakes romp. It’s quick to set up, and you can run shorter or longer games depending on your mood. If you’re a GM, I can easily see using the game as a way to inspire snowy encounters for whatever other games you play. At the time of writing Peach Garden Games has one other game using the same system, as well as a free SRD for you to make your own game, so I can definitely see myself coming back to this sort of thing in the future.