Zarcana Pieces

My Icehouse Pieces in their Clever Carrying Case are portable, but fairly bulky. Since I rarely play Icehouse, I decided to make a set of flat pieces entirely dedicated to Zarcana. (Which, at the time, was still named "Arcana", but let's not get into that.)

The Specification

I am, to my knowledge, the first person to make a working set of Zarcana pieces. (John Cooper tried a test set made out of little paper squares; but they were nearly impossible to handle.) So I declare that I get to write the specification of Standard Zarcana Pieces.

(Standardization is, if nothing else, a way to be sure that people with different sets can play together without confusion. If you want to ignore this stuff and make any kind of set you please, you think I'm going to stop you?)

Small pieces shall be 1/2 (0.5) inches square; medium pieces shall be 3/4 (0.75) inches square; large pieces shall be 1 (1.0) inch square. The thickness need not conform to a precise standard, but all pieces should be between 3/16 and 1/2 (0.1875 and 0.5) inches thick.

(Isn't the passive voice fun?)

Each piece shall have a "standing" pattern on one side and a "lying down" pattern on the other side. The exact forms of these patterns are left open to interpretation. However, some general rules must be followed:

The "lying down" pattern must have a recognizable overall form of a triangle, with the point in the center of one edge of the square, and the base covering the entire opposite edge.

The "standing" pattern can be any overall form which is symmetrical and centered on the face.


I made my pieces out of bass wood. This is easily available in craft and hobby stores. It's one step up from balsa wood; you can't cut it with a butterknife, but you can with a razor blade.

You can buy long strips of bass wood which are 1/2 by 3/16 inches, and 1 by 3/16 inches. If you can't get 3/4-inch wide strips, take a 1-inch strip, score a line with a razor blade, and then deepen the crack until it splits the long way.

Then start cutting squares. A small hacksaw or finger-length serrated knife is easier than a razor blade, since you're cutting across the grain. When you measure, remember that each cut chews out about 1/16 inch of wood.


This is pretty much the same as the deal for painting wooden Icehouse pieces.


A set of four stashes (sixty squares) fits neatly into a box 4.5 by 2 by 1.5 inches.

My Zarcana pieces have so far endured several games of Zarcana. They worked fine.

Three of us have also tried playing Icehouse with the pieces. Of course, the shape makes a tremendous difference to that game. (Consider tip-blocking.) Only two game of Flat Icehouse have occurred thus far. The other two players tied in one game, and I didn't do well in the other; which makes me the Worst Flat Icehouse Player in the Universe. Sigh.

Other Possibilities

Cubical Icehouse/Zarcana pieces? Regular tetrahedra with one of the four vertices painted a contrasting color? Go nuts.

See Also

My cubical playing pieces and Icehouse pieces, and notes on painting the wooden and plastic ones.

The games of Icehouse, Zarcana, and related games were invented by Andy Looney and John Cooper.

The Unofficial Icehouse Home Page.

Last updated November 9, 1999.

Zarfhome (map) (down)