Folio is an abstract strategy game for two players. The rules are simple, but the strategy can get mind-bending. It owes some rule ideas to the commercially available game Quarto (thus the name). Game length depends on how long you like to think about your moves, but around 5-10 minutes is average.

Warning: Rules subject to minor tweaking.



Choose 16 Icehouse pieces as follows:
  1. Take one piece of each size/colour combination. This should be 12 pieces.
  2. Take one piece of each size, each a different colour. This adds 3 more pieces.
  3. Take a piece of the colour not taken in step 2, of any size.
These are the only pieces which will be used to play. Place them beside the board. Set the rest of the pieces aside where they cannot be mistaken for pieces being used in the game. The actual colour/size combinations in steps 2 and 3 are unimportant, as long as the rules are followed.

Choose a player to take the first turn by any means desired.

Game Play

Players take turns to put a piece on the board. The piece to be placed is however chosen by the other player from amongst the remaining pieces. So if John goes first, Mary must choose a piece and give it to John to place on the board. When John has done so, he chooses a piece and gives it to Mary to place on the board, and so on.

The first piece must be placed on one of the four central squares of the board. Subsequent pieces may be placed on any empty square within 3 squares of all pieces already on the board, measured in any direction including diagonally. Pieces may not be placed on an occupied square. Although orientation is not important, it is recommended that pieces be placed upright. You must use the piece chosen by the other player. Once a piece has been placed, it is not moved.

The restriction on placing pieces within 3 squares of existing pieces restricts the play to a 4x4 subset of squares within the chessboard, however the exact 16 squares used are undefined until enough pieces have been placed to define the 4x4 subgrid uniquely. In other words, if all 16 pieces get played, they must form a 4x4 subgrid, with no pieces placed outside it. It may be easier to think of the restriction in these terms.

The winner is the first player to place a piece which completes a line of four pieces in any direction (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) which contains either:

That's it!


On your turn you want to make a move which allows you to choose a piece for your opponent that cannot possibly win the game for him. This sounds easier than it is, especially late in the game. Once you have managed to find a move or moves which let you do this, you need to consider setting up possible winning lines for yourself, to restrict your opponent's choice of where he can play and what piece he can give you. The look-ahead planning gets complex very quickly.

Always keep an eye on what pieces remain beside the board to be chosen, and play with this in mind. It's no good making a move which means the only piece you can give to your opponent to prevent him winning is a small green one, when there are no small green pieces left!

Be careful to watch the diagonals, especially when the 4x4 subgrid has not yet been fully defined. There may be several possible diagonal lines that can end up being winning lines.

Eight of the pieces in the game are unique, while the other eight are two copies of four different pieces. Be aware of which pieces are available twice.


Fixed Grid

Simply play on a fixed 4x4 grid. This reduces the complexity somewhat.

No Grid

Do not use a square grid at all! The first piece is placed in the centre of the table. Subsequent pieces must be placed adjacent to existing pieces on a notional square grid, which may grow in any direction until the size of 4x4 is reached. Assume the notional grid is parallel to the sides of the pieces, and place pieces with all their sides parallel to each other. Pieces may be placed diagonally adjacent to existing pieces. This is actually more restricting than the standard version of the game, because of the adjacency requirement (but see below).

Freeform No Grid

The first piece is placed in the centre of the table. The next piece is placed anywhere else, and its sides do not need to be parallel to the first piece. (In practice, there is no point to placing the second piece more than about 6 large pyramid sizes away from the first piece, or roughly 6 inches for standard sized Icehouse pieces. This helps keep the whole grid on the table!) This forms two squares of the notional 4x4 grid, but which two remains undefined as yet. Note that the notional grid does not have to be parallel to the sides of any pieces.

The third piece might define things better. Some possible third piece plays are shown in the diagrams with possible notional grids. Note that the size and even the orientation of the notional grid may remain undefined until more pieces are played. Future plays must conform to at least one possible notional grid. Eventually the exact grid size, placement, and orientation is uniquely determined, and play continues using that notional grid. Note that pieces are always assumed to be at or very near the centre of their notional grid squares.

If ever a player believes his opponent has placed a piece in such a way that no 4x4 notional grid can possibly accomodate all the played pieces, he may challenge his opponent to demonstrate where the grid is. If the opponent cannot show such a grid, he loses the game. If he can, the challenger loses.

Orientation Matters

Still have to figure this out...


Game Design: David Morgan-Mar.
Playtesting: Geoff Bailey.

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