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Forge Your Nation and Watch It Fall in ICARUS – A DM-Less RPG

Forge Your Nation and Watch It Fall in ICARUS – A DM-Less RPG

From the Qing Dynasty to the British Empire, great powers ruled much of the world for centuries at a time, and they all had one thing in common: they eventually fell.

Icarus is a collaborative storytelling game about how these civilizations crumble under the weight of their own greatness. Written and created by first-time designer Spenser Starke, Icarus puts players at the height of their city’s powers when it decides to build a massive monument to showcase its sophistication and prestige to the entire world.

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Drawing on The Quiet Year and Tales of the Arabian Nights as inspiration for the game, Icarus is world-building in a box; a GM-less dice-stacking role-playing game. Becca shows us how the game plays in this video:

Players take on the roles of diplomats, scientists, marshalls, actors, politicians, and business moguls as they describe the events that take place for months or even years.

You and your fellow players build an awe-inspiring tower of dice while a rulebook, a deck of 52 cards, and note cards, drive the narrative action. Players contribute to the growing hubris of Icarus and you’ll see the nation falter and decay from your failures. Once the dice tower itself tumbles, the civilization is finished as well.

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Your group will use its imagination to create a unique world, but Icarus comes with several pre-made settings so you can get into the action quickly and easily. Want to see the dawn of humankind? What about building the first colony on Mars? Or how about a fantasy land full of magical beasts and spells? Choose one and begin your historical adventure.

In the game each player receives a Pillar of Society card that they’ll use to represent an element of Icarus: art, technology, agriculture, law, energy, social structures, and more. Each card has a strength and weakness prompt; players decide collectively which one will be the weakness of their city.

As for the characters that inhabit the city, you’ll create them as the typically major players in the infrastructure of Icarus. They’re tied to their Pillar of Society card, but also motives that drive your character throughout the narrative, based on a drawn Motive card. Like past civilizations, the movers and shakers of society may not always be inspired by the common good.

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During the game, you’ll draw Story cards that prompt you to answer questions and move the city’s narrative forward. Record your answers on the Aspect cards to create a mindmap of the city on the tabletop. Aspects may be events like “the city is running low on food” or “President declares martial law” and, like scenes in a movie, contribute to the story of your civilization’s collapse.

And as your character acts accordingly based on their motives, you’ll place dice on their Aspect cards. The dice return to the pool if they’re resolved successfully, but if they fail, then the dice must be added to the tower. Yes, real-life dexterity points come into play! (But don’t worry; a digital accessibility package provides a way to play without the need for physical stacking of the dice.)

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Ultimately, the tower of dice will come tumbling and crumbling down. To finish the game, your group will answer three simple questions:

  1. What caused the tower to collapse?
  2. What happened to your character in the aftermath?
  3. What became of the civilization after its fall?

The rich and immersive experience of a faltering empire in Icarus is achieved in a remarkably short game time of only 90 minutes. You can see how it all comes together as an immersive, narrative experience in this episode of Game the Game:

Want to secure a copy of the game for yourself? Check out the Kickstarter to back the project for Icarus!

More Gaming Goodness!

 

Image Credits: Hunters Entertainment (Art by Ryan Richmond)

This post is sponsored by Hunters Entertainment.

Ruel Gaviola loves board games, books, food, travel, Star Wars, and date nights with his wife. He writes about games for iSlaytheDragon and tabletop-test.com, podcasts about games for The Five By, and his name rhymes with Superman’s Kryptonian name. Follow him on Twitter and read his blog here.

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