Icarus is a collaborative storytelling game about the collapse of a great civilization. Every game begins in a city-nation known as Icarus at the height of its power where, in celebration, the city has decided to erect a massive, ever-growing monument in the center of town to display its prestige to the world.
During the game, you will be stacking dice to represent the construction of this monument, drawing cards from a story deck to create the escalating events in the city, and influencing the outcome of those events through actions driven by your characters’ motives. And when the dice tower finally falls, your civilization falls with it and the game comes to an end.
"Icarus is a wonderful, easy to play GMless storytelling game about the downfall of a near-utopian city. It combines light freeform roleplay with a suite of simple structures and tools to guide you through the game. Without being radically innovative, it learns from its peers to produce a neat package.
If you’re looking for a more conventional adventure or free improvisation isn’t your strong suit, I might recommend classic D&D or another of my past staff picks, The Black Hack. If you’re looking for an RPG that provides innovative, highly useful structure, Blades in the Dark can’t be missed.
To start playing, choose your Icarus, the gleaming Babel-esque city that stands for the world to see before its fall. This can be something of your group’s invention, or one of a dozen or so pre-written in the book with the kind of details that make it easy to start improvising. I love that each comes with a list of appropriate names to make characterization quick and easy.
From there, you play characters embodying different positions and motivations within the populace as you respond to the growing tensions of the city. Having a clear primary motivation for your characters means you're rarely stuck with no idea what to do on your turn. Each round, your characters act resolving or worsening conflicts based on the roll of a die.
Whenever these dice fail, the chance of the whole city collapsing increases. Around a table, you can stack the dice of failures in a tower, with the inevitable collapse being quite literal. Remotely or less dexterously, you can roll these as a pool.
For the overall structure, there is a deck of cards that draws you through the rounds. Each has one or more provoking questions that ask you to examine the history, geography, culture, politics, or economics of your city. At first these are passive, letting you comfortably explore the space you're starting to paint with your friends. As things progress they prompt you to surface conflicts internal and external, threatening the things your characters care about, or the city itself.
Easily playing in just a few hours, Icarus has become a new personal go-to for introducing new storytellers to the craft."