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Icarus: How Great Civilizations Fall
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Icarus: How Great Civilizations Fall

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Icarus is a collaborative storytelling game about how great civilizations fall, written and designed by first-time designer Spenser Starke. This collaborative storytelling game begins with Icarus: A city-nation of your design. 

At the height of its power, your city of Icarus has decided to erect a massive, ever-growing monument in the center of town to display its sophistication and prestige to the world. 

Those who have played “The Quiet Year” or “Tales of the Arabian Nights” may be familiar with the format of this game; rather than individual stories of adventurers going on dungeon crawling adventures, players will take on the roles of Diplomats, Scientists, Marshalls, Actors, Politicians, and Business Moguls as they describe events taking place over months, and sometimes years, that will help shape the fall of a powerful civilization.

Icarus is played using the rulebook, a deck of 52 cards, some notecards, and a set of dice. Over the course of the game, players will be stacking dice to represent the growing hubris of the great city, and the failures that characters generate will contribute to the tower as their nation falters and decays. Once the dice tower itself tumbles, the city goes with it.

Icarus invites you to build your own utopia, but also comes with a handful of setting suggestions to get your game up and running quickly. With fascinating and evocative civilizations like:

  • The cradle of early mankind
  • A fantasy city imbued with magic 
  • A booming western town along the ever-expanding railroad 
  • A mystical jungle city full of divine secrets 
  • The first major city on Mars 
  • A burgeoning space colony of alien life-forms 
  • and more!

You'll have all the details you need to get a game off the ground within minutes.

Though the range of settings for Icarus are endless, it is important that Icarus features a tower that shall rise and a city that will fall. Because of this, Icarus is also the perfect tool to use during your campaign’s ‘Session 0’ before hopping into the RPG of your choice. As a game designed specifically for one-shot play (once the tower falls, the game comes to an end), it can serve as both a satisfying single session and as a rich campaign starter for your group's next adventure!

By leading players through the sprawling, epic stories of a civilization’s fight to survive against insurmountable odds, the game creates a world with memorable lore, momentous events, and tragic heroes. 

Exploring aExploring a "Retro Sci-Fi" version of Icarus on the surface of Mars.

For games like Outbreak: Undead.., Apocalypse World, or any other dystopian/post-apocalyptic systems, Icarus effectively puts a "World Bible" into your hands that can be used to immediately jump into a fully-realized and player-generated universe, where characters are intimately tied to the history and lore of the world they must now fight to stay alive in.

Writer: Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dark Horse, Valiant, IDWWriter: Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dark Horse, Valiant, IDW
Relics & Rarities, We're Alive: Frontier, Sags of Sundry, King of the NerdsRelics & Rarities, We're Alive: Frontier, Sags of Sundry, King of the Nerds

Each Player will be dealt a ‘Pillar of Society’ card that will represent a key element of Icarus that you will explore during the game.

  • Art
  • Technology
  • Agriculture
  • Law
  • Energy
  • Social Structures
  • Etc

Each of the Pillar of Society cards have the choice of either a strength or a weakness prompt to answer. Players will collectively choose only one of their Pillars to be a weakness at the beginning of the game - but that crumbling Pillar will serve as a crucial narrative force in the story to come.

STRENGTH: The people of Icarus feel safer here than anywhere else, why? WEAKNESS: The people of Icarus all share a common fear, what is it? And where did it come from?STRENGTH: The people of Icarus feel safer here than anywhere else, why?
WEAKNESS: The people of Icarus all share a common fear, what is it? And where did it come from?

A single Pillar card will also be placed in the center, to represent the monument of Icarus.

Afterward, players will create characters that serve as keystones and cracks in the foundation of society.

These characters are usually a major player in this city's infrastructure and are tied to their pillar and Motive they receive during character creation. While players can create archetypal relationships (such as a Marshall that represents the pillar ‘Law’ in a western city and whose motive is to “Protect The Citizens”) they can also explore deeper, more subtle roles that can manipulate the city in big ways (a Judge, Lawless Mercenary, Parent who has a position on city council, or a Silent Film Star who has taken a personal interest in politics).

Your Motives will guide you into affecting the narrative in distinct, powerful ways as it unfolds. 

During gameplay, each turn a player will draw a Story Card, which will provide them with a prompt they will answer to drive forward the city's narrative. They'll record these answers on notecards as phrases or sentences called 'Aspects' and use them to create a mindmap of the city on the table in front of them.

An 'Aspect' might be something like “city has a fear of mutants” or “We’re running out of water!” It can also relate to a certain character like “President says dissenters should be executed” or “Jacob is the only survivor of his expedition”. 

Aspects are the creative powerhouse of the game, and will be added and replaced often in order to build the narrative. Consider each one like a 'Scene' in a TV/Movie Drama or a 'Major Event' in the history books telling the tale of this civilization's collapse. 

This is where players can roleplay how/when they either resolve or escalate 'Aspects' in the game.

As characters attempt to affect the world around them in accordance with their motives, players place dice on the Aspects their characters are looking to change within the city. 

When resolving these dice, on a success the die returns to the pool and the player has the chance to create or modify an Aspect to reflect that success. But on a failure, the problem escalates, and the dice must be added to the ever-growing tower at the center of the table.

Ultimately, the dice tower you’re building will fall. This triggers the final collapse of civilization and the end of the game.

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Reviews (2)
Discussions (10)
Customer avatar
TOSSAPONG N August 09, 2021 2:25 pm UTC
Can we play with 2 people
Customer avatar
Ivan V August 09, 2021 4:42 pm UTC
You can. It's not as robust of an experience, but as a collaborative storytelling game, you absolutely can.
Customer avatar
Nick P July 04, 2021 11:46 pm UTC
I picked up the retail boxed version of this from my usual boardgame supplier in the UK (Gameslore) on the back of an amazing experience with Alice is Missing (, also by Spenser S.

I played my first game of Icarus tonight with my family and really enjoyed it. I do have a rules question though.
Most characters interact with Aspects to try and fix or improve them. When the player rolls a success they achieve their goal and things get a bit better for the city of Icarus. If they do not roll a success then the situation gets worse for the city in some way. If a character has Bring Down Icarus as their goal, they are often trying to interact with Aspects in a way that makes the situation worse for city. How should a success or a failure on their roll therefore be interpreted?
Customer avatar
nicolas O June 08, 2021 11:07 pm UTC
The text in the cards doesn't look sharp on my end. In particular, after opening the card's PDF with Inkscape (using a template to fit 8 cards per page) I can see some artifacts around the text (looks like text in jpeg). The text is not a separate object and each card face is instad a single image.

I'm not sure if is something on my end or is the way the file was build, but it's disappointing to see the cards come out harder to read than regular text from the printer.
Customer avatar
Vik R May 15, 2021 1:51 pm UTC
Are the cards in a tuck box a physical product or is it a printable product?
Customer avatar
Ivan V August 09, 2021 4:43 pm UTC
The cards in a tuck box are a physical product. It's print on demand provided by DTRPG. It does NOT however, come with dice.
Customer avatar
Rn W July 18, 2020 5:36 am UTC
Ooof! I've been looking forward to grabbing this during the Christmas in July sale - just saw a notice on my shopping cart that the price went UP *during the sale* by something like 35-40%. Whaaa...
Customer avatar
Patrick A January 27, 2020 11:33 am UTC
I'm a bit curious about two things: dice and motives.
Apparently the answer to both is, "as it best fits your group and play style," but I'd like a piece of mind of you people. (Or maybe even see an official stance?)
1. There are official dice designed specifically for Icarus. They have a pillar symbol on one face to indicate success, the other sides are empty (We can see these dice for instance in the Game the Game video linked in the game description). However, the rulebook states that if you don't use the custom dice, your character succeeds if the dice show a 5 or 6. Why is that? (I've been thinking, maybe I didn't see the custom dice from the right angle and they have really another pillar symbol on the opposite face, but then for consistency's sake success on regular dice should be on a 6 and 1, as opposed to 6 and 5, or am I mistaken?)
2. In the before mentioned episode of Game the Game, where publisher Ivan is part of the playing group, the Motives are kept secret. However,...See more
Customer avatar
Spenser S March 15, 2020 7:09 pm UTC
Hey Patrick! As the designer, I can answer these questions for you from my perspective, but the rule is always as you stated- as it best fits your group. The "official" Icarus dice have a success on two sides, giving you a 1/3 chance of success. If you're playing without the custom dice (which is how the game was originally designed) a 5 & 6 give you the same chance of success. As far as the "secret" motives are concerned, it's not in the rulebook that way and was never my intention for them to be secret. It was just a bit of flair they added, I think because the players thought it would be fun, though I'm not entirely sure. Hope that helps!
Customer avatar
Jacob W December 31, 2019 5:04 am UTC
Are there any mentions of a mechanic to play this online? Wondering if there is an alternative to the dice tower system in order to play this through Discord / Roll20 / Tabletop Simulator.
Customer avatar
Ivan V January 06, 2020 11:06 pm UTC
There is a table in the very end that allows you to play without a dice-tower. It's a 'dex-less' rolling chart!
Customer avatar
TOSSAPONG N August 09, 2021 4:22 am UTC
I plan to run on roll20. where i can find this -> a 'dex-less' rolling chart!?
Customer avatar
Nick J December 20, 2019 12:43 am UTC
Will physical copies of the game be made available again in the future?
Customer avatar
Patrick A January 27, 2020 11:35 am UTC
Well you can purchase the gamecards in a box right now. Does that count? However, this physical card set is absolutely not the complete game in my opinion.
Customer avatar
Spenser S March 15, 2020 7:14 pm UTC
The full game is in a reprint and should be back in stores soon! If you can't wait or can't secure a copy through your FLGS, Amazon has them in stock as well. Hope that helps!
Customer avatar
Marcos S October 07, 2019 9:10 pm UTC
Is there a printable version of the cards in the PDF?
Customer avatar
Ivan V October 07, 2019 9:55 pm UTC
Yes there are!
Customer avatar
Jason K June 01, 2020 6:12 pm UTC
Hi - just bought the game, looking to try it out to compare to Dialect before buying a physical copy. What size sleeves would I need for the print-and-play cards?
Customer avatar
Ivan V June 01, 2020 10:59 pm UTC
I believe they are standard poker-sized cards.
Customer avatar
Braydon M October 07, 2019 1:19 am UTC
Does the 'Cards in Tuckbox' option come with dice?
Customer avatar
Ivan V October 07, 2019 3:01 am UTC
Sadly, DTRPG doesn't provide print on demand dice.

However, you can easily play this with a set of exact size D6 from a set. We recommend anywhere from 20 to 30 for a lengthy session.
Customer avatar
Patrick A January 18, 2020 7:11 pm UTC
Any idea how or where to get them? The game got delivered to me today and after an initial burst of excitement I was pretty bummed over the discovery that they came without the hot diceset. Almost made me wish I had gone for the PDF version of the game instead :[
Customer avatar
Ivan V January 27, 2020 5:41 pm UTC
I'm sorry you were disappointed. Print on Demand is an option we wanted to make available to our customers who weren't able to get the retail game. Sadly the dice are the most difficult things to manufacture in the game, and even if we could provide them via print on demand, Drive Thru doesn't have a fulfillment center that handles dice.

The Retail version of the game has been reprinted, and will be available again in-stores soon. Otherwise, as I mentioned - you're always welcome to grab your favorite set of D6's and play the game with the print on demand cards and rulebook.
Customer avatar
Patrick A January 28, 2020 10:06 am UTC
Thanks for the reply. The retail version reprinted is great news! Anyways, Drivethru was at least an option for me to get a hold on the game while it was out of stock. Again, thanks for the reply. Appreciated!
Customer avatar
Spenser S March 15, 2020 7:13 pm UTC
As a note here, Amazon also currently has the full "boxed" version in stock through Renegade, with the custom dice and rulebook!
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File Last Updated:
October 17, 2019
This title was added to our catalog on June 07, 2019.