Icarus is a brand new card game from prolific German designer Reiner Knizia with art by Chelsea Autio. It retails for $26.99 from Victory Point Games. It works with three to seven players ages 13 and up and takes about 30 minutes.
It’s essentially a bluffing game, where players push their luck ever higher. But if they get caught, they can scorch their wings.
How it works:
Icarus has seven colored decks, each with the following numbered cards: three 0’s; two each of 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s and 5’s; and one 6 and 7. The decks are shuffled, and one card from each of the colored decks is removed from the game. No one gets to look at that deck.
Players each draw a card from every colored deck. They may discard one card in their hand and draw a new one from the same color they discarded.
Then it starts to get interesting. The first player bids on the total number on the cards in a particular color in every player’s hand, so he might say, “Purple, 4.”
The next color can challenge that player or bid at least one number higher, though the player can bid on any color.
When a player is challenged, everyone reveals their cards of that color. If the number is higher than the number the player bid, the bid is safe, and the challenger receives a feather token with -2 if the difference is two or less or -5 if the difference is more than two.
If the challenge the total is lower than the bid, the player who bid gets the feather token instead.
That color deck is removed from the game. Players switch seats to change the player order.
Play continues until one player has four feathers. The person with the fewest negative points wins.
Why you might buy Icarus:
This game is fun. It’s accessible to people who have played any card game. It’s very easy to pick up, and the people I’ve played with immediately said, “Let’s play again.” Always a good sign.
There are six variants to the game, including a special flight deck that gives players a chance to toy with the rules, so every game will feel different.
If you like bluffing and deduction, Icarus is a winner. There’s quite a bit of information available to every player, since the discarded cards are played face up. But no one knows what is in the other players’ hands. (Although the flight deck sometimes allows a player to peek.)
It plays well with lots of different amounts of people.
Despite the fact that you won’t feel like Icarus flying toward the sun, the theme does fit the game. You will try to fly too high. Sometimes you’ll be forced to.
Icarus is light enough that it has a social feel to it, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. But there’s enough card counting and paying attention that it isn’t just a luck fest.
Despite the recommendation for ages 13 and up, I think this game could be played with younger players. It does have small parts, so don’t let kids who are likely to stick pieces in their mouth play with it.
Why you might not buy Icarus:
If you don’t like bluffing and pushing your luck, this won’t be the game for you.
The yellow and green cards look almost identical. They do have the words printed on them, but it’s quite small. That can be frustrating when you’re looking at your hand.
Victory Point Games works hard on keeping their production costs low. That means the board is printed on cardstock rather than an actual board. And the game box art slides over the standard company red box.
The production values aren’t so important to me in this game because it’s so much fun. People laugh, they egg each other on, they sit back hoping no one will notice there’s no possible way their bid could be successful.
Anytime I can gather people who are experienced with games and new players to the table, and everyone has a good time, that game is a keeper. Not to mention the fact that a new player can pick up the game so quickly, she won’t be at a disadvantage.
Full disclosure: I got a review copy of Icarus from Victory Point Games. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.