How to Play the Illuminati Card Game
Steve Jackson's Illuminati
Illuminati is a card game based on conspiracy theories in the pop culture. Designed by Steve Jackson Games in 1981, the Illuminati card game was inspired in part by the Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson starting in 1975.
Illuminati requires a player to use strategy, resource allocation and collection, bluffing, deal making, and even cheating to building a global conspiracy. The game makes fun of the idea of a secret societies and the shadowy puppet masters supposedly behind them, but remains a favorite of gamers even 30 years after its publication.
Illuminati has a fairly basic set of instructions, though much is explained on the cards themselves. You play one of 6-10 different conspiracies (depending on which edition you buy), whose goal it is to take over the world by taking over other legitimate, illegal, and semi-legitimate organizations found in the world. As an enlightened conspirator ("illuminati" means enlightened), you collect an ever-growing network of influence and empire of wealth.
Each conspiracy can win the game outright through building a network comprising a certain number of cards (depending on the number of players), while each conspiracy has a special goal which allows them to win in another way. Below are the conspiracies.
The special goals range from collecting 150 megabucks for the Gnomes of Zurich, controlling one card of each alignment for the Bermuda Triangle, or goals like destroying 8 groups for the Servants of Cthulhu. After everyone has chosen a conspiracy group, the UFOs choose a goal from among all the goals of the other conspiracy groups in the game (groups chosen or not).
The disparate goals mean that every group is marching towards the same objective of building up power, but at the same time, might have reasons from diverting from the over-arching goal of empire building to more directed targets and missions.
Illuminatti Groups - Who Do You Control?
The list of groups expands with each new expansion and update, so the full list of groups are too large to mention. Examples include The Pentagon, Hollywood, The Republicans, The Democrats, Big Media, The CIA, The FBI, The IRS, The Supreme Court, The Federal Reserve, The Mafia, and the AFL-CIO. Others thrown into the deck include Al Gore, Psychiatrists, The Men in Black, Pornographers, Robot Sea Monsters, Orbital Mind Control Lasers, and so on. Expanions like Illuminati: Brainwash, Illuminati: Y2K, and Illuminati: Bavarian Fire Drill all add new cards to the deck.
The rules of Illuminati are simple to learn, but you'll have lots of small abilities and rules to keep in mind. Each card has that groups' alignment, resources, and defense. Some cards have special abilities themselves, which might help you when you use it later in play. Alignments include Straight, Weird, Conservative, Liberal, Violent, Peaceful, Government, Corporate, Fanatic, and Criminal. Certain conspiracies work better with certain alignments, while others might seek to destroy groups of a certain alignments. As mentioned before, the Bermuda Triangle must collect one of each group to win the game.
As you build your conspiracy, you'll build a tree of cards branching off from your conspiracy card, so your cards will look like a domino tree in a game of dominoes. Certain cards have arrows that only allow you to branch in one direction. After placing these cards, you'll need to use them to acquire other groups, using the influence of your conspiracy and whatever megabucks you have allotted to the task. Collecting megabucks is important, because this lets you wield influence for attack or defense. Most cards in your deck have a resources or wealth rating, which is how many megabucks you collect a round for owning that card.
Everyone is a rival and enemy in Illuminati, but anyone can be your temporary ally. Deal making is a key part of Illuminati strategy, especially when any one conspiracy (player) gets too close to achieving their goal and winning the game. You can attack the groups owned by other conspiracy groups, either to destroy them or collect them. When you do, you can recruit other players to assist you (with megabucks) in succeeding. This means that a group who recognize a common interest can often stop any one group from winning the game, if everyone at the table pays attention to their opponents' goals and resources, can see how the game is developing, and is willing to cooperate with a wide range of allies.
It's best to draw as little attention as possible to your accomplishments, while making much of the danger posed by one of your opponents--whether this threat is real or perceived.
Build up resources throughout the game, no matter which group you are. People who play the Servants of Cthulhu too often seek to just destroy groups, when it would often be better to pick-and-choose which cards to control and which to destroy. Every conspiracy needs a certain number of resources, while certain groups (cards) help you in your attacks.
Illuminati is one of the best card games you'll ever play. Illuminati has tremendous replay value, because the game completely changes based on which group you play, while that goal might be easier or harder to reach based on the combination of other conspiracies in the game against you. If you play the Discordian Society and your goal is to control 5 Weird groups, then if the Servants of Chaos happen to destroy those rare Weird groups in the deck, that becomes a major problem for you. The same goes for the Society of Assassins and Violent groups. But if the Servants aren't in the game, you might not have to worry about that concern nearly as much.
You and your friends are going to enjoy the empire building, the backstabbing, backbiting, and intrigues of Illuminati. And if you have friends who are fans of conspiracy shows like The X-Files or Brad Meltzer's Decoded, this is the game for them.
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