Entry updated 15 October 2015. Tagged: Game.
Illuminati is a game of social satire, much influenced by Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! sequence, with one simple goal: take over the world. The spirit of Wilson's original trilogy is effectively invoked; the game abounds with ludicrous conspiracies, moments of high weirdness and quintuple-cross after quintuple-cross. Each player begins with a card representing their central conspiracy, or Illuminati faction, with options ranging from the original Bavarian Illuminati to the masters of the Bermuda Triangle. Cards representing other supposedly powerful groups, such as the Secret Masters of Fandom, Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow and the International Communist Conspiracy, are dealt from a deck, at which point players may attempt to gain control of them. Groups which have been successfully dominated are built into their owner's power structure, a physical arrangement of cards which represents the organization of that player's conspiracy. The design of this structure is significant, affecting the flow of financial income between groups and the ability of organizations to support each other if another player attempts to take control of them. Bizarre and incongruous arrangements are common, exemplified by the possible emergence of Star Trek fans as the Secret Masters of the CIA. Play proceeds as a continuing struggle for world domination, with attempts to gain control of or destroy neutral or hostile organizations assisted by the use of simulated money and special action cards representing such concepts as Orbital Mind Control Lasers. Gameplay tends to be complex and somewhat chaotic, with players encouraged to conspire against each other and indulge in creative duplicity and general backstabbing; in one variant, cheating by palming cards or lying about the rules is explicitly sanctioned. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the game's design is its self-modifying nature; some special cards alter the underlying rules of the game. This is a feature shared with Cosmic Encounter (1977), as is the variability in individual games caused by the special characteristics of players' randomly chosen Illuminati cards; the result is a game which can be played repeatedly and yet never be the same.
Illuminati: New World Order (1994 SJG) designed by Steve Jackson is a Collectible Card Game with a similar design. The game was released as two "starter decks" of cards and various sealed expansion packs, and as INWO: One With Everything (1995 SJG vt INWO: The Factory Set) designed by Steve Jackson, containing one of every card from the original collection. Various changes were made to the Illuminati mechanics in order to create a Collectible Card Game; for example, players of New World Order draw new groups to dominate from their own packs rather than a central deck. Additional alterations include the removal of money and the addition of "New World Order" cards, which globally modify the balance of the game; the "Political Correctness" card, for example, creates a world in which politically weak conservative groups are deemed to be criminal organizations. Illuminati (1985 Flying Buffalo) designed by Draper Kauffman is a well-regarded adaptation of the original game for Play by Mail. Illuminati: Crime Lords (2004 SJG) designed by Steve Jackson employs mechanics taken from both Illuminati and New World Order to represent criminal mobs struggling for power over an American city; the sf elements prominent in the original are largely absent.
Related works: The original version of Illuminati has three expansions, all designed by Jackson, adding various new groups, other cards and special rules: Illuminati – Expansion Set 1 (1983 SJG); Illuminati – Expansion Set 2 (1983 SJG) and Illuminati – Expansion Set 3 (1985 SJG). Illuminati: Deluxe Edition (1987 SJG vt Deluxe Illuminati) designed by Steve Jackson is a revised second edition of the original game. Three expansions have been released for this version, including optional rules and cards which represent more modern organizations and conspiracy theories than those referenced in Deluxe Illuminati: Illuminati: Y2K (1999 SJG) designed by Steve Jackson; Illuminati: Brainwash (2001 SJG) designed by Steve Jackson, Allen Varney and Illuminati: Bavarian Fire Drill (2007 SJG) designed by Steve Jackson.
INWO Assassins (1995 SJG) designed by Steve Jackson is an expansion pack of additional cards for Illuminati: New World Order. INWO SubGenius (1998 SJG) designed by Steve Jackson, Lynette Cowper is a separate game using the same mechanics as New World Order in which all players are competing factions of the Church of the SubGenius; it can be combined with New World Order. The INWO Book (1995), by Steve Jackson, is a guide to playing New World Order. [NT]
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