Thursday, October 09, 2008


And now for a game I have actually played recently, Illuminati. This is a card game of global domination by secret power groups. You know all those conspiracy theories you hear from people on the bus or read about in supermarket tabloids? About how the Vacitan secretly controls the Church of Satan and how George Bush has orbital mind control lasers to stay in power? In this game, it's all true.

The game itself is fairly simple rules-wise, but that hides a lot of deep strategy. Each player is a specific Illuminati group. The basic game comes with eight, though expansion sets have added more. Each Illuminati has a specific amount of power, and it uses this power to take over various groups. In fact, most of the cards in the game consist of specific groups, like the Congressional Wives, or California, or the Democratic Party, or the International Communist Conspiracy, or the Eco-Terrorists, or the Boy Sprouts, or the American Autoduel Association, or... well, you get the idea. Each group has a Resistance, and you total up your power, and compare it to the target's resistance, to determine your odds of taking them over. Roll that number or less on two dice and you got 'em.

Of course, it's never that simple, is it? Everybody has money, accumulated at a different rate for each group, based on their Income rating. You can spend money to make it easier to take over groups, which is pretty cool. Of course, other players can spend their money to make it harder for you to take over your target. And here is where the game really gets fun! Wheeling and dealing abound as the players all try to keep the other players from achieving their goals and winning the game, without leaving themselves broke and defenseless? Why does that matter? Because other players can attack groups that you already control, so having some money on hand for defensive purposes can be important.

Winning generally consists of having a specific number of groups under your control. It varies based on the number of players. For example, with four players you need to control 12 groups in order to win. To help make everyone paranoid, though, each Illuminati has their own secret goal that will let them win another way. For example, the Bavarian Illuminati want to have a total of 35 Power in their control structure. The Gnomes of Zurich want to have a total of 150 MegaBucks in their control structure. The Servants of Cthulhu (being crazy cultists) want to destroy a total of 8 groups (yes, you don't just capture groups, you can also destroy them). And then there are the UFOs, which secretly pick one of the other Illuminati's secret goals, so nobody will ever know what they are trying to do.

So, a conceptually simple game with a lot of political maneuvering, deal making, deal breaking, and general back-stabbing. Good times!

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