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A Guide To The Card Game Illuminati
Illuminati is a tongue-in-cheek card game for two to eight players. Each player controls an insidious secret society which attempts to gobble up different special interest groups and use them to conquer the world. In this game, trickery, betrayal, and even outright cheating are encouraged. Depending on the number of players, a standard game can take anywhere from one to six hours.
History of the Game
The Illuminatus! Trilogy was a series of novels written by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson between 1969 and 1971. The trilogy was comprised of the following books: The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, and Leviathan. These books were very satirical in nature, and they often dealt with conspiracy theories and the mythical Illuminati, a shadowy group of men said to control world events from behind the scenes.
In 1981, game designer Steve Jackson and his cover artist, Dave Martin, were discussing their mutual admiration for the trilogy of novels. Martin suggested that they turn the series into a game, but Jackson declined due to the difficulty of adapting such a convoluted plot and the high cost of securing the gaming rights. Instead, he decided to develop a game based around the conspiracies behind the central plot of the trilogy. After research on the fabled Illuminati and a myriad of conspiracy theories, the game hit the shelves in 1982.
Illuminati has since captured numerous industry awards and remains one of the best-selling titles for Steve Jackson Games.
Spin-Offs of Illuminati
Several supplements and spin-offs have been created, including:
Rules of the Game
The game is played with a deck of special cards, money chips (representing millions of dollars), and two six-sided dice.
The cards are divided into three distinct types:
1. Illuminati Cards
These cards determine which secret society the player represents. Each society has a special power, as well as an ultimate goal which can be fulfilled to attain victory. The cards also contain power and income values. These cards include: The Bavarian Illuminati, The Discordianism, The Unidentified Flying Objects, The Hashshashin, The Network, The Servants of Cthulhu, The Bermuda Triangle, The Gnomes of Zurich, The Church of the SubGenius, and Shangri-La.
2. Group Cards
The cards represent the world at large and the various organizations and corporations which you must gain control of to realize your goals of global conquest. Most of these cards have an alignment, which can make it easier or harder to take control of them (depending on the alignment of the attacking organization). They also have a power, resistance, and income value. These cards include: SMOF, CIA, The International Communist Conspiracy, Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow, California, Texas, Boy Sprouts, Orbital Mind Control Lasers, Mafia, Trekkies, Two-Headed Anti-Nuclear Activists, Men in Black, and many, many more.
3. Special Cards
These cards reflect unexpected events and features of the world, and they can often be used to increase the income or resistance or a group. This is particularly useful in fending off attacks or taking over other groups. These cards include: Assassination, Bribery, Computer Espionage, Junk Mail, Deep Agent, Interference, Media Campaign, Market Manipulation, Whispering Campaign, Swiss Bank Account, and many more.
The game begins with each player randomly drawing his or her Illuminati group. The player then receives a starting income based on their societies income rating. Four group cards are placed face-up in the center of the table. These groups are eligible to be taken over by the players. The remaining cards are placed in a stack, face-down, on the table.
The game proceeds in turns from player to player. On a player's turn, the primary activity will most likely be to take control of groups, although other actions are available. To accomplish this, the attacker must overcome the resistance of the defender using the combined power of his attacking groups. Alignment, money spent, and special cards may also affect the outcome.
To determine the number which the player needs to roll, subtract the defending group's resistance from the attacking group's power. You must roll this number or less on two six-sided dice. A roll of 11 or 12 results in an automatic failure.
Other groups can also assist in an attack. If a group has two power numbers separated by a slash, the second number is the group's transferable power. Once per round, the group can lend this number to another attacking group.
Once all factors have been added in, the two dice are rolled. A successful roll means that the group has been defeated and now belongs to the attacker. When this happens, the group is now added to the player's "power structure" (a connecting series of groups under the control of the player). It should be noted that the closer a group is situated to a player's Illuminati society, the stronger its ability to resist attacks. For this reason, it's a good idea to build your power structure with your most important groups close to the center.
Each group has its own income, and they receive this amount at the beginning of every turn. This money can also be moved from group to group once per turn. This can be slow going, but certain groups and special cards allow for a more speedy transfer. It is a good idea to spread out groups with a high income, thus allowing for money to be spread throughout your power structure in less time.
The income held by your main society can be used to attack or defend any group, regardless of their location. Income held by all other groups may only be used for that particular group, although this money will allow for a double defense bonus when spent.
Besides attacking to control, you may also attack to neutralize or destroy. A neutralized group is removed from a player's power structure and returned to the table. A destroyed group is removed from the game (along with any money which was contained on the card).
Players are also encouraged to form alliances, trade, and present bribes and gifts to opponents. In one variation of the game, players can even try and steal from the bank (as long as they don't get caught). To win the game, a player must either fulfill the special goal contained on their Illuminati card (examples include controlling one card of each alignment for The Bermuda Triangle, controlling a combined power of 35 for the Bavarian Illuminati, and collecting 150 megabucks of money for the Gnomes of Zurich) or build a power structure consisting of a certain number of cards (depending on the number of players).
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