View Full Version : Illuminati - Steve Jackson* Games

18-07-2013, 21:22
I just wanted to make a show of appreciation for this game.

More often than not, victory will only be predictable when it is too late to stop a player from winning. The question is, which player (other than you) do you want to be the winner? The rules encourage backstabbing, double-dealing, and blatant and arbitrary bullying of other players. The players are dealt "Illuminati cards" that identify them as a competing group for the rest of the game. The cards are only roughly balanced, and in some instances, you'll need to gang up against a buddy just to keep pace with him. But rather than being an accident, the imbalance is a carefully thought out element of design. The tactics section of the rulebook even says "If you're going against Group ______, good luck. You're going to need it. Try ganging up on them with two other players. And whatever you do, don't even let them get close to winning, because when they pick up momentum, they are really hard to stop."

There's even an appendix that encourages outright cheating. Better to play with only close friends and LOTS of alcohol. ;) If your gaming group gets too serious, things can get ugly fast: I've been in the middle of more than one extremely bitter argument because of this game.

But with all that, I still feel like the game is a work of absolute genius. Subtle genius. In a way, it has a life of its own. If you've ever played it, you know what I mean. It's very "meta." It's about conspiracies at a face level. The Mafia is secretly controlled by the F.B.I. and the Communists have launched Orbital Mind Control Lasers into space to covertly poison the minds of our children with popular media. The telephone company killed John F. Kennedy. That sort of stuff.

But in a meta-game level, the game itself is all about controlling other players. You can either succumb to the beast and let your well-founded paranoia ruin the game for you, or you can accept the beast and be a player that subversively controls the other players, and the outcome of the game. Even if it means you aren't the one who wins. (Throwing the game to player B instead of player C was all a part of your grand master scheme, to keep paranoid player B from becoming discouraged so is willing to play again later. Mwahahaha. Or... is that just what player B wants you to think? Why is he looking at you that way? Is it because he planned this all along? Perhaps you will barter with him. If he buys snacks for everyone, you will give him the game. If not, better throw the game to player C. Mwahahahaha...)

But, you notice... either way, you become part of the Illuminati machine. Either you are used, or you use people. But the relationship is always there. You can't play the game AND stay above the conspiracy. So you can always choose not to play the game, right? If you MUST submit to the machine, why play at all? Ah, but that's just it. You haven't escaped it by deciding not to play, because you're factoring the game itself into that decision. The most reasonable choice is the one that gets made. But who really makes that choice? You? Or the circumstances that made it reasonable in the first place?

Illuminati chooses for you. If you don't play, it just might be because it doesn't want you to play.

A dinky little card game can challenge your sense of free will. That is spooky, infuriating, awesome, and game design at its best. Well played SJG.


*For those who don't know, Steve Jackson Games has no relation to the original founder of Games Workshop.

EDIT: The rules. (http://www.sjgames.com/illuminati/img/illuminati_rules.pdf)

George Dorn
04-09-2013, 08:23
This game is just begging for a new edition.

Can you be SURE that Steve Jackson and Steve Jackson are not one and the same?

static grass
05-09-2013, 20:05
Anyone who hasn't played this definitely should. Its one of the best designed games evar! Its best between close friends he he.

George Dorn
07-09-2013, 12:56
It has the only ruleset I know of that acknowledges cheating and says it is legal to do so if not challenged. Hail Eris!