The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games!
Just continue living your life, citizen. Go on, keep watching television and eating fast food. Continue to laugh at the foibles of your favorite sitcom family, continue to drive your car to and from the mega-corporation that you work for, continue to eat the food we put on the shelves of your grocery store. You should be excited. You’re part of our plan!
Do cryptic passages like the one above leave you feeling used and sheep-like? Do you wish you could take up the reigns of a powerful secret society? Well, in Steve Jackson Games’ classic (released originally in 1982) card game Illuminati, you can! This sometimes-humorous, sometimes-hits-too-close-to-home card game pits two to six players against each other as competing secret societies vying for power over the planet. You can play as such classic world groups as “The Discordian Society,” “The Bavarian Illuminati,” “The Servants of Cthulhu,” and “The UFOs” among others. Once you choose your global takeover force, it’s time to try and take over. First player to reach a certain number of cards (different depending on the number of players in the game) or complete an objective specific to your Illuminati group wins.
There are three types of cards in the base game. The Illuminati cards, which tell you which group you belong to, are the smallest number of cards. These start at the center of your game space and make up the center of your power structure. You build off of that by taking over (with successful dice rolls) other Groups, the second type of card. These Groups cards could be anything from fast food chains to an international weather organization. Take control of these groups, connect them to your base of power, and take over the world!
The third type of card is a group of special cards that include unexpected phenomena. These could help or hinder you or your opponent. As you all draw cards and make attempts at different power groups, you can play your opponents off each other, make bids for their cards, and attempt to undermine their plans. The first player to reach a win condition takes the game, and the conditions vary based on the number of players.
This is a game you are definitely going to want to come back to. I know people who have been playing this game steadily since it came out over thirty years ago. It’s so full of weird images, fun interconnectedness, and an awesome element of back-stabbing. It’s certainly hard to get sick of Illuminati.
My favorite part about this game is the bizarre artwork on the cards. It’s not glossy, pretty, or fancy. It’s not overwrought. It’s like old Magic: The Gathering cards or old illustrations in Dungeons and Dragons. It’s weird, it’s slightly amateur, and for me it adds a ton of entertainment value to the cards. There’s something inauthentic about the new push to have highly stylized, well-detailed art on games. I miss the grittiness these old games felt. Mix that awesome art with the fact that this game is still going strong and still available at your local gaming/hobby shop, and I can’t say to it. Besides, if you get bored after playing, you can always browse the dozen or so websites that believe this game is actually the work of Illuminati, or believe it told the future, or believe... eh, you get the idea. Who would have thought a game about conspiracy theorists would attract the attention of conspiracy theorists?