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Tabletop Game / Illuminati

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"They're all around us. Secret conspiracies are everywhere, and where can you find the only truth? Certainly not in the game of Illuminati. Fnord"

Illuminati: The Game of Conspiracy is a Card Game created by Steve Jackson Games (also known for their game Munchkin).

In this game, there are secret societies trying to take control of the the world and its residents. The twist? You're one of those societies, and so are the other players. Every different organization has its own goal and powers, with the ultimate plan of being the only secret society left.

Over the years it has been offered in both fixed-set and collectable versions, while a licensed play-by-email version of the game is run by Flying Buffalo. It was inspired by the Illuminatus! trilogy and the game's official website is here.

SJG also made an expansion for the Role-Playing Game GURPS with the same name, which won the Origins award for best role-playing game supplement in 1993.

A Digital version of the game released on Steam on Dec 27, 2022.

This tabletop-game provides examples of:

  • Eye of Providence: Almost every edition uses the eye in the pyramid as the dominant image on the cover art/box art.
  • Flying Saucer: The picture for the UFO Conspiracy, for obvious reasons.
  • Greed: Crucial to the game- spending Megabucks can increase the power or resistance of any group, which can allow you to more easily capture or destroy a group, or defend another group from being captured or destroyed.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Despite being fairly recent, the game has an example of this in the use of "Straight" as a synonym for "mainstream" (its opposite is Weird) that has nothing to do with sexuality. Instead it's based on 1950s-60s slang for "normal". Of course it's still vulnerable to the Accidental Innuendo.
  • The Illuminati: The game namer and a playable group. Specifically, it's the Bavarian Illuminati; multiple groups throughout history have used the name "Illuminati."
  • Joke Character: The Church of the SubGenius. They have less power and income than any of the other groups, and their special power is to get a small amount of money any time one of their groups is taken from them. Also, their special win condition is to need one fewer group than anyone else to win. They can become a Lethal Joke Character: While it's true that the Church's powers put them at a major disadvantage in smaller games, in larger games — where you only need six or seven groups to win, and people are constantly neutralizing and destroying each others' groups — they can easily dominate with a bit of patience.
  • Just for Pun: Many, including Fnord Motor Company, the Church of Violentology, the Triliberal Commission and so on.
  • Little Green Men/The Greys: The UFO Conspiracy is made of this trope ... or, depending on your interpretation, the Reptilian Conspiracy.
  • Longevity Treatment: The immortality serum card, that makes a personality indestructible and can also cause an opponent's personality to defect.
  • Mad Scientist: One of the groups you can control is "Evil Geniuses For a Better Tomorrow."
  • The Man Behind the Man: The players become one ultimately, controlling a group which controls another group etc.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: while most groups you want are large and powerful, the small and jokey ones can still play a part in your strategy, especially if you have a conspiracy that likes to collect things, like Discordia or the Assassins. This specifically applies best to the Church of the SubGenius, which is an unintentional conspiracy of the mediocre and middle-class.
  • Mind Control: The Orbital Mind Control Laser, which can temporarily switch the types of a specific group.
  • Misère Game: A player is normally eliminated from the game if, at any time after their third turn, they control no group other than their Illuminati. But if the Servants of Cthulhu destroy their last group—and by doing so achieve their special victory condition of eight groups destroyed—they win.
  • Pacifist: Shangri-La gets a bonus to capture Peaceful groups, and wins the game if they can control enough of them. That’s kind of Technical Pacifist, though; it doesn't stop Shangri-La from attacking, neutralizing or destroying enemy groups, or from controlling Violent groups.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: The rules describe a "cheating game" variant in which just about anything goes (stealing money from the bank, misrepresenting your cards' powers, etc) as long as you don't get caught. If you do get caught, all that happens is that the cheating attempt fails. It is recommended that this version be played only with "very good friends or people you will never see again".
  • Poe's Law: This card game is used in conspiracy sites as a proof of a conspiracy.
  • Scout-Out: One of the organizations you can try to take over is the "Boy Sprouts".
  • Sewer Gator: "Albino Alligators" is a card in the collectable version of the game.
  • Shout-Out: To the Cthulhu Mythos, The Illuminatus! Trilogy and Principia Discordia. fnord
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: A variant; every society gets a bonus when trying to control a society of the same type, a penalty when controlling the opposite, and no difference from non-opposite groups. Conversely, trying to destroy or neutralize is that much easier. The one exception to this is groups with the Fanatic type — Fanatics get a bonus when attacking other Fanatics.
  • Variable Player Goals: In addition to everyone having "Control a set amount of groups based on player number" win condition, each type of secret society has their own goals - generally in-line with their strengths or flavor. For example, the banking-themed Gnomes of Zurich need a lot of money, and Servants of Cthulhu. The advanced rules propose you can take it even further by randomly drawing the special goals at the start of the game and keeping them hidden.
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: If you're the Assassins' Guild or the Cult of Cthulhu, it certainly is.note