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Tabletop Game / Illuminati: New World Order

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Reflexive much?

Illuminati: New World Order ("INWO") is the Collectible Card Game version of the classic Illuminati game by Steve Jackson Games. While it's clearly a descendant of that original game and there's a lot of overlap, the collectible nature (along with changes in most of the rules) make it a much different game.

Each player takes on the role of a secret conspiracy ("Illuminati") such as the Gnomes of Zurich, the Bermuda Triangle, or the Servants of Cthulhu. Your eventual goal is, of course, to control the world — what good conspiracy worth its salt isn't doing that? These Illuminati control a number of Groups, representing significant organizations, places, and people. Pretty much any conspiracy theory that has ever been proposed is represented somehow in the game: examples include the Elders of Zion, the Rosicrucians, the Nuclear Power Companies, MI-5, Jimmy Hoffa, and Stonehenge. These groups control other groups, forming a sort of spiderweb-style layout in the playing area. The Mafia, for example, might control Junk Mail, Hackers, and Ross Perot. Those cards may, in turn, control NASA, the A.M.A... and so on.


Resources (various items or gadgets, like the Hammer of Thor or Hitler's Brain) as well as one-shot Plot cards aid players.

Part of the charm of the game involves groups' alignments and abilities — and how the abilities of these cards fit the group they represent so perfectly. There are ten alignments, most of which oppose each other (Liberal vs. Conservative; Peaceful vs. Violent) and the interaction between them all adds a lot of variety. Every single card also has some special ability which adds both flavor and enhances gameplay (but also makes things... a bit complicated).

Certain cards called "New World Order" cards can also be played: these cards affect all players. Each one is color-coded and only one of each color can be out at any given time.

Each player has an eventual goal. There is a Basic Goal that all players qualify for (normally, it's simply "control 12 groups"); each Illuminati also has a specific public goal (the Gnomes of Zurich, for example, are attempting to control Corporate groups and Banks.) Finally, there are hidden goals players can put in their deck; they're a surprise, but you have to draw and hold them (and are vulnerable to being discarded).


At the time, INWO was unique in that it had a HUGE base set of cards (over 400!) and that rarity did NOT always mean a more powerful card. In fact, the game mechanics generally became self-balancing, so that a player with a powerful card could be countered by another player with that same powerful card...thus making it less powerful.

While it was a solid game design, it was notable in the early CCG world as not taking itself too seriously. The Illuminati line has always been steeped in humor, and this version was no different — players, of course, were encouraged to lie, cheat, and backstab each other. Political satire and social commentary appeared on most cards, increasing its appeal (and also making some of the references a little dated).

Two expansions were released: Assassins (adding three new types of cards) and The Church of the SubGenius (based on the organization of the same name; it was marketed as a standalone, non-collectible expansion that could be used with the base game.)

This CCG provides trope examples of:

  • Art Shift: The base game and the Assassins expansion all feature colorful comic-book style art. The SubGenius art is... much, much different.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory:
    • Largely averted In Real Life. Rare cards were often simply unique or funny, not necessarily the most powerful cards. (Although, in-game, the Bribery card changes any die roll retroactively to a 2, meaning automatic the Bribery card literally lets you bribe your way to victory.)
    • One card actually required you to send money to the Church of the SubGenius in real life to use its special effect.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: Duh. The whole point. Everything is true.
  • Expansion Pack: Two. Assassins (a 125-card set) and the standalone The Church of the SubGenius. Both were released soon after the CCG glut; Assassins held its own, but SubGenius flopped and effectively ended the game line.
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: Goal cards allow any player to be this; they're hidden from other players and change the victory conditions. The UFOs are the kings of this, as they have no Illuminati goal, but the ability to have multiple Goal cards in their hand. As for villainy...players are Illuminati, so murder and corruption come with the job.
  • Kingmaker Scenario: A common tactic. Let two other people duke it out, letting the third (or odd) player win. Attacking A often meant letting B win, so players would often have to attack someone to prevent a victory even if it otherwise went against their self-interest.
  • Lethal Joke Character: Some cards are clearly in the game to be jokes, although they all have some sort of utility. For example, Al Amarja, the island from Over the Edge, is in the game; this was in "retaliation" for the CCG version of that game including a card called the Bavarian Illuminati. (Both designers, of course, were in on it.)
  • Loads and Loads of Rules: Somewhat averted. While the base game itself isn't too horrible (by CCG standards, anyway), the large number of cards (each with its own special ability) caused all sorts of problems. The errata ended up being about ten lines the length of the rule book, most of which were for relatively obscure situations.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic: Plenty of cards allowed die rolls to be modified/re-rolled. Woe be the player who befalls Murphy's Law!
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: "Seppuku decks" are decks where the player's strategy is to win (most commonly through the Servants of Cthulhu's Illuminati goal) by killing off their own groups.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: The first released (Limited Edition) saw some minor issues, mostly with balance and simple mistakes. The main release (Unlimited) saw very, very few errors and was pretty stable. However, the rushed Assassins expansion saw some cards get completely rewrites.
  • Power Creep: Averted. The Assassins expansion filled in a lot of gaps (making Green and Communist groups more powerful, for instance) and nearly all other cards were more lateral moves.
  • Power Equals Rarity: Largely averted. Rare cards weren't notably more powerful; they just provided more variety.
  • Promotional Powerless Piece of Garbage: Largely averted. There weren't a ton of promo cards, but those that did exist were reasonably useful.
  • Variable Player Goals: Part of the core of the game. Everyone has the "basic goal," but each Illuminati has its own special goal, and there are many standalone hidden goals as well. Actually covers both cases in the Trope page: both unique goals and modifications to the basic goal are present.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Two players may play the same Illuminati. Except for Shangri-La, these factions are always blood enemies despite (or because of) having identical goals.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: The original Illuminati game was published in the early 80's, when the USSR and the Cold War loomed large in our cultural landscape. So much so that the alignment "Government" was opposed by "Communist." Fast forward to INWO, and the Cold War is over. The opposite of "Government" is now "Corporate," and Communism, while still in the game, is relegated to a lesser Attribute.

The Illuminati cards provide trope examples of:

  • Bavarian Illuminati: This card represents the real-life Bavarian Illuminati and thrive off of raw power. Their goal is simply to amass as much power as possible (50 total Power, their own counted in that total). Confusingly, all of the factions are called "Illuminati" even though this one actually has the word "Illuminati" in its title.
  • The Gnomes of Zurich: An allusion to the old bankers who control world finance. Do well with Banks and Corporations (any Corporation with 4 power or better, or any Bank at all, counts double for the basic goal), and can hold an extra card in their hand.
  • The Network: All of the world's computers are under their control. Their main commodity is information; any Computer group with 3 power or better counts as two towards the goal.
  • The Servants of Cthulhu: Not surprisingly, they do well with death and destruction. Their special power is that every group they destroy reduces the number of groups they need to control to win by one; they win automatically if they destroy eight.
  • Shangri-La: A utopia of sorts, this group is inherently peaceful and one of the few with restrictions as part of its ability (they can't destroy most groups). Notably, their personal goal (have Peaceful groups with 30 or more total power in play) counts groups among all players (meaning playing Peaceful groups while Shangri-La is in the game is risky), and if this happens, all Shangri-La players win.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: The mysterious and chaotic Bermuda Triangle lets you reorganize frequently. Their goal is to control a group of every possible alignment (groups with more than one count for all of them), with a total of 35 power or more.
  • The Adepts of Hermes: Specializing in magic groups and resources. They count magical resources under their control as groups for the purposes of the basic goal.
  • The Discordian Society: A sort-of real-life Parody Religion that a lot of people don't take as parody. They're great at the weird. Their special effect protects them from any actions taken by Straight groups (except the Deprogrammers), and they count any Weird group with any power at all as two for purposes of the basic goal.
  • UFOs: The classical "grey alien" depiction of extra-terrestrials. They have the weakest Power but get two Illuminati tokens. Their special goal allows them to have up to three separate Goal cards in play (everyone else gets one), and if they achieve the conditions on any of them, they win.
  • Society of Assassins: From the Assassins expansion. Represent the historical Hashshashin and are good with Fanatic and Secret groups.
  • The Church of the SubGenius: From the standalone Church of the SubGenius game. They can accumulate powerful actions, making it easier to reach their goal...but only to the extent that they don't actually use said actions.

The cards themselves provide trope examples of:

  • Alien Abduction: There's an Alien Abduction Plot card. It lets you automatically take over a Personality, implying that they are an alien (or alien-affected).
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: Somewhat averted. While the Organization is decidedly violent, the artwork depicts them as Scandinavian. Kinda.
  • Almighty Janitor: Well, maybe not almighty, but the George the Janitor card plays into this.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: Subverted, for the most part. Most anarchy-related cards are directly related to having no leaders rather than random chaos, although the effects are the same, gameplay-wise. Don't Forget To Smash The State depicts several statues of George IV, Lenin, and Washington being torn down; there's also the self-contradictory Anarchists Unite!.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: A good number of the cards. Everything from the Templars to Stonehenge make it in. Most of the Illuminati cards and many of the Artifact Resources are pulled from ancient times.
  • Anti-Magic: The Assassins card The Magic Goes Away makes all Magic groups, cards, and resources cease to work.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: Depicted in the OPEC card.
  • Argentina Is Nazi-Land: Quite blatantly with South American Nazis. Their special ability—getting bonuses with Weird Science groups—is especially squicky.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Eliza fits the bill. No doubt The Network has shades of this.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Most Personalities. They have a lot of decent special abilities, but most of them are very weak and are uniquely susceptible to Assassinations. In addition, there's plenty of special anti-Personality abilities. The only way to really make them work is to pump them up with Immortality Serums, Sweepstakes Prizes, and Bodyguards and then they have all sorts of crazy and awesome powers...but by that point, you've invested a half dozen cards or so. It's almost always easier to go with something else.
  • Badass Israeli: Both the Israel card (depicting a soldier in the West bank getting pelted with rocks) and The Mossad fit this trope.
  • Bait-and-Switch: A literal example; it helps out with freezing Corporate cards.
  • Beach Episode: An Assassins card, Beach Party, embodies this trope. It lets you give free relief to a Devastated coastal Place (and is significantly more useful than most other "relief"-related Plots, making it feel a little overpowered.)
  • Beer Commercials: The Liquor Companies have a bonus to control Media groups for this reason.
  • Big Applesauce: The New York card is the most powerful (printed) card in the game. And while the artwork and special ability reference New York City, Word of God (i.e., the FAQ) notes that it's the state.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: Bigfoot has his own card, which can be deployed to distract Media groups.
  • Bill Clinton of course has a card, as does Hillary. They are a matched set; he's wearing a collar and she's holding the leash. Bill's effect is that, whenever it becomes important whether he's Liberal or Conservative, you flip a coin to see which one he is at the moment.
  • Bite the Wax Tadpole: A card in the Assassins set. It freezes Media groups.
  • Black Helicopter: Of course!
  • Boring, but Practical: One of the easier decks to play is a standard Power deck. The Bavarian Illuminati's special goal is simply to amass 50 points of Power. (A Goal card duplicates this, so technically any Illuminati can take this route.) Most high-powered groups have low-key abilities, so often it's just a matter of building up groups until no one can stop you. You don't have any flashy abilities or have to rely on tricks, so it's a slow-but-steady way to win. Of course, good players hide this intent until it's too late...
  • Brain in a Jar: One of the Resources is Hitler's Brain. There's also a card called Head In A Jar that lets a killed Personality live on; however, they become unable to take control of any group they didn't control before they went in the jar (though they can continue to attack to destroy and assist other attacks).
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Oddly enough, the Freemasons—one of the biggest targets for conspiracy theorists—aren't in the game. However, a bit of Fridge Logic might be in order: they could be the Bavarian Illuminati, the Fraternal Orders, or the why would they need their own card when they're already in the game?
  • Captain Ersatz: While the game has no problem directly parodying various groups and personalities, either for trademark, humor, or stylistic reasons used a suspiciously similar name instead of the real thing. Notable examples included Fnord Motor Company (for Ford Motor Company); Boy Sprouts for the Boy Scouts; Bjorne for Barney the Dinosaur; Gordo Remora for Geraldo Rivera; Triliberal Commission for Trilateral Commission; Empty Vee for MTV; and Rifkinites as a substitute for Luddites and anti-technology crusader Jeremy Rifkin. Some of the artwork also uses replacement titles; the Privatization card, for example, introduces "Burger Czar," presumably Russia's new Burger King.
  • Celebrity Endorsement: Celebrity Spokesman lets you link a Personality to a group, increasing their power.
  • Chain Letter: Amusingly, it lets you paralyze a Straight group. (And, to date the game to the early 90's, is an actual, dead-tree letter.) Better forward it on...
  • Church of Happyology: The group Church of Violentology has nothing at all to do with another, similarly-sounding organization. The SubGenius expansion is a bit more explicit.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: The whole point of the game...except they aren't actually theories... Also, there is a specific Organization called Conspiracy Theorists. The Conspiracy Theorists have zero power (nobody believes a word they say) but controlling them lets you hold an extra card in your hand (because their wild ravings can give you ideas).
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Implied with nearly every Corporate group in the game, but especially The Corporate Masters, Market Manipulation, Wall Street, and the Gnomes of Zurich in general.
  • The Cracker: The Hackers group and the Phone Phreaks apply. The Illuminati group The Network kind of encompasses the entire trope.
  • Critical Failure: A roll of 11 or 12 is always a failure, no matter what. While there isn't any way to score a Critical Hit, there are quite a few cards that manipulate die rolls to be the functional equivalent.
  • Crop Circles: Present as a Plot card.
  • Cult: The game has a lot of fun with all sorts of cults and splinter religious factions. The Moonies, the Church of Violentology, the Nephews of God, the Church of get the idea. The SubGenius expansion is basically one big cult joke.
  • Curse: A few cards involve Curses: Voudinistas, Counterspell, Withering Curse, and W.I.T.C.H.
  • Cyborg: Implied in several cards. There is also a Resource, '"Cyborg Soldiers'', that will mess you up.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Lenin's Body, to be exact. Useful for pumping up the rare Communist cards.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Several cards depict this, such as Agent in Place and Deep Agent.
  • Depraved Dentist: Yes, Dentists are a playable Organization, and, yes, they will maliciously pull out your teeth unnecessarily to prevent you from taking an action.
  • Deprogram: The Deprogrammers are notable as being one of the few ways to break through the Discordian's precious immunity.
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: The Goal card, Power For Its Own Sake (which is also the inherent goal of the Bavarian Illuminati). Just gather enough high-powered groups under your control and you win.
  • Dirty Communists: Played with. While communists aren't depicted on all cards to be inherently evil, they *are* associated with a lot of tropes from the Cold War.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Both literal and figuratively. One card, Combined Disasters, allows you to play two disasters at once. Figuratively, a lot of the fun in the game is to set up a serious of conditions, and then trigger it with an innocuous action that lets all the dominoes fall into place.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: The Local Police Departments card shows a cop eating a rack of donuts looped off his shotgun.
  • Druid: Portrayed as eco-friendly.
  • Easter Egg: Almost every card illustration features the Eye in the Pyramid somewhere, or at least a circle inside a triangle.
  • Eat the Rich: A card, Eat The Rich, literally depicts this in the artwork, complete with an apple in the mouth. Of course, it grants a bonus to destroy powerful groups.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: The France card is simply a picture of the Eiffel Tower.
  • The '80s: Generally averted; the game was released in the early 90's, and most cards were geared towards more "generic" conspiracies (and an acknowledgement that the Cold War was over). However, a lot of the Personalities became dated very quickly; both Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan are cards, as are Ollie North, Margaret Thatcher and Imelda Marcos.
  • Elvis Lives: Not only is Elvis a playable Personality (he distracts Media groups by showing up at random places, of course), but the Church of Elvis is an organization.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: And how! Texas is huge, powerful, and alarmingly hard to attack. Its special ability is that you can "hide" a card in the vast plains of Texan wilderness.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: There's a card named The First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All The Lawyers (yes, that's its full name - it's a paraphrase of a Shakespeare quote) and its sole purpose is to destroy the Lawyers group.
  • Evil Overlord: Presumably, YOU. Also, a lot of cards (like Secret Master and Criminal Overlords) are more direct.
  • Expendable Clone: Implied in several cards: the Organization Clone Arrangers lets you bring back any just-killed Personality, and the Clone Plot lets you do it as a one-shot action. The art on Copy Shops implies this as well, although the ability isn't related to cloning.
  • External Combustion: The appropriately named Assassination card Car Bomb.
  • Extra Turn: The card Seize the Time allows a player to "take" the turn of a rival before they get to take theirs, effectively getting an out-of-turn turn. Can only be done once per game, though, and is pretty costly.
  • Flat World: The Flat Earth Society is an Organization, and one of the few Weird Conservative ones. Sadly, it's not particularly useful.
  • Flying Saucer: One of the Resources is Flying Saucer. The SubGenius cards Church of Middle America and Saucer Landing Strip also feature them, and many of the other alien-inspired cards imply them.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The SubGenius expansion is full of these, like S.C.A.M. and S.P.U.T.U.M.
  • George H. W. Bush: This game is almost a satirical (or not) love letter to the first George Bush (which makes sense, given the time frame it was released in). Pretty much any phrase that Bush is known for (Kinder and Gentler, Read My Lips, A Thousand Points Of Light, Voodoo Economics, etc.) are in the game. The actual George Bush card is pretty weak, with the at-the-time amusing ability of only being Conservative when their owner wants him to be.
  • Going Critical: The Nuclear Meltdown Disaster.
  • Going Postal: The Post Office card shows a postal carrier firing off a few rounds.
  • The Hashshashin: Represented by the Society of Assassins.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: Senate Investigating Committee depicts this; you lose your entire turn except for a few restricted actions.
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: The UFOs. Their objectives are inscrutable to humans, so they have no Goal of their own, but can hold up to three Goal cards in their hand.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Alluded to in several Organizations, where seemingly innocuous groups actually hold hidden depths. The seemingly-innocent Goldfish Fanciers? ("We're sorry, but we're not even permitted to hint at what the Secret Knowledge is about goldfish.") How about your everyday Joggers? ("No one ever suspects a harmless jogger...")
  • Hotline: The Ronald Reagan card shows a monkey (presumably Bonzo, from Reagan's Bedtime For Bonzo) playing with the Hot Line while Ron naps.
  • Hypocrite: Kill For Peace! Death to All Fanatics!
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: Probably averted; Despite the SubGenius card's insistence that what they grow on the 'Frop Farm is NOT A may actually be a drug.
  • I Read It for the Articles: The whole joke behind Girlie Magazines.
  • I Lied: In one of the game's more notorious cards, there's a card simply called I Lied and when you make any deal you can simply play it. You lied. They have to hold up their end of the deal, but you can do whatever you want. (Since it's always possible for a card to be cancelled, you have to be ready to pay up just in case.)
  • Karma Houdini: The Read My Lips card lets a Personality go on TV and talk his/her way out of everything.
  • Kill Sat: There is a Killer Satellite Resource in the Assassins expansion. Useful for taking out space-based cards.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: There's a card specifically called that. Sadly, it just causes them to discard a Group card. In gameplay, getting two of your rivals to fight each other while you sit back is a common (and lucrative) tactic.
  • Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Hinted at on the Pollsters card.
  • Loan Shark: The Loan Sharks are a group that get more powerful the more Criminal groups you have.
  • Logic Bomb: Lets you steal a card.
  • Longevity Treatment: There's a Resource called Immortality Serum. The Talisman of Ahrimanes also seems to indicate this. Becoming a Vampire also makes you very, very difficult to kill.
  • The Mafia: The Mafia is one of the more powerful groups in the game, and have a huge number of arrows. Their special ability, however, is pretty tame (they get a small bonus to control and destroy other Criminal groups.) The card artwork depicts old-school pinstriped mob guys with Tommy guns.
  • Mad Scientist: A few cards, such as Evil Geniuses For A Better Tomorrow. Also depicted on some of the artwork, such as Foiled!
  • Mainstream Media: Big Media pretty much encompasses it all. Cable TV and Madison Avenue, along with a lot of other Media cards also count.
  • Mattress Tag Gag: The Assassins Card Crackdown on Crime shows this as the crime being committed.
  • The Men in Black: A playable Organization. They make sure that when something is destroyed, it *stays* destroyed.
  • Messianic Archetype: The Messiah card is one of the more powerful cards—it greatly increases the power of a Personality, and it's free! The SubGenius expansion has about a dozen messiah-related cards.
  • Meta Fiction: The card Regi$tered Trademark forces you to deliberately pronounce a specific card. Australia gives its owner a bonus if it's a weekend, after hours, or a national holiday In Real Life. The SubGenius card Jesus B. lets you get an extra action if you actually send the Church a dollar. The Media Sensation card has you write in the name of a current celebrity on the card itself. International Cocaine Smugglers allows you to grant a bonus to control any Personality in the game as long as all players agree...
  • The Man Behind the Man: The theme of the game drips with this, but some cards specifically call it out, like Secret Master, Hidden Influence, and Corporate Masters.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: A lot of cards are from innocent-sounding groups that you wouldn't think would be part of any conspiracy.
  • Mind-Control Device: The Orbital Mind Control Lasers are a highly-sought Resource due to their powerful ability. Sadly, they're unique.
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: A real-life example inspired one of the cards. The Society for Creative Anachronism was mistaken by the Post Office as the Society for Creative Anarchism, and was duly investigated. The latter, of course, becomes a card.
  • Moral Guardians: Represented in several cards, such as Religious Reich, Moral Minority, and, less obviously unless you lived in the 80's, Congressional Wives.
  • Multiple Reference Pun: The game has plenty of puns, but the worst offender (and borders on some genuine Squick) is Harmonica Virgins. Once when you say it fast (and thus makes sense, given what it does) and then when you look up what a Harmonica Virgin actually is.
  • National Stereotypes: Nearly all of the Nations present in the game typify national stereotypes in one way or another. The Finland card has a bunch of blondes using laptops in a sauna. Italy features a trendily-dressed female standing next to the Tower of Pisa. It's taken Up to Eleven with Switzerland, though; it features a Swiss Army Knife, with a gold bar, a watch, a bar of chocolate, a gun, an antenna, and a cuckoo clock bird as the utilities.
  • Nerf: In the original release, the "reload" cards (allowing you to place new tokens on a specific card type) were way too powerful, so they got nerfed to the point of uselessness. There are only a few narrow times in which it makes sense to play them now.
  • Newspeak: Or, rather, Rewriting History. It's a blatant allusion to 1984 and it lets you retroactively change the alignment of a destroyed group.
  • Ninja: They are violent, have a tinge of magic, and are difficult to kill. Very difficult.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Robot Sea Monsters kind of fits, but the SubGenius Advanced Supersonic Aluminum Nazi Hell Creatures From Beneath The Hollow Earth does.
  • No Party Given: Quite averted: both the Democrats and the Republicans are playable Organizations. They also have virtually identical artwork and abilities. The Libertarian Party and the Green Party are both added in for good measure, and both are actually pretty weak except in very specific circumstances.
  • No Swastikas: Kind of. When the game was printed in Germany, much of the artwork had to be changed. One Resource, Hitler's Brain, had to be completely scrapped and was repalced with Jack the Ripper's Diary. The artwork for that card ended up being used in the Assassins card Contract On America. Oddly, Germans find the concept of South American Nazis to be more amusing than offensive, and that card remained.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Quite a few of the Assassins cards had to be fixed after printing. Of note is the "Essen Deck," where someone used Oil Spill (which puts new tokens on Green groups if it succeeds) repeatedly to "load" up on Canada, which is Green. Afterwards, they had to patch it to prevent a 'Production Spiral." Other cards, like Antitrust Legislation, Go Fish, and Blinded By Science had to be fixed as well after being easily exploited. As for rules, although there was some balancing between the Limited and Unlimited editions, it was pretty minor. Most patches were to cover obscure (but otherwise clever) situations.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: A card says exactly that. And it is an offer you can't refuse. Unless the card get cancelled, of course.
  • Ominous Multiple Screens: Depicted in Cable TV. The "screens" all feature art from other cards.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Two ways to do this. You can use Privatization on a country, turning it Corporate, or more esoterically, you can sorta invert this trope, but sorta play it straight in doing so by using Military-Industrial Complex to make all Corporate groups act like Government groups.
  • The Operators Must Be Crazy: Invoked with the Phone Company and Reach out... Well, maybe not crazy, but certainly maliciously evil.
  • Opinion Flip-Flop: The Bill Clinton card was Straight and Government...and Liberal, but only 50% of the time. Any time you carried out an action you had to literally flip a coin to find out whether or not he was a Liberal. If you needed him to be, but he wasn't, your action was lost. In a more general sense, an Organization's alignment could be changed (say, from Liberal to Conservative) with the appropriate card. This has some...odd unintended (but awesome) consequences under certain circumstances, which was kind of the whole point.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Averted. Vampires are violent, horrible creatures who are difficult to kill without magic.
  • Parody Religion: The Church of the SubGenius expansion is full of these tropes. In the base set, the Church of Elvis and, to a lesser extent, the Reformed Church of Satan.
  • Perpetual Motion Machine: One of the more useful Resources, the Perpetual Motion Machine adds an extra action token. It is, of course, unique, easily destroyed, and players will fight for it in almost any game.
  • Phony Psychic: Telephone Psychics get a bonus to control low-powered groups. That's hilarious.
  • Pointless Civic Project: New Federal Budget depicts a dump truck full of cash getting dispensed into a huge, gaping black hole. Sounds about right.
  • Political Overcorrectness: The artwork depicts men being executed for crimes such as "Used Insensitive Pronoun." The gameplay effect is that it makes low-powered Conservative groups Criminal as well.
  • Properly Paranoid: The game depicts the Paranoids as powerless...but that doesn't mean they're wrong. Their effect grants you a bonus against any attack (except for Disasters), because the Paranoids saw it coming.
  • Public Domain Artifact: Most of the Artifact Resources fall into this category: Holy Grail, Ark of the Covenant, Spear of Longinus, Hammer of Thor, Shroud of Turin, and so on...
  • The Purge: Purge lets you get rid of double agents. It's kind of expensive and rare to find useful, though.
  • Purposely Overpowered: The Nuclear Power Companies let you cancel any action, including Illuminati actions. Averted in that the expansion had about a half dozen cards specifically designed to counter it. Also, the New World Order card Tax Reform only affects one card (the I.R.S.) and makes it super powerful. In any case, when overpowered cards like this are brought into play, all players see it as a target, so there's a certain amount of self-balancing.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: While the CIA card shows a darkened shadow kicking down a door, guns a-blazing to carry out an assassination, by contrast the MI-5 card shows a proper British gentleman—bowler hat, mustache, and umbrella—peeping into a keyhole. The England card cranks this Up to Eleven by having all of that plus throwing in Big Ben, a cup of tea, and a Stiff Upper Lip as well.
  • Red Scare: A card called Red Scare lets you reload Conservative groups.
  • Reformed, but Not Tamed: Invoked with the Reformed Church of Satan. Presumably, anyway.
  • Resistance Is Futile: A card called Resistance is Useless lets you reduce a group's Resistance to zero. Unfortunately, some other bonuses still apply and it's hard to power, so unless it has a huge Resistance rating it's more effective just to use regular power.
  • Revolving Door Revolution: There's a Dictatorship card (that makes a Nation Violent and more powerful) and also a Revolution card (that becomes more powerful if a Nation became a Dictatorship). The artwork on both is the same, except the Revolution is in the process of being overthrown.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: Appears in a few cards: Survivalists, Militia, and the KKK (yes, you can play the Klan in this game. They're pretty useless).
  • Saintly Church: Vatican City is a Peaceful nation that is good at bringing other Peaceful groups under its control. It's one of the few cards that isn't snarky in some way (though it can still be used as a destructive power if need be).
  • Saturday Morning Cartoon: In a brilliant bit of game design, it automatically makes its puppets Violent.
  • Scout-Out: The Boy Scouts are renamed the ''Boy Sprouts." Unlike most of the other organizations in the game, they are actually represented positively.
  • Secret Government Warehouse: Of course! It lets you "hide" a Resource until you're ready to use it. A little awkward, since you basically have to pay for two Resources (which are expensive) but can be used to great effect if done properly.
  • The Shrink: The Psychiatrists group's special ability makes you destroy a Personality.
  • Sinister Minister: Maybe not necessarily sinister, but TV Preachers, Moral Minority, and Religious Reich are all made out to look more conspiratorial than helpful or kind.
  • Sinister Surveillance: Lots and lots of cards. The N.S.A., Phone Company, and Spy Satellite all fit. Presumably, The Network is the mastermind.
  • Space Station: Orbit One. The game was released too early to call it the more obvious Space Station Mir. Mixed with a Science deck, it's pretty awesome.
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: The only new Assassination in the Assassins expansion is Spontaneous Combustion.
  • Spy Satellites: There is a Spy Satellite Resource. Lets you look at cards in your opponent's hand, of course.
  • Straw Character: The artwork for NATO has two commanders literally propping up a strawman.
  • Stock Ness Monster: Ol' Nessie can wreak havoc on Coastal Places.
  • Stock Unsolved Mysteries: Chances are, if it's an unsolved mystery, it's somewhere in this game. Jimmy Hoffa is a playable character, for crying out loud.
  • Subliminal Seduction: Blatantly subliminal (if there is such a thing) with the Subliminals card; it's implied in a lot of the other Media-inspired cards as well (such as Backmasquerade).
  • Suicide Mission: The Suicide Squad is one of the few ways to destroy any Resource—most only let you destroy specific types (like Magic or Gadgets). Since it's a Resource itself, though, it's basically a war of attrition (since it's a suicide mission, the most likely outcome is both Resources are destroyed).
  • Swiss Bank Account: There is a card simply called Swiss Bank Account. The Switzerland Place also references the secretive accounts, although not directly with its ability. Also, the entire Gnomes of Zurich Illuminati is based around this.
  • Take That!: Steve Jackson Games has a notorious history with the Secret Service. As such, the Secret Service's special ability involves helping with assassination attempts as opposed to preventing them. This incident is also why the E.F.F is a (modestly) helpful playable Organization; they were founded, in part, due to this event. A lot of cards (like Moral Minority, shown protesting one of Steve Jackson Game's other role-playing games) also have a Take That! element.
  • Technology Marches On: The game was published in the early 90's, when the Internet was still finding its legs. Even for a tech-savvy company like Steve Jackson Games, there's a lot of awkward dated terms like Infobahn and Internet Worm.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: A staple of many Steve Jackson Games, there is a card called Secrets Man Was Not Meant To Know. It's a versatile card-canceller.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: There's lots of Lovecraftian references, but you can directly control the Necronomicon. The thing is very temperamental.
  • Tradesnark™: Regi$tered Trademark. You have to explicitly refer to the affected card BY NAME.
  • Trekkie: They get their own scarily accurate card. Other cards, such as Science Fiction Fans and S.M.O.F. could also apply.
  • Perfect Poison: The Poison Assassination card depicts all different methods of injection. Also depicted in Mutual Betrayal.
  • United Nations Is a Superpower: Hilariously inverted. The United Nations is a group, but it's extraordinarily weak and disorganized. It's very good at providing relief, though.
  • Urban Legends: Many of the cards use urban legends as source material, to great effect. Albino Alligators, Day Care Centers teaching Satanism to kids, and Black Helicopters to name a few.
  • Utopia: Both Xanadu and Shangri-La present themselves as utopias.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The Military-Industrial Complex makes all Corporate cards in the game function as Government cards instead. The Pentagon lets its owner draw additional cards for every puppet it controls that is Corporate. Oddly, having both in play is counterproductive.
  • Water Source Tampering: The Fiendish Fluoridators reflect the fear of commies infiltrating the water supply. The flavor text on the Drug Companies also hints at this.
  • We All Live in America: Most of the cultural references and Organizations are decidedly America-centric. There are about two dozen different playable Nations as Places, but the US is notably absent—per designer Steve Jackson, America is just too big and powerful for one person to control it all at once, so its parts are all broken up into different organizations. Probably a good idea from a balance perspective, but still.
  • Weather Dissonance: The Disaster Rain of Frogs. Less obviously, The Oregon Crud, Giant Kudzu, Rain of Prairie Squid, and Plague of Demons. All of these are direct Disasters you can play on places. Also: the Weather Satellite lets you control what happens in the sky.
  • Western Terrorists: A few different flavors, mostly left-leaning (Eco-Guerillas and Semiconscious Liberation Army.)
  • Why Won't You Die?: Averted. Destroyed groups have the ability to come back to life. Cards like And STAY Dead and The Men In Black have abilities that make sure dead groups STAY dead. However, bringing dead cards back into the game is chancy, costly, and rare, and the number of abilities that make things permanently dead far outnumber the methods of bringing them back in the first place, making most of these cards useless. Also, the General Disorder Personality pokes fun at this; if destroyed, he just comes back again the next turn.
  • Witch Hunt: One of the "reload" type cards from Assassins, only for Church groups.
  • World War III: A NWO card of the same name, encouraging Nations to fight one another. It's glorious.
  • X Must Not Win: If you see the Nuclear Power Companies, the I.R.S., or the Servants of Cthulhu come out, chances are they've just painted a huge target on their back. Using Regi$tered Trademark on an obnoxiously or confusingly long-named card or acronym will get you pounded into rubble for a different reason.