Illuminati: The Game of Conspiracy

Illuminati: The Game of Conspiracy

By Alex J. Coyne © Gifts for Card Players 

Steve Jackson’s Illuminati can be considered one of the strangest, best and most original card and board games to ever hit the market. It was first introduced in the year 1982 according to the official website for Steve Jackson Games, and it’s been the subject of plenty of hype, paranoia and controversy – which was kind of the point.

Tabloids have even blamed the game for predicting World War 3. If that doesn’t make you want to play it, what will? If we can make a general suggestion, how about an updated edition of this game with “X Celebrity Wins Election” as an updated card?

My first encounter with this game was in a Hospice charity store in Johannesburg more than ten years ago. The copy was still in excellent, pretty much original condition and it was just the right amount of weird that made me buy it – for less than a dollar at the time.

If you’ve never heard of the game before, the sole goal is world domination.

The Cards

Most of the game consisted of cards played in turn, and this is where the game really got to have its fun. If you’ve played before, then you’ll probably have some form of nostalgia for at least one of these cards.

Just to mention some of them, there were Phone Phreaks, Science Fiction Fans, Hackers, Punk Rockers, The Men in Black, White Collar Crime, Yuppies, Trekkies, Survivalists and Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow.

You can find a full list of cards at the Steve Jackson Games official website.

The Game

You can find copies of Illuminati: The Game of Conspiracy on Amazon – click here!

The game’s official rules are available on the Steve Jackson Games website. Tournament rules are available here just in case you can get a few neighbourhood secret societies together for a game. This link will open a very comprehensive PDF which details the game. But for a quick peek, here are some notes:


This game includes 8 Illuminati cards; 83 cards representing other Groups; 15 Special cards; 4 blank cards; 160 money tokens, representing megabucks (MB); two dice; and a rulebook.

Number of Players

Illuminati is best for four to six players. You can play with three or even two, but this limits the possibilities for diplomacy and negotiation. With seven or eight, some rule changes will be needed to keep the game moving quickly.

Object of the Game

The object of Illuminati is to take control of the world. You start with a single Illuminati card, representing your own secret conspiracy. During the game, you take over other Groups. These Groups are added to your Power Structure and do your bidding – unless a foe takes them from you. You may win either by controlling enough Groups or by fulfilling the special goal of your own Illuminati.

During Play

During play the following actions may occur: collect income, draw a card, take two actions, take any free actions, transfer money, take special-power actions, and add targets.

If you were wondering, David Martin was responsible for the off-the-wall cover art.

The Fnorder

For just a little more weird, SJ Games released a little app called the Fnorder that you can download for your phone. Think of it as something like conspiracy theory fortune cookies. Here’s the official description from SJ Games: “Use it to boggle your friends…or ask it for help when you need to make a decision. Think of it as the I Ching for paranoids.”

Messages contain enigmatic things like this: “Your message from the Network: Avoid Atlantis at all costs unless you have the teddy bear.”

Worth it? Yup.

The Infamous Raid

Steve Jackson Games was also the site of a notorious raid by the US Secret Service. If you throw out enough keywords at any point in time, you’re bound to attract some kind of attention from the top, and this culminated in a raid on the first of March, 1990 when the Secret Service raided the SJ Games offices in Austin, Texas.

The affidavit only came to light in 1991, and what had originally attracted the attention of the secret service was research correspondence between the creators and designers of the game and several online message boards where, well, several interesting keywords might have popped up.

You can read more information about the raid at Steve Jackson Games official website.


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