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Game Review

The Game of Conspiracy
Deluxe Edition

Ages 12 and up
Steve Jackson Games
Game © 1982,1983,1987,1991,1999 Steve Jackson Games Incorporated
game in play

2-6 Players90+ minutes


Conspiracies are everywhere. In this game, you become one of the puppet masters that are vying for control of the world. Your secret society must build a power structure to meet your goal while fending off its enemies at the same time.


The rules recommend playing with 4-6 players for best results. Our description below is based on a four player game.

To start, each player randomly selects an "Illuminati" card as their secret society. (Players also decide if cheating will be allowed/tolerated.) The secret society cards are placed in front of the players, and players receive money in the amount of the group's income to place on the card. The main deck is placed in the center of the table. The top four cards are exposed and placed in the "uncontrolled" area on the table.

Players roll dice to determine who goes first -- play proceeds counterclockwise. A turn follows these steps:

  1. Receive income for each group controlled.

  2. Draw a card from the deck -- If it is a group, the card is placed in the "uncontrolled" area. If it is a special card, the player keeps it.

  3. Take two actions (attack, rearrange power structure, transfer money, give a group away).

  4. Take any free actions (give away money, drop a group, or specials).

  5. Transfer money to an adjacent group (2 per turn limit).

The game revolves around Attack actions. There are three kinds of attacks: control, neutralize and destroy. Most attacks are to control another group.

Attacks to control or neutralize, are based off of the Power of the attacking group(s) minus the Resistance of the defending group. Bonuses are applied if the groups have similar alignments (e.g. a liberal group attacking to control another liberal group gets a bonus, whereas a liberal group attempting to control a conservative group gets a negative bonus.) After all of the bonuses are added up -- the attacker must roll below the number on two six sided dice to succeed.

If the attacker believes that this is still too difficult, he/she may spend money to alter the roll of the dice. The defender may also spend money to alter the dice roll in the opposite direction. Once money hits the table, the attack must take place. (Other players may also interfere with the dice rolls, too...they can choose whichever side they prefer.) When the money stops being spent, the dice are rolled. If the dice total is below the value determined after the bonuses & money... the attack succeeds. A roll of 11 or 12 always fails.

A newly controlled group is placed in the attacker's power structure directly off the group used to attack. The arrows on the cards show if the group can control another group (card has outward pointing arrows.) The new group's inward pointing arrow must be attached to an outward pointing arrow of the controling group.

There are quite a few details about attacking that are best left for the game rules.

The game ends when one player's secret society meets its specific goal, or has a power structure that consists of 12 groups.

Each secret society has a DIFFERENT way to win outside of controling 12 groups. For instance, the "Servants of Cthulhu" win if they can destroy 8 groups, and the "Discordians" win if they control 5 weird groups. Keeping track of all of your opponent's goals is important to your own winning strategy.

A secret society

game in play

Winning Conditions:

For a four player game, either

  • Control 12 groups

  • or

  • Achieve your society's special goal

Another secret society

Our Opinion:

Thumbs Up!The system used in this game is the basis for other Steve Jackson Games like Hacker. If you have played Hacker, you will understand most of the basics in this game.

Illuminati is quite rules heavy. It will take 2-3 attempts at playing to understand and remember all the rules that it uses -- heck, we even missed some basic rules the first time we played, and the game ended unusually quickly. We chalk our mistake up to information overload in our first game, the rules were there -- we just missed it.

There has been a lot of effort put into writing of this game, and the rules are very well presented -- there are just a lot of them. We found that the back page of the rule book was especially helpful -- it is a rules summary for all of the bonuses and goals of the game, written so that players won't have to sift through the book while playing.

The game was based on The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. If you've read the trilogy, some parts of the game make sense (e.g. references to FNORD, etc.) -- but you do not have to know the trilogy to enjoy the game.

All of the Zombies enjoyed playing Illuminati. In fact, we've played it three weeks in a row. Each time we've played, our understanding of the game has improved and our strategies have become more complex. The game is fun, and some of the power structures that you build are extemely funny, like the "International communist conspiracy" controling "the moonies." The political sarcasm is pointed, and often amusing.

We enjoyed Illuminati, but before you buy it, make certain that you have a lot of friends to play it. It's not a good two player game, it's a better "hang-out-with-friends" strategy game. The price is steeper than mainstream games like Monopoly or Risk, but there is a lot more strategy involved as well. If you can find a used copy for cheaper than the $35 price tag... get it fast (but verify that you have all the cards and rules.)

Where to buy:

Any local game store or order it from Steve Jackson Games -- Our copy cost $35.

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