Woah! INWO!

Illuminati was one of my favorite games in college ( Sigh, I'm getting old. I mean as an undergraduate... ). So, when SJG announced that Illuminati would be re-done as a trading card game, I sold some magic cards and bought some INWO cards. There are some rules changes to account for the format; and I'm going to assume you know a bit about illuminati. Suffice it to say that if you know Illuminati, you just have to add for the trading card game.

Note: Tapping -- Each card gets an 'action counter' and when it attacks, or aids, it looses its counter. (This isn't actually a change, but it is how INWO has tapping rules). I'll say tapping.)

The Basics -- Decks and Groups

Each player has to build a deck of X cards where X is an agreed upon number. There rae two types of cards (well, 3 if Illuminati is seperate) Groups and Plots. Groups are the groups you've come to know and love (and some new ones). Plots are cards that let you do special things.

There are three special types of groups. Resources, Places and Personalities. Places include Brazil, Switzerland, Japan, and the like. There are special cards that affect places. Personalities include Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton (you have to put the cards side by side for the full effect), George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Saddam Hussien, Imelda Marcos, Elvis,, etc. Like places, there are special cards that affect people (like say, assassination?). Resources are not attached to your power structure directly, but may become 'linked' to a card (using a matched pair of tokens). Resources cannot normally be attacked.

In addition to the noral characteristics of groups, they have lost the money characterstic, but gained attributes (like space, computer, bank, etc). Attributes have no intrinsic uses, but cards will often require certain attributes. Alignments are still the same, except corporate is the new opposite of government. (Communist has been downgraded to an alignment).

You keep the Group and Plot deck seperate. During your turn you can draw one card from each deck (if you want), then you get to automatically add a card to your power structure, then your cards untap (You can't accumulate action tokens, except for a few cards...). Then you may take as many actions as you want.


An action is either an attack (to control or to destroy, no neutralization) or moving a group around the power structure. There are a few free actions, too. And many plot cards require an action.

Attacks to control/destroy work fairly similiar. Power - Resistance - Nearness to Illuminate (-10,-5,0). However, for the attacker, a group can only aid the illuminate with it's full power if it matches an alignment with the target. For the defender, a card with a matching alignment or a card controlled or controlling the target can aid. Illuminate can always interfere, of course.

Global Power (transferable power to us oldtimers) need not have a matching alignment to aid. Cards have to tap to aid, so if you are tapped out, you are a big target. The target may tap to aid itself at 2x power (instead of just power). Roll 2d6, and if you are less than or equal to the number needed, you got it. (11 or 12 still fail).

You can attack to control a group on the table or a group in your hand. If you fail to control a group in your hand, you can try again with another group...but if you don't get it by the end of your turn, you have to discard it.

Moving taps the mover, the new master (controller) or the old master.

Plot Cards

Plot cards can be played whenever appropriate. Most of them have an effect on a group (change a groups alignment, increase a groups power, give action tokens to all of you violent groups), but some of them are truely odd. There are also Goal cards, which can give you secret goals, New World Order cards which usually give a power bonus to all of one type of group (and only one new world order card of any of the three colors can be in play at once), and other weird cards.

During your turn, you can have as many plot cards in your hand as you want, but during someone elses turn, if you have more than 5, you have to discard the excess. However, for this discard, you can choose to discard out of the game (as normal) or back into your deck. You can even chooose where in your deck to put it, (but you can't look at the other cards in the deck).


Winning is done in one of three ways. You have enough groups, you meet your illuminati goal, or you meet the goal of a goal card in hand. The goal card rules are somewhat confusing. Our interpretation is that you are allowed one goal card in your deck (3 if you are the UFOs or 2 if you want to put an Alternate Goal card in is well as your two goals.)


There are, of course, new rules to deal with the fact that you can build your own deck, duplicate cards, etc. These rules are pretty well thought out. You can't play duplicate plot cards on the same action there can only be one group of any name in play at once...(although if you attack someone else's group X, and you discard your group X as part of the attack, you gain a +10!)...if a named group is destroyed, it is out of the game (barring a card to bring it back). There are some meta rules to cover vague situations (like timing of multiple power changing effects), duplicate illuminati in play, etc.

If you ever have no groups other than your illuminati in your powerstructure, you are destroyed. (You can't be attacked before you've had a turn). NO penalty for running out of cards, except that you are out of cards.

Game First, Rules Later

Ok, having briefly gone over the rules, let's get to the game. The game plays well and fairly quickly. Our first 2 player game took about 45 minutes, and that was with a lot of "The card says THAT? Oh, never mind." One good thing about the game is that there aren't any boring cards. EVERY group has a special power, some of them are just really weak.

Of course, that means that for the first game you are going to be trying to remember what cards do. But the game is very complicated by the cards, not the rules, which is nice.

The Group cards are, as usual, hysterical. I've mentioned Bill and Hillary; but I also got Bjorne, that purple swedish dinosaur, the Tabloids, Nessie, Bigfoot, Dan Quayle, Empty Vee, Madison Avenue (The picture has a new slogan...You need more stuff!...) and many others. The plot cards are pretty funny, too. I got Political Correctness, which shows white males in nooses with signs like "Used Insensitive Pronoun." "Ate the Flesh of Dead Animals". Pyramids show up often, as do Fnords. The art isn't great, but it is humourous and isn't bad. And the flavor text can be downright hysterical. (Fast Food Chains has text like "Want Fries with that? .... Order the Fries, Earthling! .")

As to the collecting/trading card aspect. I bought one starter pack (two 55 card decks) and 2 boosters. In my starer, I got no duplicate cards, and a friend of mine didn't either. Nice. (I have no idea what is rare though...)The two boosters helped me guess a bit. After reading a bit on rec.games.trading-cards.misc, I discovered that their sorter kind of collated rather than randomized, so if you are buying 1 starter, don't worry, but if you buy 2-3, be prepared to get unlucky and have to trade.

Two people could live on a starter, each taking a deck. Each of the 55 card packs has 2 illuminati and groups and plots galore. Since they recommend playing with 45 card decks, that gives you 10 cards to trade away. It won't be a great deck...but you can play. And that is something you can't say for Star Trek and some of the other non-WotC games.

SJG learned a bit from Magic. For example, I got a rare (I hope it's rare) card...Seize the Time (aka Timewalk). However, during my extra turn, I don't get to draw any cards, and I can only Timewalk once per game. Anyone can use the "Counterspell cards" (not just some illuminati or whatever). So it is fair. However, some of the cards are just obscenely powerful. Such as Missing 18.5 minutes of tape. Which effectively counters a card AND lets the person playing 18 1/2.... take the countered card into their hand. (Counterspell and Fork?) I hope that that card is the exception, not the rule.

The game definitely has strategy, and room for negotiations. As in Illuminati, future deals aren't binding, but present deals are. (Usually....hee hee).

Strategy Comments

In a two player game, Cthulu is pretty amazing. In INWO each kill also makes the necessary power structure to win smaller. So you won't find yourself with 6 kills and no power to make your seventh. If you have 6 kills, just get to 5 groups (6+5 == 11) and you win! In a multiplayer, I could see people wanting to slow Cthulu down early.

Bavaria has a priveledged attack, but 50 power is huge.

To play UFOs, Discordia, Gnomes or Shangra-La requires a deck built with that theme. (UFOs need goal cards). I'm not sure about the adepts.

I'd tell you more, but you should just buy a starter, and take your lumps....


This was written by Brian Bankler.

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