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Old 10-27-2017, 06:01 PM   #1
sharkleroad
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Default Playtest Rules/Cards

Having looked at the playtest materials, a few thoughts:

1. Should we assume that the rules haven't been updated? It's hard to play/review if they aren't. The rules have Communist listed as the opposite of Government, and I'm assuming it *should* be Media, since there *are* Media cards but zero Communist ones. I see nothing offhand that looks different in any way.

2. It doesn't look like there's much of a fundamental difference in the older versions of the cards and new. A few new cards, it looks like, but little by way of anything else.

3. Is there any thought to running a comb through...everything? The whole megabucks system has always been a little clunky, and INWO seemed to solve that, but it looks like we're reverting back to 1985 here.

I hate to be overly critical, because Illuminati has always been a favorite of mine, but, man, it's almost a 40 year old game and the industry has changed so much since then. People play because it's fun to have the CIA control the Boy Sprouts, not because they are nostalgic for a creaky game from their childhood that for a majority of gamers never existed. It seemed like INWO was going in a much better direction, and this just looks like a minor update to a game that needs a top-down polish.

Edit: Also, are those Power figures right? Hollywood has 21 Power? Russian Campaign has 11? Or are those supposed to be 2/1 and 1/1? Either way, it's hard to test with so many errors.

Another edit: Based on some of the official responses from other posts, it looks like Government, Corporate, and Communist are all now gone, leaving two unopposed alignments (Media and Criminal) and much less opportunity for opposing alignments. Personally, not having a government alignment in a conspiracy game seems wrong, but I fear that chopping this many opportunities for opposing/like alignments will be a detriment. If this game is supposed to retain the "negotiation" aspect, it looks like it's getting less like that.

Last edited by sharkleroad; 10-31-2017 at 06:05 AM. Reason: Clarification
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Old 10-28-2017, 04:26 PM   #2
JCase
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Oregon
Default Re: Playtest Rules/Cards

I think this gets component and layout/design issues mixed up with the mechanics of the gameplay.

Illuminati isn't actually a clunky game at all, if anything it's too light weight. In my experience people only have a problem with Megabucks because the irritatingly sized and shaped tokens. And if people can't tally their roll modifiers correctly, that's on them. Don't degrade the mechanics to cater to the inept.

Most modern games don't even have as good of combat mechanics as Illuminati, they are tricking you better components and advances in Photoshop. This isn't a unique phenomena- plenty of old board and card game have mechanics that stand the test of time. If something is fun, it's fun.

Do agree that it would be nice to see a complete design overhaul- which would probably do more than anything to bring in new players.
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Old 10-29-2017, 09:05 AM   #3
MIB 9966
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Long Island, NY
Default Re: Playtest Rules/Cards

I also think that there are some things that that needs to be looked at here, and I say this as a long time fan of the way Illuminati has played and I owned the INWO and Crime Lords versions as well.

Note: Although I am a long time MIB, I am still a volunteer and not an employee of SJG. My opinions are my own and do not reflect the company's official thoughts and I am not privy to the inner workings of the business itself. These are my thoughts based on being a long time fan and long time gamer with many varied interests.

While the system itself has not changed much from the original printings (Deluxe Edition), the first question you should ask if you are modifying the rules should be "Why?". Chess has not changed in decades, and while there are thousands of variants shown and made, those changes have simply not been accepted by the general public, and the resistance to modifying the rules from the huge fanbase is incredibly strong.

Experience with introducing Knightmare Chess (from the very first implementation right after the original French publication) and Tile Chess to fans of chess and the mainstream showed how difficult this is. Chess fans refused to look at any variation from the current tournament rules while the casual mainstream liked that there were changes that allowed the more casual player to compete against experienced players, even at the casual game level. The effect was that the initial audience expected to like the game did not, and the split of the casual chess fans who were interested in the game, but willing to look at the variants made it harder to get a fanbase going.

Compare this to the fanbase for Illuminati. It still sells well despite the age of the mechanics, overall length of the game, and outdated group names (see it listing as 19th overall sales by dollar volume in SJG's own 2016 shareholder's report). That tells me that the mechanics are still, by and large, considered solid by the buying public. Past attempts to change the game have had mixed results. such as INWO and Crime Lords.

INWO stalled relatively early on due to the lack of available starter decks and limited availability of the One With Everything and Deluxe edition packs. When the Subgenius set came out, though, sales didn't seem to spike for long and interest has vanished over time. While there is a very vocal group requesting INWO's resurrection, I must grudgingly admit that I have seen no more than 20 distinct individuals discuss this over the last 5-10 years. It's not a good gauge, but the limited interest expressed makes it difficult to know how well it would go over with the current base who keep buying the current edition.

An argument, of course, can be made that if these players were exposed to INWO that they would prefer it over the classic ruleset, but I'd argue that there was an overlap in the sales period with the self-contained Subgenius set and the current Classic edition and no more copies of Subgenius (or any planned expansions) were ever produced because the sales were not viable for another print run despite it having the INWO rules and reasonable availability.

Crime Lords had, I think, an interesting hybrid of both sets of rules that kept the money aspect and some of the changes made for INWO (mainly action tokens and a way to speed up the admittedly bulky interference rules., but it didn't get any traction, and fans of the classic ruleset hated the Showdown rules. The desire for a faster resolution of this step was one of the biggest selling points during the initial release, but a different direction is obviously needed there.

From my experience, the biggest reasons many liked INWO over the classic set boils down to removing the money aspect and replacing it with action tokens, and adding in personality cards that combined with personal decks that gave players more control over card synergy with their chosen Illuminati.

Removing money in favor of action tokens is an interesting idea, but the split generally has been that money often gives more interaction between players to negotiate during the game than simple action tokens, not to mention that it kind of makes the Gnomes of Zurich not as interesting anymore. Fans of INWO style action tokens validly point out that it speeds up the game dramatically.

The personal decks aspect would drastically change the game and IMHO would require a starting box set with 3-500 cards just to allow players to have enough cards to work with, and even then would limit you to maybe 4 players max if you want it under that general $50 maximum price for mass market retail sales (or multiple sets at the generally demanded $20-25 max). That would require quite a bit of playtesting to balance out and ensure that no first turn wins are possible - which might also have helped to deter many people early on in INWO's life as first turn wins were possible before some changes were made. This also changes things a lot from the common deck game that we have now and also might explain why Subgenius didn't take off since that was also a common deck game but using the INWO style rules.

If INWO style changes get implemented (or other modernizing of the rules), it will take a while to test, so this could be a stopgap to update things until the system is overhauled, but again, that is speculation and we won't have answers until decisions are made and everything is much more finalized.
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Old 10-30-2017, 05:09 PM   #4
sharkleroad
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Default Re: Playtest Rules/Cards

These are some very good points! I agree with most of them, in one way or another.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MIB 9966 View Post
INWO stalled relatively early on due to the lack of available starter decks and limited availability of the One With Everything and Deluxe edition packs. When the Subgenius set came out, though, sales didn't seem to spike for long and interest has vanished over time. While there is a very vocal group requesting INWO's resurrection, I must grudgingly admit that I have seen no more than 20 distinct individuals discuss this over the last 5-10 years. It's not a good gauge, but the limited interest expressed makes it difficult to know how well it would go over with the current base who keep buying the current edition.
I would suggest that SubGenius is a different beast. Very, very few people have ever heard of the Church of the Subgenius. The tone seemed much, much different. Back when I played, everyone avoided it like the plague--they didn't get the joke, they thought the artwork was ugly, no one knew what it was, the cards weren't very interesting, and it suffered from being both a standalone and an expansion. People wanted Bob Dole and Yahoo! cards, not weird cult jokes no one gets. At the end of the day, it was a niche product in a niche product.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MIB 9966 View Post
An argument, of course, can be made that if these players were exposed to INWO that they would prefer it over the classic ruleset, but I'd argue that there was an overlap in the sales period with the self-contained Subgenius set and the current Classic edition and no more copies of Subgenius (or any planned expansions) were ever produced because the sales were not viable for another print run despite it having the INWO rules and reasonable availability.
I would say this is an effect of my previous comment. It's not that people like the classic over INWO; it's just that SubGenius as a theme was a poor decision.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MIB 9966 View Post
From my experience, the biggest reasons many liked INWO over the classic set boils down to removing the money aspect and replacing it with action tokens, and adding in personality cards that combined with personal decks that gave players more control over card synergy with their chosen Illuminati.
I agree 100%. I would also add customization, separating out Plot and Group cards (and, in effect, delineating Resources/NWOs/etc) and the fact that every group had a "personality" in the form of a special ability. Those are the things that I miss from INWO that aren't really in Illuminati.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MIB 9966 View Post
Removing money in favor of action tokens is an interesting idea, but the split generally has been that money often gives more interaction between players to negotiate during the game than simple action tokens, not to mention that it kind of makes the Gnomes of Zurich not as interesting anymore. Fans of INWO style action tokens validly point out that it speeds up the game dramatically.
I agree. I don't care for the money mechanic. I think it's clunky. I'm willing to say that the action token mechanic may not be the direction, but it seems like there's quite a few good ideas that would retain the "deal making" aspect of money but still streamline the game.


Quote:
Originally Posted by MIB 9966 View Post
The personal decks aspect would drastically change the game and IMHO would require a starting box set with 3-500 cards just to allow players to have enough cards to work with, and even then would limit you to maybe 4 players max if you want it under that general $50 maximum price for mass market retail sales (or multiple sets at the generally demanded $20-25 max). That would require quite a bit of playtesting to balance out and ensure that no first turn wins are possible - which might also have helped to deter many people early on in INWO's life as first turn wins were possible before some changes were made. This also changes things a lot from the common deck game that we have now and also might explain why Subgenius didn't take off since that was also a common deck game but using the INWO style rules.
I don't know enough about price points to argue much, except that converting Illuminati into an LCG format seems perfectly doable given the success of similar products.

***

I actually think Illuminati can go both ways. Illuminati seems like it's more of a negotiation/dealmaking/backstabbing game, whereas INWO is a "set up a big plan and try to execute it" along with negotiation/dealmaking/backstabbing. It shouldn't be a surprise that I vastly prefer the INWO direction.

Fair points all around, though. I think it boils down to 1) the failure of SubGenius doesn't say much, because it was a poor choice of an expansion, and 2) INWO introduced a LOT of "modern" mechanics that is very, very hard to go back on. Just my opinion, of course.
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Old 10-30-2017, 07:50 PM   #5
GrantG
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Default Re: Playtest Rules/Cards

I haven't participated in the playtest, because we moved to a new city recently and have not met any friends with whom to game. I've been following the comments on this forum closely because I've loved playing Illuminati since 1989. I'm very excited for a new edition with new tweaks and twists.

I decided to register because I really enjoyed MIB 9966's comment. There's a lot of sense in that.

In the late 1990s, I got a bunch of new friends interested in Illuminati via INWO, but I had to tweak the dickens out of it to make sense. These were all older gamers and geeks - I ended up marrying one of them! - who enjoyed RPGs and strategy games but had no interest at all in CCGs like Magic or INWO. So I created a very unwieldy version: Old Illuminati With New Cards. (I don't remember, but I think Income was Power -1 or something. It took a long time to get playable, with a sticker on every card with a rule change, all typed up as "legal counsel.") We played two or three times a month for years.

And SubGenius killed everybody's interest stone dead. It was a joke nobody understood, and my friends resented it. I think everybody would have been happy with 9-10 new cards a year reflecting the weird, wonderful, stupid world we all recognize. A mate back in Georgia will still bring up the great game where Barney/Bjorne got put on the Supreme Court. Nobody talks about Local Clenches and Phlegm Elementals. In time, we stopped playing.

I had fun with the revised deluxe edition / Bavarian Fire Drill / Y2K later on with other friends, but I really do miss having one deck of group cards and one deck of plot cards. I miss personalities and all those resources, too. But unlike the previous two comments, I really do think income / MB work very well. I don't remember the INWO mechanic beyond not liking it. It was a long time ago.

But the length of the game is a big barrier, I've found. When I was in college, it wasn't a problem. Before me and all my pals had kids, it wasn't a problem. Now I wonder whether a ten-turn limit would make sense. Control the world before Robert Mueller opens a sealed indictment against you?

I'm looking forward to trying the game without Government and Communist, and with Media added. I think that's very exciting, although I agree with Grimblefig in another thread that it leaves my beloved Discordia weaker against some strong non-Straight groups. Eeeek!

I wish that I had some actual details to contribute. Whether this new edition just has some small tweaks or if it ends up a "top-down polish," I am looking forward to it, and hope I won't be long in playing it.

--Grant
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Old 10-31-2017, 09:02 AM   #6
MIB 9966
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Long Island, NY
Default Re: Playtest Rules/Cards

I'm glad to see that my (hopefully) balanced perspective on the history of the variants of the game(s) with respect shown to all sides that I've been aware of has been well received. :)

[QUOTE=sharkleroad;2131871]
I would suggest that SubGenius is a different beast. Very, very few people have ever heard of the Church of the Subgenius. The tone seemed much, much different. Back when I played, everyone avoided it like the plague--they didn't get the joke, they thought the artwork was ugly, no one knew what it was, the cards weren't very interesting, and it suffered from being both a standalone and an expansion. People wanted Bob Dole and Yahoo! cards, not weird cult jokes no one gets. At the end of the day, it was a niche product in a niche product.

[\QUOTE]

That is a really good point I'm sorry to say I missed. As a fan of the game and the Illuminatus Trilogy, I completely missed that the Church of the Subgenius was not very well known, even to those who were interested in the conspiracies involved. My thought was to show that having a starter set of sorts to help the game to get some traction again wasn't successful, but I clearly also forgot that unfamiliarity/confusion over the set's contents may have had a much larger effect than I realized.


Quote:
I agree 100%. I would also add customization, separating out Plot and Group cards (and, in effect, delineating Resources/NWOs/etc) and the fact that every group had a "personality" in the form of a special ability. Those are the things that I miss from INWO that aren't really in Illuminati.
[\QUOTE]

I do think that there is room in the game space for two distinct types of games under the Illuminati theme, but the worry is mainly: Is there enough room in the purchasing market to support two distinct games? I certainly don't have the answer here, and would be curious to see if it's possible.


Quote:
I don't care for the money mechanic. I think it's clunky. I'm willing to say that the action token mechanic may not be the direction, but it seems like there's quite a few good ideas that would retain the "deal making" aspect of money but still streamline the game.
I admit I'm a bit torn since I do like aspects of both games in their respective formats and appreciate the depth of the money mechanic, but I also recognize that a 4-6 hour game for 6 players is a very difficult selling point in this market. Again, I don't have an answer how to marry the two thoughts (or keep them as separate games under the same umbrella), but I'm interested to see how this goes.


Quote:
I actually think Illuminati can go both ways. Illuminati seems like it's more of a negotiation/dealmaking/backstabbing game, whereas INWO is a "set up a big plan and try to execute it" along with negotiation/dealmaking/backstabbing. It shouldn't be a surprise that I vastly prefer the INWO direction.
As noted above, I think we're in agreement here with the two designs. As a gamer, I do enjoy both design concepts in their own ways and would be hard pressed to choose which one I like more.

[QUOTE =GrantG]
I decided to register because I really enjoyed MIB 9966's comment. There's a lot of sense in that.
I'm honored to think that I inspired you to register to share your thoughts. Welcome! :)

Sharing your thoughts and experience with the game(s) is an important contribution, IMHO. It shows the company that there is still active interest that could never be measured just inside a boardroom. As an active demo team member, I'm always inspired to continue to enthusiastically teach games by hearing the enjoyment people have had from playing games and stories of past sessions.

One thing I'd like to note here is that despite the age of the original game and even INWO's age, there is still active interest in the game and theme, going so far as to overshadow the original source inspiration for conspiracy theorists - Dan Brown mentioned the game in The Da Vinci Code (although incorrectly as a computer game) instead of the Trilogy. That a good number of us are commenting and actively participating is an impressive thing to me when so many other games have simply disappeared from view under the deluge of new games printed every year. I'd like to think that it would be great to leverage this to keep the game alive for many more decades to come. (Insert obligatory taking over the world comment here. :) )
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