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Old 10-04-2005, 11:16 PM   #1
Steve Jackson
President and EIC
Join Date: Jul 2004
Default Rules Update for Illuminati?

As I work on the new expansion set, I'm thinking seriously about modding the basic Illuminati rules a bit.

Y2K increased the proportion of Special cards - which was IMHO a good thing overall, but sometimes made the uncontrolled area a bit sparse in the beginning. The new set also has a lot of Specials. So the following is open for discussion. (And while I don't mind people just hitting us with opinions, the posts that begin "We play Illuminati a lot, and having tried a few games with the new rules, here's what we found . . ." will be the ones that get the most serious consideration.)

Of the options below, (1) could be combined with any of the others, but the other three are mutually exclusive.

(1) Any time a player draws a Special card, he has the option to immediately discard it and draw again.

(2) At the end of each turn, if the uncontrolled area has fewer than two groups, draw cards until there are two uncontrolled groups. If a Resource is drawn, it goes to the uncontrolled area but does not count as a group. If a Special is drawn, discard it. [Resources are a new addition to Illuminati. They work pretty much the way they did in INWO.]

(3) For the first two rounds of play, each player starts his turn by drawing TWO cards - except the Network, which draws THREE.

(3a) Make that the first THREE rounds of play.

While I am not wedded to any of these changes, I consider Illuminati to be a living game, and just because it's been out there for 15 years, that does NOT mean its rules can't be tweaked to help the underdogs and make play more flexible.

Last edited by Steve Jackson; 10-04-2005 at 11:22 PM.
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Old 10-05-2005, 01:20 AM   #2
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: The ASS of the world, mainly Valencia, Spain (Europe)
Default Re: Rules Update for Illuminati?

Well, Illuminati, is IMHO, one of the best games SJG has created, so I must say I'm really exited that a new expansion set is in the works.

As for this problem, well, it has not happened to me, but I understand it could be a hassle. I would personally go for option 2.

Option 1 makes you discard your specials, and they're so damn usefull, if only to trade them for priviledged attacks.

Option 3 and 3a) greatly reduce the power of the already struggling Network group during the first turns. With the rules as written, the network draws 100% more cards than the rest of the table, thus having twice the chance to draw a special. With rules 3 and 3a, the network only draws 66% more... Also, it could make cicling through the groups way too fast during the first turns, while the rule is in effect.

Also, Steve, is there going to be a public playtest?
Antoni Ten
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Old 10-05-2005, 02:17 AM   #3
Join Date: Aug 2004
Default Re: Rules Update for Illuminati?

Option 2 actually mirrors a house rule we've used several times. Our rationale is that everyone now has the opportunity to make two attacks to control each turn, or if Resistances are prohibitive, have at least one really good group to go after.

The Y2K change of using Specials to cancel Privilege remains valuable enough that Option 1 is unappealing, and although options 3a/b certainly would get a bunch of cards out early, it would actually leech a bit of tension out of the early game, as the abundance of cards ensures that everyone's probably going to get one or two groups that they directly want without (as much) competition. That said, option 3 also gives the Illuminati that require specific alignments more shots at getting off to a quick(er) start.

I may have a chance to try these in the next several months, but frankly I'm not sure I'd waste my time with option 1 in any circumstance - giving up the minimum of a Privileged attack for a possibly-useful group that you don't control seems like a "don't bother" (or more accurately, I can add the rule confident that it won't be taken advantage of, and forcing someone to use it to test it is self-defeating).

Alex Yeager
Mayfair Games
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Old 10-05-2005, 05:07 AM   #4
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Oslo, Norway
Default Re: Rules Update for Illuminati?

My group has come across this problem quite a few times, and I like the suggested remedies. I'd prefer a combination of (1) and (2), I think.

Good luck with the new expansion!
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Old 10-05-2005, 06:06 AM   #5
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Oslo, Norway
Default Re: Rules Update for Illuminati?

I like the sound of 2. I'm going to a game-party-aniversity at my gaming club, so I'll test it out then.
1 while sounding good in theory, might make new players who haven't realised the potential in even "sucky" specials discard and giving an additional edge to seasoned players, which might be a problem.
Johannes Huyderman aka. Jo-Herman Haugholt
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Old 10-05-2005, 07:02 AM   #6
Join Date: Mar 2005
Default Re: Rules Update for Illuminati?

We've always played the game where we'd roll a 6 sided die and put that many extra cards out at the beginning. (We often ran out early on).

Sometimes we'd do it again if there were no cards out in the middle, but I thin we may only have done that 2 or 3 times.
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Old 10-05-2005, 08:01 AM   #7
Join Date: Oct 2005
Default Re: Rules Update for Illuminati?

I've played many, many games of Illuminati and we've messed with a bunch of variations. the one that showed the most promise for us, although we've only played this way once, was to seperate the group cards and the special cards into two seperate decks.

Each player had a choice of choosing a group card to put on the table, or to take a special card. However, by taking a special card, that ended your turn. You can still perform any free actions, and do your two money transfers, but you can't attack any groups. The only exception was The Network. That player could choose one group, and one special card, and still perform one regular action (attack, move a group, money transfer).

It gives the players a little more control over the game (this is illuminati, after all. Control is what it's all about) but it really makes you think about whether you need that special card. It also helps prevent the pool of groups from being depleted, by only allowing you to take one if you've put one on the table.

Anyway, we've only played it once and we enjoyed it. Based on how random the game can be, this change may not be as good as we thought. But it definitely warrants more testing, IMHO.

Note: I don't know how this would effect the game with "Resource" cards included. I have not played INWO.
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Old 10-05-2005, 08:28 AM   #8
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Montréal, Québec
Default Re: Rules Update for Illuminati?

Option 1 is useless without a reason to do it, such as getting extra money or whatever. And even then it'd be for players who are already in deep trouble.

Option two sounds a bit like initial setup in Crime Lords, if I remember those rules correctly. It makes sense and does not seriously detract from the rules. I'd even say it's 'what you do when you play with many specials', so it's not really a rule change per se.

Option three is indeed completely unfair to Network.

I sorta like DirkGently's version, it sounds like a very interesting strategic elemnt to add, although it does change the dynamics of the game a lot. (and perhaps makes the Network a bit too powerful, as it is guaranteed a special card every turn if it wants one whereas the other players get none on a normal turn.
Maybe the network can't attack whenever it draws a special, so it might as well draw two specials when it does. But then its power becomes useless unless it's being used to draw two specials!
Could people who have played more reflect on how unbalancing Mr. Gently's holistic option would be?

So number two.
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Old 10-05-2005, 08:47 AM   #9
Join Date: Oct 2005
Default Re: Rules Update for Illuminati?

Me and my friends have played Illuminati with a variation of rule #2 after playing Crime Lords, but we kept 3 or 4 groups in the uncontrolled area.

I don't like rule #1, as in the majority of the times I draw a card, would much prefer to keep a lousy special card, rather than draw an unknown top card, especially if the Bavarian Illuminati is on the table.

I am happy to hear INWO Resource cards will find their way into the game. :) A friend introduced me to the INWO card game and I have come to appreciate that you can direct your Illuminati's growth much more. It's something i've been trying to figure out how to implement in the base game.
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Old 10-05-2005, 09:39 AM   #10
Join Date: Oct 2005
Default Re: Rules Update for Illuminati?

You could combine options 1) and 2) into something of a hybrid:

1.5) Any time you draw a Special, draw another card and play it to the uncontrolled area. If it's another Special card, discard it and draw again until a group or resource is played to the uncontrolled area.

Thus, you don't force a player to decide whether he needs the special or another group draw.

However, it does reward a player for drawing a Special with an additional group to attack that wasn't there before... which makes drawing specials slightly more powerful than they were to begin with. It also may not fix the problem... a string of Specials in the deck could create a large number of uncontrolled groups, or a "dry spell" in the deck could easily leave the uncontrolled area empty of any groups to attack.

Hmm. I think I like the simplicity and elegance of 2) better.

As for DirkGently's suggestion (4?), it reminds me a great deal of INWO, which of course had both a Group Deck and Plot Deck. I'd want to play around with the mechanics a bit... not sure if ending your turn is an appropriate cost. I guess I'd want to tie the Special draws to the Illuminati abilities:

Discordia: Draw a Special whenever you successfully attack a Weird group.
Bavaria: Draw a Special whenever you successfully attack to control a group with 4 or more Power.
Bermuda: Draw a Special whenever your power structure gains a new alignment.
Gnomes: Once per turn, at the end of your turn, you may pay 10 MB to draw a Special.
UFOs: At the end of your turn, roll 1d6. On a 5 or 6, draw a Special.
Network: At the start of your turn, play one group card to the uncontrolled area and draw one Special.
Cthulhu: Draw a Special whenever you successfully destroy a group, even one of your own.

Hmmm... some of those might be a bit too gonzo, definately would need a lot of playtesting. I guess what worries me is most is those reward a player who is doing well, while a player that is having trouble could get hopelessly behind and then get starved of specials. Maybe DirkGently's "end your turn" thing is more balanced, much more of a cost or penalty to a player who is already ahead to risk a turn being inactive.

The polar opposite might be the "Cosmic Encounter" variant, where a player could be rewarded a Special as compensation for losing an attack or losing a group from his power structure. Stronger players would have to decide if picking on a weaker rival is worth him giving a Privilege Attack or some other nasty payback, and weaker players get a little help if they're falling behind. Which in turn could mean horribly longer games, as nobody is able to get sufficiently ahead to win or fall sufficiently behind to get eliminated or ignored. Hmmm... rewarding someone for losing or getting picked on, though? That just doesn't sound like Illuminati.
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