Board Game Session Report: Illuminati

Steve Jackson's Illuminati Box Art
Steve Jackson's Illuminati is a game of secret societies and their attempts to influence other cults to combine powers with their own.  The first society to meet either the common win condition (controlling 9 groups) or their special win condition, which varies by primary group, wins the game.

I didn't really care for this game. It took a really long time for what was a game that did not have much going for it.  Perhaps it was just too late at night to start picking this up, but it really felt like math homework more than a fun game.  Each player has a primary group that they control.  The group offers an income, power, and transfer power.  The power of the group can be used to attack another group, either in the interest of control, neutralization, or destruction.  I missed the early note that you could perform any of these against any group in the game, not just those that were in the common pool in the center of the table, so I had a bit of a misplay.  Still, the mechanics are the same whichever route is taken: determine the power of the attacking group, subtract the resistance of the defending target, apply any transfer power desired for the attacker to increase the value, defender may spend money to decrease the value, attacker may spend money to increase the value.  Once all of this arithmetic is complete, the attacker rolls 2d6 and if his roll is less than the sum and not equal to 11 or 12 he wins.  Of course, there are some modifiers as well.  Each group has descriptors such as Government or Communist, Weird or Straight.  If you attack same you get a bonus, opposite a penalty.  Unless of course you are attacking to destroy, in which case the bonus/penalty is reversed (and you subtract the power of the defender, not the resistance).  There is a bonus applied to defense depending on how close to the center of your network the defending group is. Money spent from the defending group counts double value.  Attempting to neutralize gives the attacker a 6 point bonus.  I'm not even getting into the modifiers that groups might have, such as bonuses against particular types of groups.

Doing this math problem with six players for two hours was just not fun.  It felt very much like munchkin (and no surprise there, this is an early Steve Jackson game) in that each player raced to their win condition quickly, and then the game stalled as we all sniped each other.  At the end I was ready to simply throw the game for it to be over.  I think part of the problem was that we had too many players.  If this game were a 30 minute rapid romp, I could see enjoying it from time to time.  At two hours plus, I wouldn't want to get involved.  The humor touches in the game were nice and produced a few chuckles, but nothing that would draw me back.


Jade Mason