Aged #boardgame conspiracy in Illuminati (Steve Jackson Games, 1982) #fnord

So I reached game number 9 in my 2019 Wargame Challenge – The CSR. The game is Illuminati (Steve Jackson Games, 1982) which won the Charles S. Roberts award in 1982 for “Best Science-Fiction Boardgame.” I pulled the game out with every intention of introducing it to the RockyMountainNavy Boys so they could play it with me. You see, it’s hard to play a card game like Illuminati by yourself.

Illuminati is the game that introduced me to the Illuminati. Go ahead, read all about it. It just has to be true, yes? Illuminati is THE game of conspiracy theories. Looking around at today’s world (and especially American politics) this game is so topical. So why am I hesitant to get it to the table?

As I reviewed the rules of the game and ran through a mock session, I discovered two issues that gave me pause. Note that I actually possess a first edition (1982) copy and therefore the components in that copy are the one that I am judging my opinions on. My reasons for passing are:

  1. The groups are outdated.
  2. The game takes too long to play.

Let’s look at each issue in turn.

The Groups are Outdated

The groups to be controlled are certainly a reflection of their time. I came of age amongst the politics and pop culture of the early 1980’s so groups like Cattle Mutilators or the Semiconscious Liberation Army make sense to me but I severely doubt they can resonate with the RockyMountainNavy Boys in any real way. Sure, you can play without understanding the satire and parody but if you do one misses out on so much of the thematic richness of the game. I like Illuminati not just for the game play but more importantly for the satirical narrative it builds in play. Can you imagine Feminists controlling Science Fiction Fans?

[Ok, maybe that’s not the greatest example; believe me, it was a funny thought back in the day.]

Secondly, if I play with the RMN Boys they are going to ask why a group was included or what the group is. How much time will it take for me to explain what the Fiendish Fluoridators are? This feeds directly into my second issue….

The Game Takes Too Long to Play

Officially, Illuminati is rated at 60-120 minutes. I cannot remember a game that was under 2 hours. To teach it to the RMN Boys explaining not just the rules but all the groups means the game will likely take in excess of 2 hours. This is at the upper limit of our preferred play time for a game night. I am not sure that if we were to invest 2+ hours of game time we would really get that enjoyment much back out of it. I might; the RMN Boys? Ehh….

I see right now that Steve Jackson Games has a Kickstarter campaign for Pocket Box Games of the Eighties. I guess if you have a nostalgic hankering you can get a copy….

It’s all a conspiracy, I tell you!


Feature image BoardGameGeek.


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