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 The groups are outdated.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The Groups are Outdated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.


My CSR #Wargame Challenge for 2019

This is the time of the year that many in the boardgame community start their “challenges” for the coming year. The classic is the 10 x 10 – pick 10 different games and play each ten times during the year. As a wargamer, I sort of like that thought but want something more applicable to my niche of the hobby.

The other night I was messing around with the Advanced Search function of BoardGameGeek and sorting my collection in different ways. For some reason I noticed certain games of mine are Charles S. Roberts Award winners. This drew my attention because wargamers know that Mr. Roberts is the father of modern wargaming:

Charles S. Roberts…invented the modern wargame industry virtually single-handedly. As a designer and original owner-operator of Avalon Hill, he was responsible for the creation of the first modern wargame, including many of the developments, such as the Combat Results Table (CRT), which were later to become commonplace. (

According to Wikipedia, the Charles S. Roberts Awards are:

The Charles S. Roberts Awards (or CSR Awards) was an annual award for excellence in the historical wargaming hobby. It was named in honor of Charles S. Roberts the “Father of Wargaming” who founded Avalon Hill. The award was informally called a “Charlie” and officially called a “Charles S. Roberts Award”….Created at the first Origins Game Convention in 1975….The last year the awards were given was 2012.

After sorting my game collection, I discovered I own 20 CSR Awards winners. The challenge I am giving myself is to play all 20 games at least once by the end of calendar year 2019.


My 2019 CSR Challenge games are:

  1. Squad Leader – 1977 Best Tactical Game
  2. Victory in the Pacific – 1977 Best Strategic Game
  3. Mayday – 1978 Best Science-Fiction Board Game
  4. The Ironclads – 1979 Best Initial Release Wargame
  5. Azhanti High Lightning – 1980 Best Science-Fiction Board Game
  6. Wings – 1981 Best Twentieth Century Game
  7. Car Wars – 1981 Best Science-Fiction Board Game
  8. Ironbottom Sound – 1981 Best Initial Release Wargame
  9. Illuminati – 1982 Best Science-Fiction Board Game*
  10. World in Flames – 1985 Best Twentieth Century Game
  11. 7th Fleet – 1987 Best Modern Era Boardgame
  12. Tokyo Express – 1988 Best World War II Boardgame
  13. Tac Air – 1988 Best Modern Era Boardgame
  14. Operation Shoestring: The Guadalcanal Campaign – 1990 Best World War II Board Game
  15. For the People – 1998 Best Pre-World War II Boardgame
  16. Silver Bayonet: The First Team in Vietnam, 1965 – 1990 Best Modern Era Boardgame
  17. Crisis: Korea 1995 – 1993 Best Modern Era Boardgame
  18. Paths of Glory – 1999 Best Pre-World War II Boardgame
  19. Downtown: The Air War Over Hanoi, 1965-1972 – 2004 Best Modern Era Boardgame
  20. Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear – 2008 Best World War II Boardgame

A nice perk of making my own challenge is that I get to make the rules. For instance, since I don’t always own the edition that won substituting a later edition or version that I own is acceptable. For instance, I own Silver Bayonet: The First Team in Vietnam, 1965 (25th Anniversary Edition) – that is a legal substitute.

I will keep this blog and a GeekList over on BoardGameGeek updated with my progress throughout the year.

So, what is your 2019 Wargame Challenge? 

*  Yes, I know Illuminati is NOT a wargame, but it is the only non-wargame CSR winner on my list. Besides, the RockyMountainNavy Boys may like it, so it stays!

Feature image courtesy BoardGameGeek. Afrika Korps was a 1964 design by Charles S. Roberts.