Illuminati Second Edition Designer's Notes
by Steve Jackson
Illuminati was around my fifth or sixth game, and it's still my most original in play mechanics. It was first released in 1982 in Pocket Box format. It was well received, winning the Charles S. Roberts award for Best SF Boardgame of the Year. (You know it better as the Origins Award.)
There have been several supplements. At the height of the original collectible card game mania, we did a CCG version, INWO (for Illuminati New World Order). It was also well received, and actually drew some attention from real conspiracy theorists, who wanted to know how I could possibly have found out all that stuff. (I read your books and made the rest up, numbskulls!) We still hear from these people once in a while; the best ones go to the bulletin board.
Now 35 years have passed, the world has changed, and it's time for a new edition. In some ways, conspiracy theory isn't as funny as it used to be. When you have national politicians repeating the crazy ideas, it gets harder to laugh. But it's still fun to have the Congressional Wives controlling the Boy Sprouts, and it's always good to destroy the IRS.
The 2018 version is an actual new edition, not just a reprint with new art. Of the 110 cards in the set, 57 are new, retitled, or changed in some nontrivial way. This meant dropping some of the old cards, of course; 15 came out, to be replaced by brand new ones. The Yuppies and Moonies aren't as relevant as they used to be, but now we have Antifa and Vloggers. Sometimes we have to run as hard as we can just to keep up with the present.
But yes, all the art, except for the iconic symbols on the Illuminati cards themselves, is new. This edition was drawn by Lar deSouza. Lar is fun to work with, and his art encapsulates "insane" very nicely. He knows when to go over the top, and when to stay just under the top (is that even a thing?). Likewise, the card layout style has been changed slightly; credit Gabby Ruenes with that.
The thing that really makes it a new edition, though, is the rule changes. To keep up with today's reality, I dropped a pair of alignments: Communist and Government. Reason: the "red menace" is no longer at the forefront of conspiracy-theory discourse, and government bodies, at least in the US, are more at odds than they have been in my lifetime.
But we also created a new alignment, ironing out a rules wrinkle in the process. "Media" is now a full-fledged alignment. Reflecting reality (I have to do that sometimes), Media groups get a bonus either to control or to destroy other Media groups.
And we changed the physical format a bit. Each player now has an individual reference card with illumination about their Illuminati group, play hints, and assorted game information. This is not only more convenient in play, but let us cut the rulebook to only eight pages, which seems much less forbidding to new players.
Yes, there will be a supplement – it's already in first draft, in fact. Look for the conspiracies to get even more tangled sometime in 2019.
Fun facts –
- When we first released the game, it sold for $34.95. It still sells for $34.95. It always has. Economies of scale and inflation have continued to cancel each other out.
- There was a Finnish edition of Illuminati. This was the first game we had ever had translated into Finnish.
- Illuminati was referred to in Dan Brown's Angels and Demons.