Underhanded Illuminati – The World of Hackers, Plumbers, and Moles
by Steve LaPrade
"lt's a game of world conquest – not by guns or missiles, but by stealth and guile." – Comments on Illuminati in the Summer 1983 SJ Games Catalog.
Illuminati won the award for Best Science Fiction Game at Origins, 1983. It's a good game, and a sneaky one. But, sneaky as it is, it can be made even sneakier by incorporating some elements of real-world intrigue. Here are three additions you might want to try, either separately or, if you're feeling really nasty, all together.
These are characters with computers who try to tap into other computers. (Think of the kids in the movie War Games, or the television program Whiz Kids.) In Illuminati, Hackers are used by Illuminati groups to tap into their opponents' banking computers. Having tapped in, a player can "transfer" all that group's funds to one of his own. Here's how Hackers work – at the end of his or her turn, a player announces a "Hacker attempt," and writes down which opponent and group will be the target of the attempt. The "hacking" player then rolls 2d6. On a roll of 6 or less, the Hacker attempt succeeds. It fails on a roll of 7 or more.
If the attempt fails, that's the end of it. If it succeeds, the Hacker reveals the identity of the opponent and group attacked (by showing opponents the paper on which the target's name and group were written) during the Hacker's turn – two rounds later! In other words, the hacking player announces which of his or her groups tapped into which opponent's banking computer. After this announcement, all of the money in the target group's bank is shifted to the attacking group, as the funds are electronically siphoned from one bank to another.
Hackers add tension to the game, particularly in the two rounds between the successful Hacker roll and the revelation of the target group. Would-be victims (and with more than two players, no one can know for sure who the intended target is) may try to shift funds out of suspected target groups. In other words, they can try to empty the treasury of a group they think is the intended target of a Hacker attempt. Hacking players, of course, may take this into account when planning their attack, picking a money-poor group on the assumption that money will be shifted from a rich group to a poor one as opposing players desperately try to second-guess the Hacker.
As far as strategy goes, it usually makes more sense to try a Hacker roll late in the game when a target has several groups and can't shift all of his or her money to an Illuminati group in time to avoid the Hacker attack.
Notes. Illuminati groups cannot be attacked by Hackers. No more than three Hacker attempts can be tried per player in a two-player Illuminati game, and experience indicates a limit of two per player may be best for multi-player games.
You remember Richard Nixon's old cohorts, his not-so-sneaky surveillance team? Well, these guys are like Tricky Dick's bunch only more professional. Where Hackers deprive a group of funds, the Plumbers drain a group's power. Plumbers infiltrate opponents' groups and prevent them from attacking.
As with Hackers, Plumber target groups are written down – but with Plumbers, they are written down any time after the targeted group first comes into play. You can keep trying until you succeed. Again, Illuminati groups are immune. The same die roll procedure is used – secretly note the target and make a public roll (success on 6 or less, failure on 7 or more).
Resolving Plumber attacks differs in one important aspect from Hacker attacks. Hackers reveal themselves after two turns, Plumbers stay out of sight until called upon. When an opponent attempts a takeover, destruction, or neutralization with a Plumber-infiltrated group, the Plumber's owner reveals the infiltration. This blocks all participation by the target group – in the form of power or money – in any attack, for one whole turn. Then, having served their purpose, the Plumbers silently slink away.
Example: An Illuminati group announces it will use its Mafia to control another group. An opponent flashes the paper revealing that his plumbers infiltrated the Mafia. For that turn, the Mafia – with all its money, power, and point bonuses – cannot participate or aid in any attack.
Notes: A limit of one Plumber unit per player is suggested (even Nixon had only one). If a player's first Plumber roll fails, he or she may try again on the next turn, and the one after that, at the same or a different group, until the Plumbers succeed in infiltrating an opponent's group.
Moles are spies, hidden away in a group for years before they are called upon, ready to strike for their true masters at any time. Before the cards are dealt at the beginning of the game, each player draws three group cards and writes each group's name on a piece of paper. These represent groups in which each player has moles. This having been done, the group cards are returned to the deck; the deck is shuffled; regular play begins.
A player who wants to take over an opponent's group (or an uncontrolled group) can pick one in which he or she has planted a Mole. Moles are more deeply rooted than Hackers or Plumbers and are therefore more powerful – they succeed on a roll of 9 or less. Mole procedure is slightly different too; infiltration is revealed, then the dice are rolled. A successful Mole – having become a vital part of the organization – undercuts the target's resistance, giving the attacker a plus five (+5) bonus.
Example: The Discordians announce their attempt to take over the Phone Company and reveal that they have a Mole there. They roll an "8"; the Mole's efforts to disrupt resistance succeed and the Discordians get an extra five points of attack strength.
Note: Each Mole can be used only once per game. You can also use your Moles to help out an ally.
Try one or all of these variants in your cutthroat Illuminati games. Be sure to watch your back!