This article originally appeared in Pyramid #13


The INWO Book: Sneak Preview

The Illuminati: New World Order steamroller continues to flatten all in its path! The Unlimited Edition and Factory Set are now available, as is The INWO Book. A lot of the neat ideas below (particuarly the variants, optional rules and Stupid INWO Tricks) come from that book — consider it a free taste . . .

Unlimited Edition Rules Changes

Based on gamer feedback on the Limited Edition of INWO, we made a number of changes to improve clarity and balance . . . check the actual rulebook and cards for exact wording. (All page number references are to the Unlimited Edition rulebook.)

The official tournament rules — we printed them in the last issue of Pyramid, posted them on our Internet web pages (, posted them to Internet newsgroups like, and they're in The INWO Book as well — all refer to "the most recent edition of the INWO rulebook, as amended by any official errata published by Steve Jackson Games." That means the Unlimited Edition rules will be the ones used at the World Championships Tournaments at GenCon, so you better know them. While many of the changes are simply rephrasings and clarifications when the original text was slightly unclear, some of the changes are more substantive. Here's the list:


Eliza: no group may have more than one.
China: explicitly gets its +20 against Disasters.
Clipper Chip: no player may have more than one.
Combined Disasters: both disasters must be eligible to strike the affected Place!
Orbit One can be affected by a Nuclear Disaster, but not an Earthquake.
Oregon Crud now has a Power of 24, and destroys on a roll that succeeds by 10 or more.
Political Correctness affects Conservative groups with a Power of 0 or 1.
Reload type cards (giving extra tokens to groups of a specific alignment or attribute) now require an Illuminati action and reload only 5 Power's worth of tokens, or any one group of any Power. The rules now make it explicit that you cannot "reload" a group on the turn it is captured.
Seize the Time requires an Illuminati action, and cannot be used on your first turn. It does not give the Illuminati new action tokens, and you cannot draw cards or play any Plots.
Shangri-La explicitly gets its +5 to defend against Instant attacks.
Upheaval! requires an Illuminati action, and cannot be used on your first turn.
Video Games gives a bonus to all your other Computer groups.
Volcano now has a power of 18, and destroys on a roll that succeeds by 2 or more.
Voodoo Economics requires an Illuminati action, and can be used only once per player per game.
Weather Satellite now gives a +10 (not a +8), to Tornado, Hurricane, and Rain of Frogs (not Tidal Wave).
Zurich no longer has a +4 to control Corporate groups.


Automatic takeover: is now explicitly optional. An Illuminati action can be used for an automatic Resource takeover (p. 6).
Beginning the game: is clarified as regards attacking players who haven't had their first turn. Also, the "lead" puppet rule is expanded (p. 2).
Cancellation of actions is clarified (p. 15).
Die rolls changed by cards are modified to the closest legal number (p. 17).
Discards: are always face up (p. 4).
Dropping groups from your power structure is no longer allowed.
Elimination: happens only after the third turn (p. 12).
Goals: No more than three groups may ever count double for victory.
Goal cards can't be cancelled after you claim a win (p. 13); if you are caught with more than one in your hand, you lose (p. 13).
Immunity is defined at greater length (p. 18).
Links: Clarification on moving links and on linking personalities (p. 15).
Memory of Cards: new rules section (p. 16).
NWO cards take effect in the order played (p. 14).
Permanent and Temporary changes are defined (p. 18).
Relief requires 3 times printed Power (p. 11).
Secret group rules reworded for clarity (p. 10).
Timing: More rules added (p. 11).
Two-player rules: p. 19.
Winning: You can't win during the first round.

More Variants

These are entirely different ways to play the game — as opposed to "optional rules," which are little hacks that you can drop into any version of the game to change the flavor or balance.


This is a series of games between two players. Each player builds a deck. After the first game, the winner may not change his deck, but the loser can change up to 10 cards in his deck.

Now play again. Once again, the winner keeps his deck the same, but the loser can change up to 10 cards.

Continue until one player wins three times in a row.

Common Cards Only

If people say "We won't play with you because your deck is so good," challenge them to a Common Cards Only game. It's just what it sounds like. Anyone who accidentally plays a non-Common card must discard it, and expose all their Plots.

Or you could allow both Commons and Uncommons, and play a "No Rares" game.

Or you could place a very low limit on the number of Rares that could be included in the deck.

To the Death!

To The Death!

If you want a really long game, just find a great big table, order a lot of junk food, and play until only one Illuminati group survives. If you eliminate another player, you get their Resources and their undrawn Group and Plot cards . . . just put them on the bottom of your own deck. (The owner of the cards should make note of all the cards that you're "borrowing.")

At the beginning of the game, in addition to your regular deck, you should set up a supplementary deck of 20 more cards (Groups, Plots, or any combination). When you first reach a Goal, you may look at those 20 cards and pick two of them to go into your hand immediately, and ten more to add to the bottom of your decks. Thus, Goals are still important, even though they no longer end the game.

The Octopus

This is a long game in which the Power Structures get big. It's possible to set up some really interesting combinations in an Octopus game. It's also possible to lose a half-dozen groups at once, because you can't protect the edges of your huge layout.

Decide in advance how many rounds the game will last. A game of 10 or 12 rounds is long enough to be substantially different from regular play. The winner is the player with the most Power at the end of that time . . . or, for a change, with the most Groups.

Alternatively, let the winner be the first player to end a turn with 20 groups (with nothing counting double) or with a total Power of 80. (90? 100? Think big.)

Blind Sealed-Deck Play

Start with one Illuminati card, of your choice, and one sealed starter set box. Open the box and divide the cards into Plots and Groups without looking at them. Then play normally - except that you don't get to look through your deck to pick your lead puppet. It comes out of your initial hand of six Groups.

This has a lot of the feel of a common-deck game. You have no idea what's in your deck until you draw it! You have no hope of planning ahead . . . just react to events.

Sealed-Deck Token Economy

This is a good system to use for a solid day of play within a small group — at a game store, say, or at a convention. It's especially well suited for an event with a small entry fee, because it has built-in prizes.

Use the same setup as the regular sealed-deck game . . . but instead of playing a single game, just keep going. After each game, trade with the other players. Again, you cannot bring in "outside" cards.

However, there is a way to get more cards. Before the tournament starts, the referee prepares some sort of "token" or play money, and a way to authenticate what games are actually played. The winner of any 2-player game gets a token from the tournament referee. The winner of a larger game gets 2 tokens. Shared winners in a larger game get one token each.

The referee will accept these tokens as payment for more cards — say, 10 tokens for a Booster Pack. Thus, anyone who does well automatically "wins" more cards, and the more often you play, the more you win.

And, of course, the tokens can also be used in trading among the players. You don't have to collect 10 tokens to get something; even one or two can help sweeten a deal with another player!

The Bidding Game

Start with a single pile of cards — enough to total 45 for each player in the game. Each player has 200 tokens to bid with. Use poker chips, pennies, priceless Mayan artifacts, or whatever else is handy.

First, auction off the Illuminati cards themselves, to determine who will play what group. Nobody can buy more than one Illuminati card if that would not leave enough Illuminati for each player to have at least one!

Then auction off the rest of the cards. If nobody bids on a card, it goes to the bottom of the stack. No player may buy more than 45 cards. Side deals are legal, using leftover tokens, but once the actual game starts, the tokens are worthless.

If you run out of "money" before you have 45 cards, you must wait until everyone else has spent their money or bought 45. All un-bought cards are then shuffled and dealt out, face up, until each player has 45 cards.

As a variant, you can deal each player their first 10 cards face-down, so nobody knows exactly what his opponents have. Of course, sometimes one player gets better cards in the secret deal . . . life is unfair.

You may find the wheeling and dealing of the auction process is as much fun as the actual game. Watch to see what your rivals bid on, and make your plans accordingly.

More Optional Rules

Made-Up Cards

Ever since the original Illuminati was introduced, people have been inventing new cards. This is a Good Thing, because it leads to Major Weirdness. In fact, we're including blanks in the Factory Set, and we're even going to sell separate packages of blanks, because making a buck off Major Weirdness is good, too.

But each group will have to make its own house-rule decisions on the cards they invent themselves. We will not volunteer as mediators! Nor will we offer "official guidelines" for inventing new cards and making them "legal" . . . !! The blank cards are intended for fun among friends, and not to encourage weird, abusive strategies at tournaments.


When one player in a group is clearly better (or just has the best deck), these handicaps can make the game more even.

The player with the superior position can:

A player with much less experience can:

Draw 6, Put Back 3

This is an alternate setup rule, designed to make it harder for any player to expand too quickly. It was suggested on the Internet, and a lot of people liked it.

After you draw your initial six Groups, put back three. Thus, you start the game with a hand of only three Groups, and you can't grow fast, no matter what.

Limit On Duplicates

A group may agree to limit the number of any one card in a deck to (for instance) four. Personally, I think it's more interesting to allow decks to be built freely, just to see what people will come up with! But many gamers feel that, at least in tourneys, a limitation is called for.

Remove or Limit Automatic Takeovers

Some people prefer to play with no automatic takeover, just to make it harder to build up a power structure quickly. I've come to agree with this for the two-player game, but not for a multi-player game.

A possible compromise would be to remove the automatic takeover but give each Illuminati one more action token . . .

Stupid INWO Tricks

1. In a two-player game at a convention (or at a store, or anywhere you have an audience), convince your opponent to go for a shared victory, just to boggle everybody who's watching. They may go for it, especially if they're Discordians.

And if they agree, look for a way to betray them and grab the victory yourself.

2. If you're a serious collector (or if you know someone who is), you can get hold of enough random Commons to make a playable deck. If you want to, you can add a few rare cards of your own.

Play with the deck. As the game progresses, talk to your cards. Praise them when they do well, threaten them when they do badly.

If you lose, tell the cards that they'll be sorry. (If you had any Rares, sneak them out of the stack when nobody is looking.) Take another deck out of your pocket. Tell the new deck "See what happens to failures?" Then destroy the old deck in the most spectacular way possible without actually breaking any local ordinances.

Then pick up the new deck and ask your friends if they want to play again. They'll probably just back out of the room. Unless they've read this book, that is.

3. Put several Unmasked! cards in your deck, and a dozen or so different Illuminati cards. Whenever you get the chance, change the Illuminati you're playing.

If you're very lucky, your opponents may get upset enough that they do something stupid. Or they may just decide that you're nuts, and ignore you while you set up a victory.

Otherwise, you can just have fun changing hats. How many different Illuminati can you play during a single game?

4. Pick a victim. Everyone else agrees in advance to play Shangri-La. Go for a shared victory among four or five players, leaving your victim out in the cold. Laugh at him. (This is a good way to treat a munchkin powergamer who builds Bavaria decks with six copies of New York.)

5. For a demonstration game at a convention, or just for the heck of it, everyone can dress as their Illuminati. Roleplay it. This works even better if you all have custom tokens and links.

6. Murphy's Law has more uses than just foiling an attack. For instance, play it after someone uses the Necronomicon. Poof — there goes the attacking group. Or play it to make Eliza crash, or to turn a Suicide Squad success to dismal failure. (The automatic 12 from Murphy's Law counts as a 6, since that's the highest possible roll listed on the Suicide Squad card.)

You can use the same trick with other cards that change the die roll, like W.I.T.C.H.

7. Go to your store and beg them for their empty POP displays — the boxes the starters and boosters come in. They're just the right size for sorting and storing cards.

8. Many people have asked if there's really a pyramid on every single card. That's a very good question, and no doubt it will be asked many more times.

Tournament Rules Correction

We've already corrected this elsewhere, but the Tournament Rules we published in the last issue of Pyramid has a small error. In the "Percentage of Goal" system under rule #2, we talked about Goal Cards having to be "in play" to be counted. This is a bogus concept — there's no such thing as "playing" a Goal Card. It's either in your hand (or exposed on the table, which is an extension of your hand) or it isn't. For the Percentage of Goal tournament scoring system, a Goal Card already exposed is eligible; on that isn't, isn't. And in case any of you rules lawyers are asking, this is "official errata published by Steve Jackson Games" to the INWO Tournament Rules.

Article publication date: June 1, 1995

Copyright © 1995 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to