The Art of the Deal: Making Deals and Sharing Victories in INWO

by Steve Hatherley & Ralph Melton

Illuminati: New World Order brims with opportunities for negotiating, trading, cooperating, threatening, and back-stabbing. These opportunities offer rich rewards if you know how to use them and develop the attitude that everything is for sale. Deal-making wins games.

Binding Deals: Trades

The simplest form of deal is a trade, in which two players agree to give each other something simultaneously. Trades are the only binding deal in INWO and therefore provide a security that the trade will work, even if the person you're trading with is untrustworthy.

Plots, groups, resources -- you name it and it can probably be traded to another player. About the only things you can't give away are your Illuminati and plots that have already been played -- and there are sometimes ways to give away the plots.

Trades don't have to be an even swap. You could offer to use a group's special ability in return for a plot card, or you could swap a Resource for a group. Alternatively try trading for information, for aid in an attack, or just to remove an action token from a threatening group. You might even want to sell a group's ability -- you may find it easier to keep a normally annoying group if your rivals know that they can use its ability for a price.

Start trading early so that the other players become used to the idea of making trades and deals. You might lose out initially, but maybe you will be able to make a better deal later on. And even if each of your deals is not as profitable to you as to the other player, you can make up for this with volume by dealing with every player.

Most players will be reluctant to trade for a card without knowing what it is. If another player offers you a Plot but won't show you what it is, you should assume that it's worthless to him and to you.

Non-Binding Deals

Deals involving almost any aspect of the game are possible, but anything that isn't an immediate trade or requires some future action isn't binding. These deals require trust. For example, promising the attacker that you won't attack him on your next turn permits him to spend more to bring down another opponent, but does rely on you being trustworthy.

The actual details of such deals are only limited by your deviousness. Some examples:


People usually trade to get things that are beneficial to them. However, you can also trade to get things that are threatening to you. For example, maybe the player with two action tokens on the Nuclear Power Companies would offer to use one of them on your behalf in exchange for your Nuclear Accident . . . and if you phrase it as an offer, it makes your implied threat seem much less offensive.

If you're about to attack someone, consider mentioning it to them before you commit your attack; perhaps they'll offer you something to choose another target. (And if they're feeling secure in their defense, maybe it'll show in the negotiation.)

Public negotiation can make your threats seem less cruel. Saying, "Okay, I'm Cthulhu, and I feel I ought to attack someone, but I'm not sure who. Bribe me, someone." makes everyone aware that they might be a target, but also motivates them to influence your decision with favors. (And yes, you could be convinced to do nothing . . . )

When all else fails, be blunt: "Give me a plot card or I'll cancel your action."

Be warned -- some players will resist threats automatically, and take steps to eliminate the threat to themselves.

Cards Suited to Dealmaking

The Art of the Deal: Making Deals and Sharing Victories in INWO

Two cards from the Church of the Sub-Genius set are designed for making deals. Slackfusion allows you to exchange Illuminati action tokens and Dokstok provides you with an Illuminati action token that you can do nothing with but trade or give away.

Cards that steal your rival's plot cards (such as the Arms Dealers) can be effective in setting up a deal. Force your to rivals beg for their safety -- or offer to deal if one is played against you. Consider the evil joy in saying, "If you help me out, I'll give you back your Goal."

Similarly, the action cancelers can also be used as the basis for deals. Action cancelers are especially good at making threats, but can also be used in positive ways if you are prepared to sell their services to another player.

A few specific cards to get you thinking:

Fringe Benefits

Dealmaking offers other, less obvious, benefits.

Another way to manipulate people: making a deal that results in another player's Nuclear Power Companies cancel a rival's action means that the NPCs will be powerless to stop your fiendish schemes.

Therefore, start dealing early. It's even worthwhile encouraging deals between other players (as long as it doesn't directly hurt you), because it makes it easier to strike a deal when you need it.

Betrayal: Do No Small Evil

Dealmaking in INWO provides clear opportunities for backstabbing and betrayal. You can go back on a promise you've made, use I Lied to break a trade or steal the Plot card that someone is offering with Go Fish. But it's often a bad idea. Once you become known for these things, other players will stop making deals with you (or in extreme cases, dedicate themselves to exacting revenge). The key to successful betrayal is to only indulge when the reward is so great that it's worth all the mistrust and missed deals that it causes.

Cultivate a reputation for keeping your deals -- the spirit and the letter. Adhere to your deals as a point of pride. After all, there's no need to break deals when there are so many other lovely ways to manipulate people and lead them into error . . .

Don't betray people on small things, and don't betray them when you expect them to be able get revenge. If you go back on a deal at the beginning of a game, no one else is going to deal with you all game. On the other hand, people are sometimes quite forgiving of a spectacular betrayal if it gives you victory.

On the flip side, a substantial fraction of the people who will betray you are unsubtle enough to do so at first opportunity. If you make deals early and often, you can draw these people out, and learn about their perfidious habits at a time when you can recover from being betrayed.

Sharing Victories

The Art of the Deal: Making Deals and Sharing Victories in INWO

Sharing a victory is the best deal you can make.

The proper ethics for sharing victory is to care only about your victory. If other people also win, fine -- as long as you also win. By the same token, if you can't stop someone else from winning, you should neither help nor hinder them. You've already lost -- why spoil it for someone else (who might remember and prevent you from winning in the future).

Occasionally two players win independently on the same turn. It's not very likely, though, because players usually have their best chances to win on their own turn. When it does occur, it is usually because someone has made a desperate catch-up attempt. For example, a Cthulhu player might go on a Disaster spree, or Shangri-La might stretch to play some Kinder and Gentlers.

It's more common for victories to be shared through cooperation. There are a few ways to share a victory that don't leave open the possibility for someone to get betrayed. More often, though, you have to trust each other. Shared victories are easier if one partner holds off declaring victory so that the second partner has a chance to win on a later turn.

There are a few ways to share a victory with a trade. The Adepts of Hermes could trade a group for two magic resources, or the Bermuda Triangle could trade two groups for one with the alignments it needs. Both trades put both players closer to victory. However, most shared victories require some trust to last until the end of the turn.

Examples of Sharing Victory

If two players are trying for the basic goal, one might help the other attack to control three groups from a third player. If the attack is successful, the attacker would then give one of the groups (or another group entirely) to the other, helping, player -- and they both win.

Several goals depend on power either directly (Bavaria or Bermuda) or indirectly (the groups-count-double goals). New World Orders and power-boosters can be a way to affect a rival's power-related victory conditions without affecting your own. Or use Rewriting History to change the alignment of a destroyed group to help someone attempting one of the destroy/control types of goals.

If power is your only concern, you could trade away two groups in exchange for one of higher power. Alternatively you could exchange a low-power group for a power-doubling Resource, such as the Necronomicon.

The Society of Assassins' secret groups count double if they are more powerful than any other player's secret groups. So if you control a powerful secret group, it could be worth up to four groups to the Assassins -- and you have the basis for a fine shared victory.

A shared victory is possible with Arise! if your "ally" takes your last group in an attack. You can help the attack, and if you organize your power structure properly you can make sure that he gets a handful of groups -- enough to share victory with you. This is super-cheesy, and people who do that sort of thing should be mocked. Better yet, instead of mocking them, use Go Fish to steal Arise! (before they reveal it) or make Arise! worthless with Interesting Times.


Shangri-La has more deal-making possibilities than any other Illuminati because they don't have to own the cards they use to win. It is easy for two Shangri-Las to win, and you can certainly pack Unmasked and Shangri-La to help sweeten a deal. But there are other possibilities:

The possibilities are glorious.

Opposing Shared Victories

When faced with a shared victory you have two options -- join them or thwart them. (That's assuming you have any options at all.) Your best option is to join them, by any means possible. If you have some way to stop one of your rivals winning, try striking a deal that involves you not thwarting them in exchange for them helping you win too.

If that fails, you have no alternative but to thwart the victory. You may need your other losing rivals to help you in this. You might also want to play the would-be-victors off against each other: "We can thwart you. If you make it easy, then we'll have the resources to thwart the other player, too. If you make it hard, we'll only be able to thwart you, and the other player will win."

Negotiate to Victory

And that's it. All that's left is practice, practice, practice. So next time you start playing, thinking about your trading and dealing opportunities, and negotiate your way to victory. See you there.

Article publication date: September 8, 2000

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