INWO Subtle Strategies (Or The Fine Art of Looking Like a Loser)

By John Karakash

One of the great balancing acts INWO manages is hidden within the structure of the game itself, but only truly experienced players grasp the concept: you can only win if the other players let you win.

Each player has the twin, and usually complementary, goals of making his victory conditions and ensuring that his evil opponents don't make theirs in time. (Shared Victories are outside the scope of this article, but some of the following should be of use even then.)

It is almost axiomatic that when you look like you are about to win, your "friends" will do their utmost -- even work together! -- to bring you down. So victory attempts should be subtle and come wholly as a surprise when you finally, smugly, reveal your evil schemes.

Below are several broad outlines for tricks and surprises. All of them depend on looking harmless and going for the sudden win when people have mostly discounted you. (Great INWO players never discount anyone.) Plus, they'll usually allow you to maintain a tight power structure that is much easier to defend.

Secret Goals (aka That Old Thing?)

It should be easy to fool them, right? Gather up some Weird groups, play the Hail Eris! Goal and go for the easy win as, say, Bavaria. Who would suspect? Right?


Everyone but the most novice players can see this coming from miles away . . . especially if you are taking the Weird groups that Discordia needs (unless he is gathering high power Groups for his Power for its Own Sake Goal . . .).

The trick here is to look like you are going for your standard Illuminated Goal but actually be following your hidden agenda. Don't grow too quickly, though! Try to time your win carefully, for you have to balance the fact that they can always bring you down against the need to move quickly enough to stop one of them from winning.


Bermuda needs a Weird group for its public Illuminated Goal, but what they really want is three of them for the Hail Eris! Goal.

Bavaria is plowing ahead on power and it might be easy to miss that they are coming perilously close to getting three suitable groups for Criminal Overlords or The Corporate Masters.

The Servants of Cthulhu have a variety of choices that involve controlling/destruction of groups. This has been a bit overused, so sneak up on 'em with a Rewriting History or a quick OMCL (Orbital Mind Contol Lasers) adjustment on the turn you attempt your win.

Blinded by Science and Sufficiently Advanced Technology can astound your rivals if you are the Adepts of Hermes with six proper Magic groups! In this case you might want to avoid getting any magic resources.

Changing the Rules (aka Can They Do That!?)

A sometimes-overlooked strategy is going straight for your Illuminati's Goal. Or rather, go straight for your Illuminati's Goal, but don't appear to be making much headway. (Most of these ideas can be used with other evil schemes as well.)

INWO is chock full of cards that modify power, alignment and other rules of the game. Anytime you mess with the rules of reality, there is opportunity.


Cyborg Soldiers/Necronomicon: A big power boost, yes, but a little too popular. Every deck that might depend on any resource should have a Forgery . . . just in case.

Orbital Mind Control Lasers: A favorite among the INWO crowd. Another very popular card that almost is not worth fighting over. If you use it early, keep a Cover of Darkness around, otherwise have a Forgery on hand for the time when you really need it (i.e., during your victory attempt).

Gay Activists: A very useful card and not played nearly enough. More limited than the OMCL, but also less fought over. Need an important alignment in the end game? Make a branch of your power structure of the opposite alignment and use Gay Activists and OMCL to surprise your rivals. If you can get two or more tokens on Gay Activists, that can really cause a panic!

The Clipper Chip: Sure, you can bring this out early, and give a big boost to your power structure, but this only invites attack. Better to save it and then use it to boost your power by 2 per Government group! Bavaria can easily have 5 moderate power Government groups, plus one or two good ones and then get a sudden boost of 14 total power! The problem here is that Government groups are pretty popular so keep the various alignment changers in mind.

New World Order Cards: The ultimate rule changers. Avoid the urge to play them early (except for NWOs that you won't need for the victory attempt) and use them for the sudden coup. Alignments and attributes can shift, powers change abruptly, and all sorts of mayhem can ensue. Keep a plot-negater (like Hoax) to stop people who would try to remove this card. Another good plan, if your opponents have hurt you with a NWO is to wait until removing it will bring you into the victory range. Also see what happens when you replace Don't Forget to Smash the State with Law and Order (they're both Yellow NWOs).

Unmasked!: A good card for its sheer deceptive power. Unfortunately, it's hard to coordinate having this card and the proper Illuminati card in your hand. Crop Circles can help out here as can the Crystal Skull or the Shroud of Turin.

Hack and Slash (aka Loot the Quivering Corpses of My Rivals)

This is a favorite theme among INWO players, and why not? You get to improve your own situation and hurt someone else at the same time. Unfortunately, as a starting or midgame strategy it makes your opponents too paranoid to ignore you properly so it is most useful in the victory attempt.

The trick here is to make a single, quick strike on the power structure or resources of your rivals and be able to declare on that turn. You should either do this when your opponents are weakened from their own fights or you can defend yourself against the inevitable attempts to poke holes in your well-laid plans.

The problem with this strategy is that it depends on how your opponents choose to play and what they do with their power structures. Still, it can work well if you are able to think on your feet.


Forgery: One of my favorite cards because it takes something valuable from your rivals and adds it to your hand. A definite balance-tipper for the, hopefully, final turn!

Phone Phreaks: Very popular for nipping off a few groups. If you can manipulate your rival's power structure so there are two to three groups hanging exposed, you are sitting pretty.

Privileged Attack: If you aren't Bavaria, get this card. Multinational Oil Companies is a pretty good substitute for smaller games. It's critical to avoid interference if you're going for the vulnerable branch of someone's structure. Keep an eye on the Black Helicopters for Government or Secret Group structures.

Sorry Wrong Number: A great Zap! for stealing Groups.

Reorganization: Almost essential after you grab a juicy bunch of your opponent's groups. Either this or have a lot of spare tokens to protect yourself.

General Advice

Getting the right cards: Anything that lets you select or draw additional cards is a big help. Warehouse 23, Crystal Skull, Crop Circles, Mossad, etc. will let you grow faster or, more Illuminatedly, have the right plots in hand for the critical moment. Grave Robbers is great for those Resources that might be hard to locate in time.

Reloads: While not nearly as useful as before, these are still valuable cards in that they will let you get tokens on your weaker groups that have important SPECIAL ABILITIES. Especially for Discordia (whose groups tend to have low power but neat special abilities), this can be just the thing.

Warehouse 23: Good place to store your Center for Weird Studies and other such knickknacks. Don't keep anything too valuable in there, though, since it is vulnerable to abuse like any other Resource.

Flying Saucer: Just plain useful if your evil plans involve more than two Resources. Especially if you need a key one!

Trading Card Games: This makes everyone almost too paranoid. If you can pull it off though, replacing it with something like the Libertarians (which can provide a quick power boost) or nearly any other ‘surprise' card can do the trick.

Table Placement: An astoundingly Illuminated trick is to sit to the right of a particularly gung-ho player, especially one that tends to go straight for their Goal or who, frankly, annoys the other players. When they expend their actions, probably with your help, to stop this person you can follow up with your own victory attempt!

The End (aka Making Your Victory Stick and Stay Stuck)

Just a couple of things to watch out for in the the post-victory attempt aftermath that your rivals will host for you.

Except for China, it's a good idea to avoid Places that might be vulnerable to Disasters. Remember that Devastated places do not count for victory conditions!

Keep a plot negater or two handy for the end game. This is your main defense against your opponents! If you have the Nuclear Power Companies, that is another avenue of frustration for your foes.

Voodoo Economics: After a heavy round of takeovers, this will let you protect your power structure. For added fun, use a Nevermore! on it immediately after use. Since you are going for the gusto on what you hope to be your last turn, you can spend your undrawn plots with a glad heart.

Center for Weird Studies: You can use this to reload any Group or Resource. Since Illuminati tokens are at a premium in the end game, this could be a lifesaver, but its flexibility makes it valuable in many other situations.

Alignments: Remember that if you don't have the OMCL, then probably your rivals have it. Can your plans succeed if they have the Gay Activists?

NWO: Apathy: Very good for breaking up those temporary coalitions that will inevitably form on your winning turn.

Getting the right cards: Anything that lets you select or draw additional cards is a big help. Warehouse 23, Crystal Skull, Crop Circles, Mossad, etc. will let you grow faster or, more Illuminatedly, have the right plots in hand for the critical moment. Try this Illuminated trick: Get Savings & Loan Scam (or two if you can) when you have the Crystal Skull.

These small ideas should be enough to get started. There are a lot more ways to be sneaky. (Hey, I had to leave some for myself, right?) Watch out for the basic principles:

1) Don't look like you are going to win.
2) Organize yourself so that you can go for a surprise win in a single turn.
3) Leave your structure in a defensible position.

When you get right down to it, there are three things that will help you win: power, diplomacy and deception. Of the three, frankly, deception will take you the farthest. Remember, what they don't know . . . is exactly the way you want it.

Article publication date: July 10, 1998

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