This article originally appeared in Pyramid #19
The Omni League was originally developed by Jonathan Tweet, designer of On The Edge from Atlas Games, and the original Omni League is for OTE players. It was such a great idea, we wanted to do it too, and we thank Jonathan and Atlas for giving us their permission!
INWO OMNI is a set of rules for tournament and non-tournament play. An Omni League is, in the words of its creator, "a non-localized community of players, all working with a limited number of cards." The key to the league is "limited number." No one can buy a killer deck in Omni gaming . . . you have to build it, a game at a time.
To enter the INWO OMNI league, just declare yourself in, and set aside a single INWO Starter Set. You may use either Limited or Unlimited versions, but remember that the wording on the Unlimited cards is the official one. Also, you will be marking your cards, and you may feel less of a twinge if you use Unlimiteds.
Pick a starter as your Omni set before opening it; it's not fair to go through several and choose one. This, like the rest of the Omni rules, depends entirely on your personal honor. (If you find the idea of personal honor inconsistent with the basic philosophy of the Illuminati, remember, Eris doesn't want you to be consistent. Roll with it.)
The 110 cards of this starter make up your League set. Your League deck, for any given game, will be 45 cards (including Illuminati) chosen from this set. The rest of the cards are your reserves. You are free to move cards between your deck and your reserves, but only between games!
All INWO OMNI games are played according to the most current version of the rules (at this writing, World Domination Handbook v. 1.1). This is also the version found in the first (and currently only) printing of The INWO Book. Any card or rules errata published by SJ Games will immediately be in effect for Omni play. You can see the most up-to-date errata here.
When and Where to Play
Wherever you feel like it. Any time you encounter one or more Omni players (easily recognizable because they know the secret handshake and have an Omni deck) you can play.
Improving Your Deck: Stakes
The prize in any INWO OMNI game, and the way to improve your deck, is the stakes. At the beginning of every game, each player puts up stakes of one, two or three cards from their reserves. Stakes may be secret, or agreed on in advance; for instance, if your opponent is willing to stake a card you really want, you might be willing to stake three of your own cards against it. The game is much more interesting if each player stakes something his opponent really wants. If you can find a card that is useless to you but valuable to your foe, so much the better!
Stakes work just the same in a multi-player game. In case of a shared victory, it is up to the winners to decide how the spoils are to be divided. You may want to negotiate this before cooperating!
Marking Your Cards
Each player puts a distinctive mark (initials, symbol, whatever) on the face (not the back) of each card they lose as stakes. You may want to mark your whole deck before you start; that's optional. Always use the same mark; this is a permanent record, and if the card passes to other players, it may acquire a whole set of marks! (A card with a lot of marks is a desirable stake for that reason alone.)
Adding New Cards
You cannot buy or trade your way to a good League deck. You must win the cards. You may not trade cards except in stakes, buy new cards for your League set, swap in cards that you already own, play for stakes against non-League decks, and so on. (Note that if you deliberately throw a game to let someone else win the stakes, you are effectively trading. That's not fair.)
There is one exception to the "no buying" rule, in order to get newly-created cards into League play. You may buy, and add to your set, cards from any official expansion to INWO. Exactly how this is done depends on whether the expansion comes in the "booster" or "boxed set" variety. Remember, you may only do this one time per expansion!
Adding from Boosters
For expansions which come in the form of booster packs, such as Assassins, buy and add either one or two Booster Packs. If you do this, you must add the entire contents of one or two boosters, chosen before opening them! After looking at the new cards, you must remove an equal number of old cards from your set, so the total number of cards in the set remains the same.
Adding from Boxed Sets
For boxed set expansions, such as SubGenius, do the following:
- Obtain a set of expansion cards. Several players (up to the number of cards in the set divided by 16) may choose in advance to share one.
- Decide how many cards, from a minimum of 8 to a maximum of 16, you wish to incorporate into your OMNI deck from the new cards. (If several players are splitting a set of new cards, each decides before proceeding.)
- Shuffle all the cards in the set of new cards together (mixing all types -- Groups, Plots, Illuminati -- together).
- Deal out the chosen number of cards (to each player, if several are splitting the set) and look at your cards.
- Select that number of cards from the existing OMNI deck to remove, then add the new cards.
- If several players are splitting a set of new cards, deal out the leftover cards as equally as possible to all of them. These are added to the player's general collections, not their OMNI decks. (Note that this will give each player some information about which cards are not in anyone's OMNI deck.)
It is perfectly legal to begin with a Starter Set in a language other than English, but that is the only way that such cards can enter League play. If you are playing against someone whose cards are in a different language, you must decide what the "official" language of the game will be, since some cards (for instance, the German "USA" card) are not legal in English-language games. These guidelines are available on our WWW site.
Starting a New Set
If your set goes below 60 cards, you may retire it and start over with a completely new Starter Deck. You do not have to retire a set until it drops below 45 cards. At that point, it can no longer form a legal deck, and you must start over.
Administration and House Rules
There is no INWO OMNI administration, and no rules except these. The League is made up entirely of its players. Everything is on the honor system. Play for fun, and to prove that you can build a good deck just by winning the cards.
Steve Jackson Games will sponsor INWO OMNI tournaments at major conventions, but we expect most of the games to happen in the hidden corners of the halls, in the rooms late at night, and in
[NOT AVAILABLE AT YOUR CLEARANCE].
Any house rules that players want to add, by mutual agreement, is all right, except those that would change the deck-building rules. For instance, you may agree to play without stakes, but you may not play for four-card stakes, because that would change the decks too fast. Oh, all right, you can do anything you want, but your deck is no longer an Omni League deck. Honor system, remember?
If you send us a stamped, self-addressed envelope (INWO OMNI Button, SJ Games, PO Box 18957, Austin TX 78760), we'll send you an INWO OMNI button that you can wear to draw fire . . . err, to help locate opponents.
Other Neat Stuff
Name your decks!
Don't always play with the same 45 cards. Use a different Illuminati group from time to time. Remember: if your opponents know what you're going to do, they can prepare for it. So surprise them.
Have you noticed that INWO, upside down, is OMNI? Of course, there is a reason for that...
Send some Illuminated good thoughts in the direction of Jonathan Tweet and Atlas Games, not only for coming up with this idea, but for sharing. If you decide to buy an On The Edge set and play in the original Omni League as well as ours, we promise we won't mind at all. :-)
Article publication date: May 1, 1996
Copyright © 1996 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 email@example.com.