How Illuminati Works

Illuminati Rules

A group you might control, for example (as well as folks you might be playing the game with).
A group you might control, for example (as well as folks you might be playing the game with).
Photo by Elizabeth Johnston/

Let's not beat around the bush. Illuminati has a 16-page rule book for a reason: It's complicated. There seems to be an exception to every rule and then another exception to those. But let's familiarize ourselves with the simple objects of the game and how it's played, and soon we'll be well on our way to maliciously taking over the world.

So, how the heck do we seize all power? There are two ways to win the game:

  • Basic goal: Control a certain number of groups, based on the number of people playing.
  • Special goal: Each player will have a special goal, based on their Illuminati group, and will win if that goal is accomplished.

Note that if multiple players are able to grasp domination at the same time (either by alliance or not), the victory is shared.

Now let's take one turn so we can see how the game works. This is no small feat; six things happen per turn. (This card game is no blackjack, in other words.) In the next section, we'll go into the cards more specifically, but for now, let's break it down so we can check out how each turn looks. In order, you will:

  1. Collect income. All of your cards will have an income number; take those numbers of "Megabucks" from the bank as the very first step of each turn. Your first turn, the money is just from your Illuminati card, but in subsequent turns, you'll be controlling groups that will have an income number on them to collect at the start of each turn.
  2. Draw a card. Special cards are kept; Group cards go face-up in the uncontrolled area (a fancy way of saying the stack of cards in the center of the table).
  3. Attack! Take two actions. Don't worry; we'll cover these in more detail on the next page.

4. Take any free actions:

  1. Drop a group
  2. Aid an attack
  3. Give away money or Special cards
  4. Use a Special card

5. Transfer money. Move any of your money to groups you control. You can do two transfers per turn.

6. Take your special actions. This is where the special power each Illuminati group has comes in handy. Take the special privilege your group grants you.

And there you go! You've now played one turn of Illuminati. Ready to control the world? Yeah, probably not.