Saturday, May 17, 2008

INWO can be spooky

Illuminati: New World Order can be a spooky game, even if you're not a conspiracy theorist.

The game, for those who don't know it, is a collectible card game riff of an earlier Steve Jackson noncollectible card game design that postulates that there really are shadowing conspirators pulling the strings behind the scenes in a bid to control the world. Players represent one of those secret societies, such as the Bavarian Illuminati, the Gnomes of Zurich or UFOs, using plots such as Currency Speculation or Media Connections to control groups such as Feminists, Offshore Banks or the Recording Industry in pursuit of goals such as Power for Its Own Sake or Kill For Peace. Players attempt to build networks while disrupting the networks and plans of their opponents.

It's all very dark and fun, and a spot on satire of the world scene circa 1995, when the game was designed.

Looking at it some 10 years on, though, given some of the events that have occurred, the game can be kind of spooky to look at.

The single spookiest card has to be the "Terrorist Nuke" card, with its image of the Twin Towers being attacked in a way that eerily resembles the actual terror attacks of 9/11. It wasn't a nuke, of course, but the card illustration bears an uncanny resemblance to the location and scale of the first airplane impact.
The controversies over the government's warrant-less wiretaps programs might make one consider the implications of the N.S.A. and Phone Company groups.
Saddam Hussein really did have the power to distract a government from its goals, as it turns out.

Quite a few of the personalities from the 1995 game are no longer with us (Princess Di, Ronald Reagan and Imelda Marcos) while many of the others have faded from view (Ross Perot, Dan Quayle and George H.W. Bush). A few others refuse to fade away completely, although their time seems past (Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Fidel Castro).

At least one seems relevant still, such as Al Gore (he got the Nobel Peace Prize plot card played on him, no?)

While individuals come and go, some of the organizations that dominated the news 10 years ago seem just as potent now, such as OPEC, International Cocaine Smugglers and the Supreme Court while others have faded from view such as the Moonies, Moral Minority (sic) and the KKK. A few have even started bouncing back into view such as the Libertarians, Gay Activists and Anti-War Activists.
I've heard it said that the basic Illuminati game is a better game, perhaps because it's easier to balance a particular set of cards than the more open-ended environment of a Collectible Card Game with constructed decks. One way around this is to play out of one common deck. There are rules for playing that way available from Steve Jackson Games.
I think effective satire is hard, especially in a game format, yet INWO manages to achieve that goal. It's a little dated now and a new set of cars might freshen it up a bit. After all, we have a whole new set of personalities in the news and crazy events since the new century started.

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