This week for board game night at Quarterstaff Games, I set up a demo of Illuminati. As a Man in Black for Steve Jackson Games, I get to teach people how to play their games. It’s a pretty fun gig. Most of the time, I demo on the local convention scene, but I try to put in an MIB appearance to the weekly board game night as well, though I’m there more frequently as a civilian.
The core game mechanic is about conspiracies acquiring puppets with which to expand their domination of the world. Most of the fun comes from the silly cards — tonight, for example, the Republicans took control of Alien Abductors, while New York ran the Mafia — and the interaction between players as they strike deals and screw with each other to get ahead of everyone else.
We lucked out with five players who really got into the freewheeling nature of the deals and betrayals Illuminati encourages. Part of it, I think was that at least four of them were Diplomacy veterans and the fifth was no stranger to Illuminati himself. Thanks to that, we had a ton of terrific back and forth repartee, with everyone trying to make like they were everyone else’s friend, just before contributing to preventing them acquiring a group or fomenting discord by pointing out how perilously close someone else was to winning.
In the end, when one player had to leave just as another was on the brink of maybe winning, everyone else unanimously elected to call it a draw. It’s nice to play with people understand how to playact mock enmity while keeping a genuine attitude of good sportsmanship.