Spreading The Word

Teaching INWO to new players by Steve Hatherley

INWO is without doubt one of the most complex games I've played. It's also sneaky, subtle and downright fun, but unfortunately its sheer complexity can overwhelm new players. Criticisms I've heard are "too complex," "too slow" and "too wordy."

Here then is a way of teaching INWO to new players without overwhelming them. It isn't a "learner" set of rules as it assumes that one person already knows how to play.


  • Using a Starter Deck, remove the UFOs, all NWOs and Goal cards. Then deal out one Illuminati, 16 (or so) group cards and 29 (or so) plot cards to both players. If you're teaching more than one player you'll need more starters.
  • Draw a group card - that's your starting group. If you draw a Resource, draw again.
  • Draw three groups for your Group hand. You are now ready to play.

Turn Sequence

The Turn Sequence is largely the same as the regular game, except for the Beginning of the Turn.

  • Draw a Plot card. Before you do this you may discard a Plot card from your hand to draw an additonal card.
  • Draw a group card.
  • Make an automatic takeover of the group (or Resource) you've just drawn. If this duplicates a group or unique Resource, you may choose one from your hand instead. Otherwise you lose your takeover.
  • Place action tokens.

Playing the Game

Play to 10 groups as normal (don't use the 2-player rules) except:

  • You cannot buy Plot cards with action tokens. You may, if you wish, discard one plot card to draw another at the start of your turn.
  • Ignore Secrecy.
  • Instead of a starter you might want to put together a set of cards - I recommend lots of Places and Personalities. Try not to use too many cards that have lots of errata; INWO is hard enough without having to explain that some cards are played differently than is written on the card.


These rules are designed to ensure that a new player isn't completely swamped with information. For example, the setup means that she only has 5 cards to absorb instead of the usual 10. Similarly, decisions that cannot sensibly be made until you know the game (starting group, your free automatic takeover) are randomized and made simpler.

Not allowing plot cards to be bought with actions reduces the information a beginner has to absorb. Remember that you are trying to recruit them into the wonderful world of INWO, not swamp them with cool cards. Secrecy is confusing - ignore it for now. NWOs make too many Power and Resistance changes that make attacks needlessly complicated. Goals are sneaky and unsuitable for beginners.

This method retains the flavour of the game and allows its mechanics and terminology to be learned before adding some of the sneakier complications. Having played this version a couple of times you can move on to the full game. (I have found that you can drop the random free automatic takeover almost immediately.)


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