The Hong Kong Rules (Illuminati)

There was a time when I considered ILLUMINATI, by Steve Jackson Games, my favorite game ever.    There was something about that uncomplicated little card game about secret societies that really tickled me back then– not the least of it being the tongue in cheek humor with which it was presented.  That was so in 1998, but not so in 2014.  I don’t think the game has aged very well.  It takes forever to play with six players and is a little vague in spots, which leads to vigorous interpretation of the rules on occasion.   Back in 1998 I put a variant we used to play with called “THE HONG KONG RULES” on Tripod.  I am steadily trying to shut down these cringe-worthy old websites and pulling off any material that might be useful before I do.

Here, therefore, are the Hong Kong Rules.


A New Zealander expatriate living in Hong Kong (whose name, alas, I have long since forgotten) once mentioned to me that he liked to play the suggested “Illuminati cards face down” variant mentioned in the Illuminati Deluxe game in the “Advanced Play” section, only he liked to add in a 5MB reward for guessing the hidden Illuminati correctly. I’ve called this style of play THE HONG KONG RULES ever since. The Hidden rules and reward stuff evolved from his suggestion; the betting procedure grew out of extensive play of THE HONG KONG RULES. I haven’t tried this with INDO. I suppose it might work, give it a try.



A Rules variant optimized for 3 or more players.

1) All Illuminati (pink faced) cards are dealt face Down. All Group (white faced) cards are played as in the Basic game.  The basic victory conditions for controlling groups (see the rules summary) are halved for speed of play.  Free Actions are limited to two (2) per turn.

2) Courtesy rules are enforced: i.e., a player may not attack another player until that player controls 3 groups or 3 game turns have passed.

3) Players may guess the identity of another player’s Illuminati under the following conditions:

3A)- The guess counts as a Free Action.

3B)- The guess must be made after regular actions (i.e., attacks, etc.) are made.

3C)- The guess must be announced loudly, clearly, and dramatically (Suggested Format: standing and saying “YOU, sir, are the… BAVARIAN ILLUMINATI!!)

3D)- The player being “accused” thusly must respond truthfully, loudly, clearly, and dramatically.

3E)- Courtesy rules extend to guessing (not until after turn 3).

4) If a player guesses an Illuminati identify correctly, he is given a reward. 5MB for 3 or less players, 3MB for 4 or more players. OR 1 privileged attack for the next turn only.

5) Betting is possible in Hong Kong Rules. The following rules cover the concept of betting.

5A)- A Bet is defined as a contract between two players, wagering a sum of MB in their possession, that an event will take place. In game turns, a bet is a Free Action. All funds expended or wagered for a bet MUST come from the Illuminati’s treasury (the Megabucks on the pink card), not from groups the Illuminati controls.

5B)- The condition of the bet must be game-related; i.e., a bet that states: “I wager Larry the Gun-toting Psycho will lose his next attempt at Attacking to Control” is acceptable, a bet that states: “I bet Elmo picks his nose and eats it next turn…” is not.

5C)- Bets can be Instant or Deadlined

5C1)- Instant bets are announced, out loud, at any point during a player’s turn. The conditions of the bet must be accepted by the player the wager is being made with by stating, out loud, either “Accepted” or “Rejected”. If not the Free Action is wasted. The minimumwager for an Instant bet is one half of the Illuminati’s personal treasury.

5C2)- Deadlined bets are written down on a piece of scrap paper, which is folded over so that there is an outside that the other players can see, and an inside that only the two participants in the bet can see. Square post-it notes are excellent for this purpose. On the inside of the bet, the player initiating the wager writes down the Condition of the bet (defined as “what he is betting on”– often the secret identity of a hidden Illuminati in this variant, but not always) and the Amount of the wager. On the outside, the player initiating the wager writes Initiator (the player initiating the bets’ real name) –> (an arrow to) Recipient (the player the Initiator is betting with), and a Deadline. The Deadline is the number of turns the Initiator is betting the Recipient for the Condition to come to pass. The maximum number of turns for a Deadlined bet condition is three (3).

5B2.1)- If a Condition of a deadlined bet comes to pass (either positive or negative) before the agreed upon deadline is expired, the loser of the wager immediately places the agreed upon sum upon the Illuminati card of the other player. If he does not have the amount agreed upon, he can wait the number of turns in the Deadline to pay off his debt. If he loses the bet’s Condition and still does not have the money to pay up, he is a Welcher, and the winner of the event is The Aggrieved Party.

5C)- Welchers are individuals who cannot pay off their bets, for whatever reason. If a players welches, the player who won the bet must remove a group from the player’s power structure. The group must be taken from the farthest position out from the parent Illuminati. Exception: The Aggrieved Party may not remove the last card from a Welcher’s power structure. Instead, He may garnish the next turn’s income from the Welcher’s Illuminati. After the debt is paid, the Welcher loses his “Welcher status.”

Steve Jackson Games Illuminati Webpage (contains Variants, Errata, Design article, new groups and a bunch of other Illuminati related stuff)

Copyright 1998 Walter O’Hara


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