The Mystery of the Illuminati Card Game

Hey internet friends. If we devoured all of the propaganda the corporate media fed us, we’d believe any whispers of an emerging, totalitarian New World Order originated from the drooling mouths of paranoid conspiracy theorists, who only spout these preposterous rumors about the establishment of an all-consuming one-world government because these conspiracy theorists are, of course, unhinged, low IQ, right-wing fundamentalist Christians who are more than likely Russian but most definitely anti-semitic. (sarcasm implied) But what happens when the masses witness fictional depictions of secretive “Illuminati” tricks bleeding into real life—events and agendas once parodied through mediums like television programming or even games, played out on the global stage for all to see? Thus far, we’ve witnessed a reactionary divide to real-life catastrophes and their fictional foreshadowing, with this phenomena being labeled a delivery method for sinister predictions by some, and a series of odd coincidences by others. Well, We’re going to bridge that divide today by covering the history of the controversial Illuminati card game, examining the background of the gamemaker, reviewing the events depicted on the card faces, and finally, posing this question: Are the characters, events, and agendas portrayed through the Illuminati card game merely prophecies or a series of strange coincidences—or are we, the players, being provided the script for reality our invisible opponent seeks to bring to fruition?

This story begins with two friends, Kerry Thornley and Gregory Hill, who founded the Discordian Society in the 1950s. The society centered on the belief in Discordianism, a parody religion in which no Discordians take anything too seriously, but for outsiders looking in, it appears that the core belief for Discordians is that there is no truth in order, only in chaos. The main deity worshipped is Eris, known by her Roman name, Discordia, the patron saint of chaotic creation, often portrayed throughout history as delighting in the strife of war and human bloodshed, but through Discordianism, Eris got a bit of a marketing makeover, emerging in a more lighthearted form as the trickster archetype. Discordianism received a huge publicity boost in the 60s, when Thornley made headlines for his 1962 manuscript, The Idle Warriors (eventually published by IllumiNet Press), which was based on the activities of a man he’d met during his time in the military, Lee Harvey Oswald. The script was written prior to the 1963 assassination of President John F Kennedy, with Oswald portrayed as the lone assassin, though he claimed to be a patsy.

It’s important to note that, in response to the theories that arose in the aftermath of the JFK assassination, the United States Central Intelligence Agency coined the term “conspiracy theories” as part of their documented psychological operations to discredit any rising theories to the official assassination narrative, using common tactics like accusing theorists as being unhealthily obsessed with their theories, or financially or politically motivated in promoting them.Thornley’s Idle Warriors and connection to Oswald made him a key suspect in Jim Garrison’s JFK investigation, but ultimately Garrison unofficially concluded that the Discordian Society was a CIA front organization and that Thornley was an agent. But you know what they say, even negative press is good press, and all this talk got Thornley on the radar of a couple of Playboy associate editors, Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. In later years, Thornley would accuse Robert Anton Wilson as being his CIA handler, as well as go on to assert that Thornley and Oswald were Manchurian candidates, also known as assassins on auto-pilot, courtesy of genetic experiments conducted by the underground Aryan society known as Vril. But who even knows if he was being serious, because at the heart of Discordianism is the art of the jest.

At any rate, the former Playboy editors published The Illuminatus! Trilogy in 1975, dedicating the first installment to Discordian founders, Hill and Thornley, from whom they drew inspiration for the trilogy, along with reader correspondence they intercepted while working at Playboy, correspondence which they dubbed “paranoid rantings from people imagining totally baroque conspiracies.” The sci-fi trilogy follows the Illuminati and their efforts to take over the world, basically treating every conspiracy the same, as if they were all real and interconnected, and with this parodied treatment, both facts and disinformation intermingle across the pages, in what would later go on to inspire the Illuminati card game. Founded in 1980 by American game designer Steve Jackson, Steve Jackson Games, which is headquartered in Austin, Texas, has created numerous role-playing, strategy, and card games, as well as published several titles including the gaming magazine entitled, Pyramid. After graduating from Rice University, serving as an alternate delegate at the 1972 Republican convention, and working at Metagaming Concepts as a game developer and designer, Jackson went solo, debuting his Raid on Iran board game in 1980 The Raid on Iran gameplay navigated through the hypothetical reality of what might’ve transpired had President Jimmy Carter’s attempt to end the Iran Hostage crisis been successful. Though Jackson published an edition of the Discordian Bible and focuses his branding on Illuminati-style symbolism, which–sidenote– I can appreciate as a satirical yet fruitful marketing ploy, he’s a bit of a difficult person to characterize when only going off of his resume, associates, and extra-circulars, making him an enigma of sorts based on the emphasis that media coverage has placed on his games, the success of which has overshadowed the profile of the gamemaker. But there is this one little thing…Steve Jackson Games was raided by the United States Secret Service in 1990.

A man described as a “hacker” was working for Steve Jackson Games at the time. His name was Loyd Blankenship, a member of the hacker group Legion of Doom, and he was assembling a tool kit for a new game called Cyberpunk. Somewhere along the way, Blankenship distributed a publication which contained information that was, at the time, said to be illegally procured from telecommunications provider, BellSouth. The official story claims that government officials believed that the publication of this information could potentially teach readers how to hack into the emergency phone system. Thus, Steve Jackson’s offices were raided, computers were seized, and a manuscript of the game Blankenship was working on was confiscated under the suspicion that it was a handbook for computer crime.

The case went to trial in 1993, during which the secret service got spanked for their treatment of the case, and eventually, Jackson was awarded a sum to cover his fees and damages. This case led to the creation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, with its stated purpose to promote internet civil liberties. While Jackson won his case against the secret service, here is where the speculation begins to kick in: Back in the day, information was intercepted by listening to phone lines.

Phone hackers were able to toy with telephone systems, meaning communications between individuals, corporations, and government officials could, theoretically, be laid bare for a bit of eavesdropping. If we follow this line of conjecture, with the rise of the modern internet era, that intercepted information could then be relayed through public message boards, like the one owned and operated by Steve Jackson Games called the Illuminati Bulletin Board System—those juicy bits of intel would need to be relayed by subtle methods though, like cryptographic methods, so that the intended recipient got the message and no one else. Depending on the nature of the information relayed, that might explain why the secret service, and not the FBI, conducted the raid, and those intercepted communications could’ve been the inspiration for what has been dubbed the “prophetic” Illuminati card game.

The role-playing card game, Illuminati: The Game of Conspiracy, was created in the 1980s with several spinoffs and expansion packs. The objective of the game was for players to take on the roles of shadowy puppet masters with the mission of unleashing as much chaos on the world in order to achieve global domination, whether that be through false flag attacks on their own people, using biological weapons on the population, manipulating the weather, or rewriting history to suit a certain narrative. In addition to the tabletop game, a trading card game was released in 1995, entitled Illuminati: New World Order. Though published with the stated intention of satirizing conspiracies, much like the Illuminatus trilogy, the illustrations on some of these New World Order cards bear a striking resemblance to events which later transpired.

The most identifiable example is the pairing of the Terrorist Nuke card and the Pentagon card, giving a mirrored view of the Twin Towers and Pentagon attacks of 9/11, which occurred years after the cards were released. Those who claim these illustrations are just eerie coincidences point out that an attack on the World Trade Center occurred in 1993, which could’ve, if we squint really hard, provided inspiration for these cards. The man featured on the And Stay Dead!

card is similar in appearance and predicament to Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, whom many believe to be dead after Wikileaks released what was thought to be Assange’s dead man’s switch in October of 2016 indicating his untimely death, though Wikileaks has refuted these claims. Another unsettling pair of cards that bear resemblance to a familiar figurehead are the Charismatic Leader and Enough is Enough cards, with the Enough is Enough card reading, “At any time, at any place, our snipers can drop you” which some have speculated warns of an assassination plot on the President. Other cards are just general and intriguing enough to be applied to past or present situations, events or trends. When played together, the population control, epidemic, and martial law cards create quite an image of the ever-present threat of a manufactured apocalypse, especially when the Centers for Disease Control card suggests that the CDC can either provide relief to a devastated area, or unleash biological warfare on a place in order to destroy it.

Other New World Order themes bleeding from the cards into our reality include political correctness, censorship, death of freedom of speech, altered food and the health crisis, and gun control. But perhaps this card, the conspiracy theorist card, is the mightiest one in the deck when removed from fictional gameplay and applied to real life. Right now, we are living in a time when any real skepticism or questioning of those who seek to destroy our constitutional rights is labeled the ramblings of a conspiracy theorist, a term coined by the CIA to silence any dissenting voices.

It’s a powerful term which others associate with negative connotations like mental illness, due to the success of the government’s psychological operation. So why would they put forth so much effort in discrediting those they claim to be low IQ, mentally ill, obsessed, unhinged, paranoid individuals? Because patterns of history pack an even more powerful punch than a silly term: Patterns like the absence of checks and balances which led to an empire’s demise, kings with so-called “divine rights” behaving as they pleased at the expense of their people, and the tyrannical attempts to diffuse the criticism of a powerful few. None of these historical examples are conspiracy theories. They’re just conspiracies.

Conspiracies which led to the creation of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and even the United States Constitution, established so that there would be a system in place to keep those in power from taking advantage of those who were not. Whether or not this Illuminati card game was an serious effort to disclose what was to come, or a serious jest in order to turn a profit and poke a little fun at conspiracy theorists is inconsequential. The mere act of glancing at the cards’ illustrations forces the individual to determine if it’s all a coincidence, part of a prophecy, or if some individuals are propped up to be torn down, if some agendas paraded as helpful are pushed to harm, and if some towers were built to fall…Is it all part of this New World Order script, the one we were told doesn’t exist?