Hey kids, remember the 90s and when we didn’t have enough real things to worry about so we had to make them up? Riding the back of both the CCG and the conspiracy theory craze, in 1995 Steve Jackson Games released a CCG version of their 80s classic card game Illuminati (inspired on The Illuminatus Trilogy).
If we ignore the usual CCG issue of slack playtesting leading to rules clarifications, there were only really two key flaws in the game. Firstly the card stock was cheap compared to its competitors in the market. More of an issue was the second problem. Unlike most CCGs where you tended to only handle your own cards, unless you were playing for keeps, you needed a way to keep track of who owned what cards once a game was finished as cards passed between players.
The cheapness of stock had an advantage, you got a lot of cards for in a booster pack. And even if the game proved something of a pain to play, the cards themselves felt like a great artifact of the times, both in the satiric nature fo the game and the capturing of the general interest in conspiracy theories.
I was at university at the time, in a tiny satellite campus dedicated to just Food Science and Environmental Studies in Grimsby. We had a single non-sports society at the time, The Discordian Society. Again, inspired by The Illuminatus Trilogy, and one of the groups in the Illuminati game. The society seemed to only involve (failing in?) organising trips to see weirdos doing presentations on aliens/UFOs etc and showing bootleg VHS copies of banned/unavailable films in the main lecture hall. INWO fit into that culture of pop conspiracy just as well as The X-Files or a SCHWA t-shirt did.
Illuminati NWO is probably the CCG I got closest to collecting the entire set of cards, but as I have mentioned, my CCG playing time probably only spanned 2-3 years and I never got any of the later add-ons such as the Church of SubGenius approved INWO SubGenius.