The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Deck design by Ralph Melton

Shangri-La and the Goal: Hand of Madness. Normally, they go together like garlic and chocolate sauce: two great tastes that do not go well together. The Hand of Madness involves controlling Violent groups and destroying Peaceful groups, and Shangri-La can only attack destroy Violent groups. But under the right circumstances, it's possible to make this combination viable.

This deck will work better in games with fewer players, playing to a large number of groups. I'd rather play it in a three-player game to 12 groups than in a six-player game to 10 groups.






The Beginning

Look at the other Illuminati that are out there. If there's another Shangri-la in the game, plan on playing like a normal Shangri-la player. (If the Church of Violentology ever comes out, plan on playing like a normal Shangri-la player.) This deck will not be as strong as a deck designed for the Shangri-la goal; them's the breaks.

Lead with the Vatican, if you can; it will let you use your Crusades. If that bounces, lead with Japan, which has bonuses to take over the Center for Disease Control and the A.M.A., or the A. M. A., which has two common alignments with the Vatican, and a bonus to take over the Center for Disease Control.

The Midgame

Accumulate six peaceful groups, preferably without inviting the other players to come after your head. Power Grabs are good for this; with all your action tokens in place, you look very defensive. The Angel's Feather is also a way to make you look more defensive.

The following are some particularly desirable groups, with their purpose for the endgame:

The Church of Elvis, to increase the power of an eventual Messiah;
Bjorne, to sacrifice himself in a Messianic blaze of glory;
Der Grosse Magier, to power Crop Circles.
Goldfish Fanciers, to add to your immunity.

If you get one of your goals during the midgame when you're not ready to use it, bury it six or more cards deep in your deck. You'll draw six or more plot cards during your bid for victory, and if anyone sees your Goal, the jig will be up.

If you can do so without inciting anyone's enmity or leaving yourself too badly exposed, destroy one violent group during the midgame. I consider this to be optional.

The Endgame

To qualify for the endgame, you need to have the following things before your automatic takeover:

You need to have six Peaceful groups in your power structure and a Church of Violentology in your hand. Ideally, you will have played a NWO: Apathy earlier in the game, and it will still be in play now.

You also need, at the absolute least, to have at least one +10 booster that applies to the Church of Violentology (Crusade or Jihad). You would also like to have the following cards:
NWO: Apathy, if there's not one in play
NWO: A Thousand Points of Light
Big Sellout

One way to get these cards into your hand is to use Der Grosse Magier's action token to power a Crop Circles.

ATO the Church of Violentology.

Use the Big Sellout to discard all the group cards in your hand and deck for action tokens on your groups. If you don't succeed in your bid for victory, you're going to be killed anyway, so don't worry about saving group cards. The one possible exception is your Blivit; see below.

Now, you're going to make six failed attacks to destroy the Church of Violentology. Each of these is going to fail, resulting in the destruction of the attacking group.

Lead with one of your outlying groups. Particularly if you've managed to destroy a violent group earlier, you may be able to convince other players that you're trying for a Kill for Peace goal, and get them to defend the Church of Violentology for you, at least for the first few attacks.

If you have to defend the Church of Violentology yourself, you have several possibilities:

Use a +10 booster to add to its power for defense. This is good, because it lasts until the end of your turn.
Use Apathy to prevent anyone from helping you make the attack.
If the Apathy fails, use the Vatican and the Goldfish Fanciers to prevent Peaceful and Fanatic groups from aiding your attack.
Use Good Polls (and the Charismatic Leader) to boost the defensive power of the Church.
Use NWO: A Thousand Points of Light to eliminate the bonus for opposite alignments.
Claim the +5 defensive bonus for being Shangri-la. (This is probably abusing the rules, but although the rules mention that you do not get the defensive bonus for proximity to the Illuminati when you are attacking your own groups, neither the rules nor any of the FAQs say that Shangri-la's defensive bonus does not apply to Shangri-la's attacks on themselves.)
Editor's note: it has been ruled that the Shangri-La defensive bonus must apply when Shangri-La makes an attack against themselves. This is only beneficial to this deck. RLM 1/25/97

If you are going to roll an attack on the Church of Violentology that's certain to fail from a group that has an extra action token, consider using the extra action token with an extra from another group to draw a plot.

If you happen to succeed in one of the attacks on the Church, use Mother's March to reroll the attack.

As a secondary gambit, to be done only if you can do it without killing the Church of Violentology Play a Messiah on Bjorne. With the Vatican, the Church of Elvis, and the Church of Violentology, Bjorne's power will be up to 11. That means that if he fails to destroy the Church of Violentology, you will draw 13 plots.

If all the control arrows of Shangri-La are occupied when you ATO the Church of Violentology, fear not--simply let your peaceful groups march one-by-one into the Valley of the Shadow of Death that awaits them, until you get a free control arrow, and then use the Church of Violentology's action token to move them into that control arrow, and keep on massacring your innocent peaceful groups.

When you've destroyed six of your Peaceful groups, show your Hand of Madness goal and claim victory.


Here are some things that can go wrong, with suggestions for handling them them:

Problem: Someone else plays Shangri-La.
This is a problem, because by the time you get six peaceful groups into your power structure, the two of you will probably have already won with the Shangri-La goal.
Solution: play normal Shangri-La, without hinting at your hidden scheme. It won't work as well as a deck without this hidden scheme, but it'll probably do okay.

Problem: Someone else plays the Church of Violentology first.
If you don't attack the Church of Violentology in your own hand, the peaceful groups don't count as destroyed by you.
Solution: Play normal Shangri-La. You probably can't take over the Church without giving away the game.

Problem: Someone has an action token on the Nuclear Power Companies when you make your bid for victory.
If someone cancels one of your attacks on the Church of Victory, that attack doesn't blast the attacker into shards.
Solution: Use The Big Sellout to put multiple action tokens on your groups, or use the Blivit to prevent the NPCs from cancelling your actions.

Problem: Someone has an action token on the Orbital Mind Control Lasers when you make your bid.
This is a problem because if the Church of Violentology becomes non-violent, you can no longer attack to destroy the Church.
Solution: If this is likely to happen, take a Blivit on a turn before your bid for victory. Alternatively, bribe the owner of the OMCLs to use that action token for some other purpose beforehand.

Problem: NWO: Apathy gets replaced.
If other people join in your attack, then their groups might get destroyed instead of yours.
Solution: Hopefully, you'll have enough extra action tokens to accept their aid, destroy their groups, and still be able to destroy your own.

Problem: NWO: Interesting Times
If you've achieved your Hand of Madness by destroying almost all your groups, there's no possible way you're going to live, much less win, if an Interesting Times is played.
Solution: Your NWO: A Thousand Points of Light or Secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know. (Discard from your deck instead of using your Illuminati actions for SMWNMTK.)

Problem: Upheaval!
If you have only the Church of Violentology left, and someone plays an Upheaval!, you will be dead before you play a Secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know.
Solution: SMWNMTK isn't a solution. The only solutions are to
a) start with seven groups other than your Illuminati, instead of six, or
b) Hope it doesn't happen.

Uses of Other Cards

Kinder and Gentler is there because every Shangri-La deck should have a Kinder and Gentler; people will look at you oddly if you don't.

Martyrs: For attacks and defense in the midgame.

Murphy's Law: useful for making sure an attack on the Church of Violentology fails, or for normal defense.

Charismatic Leader: Boost the power of the Church, or boost the power of the Trekkies if you're going for a normal Shangri-La goal.


This deck uses a fair number of rare and unusual cards. Some advice on substitutions:

Church of Violentology: this is absolutely critical to the deck. If you don't have one, you should play another deck. If you only have one, you might be able to use it with a Crop Circles to find it.

Big Sellout: This is used to trade your group cards for action tokens. You could probably do without it; if so, reduce your group deck a bit.

Messiah: This is used for two purposes: 1) To Add to Bjorne's power to let you draw lots of plots. 2) To add 8 to 10 points of peaceful power if you go for a normal Shangri-La victory. It's not vital to the deck.

Der Grosse Magier: This German group is a Peaceful, Magic Personality. He's in this deck to power Crop Circles, because he's the only Peaceful Magic group. (And because he's a personality to be the Messiah, if Bjorne doesn't work out.) If you don't have one, you might use Sufficiently Advanced Technology on the A. M. A. or the Center for Disease Control to power your Crop Circles.

NWO: Apathy: This NWO prevents any group from aiding another group in an attack. It's very nice for making sure that you don't get an overwhelming coalition against the Church. If you don't have one, you might consider a NWO: Military-Industrial Complex to prevent Government groups from using their full power in the attack.

Goldfish Fanciers: These give you immunity to Fanatic groups, and they are themselves Fanatic, so they can use your Jihads. They're not essential.

Some other cards I considered for this deck:
Antiwar Activists
Boy Sprouts
Fnord Motor Company
Princess Di
Supreme Court
Are We Having Fun Yet?
Deasil Engine
Hat Trick
Near Miss
NWO: Military-Industrial Complex
NWO: Visualize Whirled Peas
Read My Lips
Sufficiently Advanced Technology


Why are the Secret Masters telling their followers to walk blindly into the jaws of death? These are some of the possible reasons:

As those who have read the Illuminatus! trilogy know, mass human sacrifice is an excellent way of achieving transcendental illumination.
As you keep going through the cycle of life, living and dying and being reincarnated, you eventually approach Nirvana. So what better way to approach Nirvana than by dying?
When you think about it, what's more peaceful than death, anyway?

Last modified: January 25, 1997

Back to the Deck of the Week.