Playing Shangri-La - The Judo Deck

Shangri-La's key strength is that it encourages cooperation and discourages competition (with itself). Unlike the rest of the illuminati, one Shangri-La player has it in his best interests to help any other Shangri-La player - or anyone else who is playing peaceful groups. Since you don't have to control the groups in order to win, you have more diplomatic options than the player of, say, Bavaria.

To continue the above, note that Shangri-La's +5 to defend against any attack not only makes it unappealing as a victim, but also allows it to control weaker groups than other illuminati's. Shangri-La is hence unlikely to be picked on, as it is more valuable as an ally than as an enemy. This is actually enhanced by the prohibition on destroying non-violent groups, as it downplays the potential threat of attack from a strong Shangri-La. In the end, the Shangri-La can help its opponents grow stronger, only to use their own power against them to seize the game. This last is the key to the following Shangri-La deck idea: the Judo Deck.

The Judo Deck

Judo, or "the gentle way", is a Japanese sport which is based primarily on the idea of using one's opponent's strength against him. This deck uses this, along with other techniques, to allow a clever player to make his way to world domination.

The Deck Itself

Secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know
Power Grab
Good Polls x 2
Early Warning
Talisman of Ahrimanes
Volunteer Aid
Martial Law
Martyrs x 3
World Cup Victory
Charismatic Leader
Emergency Powers
Citizenship Award
New Blood
Kinder and Gentler x 2
Let's Really Get Organized x 2
Goal: Kill For Peace
NWO: (Red) Peace in Our Time x 2
NWO: (Red) Solidarity
NWO: (Blue) A Chicken in Every Pot
Angel's Feather
The Bronze Head
Orbital Mind Control Lasers
Recording Industry
Empty Vee
Antiwar Activists
Red Cross
Goldfish Fanciers
Fnord Motor Company
Vatican City

Ideas for playing the Judo Deck

The Beginning

Two good lead groups are Japan (a strong lead, though common) and the Vatican. The Vatican is weaker, but its ability to defend your structure against any peaceful attacks is at least marginally helpful. Getting one of these out right away can enable you to keep enough strength to do the rest of your dirty work, while also allowing you to play your diplomatic role as helper/spoiler.

The key to the early game is to come out strong, get some key groups out, then back off. You can afford to make an early show of strength because your opponents will be weak themselves, and your +5 defense bonus combined with your defensive cards makes you too tough to take on. Be careful, though: once you make your initial surge, you must back off, or else you will get taken out by mob politics. The best strategy is to get real excited and arrogant the first few rounds (scaring people off), then get really dejected and upset at "your bad luck". Act like there are lots and lots of REALLY strong groups in your deck, and you keep getting these "weak" groups (like the Red Cross, and Bjorne) instead. Don't, of course, overdo it. Just make sure that, by the mid-game, you have a few powerful cards out and some key resources (like the Mind Control Lasers). You will be disaster bait early on, so go ahead and use your defenses; it is key that you convince your opponents that yours is a very strong defensive deck, and that, while you won't attack them, they can't attack you easily, either.

The Middle

Once you have accomplished your early-game goals, there are a number of possible options...which ones you use will depend on what you draw and what your opponents are up to. One is to use groups such as the Goldfish Fanciers, Vatican, etc. to expand your natural defenses into full scale immunities. Once these cards are in play, it should be very hard for your opponents to attack your structure. This can be further aided by the addition of the Orbital Mind Control Lasers. Hopefully, you've gotten them out by this point, but if not, do try to place them as soon as possible. You've got a Forgery to use in case someone else (especially Bermuda) gets theirs' out first - use it. The Lasers should definately be in any SL deck, not only because they can aid your victory condition, but also because almost any SL deck will contain some card which grants immunity (or effective immunity) to certain alignments. In this case, threaten to use the Lasers to change the alignment of any attacking group to Peaceful (if you've got the Vatican out) or else Fanatic (if you've got the Fancier's). The first time you do this, let it come as a surprise...goad your opponent into putting everything into a mass assault, then change the alignment at the last minute. I guarantee they won't try it again. :-)

The Angel's Feather can also serve as a nice deterrent, as it allows any of your peaceful groups to reroll failures (and successful attacks against them). Likewise, a Peace in Our Time (you have two, and one should be used relatively early-on in the game) can keep your opponents off-balance and add to your own defense. The best deterrant, however, is always good politics. Make sure that you keep your opponents focussed on each other...always portray yourself as being strong, but not the strongest. (Moan about having a "bad deck day" a lot.) Offer to make deals, and to help your opponents out...the Lasers, for instance, may be used for this. Many of the groups you possess have such "selling points"...the Moonies, for instance, can disrupt priviledged attacks. That interference is worth something: sell it.

While you are wheeling and dealing, you should develop another sub-plot of this deck: the media groups. This is not, of course, a media deck per se, but it does make use of superstar Bjorne along with some well-chosen accomplices (Empty Vee and the Recording Industry). Get Bjorne out, as well as one or both of those media groups, then play a Reorganization if possible and a Let's Really Get Organized to place Bjorne securely in control of both groups. At this point, play a Messiah (if you can) and turn Bjorne into a truly frighteningly powerful personality! Assassination attempts are likely here, but if you have placed Bjorne properly then he will be too strong to be brought down easily...if he needs help, use Martyrs or a Secrets Man Was Not Meant to Know. Without a doubt, Bjorne's status as Messiah will annoy everyone present, but if his control arrows are filled with other groups he isn't much of a direct threat, and you should be able to convince everyone that his value is primarily defensive.

To move on to the end-game, then, let's review what has to be done in the mid-game. It's important to get at least one of the powerful resources out (preferrably the Lasers) and to build up some immunities. At the same time, it's important to build your reputation as a negotiator and a spoiler, someone who is powerful enough to make a difference in the game, but not powerful enough to grab the win outright. Taking the role of the player whose deack isn't as strong as it's supposed to be can help this. If possible, also, Bjorne needs to be brought out and pumped up...otherwise, some other of your groups need to be pumped up to provide the power for the end-game rush. Oh yes, and there is one last thing you must do: destroy, somewhere along the line, one violent group. Don't ask why, just do it, the earlier the better. This will provide the power for your backdoor strategy, should you need it....

The End-Game

Now for the fun. By now you should be close to your goal...especially if you've used (or gotten someone else to use) a Chicken in Every Pot or Peace in Our Time. If you can afford the power loss, play a Solidarity. At this point it will make your structure pretty much immune to attack, and it will also "freeze the game" making it harder for your opponents to win and easier for you to sell your interference.

This is where the "Judo" deck's main theme emerges.

To obtain victory, recall that you need only have peaceful groups with a total power of 30 in don't need to control them. Recall also that your deck is stacked with a wide array of power-boosters, including Charismatic Leader, Citizenship Award, Emergency Powers, etc. Some of these should be played on your own groups (remember that the rule said "peaceful" groups, not "peaceful only") but some should be saved for use on your opponents'. Once it looks as though one of your opponents is approaching his victory condition, announce that you have lost all hope of winning and instead seek to act as a spoiler. Now boost the power of one or two of another opponent's groups, just so that he's nearly at his victory condition. Then, once he is occupied with sealing his victory, use the Bjorne tokens (or any that you've got available) to power a Kinder and Gentler or two, making the groups you just pumped into peaceful ones. If you've played your cards right (ha ha), this will be unexpected and your opponents will have no way of dealing with it.

But why, you might ask, go this route? Because, of course, the only way for the opposition to stop you is to attack someone else's power structure. Thus, even if you lose, you still win because your opponents are weakened by struggling with each other. If you have been lucky, then you will have been able to do the above by simply changing the alignment of an opponent's pumped up group without having to do the pumping yourself, and are free to enhance your own groups to seal the win. Likewise, if you happen to have another Peace in Our Time or Chicken in Every Pot, you may be able to push the total power of Peaceful groups over 30 without your rivals being able to do much of anything about it. If worse comes to worst, you can always use those Lasers to change those last few points...

But what if none of these things are working? Let's say that your opponents are on to you, and that they've somehow managed to block your strategy (perhaps by changing the alignment of your own groups) or else that they are developing too fast for your Judo method to work. At times like these, you need a backdoor strategy, and this deck's is the Kill for Peace goal card. Note that, to obtain victory, you need only control 6 peaceful groups and destroy 2 violent ones. If you followed the mid-game strategy of killing off one violent group, you should have no trouble acheiving this goal. Best yet, if you do it in retaliation, no one is likely to notice until it's too late...and, even if they do, a Martyrs may be enough to ensure that the job goes off properly. This isn't, of course, very much in accordance with "the gentle way", but that's the way you have to be when you want to rule the world...


In the end, Shangri-La is perhaps the most insidious of the Illuminati. Its goals allow it to reach right into its rivals' power structures and benefit from their own strength, while its special power keeps its own hierarchy safe from interference. While this short document shows only the tip of the iceburg where the use of Shangri-La is concerned, it may nevertheless serve to illuminate the path to victory for those with the skill to use it properly.

Carter Butts

Back to the Deck of the Week.