I'm talking to my media assassin
Harry Allen, I gotta ask him
Yo Harry, are we that type?
"Don't believe the hype."
--Public Enemy, "Don't Believe the Hype."

Media Assassin

by Ralph Melton

This is a deck that did not achieve its objectives. It was intended to prey on monochromatic weenie decks in an anti-isolationist way; it did not succeed at that. But it's an interesting effort, and worth publishing anyway--though not worth making a Deck of the Week.

Since this is not a Deck of the Week, I'll talk more about the design of this deck than I normally would, in hopes that this will be illuminating to others.


Group Cards

Plot Cards

The Schtick and Overall Deck Design

Here's the Grand Scheme that this deck is working towards: We assume that at least one player will be playing a deck with a theme of one particular alignment. We also assume that at some point in the endgame, they'll have an arm in their power structure that has at least three groups.

When that happens, we will do the following things:

Now, given this intended Master Plan, how do we build a deck to achieve that? We need several things:

Here's a brief outline of how the cards fit those plans:

Media Power

To develop lots of Media power, we're making the deck a mostly Media-themed deck. Key groups are Big Media and Madison Avenue, for their bonuses to control Media groups; California is also good for a Media power structure, and it is Government, so it can power a Censorship.

Big Media and TV Preachers are Straight, so they will help power a Censorship. Pollsters, Tabloids, Comic Books, and Junk Mail are all Media Groups with useful special abilities. Pollsters is particularly useful with our plan to have plenty of alignment control. Comic Books could support an extra idea for our endgame scheme; we could turn our target group weird, and use the special power of the Comic Books to eliminate the Resistance from the target.

Intellectuals will be useful to protect a Media Group. They'll be best taken over with an automatic takeover, because we probably won't have any good way to take them over.

With this strong Media theme, we'll add some Media-related Plots. The Pulitzer Prizes help us in all the usual ways for +10 boosters; The Resistance is Useless! will be another possiblity for our potent attack. I also considered adding Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat and Don't Touch That Dial.

Alignment Control

The key card for alignment control is the Orbital Mind Control Lasers. This is part of the reason that we won't play the Bermuda Triangle with this deck; savvy players do not let the Bermuda Triangle keep the Orbital Mind Control Lasers.

We also include the Center for Weird Studies, because it is the only card that allows us to reload the Orbital Mind Control Lasers.

Because we have two popular Resources, we include a Forgery in the deck.

Strange Bedfellows also lets us change alignments in a pinch; we entertain notions of using Strange Bedfellows in conjunction with a Scandal, because the card art on the two cards fits so well together. Since I have only one Strange Bedfellows, we'll pack a Hat Trick; if we don't use it on the Strange Bedfellows, we'll find something else to use it with.

Since we're building this deck on the assumption that we'll be able to maintain alignment control, we include a NWO: Fear and Loathing in the deck, to magnify the effects of our alignment control.

Straight, Conservative, and Government Groups

We've already decided to include Big Media, TV Preachers, and California in our 'groups that can power Censorship'. section. We also include Bill Clinton, since his abilities to take over Government Groups are likely to be useful. Bank of England will help us with our Plot control needs, and fill the Straight/Government/Conservative role in a pinch

We also include the Fraternal Orders because a) it would be good to have a Bavaria deck to which Discordia wasn't immune, so for our trick, we should have a group that is Conservative but not Straight or Government; and b) our Group deck has gotten big enough that some extra group-drawing oomph would be very handy.

We also include a Fundie Money, so that we can turn one of our Groups Conservative. (We use Fundie Money instead of Straighten Up or Nationalization, because of Discordia's immunity.) The best target for the Fudie Money would be Madison Avenue, because a Madison-Avenue powered Censorship would have a bonus of +25.

Note also that the OMCLs can be used to let a group power a Censorship if the OMCLs action isn't used for other purposes.

Plot Control

There are three usual approaches to Plot Control: 1) Rosicrucians (or Magic and Crop Circles), 2) Crystal Skull, or 3) drawing so many plots that you can get the ones you want, plus having duplicates of the most important plots. The Rosicrucians don't seem to fit very well into this deck, and we already have two popular resources committed, and I'd like to have the Perpetual Motion Machine as well, so it seems a bit presumptuous to add the Crystal Skull. So we'll choose the third approach.

The Bank of England will let us draw a lot of Plots, as well as filling in as a Censorship-able group in a pinch. We also include several Savings & Loan Scams to be able to go through a lot of plots at need.

With this summary of how the deck was designed, we'll turn to how the deck was meant to be played.


Lead with Madison Avenue, for its bonus to take over Media groups.. If that bounces, be wary; you're probably going up against another Media deck. Your second lead should be Big Media, which will probably also bounce--but you want your opponent not to have Big Media. Your third choice should probably be Fraternal Orders, so that you can get through your Group deck quickly and get to Madison Avenue and Big Media before your opponent.


You should be able to grow quickly by making ATOs and using your Privileged attack to take over Groups from your hand.

Good groups to bring out with ATOs are the Fraternal Orders, Bill Clinton, and the Intellectuals, since you don't have bonuses to take over those groups. The Intellectuals are probably best as a puppet of Madison Avenue, to give them defense.

Bring out the Perpetual Motion Machine early, if you can. The Perpetual Motion Machine is an extremely useful Resource, particularly when linked to the Bavarian Illuminati. However, it has an additional purpose: it is bait to get people to play resource-destroyers on the Perpetual Motion Machine, to let you get out the Orbital Mind Control Lasers unobstructed.

The Orbital Mind Control Lasers should be brought out late in the game, though early enough that you should have an action token on them by your end-game ploy. The reason for bginging them out late is to give your Perpetual Motion Machine bait some time to work, and to try to arrange it so that you can forge someone else's OMCLs instead of having them forging yours.

During the midgame, you should be thinking ahead about likely victims for your endgame ploy. You should be trying to use your massive amounts of Global Power to influence your victim's growth; ideally, your victim should be growing large enough that you will be able to steal several groups when the time is right, but should be running short enough on action tokens that he can't rearrange his power structure into safer configurations.

Don't be afraid to use a Censorship or two in the midgame; they'll look innocuous enough in a Media deck. Similarly, your Plot deck doesn't have many cards that should be terribly surprising, so you shouldn't be too worried about players looking at your deck or hand.


The endgame ploy has already been described. If you've got enough action tokens at the end of the previous player's turn, you can start the plot before you get new tokens. Things you can do to start the ploy: 1) play the Scandal (with OMCLs or Strange Bedfellows to give your Media group the alignment it needs) to remove most of the tokens of another player's power structure; 2) play the Media Connections to make your target in someone else's power structure Media.

Then, on your turn, use Madison Avenue and Censorship to make a high-powered Privileged attack to make an overwhelming attack to control that takes out a large part of someone's power structure.

A note of caution: When you plan your attack, make sure that you will be able to fit all the groups into your power structure! It has happened to me that I have taken over an arm, and then not been able to fit all the groups into my power structure, and had to discard some. This can happen particularly when making the attack from Bill Clinton, because only has control arrows leading from the side.

Potential problems


One problem is that this deck is light on defense. There is lots of global power for groups to defend each other, but most of the groups are low on Power and Resistance. This means that it's hard to look more defensive than you actually are; it's hard to harbor a Good Polls, for example, because it doesn't provide much defense to a Power-1, Resistance-1 group. This deck might well like to have a Commitment in reserve to protect against attacks to control, but attacks to destroy can be just as bad.

Most of the +10 boosters should be used for defense, or for the end-game attack.

The NWO: Apathy is also provided for defense; note, though, that it may actually be a problem in the endgame.

The cards that provide the most general-purpose defense in this deck are probably the Perpetual Motion Machine and the Orbital Mind Control Lasers. The Perpetual Motion Machine allows you to keep an extra 10-point action token around to loook defensively solid, and the Orbital Mind Control Lasers let you neutralize alignment bonuses that players may be using to attack you, or prevent players from using +10 boosters and so forth.

Failure of Assumptions

The critical failure of this deck, though, is that the assumption upon which it is based:

We assume that someone else will be playing a monochromatic deck (i.e., one alignment shared by most cards), and at some point they will build up an arm of their power structure with at least three groups.

The first assumption of a monochromatic deck is by no means guaranteed, of course. Still, it happens often enough that I consider it a worthwhile assumption, and I'm willing to accept that if that assumption isn't met, we won't be able to apply our scheme.

The second assumption, though, of a three-group arm upon that power structure, turns out to be much more flawed.

The reason is this: in a game to 12 groups, every Goal other than the Basic Goal allows you to win with fewer than 9 groups. Every Goal. And with 9 groups, you can arrange to have no more than two groups on any arm of your Illuminati--or if you have more, you do so only as part of your bid for victory.

And it's hard to rip an arm of a power structure away from someone else--particularly if you're planning to rip an arm away when you build the deck, instead of simply chancing on a fortuitous lapse of defense on another player's part.

And so, by my analysis, this major scheme of this deck, which this deck works so hard to achieve, is only really worthwhile if you can rip away at least three groups with the heroic coup.

This is really quite a disappointment to me. I had worked hard on building a deck that was deliberately anti-isolationist, and it turned to be more worthwhile to be isolationist with it; it was much more reliable to apply those resources devoted towards the Master Coup towards taking groups from hand.

Variants and Substitutions

These are some ideas that might be able to improve the performance of this deck at its intended goal of a sudden coup. I haven't tried these ideas; if you try them, please do let me know how they work.

NWO: Interesting Times
Aaron Curtis suggested that NWO: Interesting Times might be a good way to get people to take over more groups, thereby enabling you to make a coup for more groups. I liked the idea, but wasn't sure that I could keep my opponents from getting suspicious if I played Interesting Times and made only the Basic goal count for victory.
Phone Phreaks
Glen Barnett suggested including the Phone Phreaks to adjust another player's power structure to let you make a larger coup. I liked the idea, but I held off, because I couldn't find a way to defend them.

Another card to vary: also that there's not really any Red NWO that works well for this deck. There's no Red NWO that increases the power of your groups, and it seems unwise to include an NWO that would probably benefit others more than you. Australian Rules seems like an invitation to other players to go against your weak defense. Solidarity and The Magic Goes Away would both slow down your opponents more than they would slow down you; normally, this would be a good thing, but in this case, it complicates your plan to exploit others' growth.

I included NWO: Apathy as a defensive measure; in retrospect, it seems to me that NWO: Solidarity might be a better red NWO, even though it's not as effective defensively, for the following reasons: Under Apathy, any successful attack will use at most one action token; therefore, players will either not grow, or will grow with plenty of action tokens left to rearrange for defense. However, under Solidarity, players can still grow by using more action tokens than usual, so even though their growth will be somewhat stunted, they will be able to grow, but have more difficulty rearranging their power structures defensively.

Isolationist Bavaria Variation

A variation that might be more successful would be to take this deck in an isolationist direction. With ATOs, Censorship, and a free Privileged attack each turn from Bill Clinton, you could grow very quickly towards the Basic Goal.

Note also that if you have Comic Books, Tabloids, and Intellectuals, you can make an automatic takeover of California and move the Intellectuals to the Comic Books, and suddenly have three groups that count double towards Goal: Hail Eris!

Alternatively, with Media personalities and groups like Hollywood and Cable TV, you could make a fast growth towards 50 points of power from interacting power bonuses. (In an extreme case: With California, Subliminals, Hollywood, Cable TV, Recording Industry, and Empty Vee, each Media Sensation you take over contributes 9 to your total power.) NWO: Law and Order might also suit well for your Conservative/Straight side.

Bermuda Triangle Variation

This deck includes every alignment except Peaceful. I deliberately decided not to include any Peaceful groups; people might start worrying that I intended to unmask as the Bermuda Triangle. But with a bit of tweaking, I think this deck could be modified into a deck that grows quickly by Madison Avenue, Bill Clinton, and Censorships towards a Bermuda Triangle victory.

If you decide to go this route, note that the alignments Violent, Conservative, and Criminal are each only represented once, so replicating those alignments would probably be a good thing.

Again, if you try this deck or any of its variations, I'd like to hear what you've tried and what success you have.

Back to Ralph's INWO Page.


Last Modified: April 24, 1997
Ralph Melton <ralph+@cs.cmu.edu>