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Illiterati Board Game Review

Ever wonder what a world without books and words would be like? No, me neither, and hopefully I never will have to! Illiterati is a board game of making words, and there are a group of individuals – the Illeterati – who want to stop the forming of words and the making of books!


So, with the help of friends, you will use tiles to make words, bind books, and save literacy around the world. It’s a silly premise, sure, but does the game work? Let’s dive in and see!

How to Play

There are three different difficulties you can play, but what I’m explaining is what we did for normal difficulty. To begin, each player selected one red book to complete, and drew 5 tiles from the bag and put them in front of ourselves.

We then took 3 tiles out of the bag to create the library. To begin each round, players will draw 7 tiles from the bag and add them to their pile of letters. Then, they examine their books to see what they need to accomplish in order to bind their book. For example, you might need to come up with 2 4-letter words that rhyme, or perhaps you need to come up with words for Tech and Social Media Companies that total up to 8 letters, and have a minimum of three hearty symbols.

When the 3 minute timer begins, players will begin making words. While you do ultimately want to create words that can help you bind your book, it’s important to just use as many letters as possible. Remember, in this normal game, your library limit is 3 letters, and if you have MORE than 3 letters left over after the round (letters NOT used in words, or used in invalid words), you’ll burn one of those letters. If you burn 4 letters total (one per round maximum) in a normal game, you lose!

Words and letters can be passed between players, so it is possible for one person to have tons of letters and words at the end of the round, and others to have only a few. There is an 8 word maximum per player – anything over 8 words gets placed in the library and will likely cause you to burn a tile.

After the forming words portion of the turn is over, players will see if they bound any books. If any player completed their objective, they discard the words they used to finish the book, and draw a new book (in a normal game, players will draw a blue book after completing their first red book). Then players check to see how many letters are left over. If it is more than the library limit, they burn one (chosen randomly) and then work together to discard the others down to the limit. Then an Illiterati card is drawn.

There are 5 Illiterati villains, each with 5 different cards. As you draw cards, they will have impacts on the game such as forcing you to discard specific tiles, words, and more. The cards also stack and chain, so if you pull the second or third (etc) card for a specific villain, you will actually resolve ALL of their abilities. It can get pretty intense, so finishing books quickly is key to success!

After a set number of books have been completed, players will move onto the Final Chapter, where they will select one more book for the entire group, and each player will have to, on the same turn, complete the objective in the Final Chapter portion of the card. If they are successful, they win the game!

Is it Good?

I’ll be honest when I say I’m really not a big fan of word games. The more I played Illiterati, however, the more I realized that wasn’t actually true. I don’t like COMPETITIVE word games.

I’m not great with words, and never have been. Games like Boggle and Scrabble are fun to me, but I know I’ll never win because, well, I’m not great with words. Since Illiterati is cooperative, there is always a few people at the table to help you make words, and this is actually a really key component to the game.

Knowing what your teammates are doing and what words they are trying to make is actually key to victory. There is nothing stopping me from making a word my wife needs, and then shuffling that word over to her tableau. And likewise, she can make the words I need. It’s a really great system of passing letters and words back and forth, and the added stress of making sure you are using up all the letters is another really fun and great mechanic.

The game sounds a lot harder than it is, at least on normal mode. But I could see how things can get out of hand rather quickly. The Illiterati cards can do a lot of damage to the work you are doing in front of yourselves. With a random card coming out each round, you never know what impact it might have on the game. That keeps a little randomness to the experience that isn’t likely to be duplicated game after game.

I think after a ton of plays – a few dozen – the books themselves might become a bit repetitive, and you might even work out which books are easier to complete than others. But overall, it should still be a great experience since you never know which Illiterati cards are going to impact your game, and which tiles you will pull from the bag. And this randomness never seems unfair, which is key to games that involve some sort of randomness.

Illiterati is a fantastic experience, and the deluxe edition we played with is absolutely amazing. The components are all top notch, and the artwork is beautiful. If you are looking for a cooperative word game that can easily come off the shelf and onto the table, Illiterati is probably the game for you. We highly recommend this one! Go check it out!


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blank Adam Roffel has only been writing about video games for a short time, but has honed his skills completing a Master's Degree. He loves Nintendo, and almost anything they have released...even Tomodachi Life.

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