Up to 5 players must work together as members of the League of Librarians to stop the dastardly Illiterati, an evil organisation trying to destroy the world of literature. Featuring cooperative and PvP modes, this is a real time word building game in which players must assemble letters to create words. Fighting against a timer, they must also try to bind their spell books, each with a certain objective and criteria to meet.
Thematic, Cooperative Scrabble
This small boxed game sets up quickly and is simple to teach, regardless of the experience levels of the players. The game begins with each player receiving a spell book, which are either red or blue. Each of these contains the objectives needed to win the game. In addition to a letter count, players will have goals such as “something that flies” or “2 syllables” as-well as a type of symbol required. 4 types are displayed on each letter tile, which makes spelling out the words you need harder.
Each player takes a bunch of letter tiles, adjusts the game based on the difficulty and prepares the Illiterati deck. Each round begins with more letters being added to the table for players to interact with, then when everyone is ready, the 3 minute sand timer is flipped. Each player has to bind their spell book, once they do so they gain one of the other colour. When everyone has completed 2 books, one more spell book is drawn with a final chapter on it. Now everyone must work together and complete this last objective, if they do, they win!
However this isn’t as easy as it sounds. At the end of the round, any unused letters get returned to the centre of the table, or the library as the game calls it. If these letters exceed the library limit, determined by player count and difficulty, then a random letter is “burned” and the others discarded. These burnt letters go onto the burn tracker board, if this fills up, the players lose.
Not only that but the evil Illiterati deck is drawn at the end of each round, revealing a dangerous villain who can cause chaos for everyone. These cards can burn saved words, change books, move letters around and generally make the game more difficult. To make matters worse if a card is drawn and that character’s card was already out on the table, it causes a chain reaction, triggering all the effects of that villain’s previously drawn effects.
Production & Presentation
Illiterati is packed full of great quality content. 2 velvet bags hold the thick letter tiles. The sand timer, cards and tiles all fit nicely into the box insert too.
There is a lot of passion put into making this game unique and visually appealing. From the colourful cast of Illiterati cards, to wide variety of fun and well designed spell book cards. Each one having thought provoking and often entertaining objectives. There is even fun and tongue—in-cheek flavour text on each spell book too! Each tile feels nice to hold, rattling them around in their luxury bags while the table fills with everyone’s carefully constructed words, reminds you of how well produced this game is especially for the price.
The cards are thick and durable and it has plenty of nice little design choices. My favourite being the box itself is meant to be a book. Complete with a paper side and a bookmark like draw string to pull the game open.
Hilarious At Times
Cooperative games can be a hit and miss for me. I prefer games where teamwork is brought out naturally and effortlessly. Illiterati is a perfect poster child for this. This is done by having the gameplay be as unrestrictive as possible but still keeping a clear goal for everyone to work towards.
Players have to bind books but this isn't always possible. Sometimes just using up as many letters as you can is good enough, survival is key here. Everyone is free though to exchange ideas, swap letters and words around or give up one of their own words to help a teammate out. It’s fun, easy to play and turns go by smoothly. Even at high player counts the game never really goes on past the hour mark. Spelling out ridiculous words, seeing players scream after just one more letter to bind their book or a badly timed Illiterati card draw ruining everyone’s plans all help generate an atmosphere of fun and excitement for everyone.
A game like this requires a specific type of play group of course. Those who dislike word games and cooperative play probably wont enjoy this one. It does feature a PvP mode but it not as enjoyable as the standard gameplay which I feel is what it was intended for. It can also be difficult to win even on standard difficulty as some spell book cards seem inconsistent. Occasionally you can get an unlucky draw and have an incredibly challenging objective to complete. Anyone with difficulty reading or spelling will also struggle here. You can get around this by increasing a timer or house ruling the gameplay slightly.
Illiterati is a fun, well produced, gem of a word game. It’s a fun, engaging experience for any type of gamer which breathes new life into a genre which is often forgotten.