Illiterati – Leading the League of Librarians!
We love libraries at The Family Gamers. Who wouldn’t like a publicly supported institution that makes books, music, and even games available to anyone who lives in town, for free? We’ve invited librarians to write for this site and featured librarians on The Family Gamers Podcast!
One thing we didn’t expect was to get into an existential fight for the future of words. But that’s exactly what you’ll get in Illiterati, a new cooperative word game from Gap Closer Games. Illiterati plays 1-5 players age 7+ in about half an hour. You and your fellow librarians must work together against the “Illiterati”, a secret organization threatening the world with illiteracy.
You’ll start a game of Illiterati by determining your desired difficulty. There’s a Player Chart to guide you on the parameters of your difficulty level. Next, you’ll give each player a Library Card for reference, a starting “hand” of five tiles, and a red (torched) book. There are a few common elements to put in the middle of the table.
Illiterati is a simultaneous play game where all players are racing to complete words with their tiles before time runs out. It’s also a cooperative game. Once you’ve completed your words, or if you need other letters to complete words, look around the table, and help your teammates!
Each round of Illiterati has three phases: Word Building, Book Binding, and the Illiterati Attack. Once all players bind their required books, everyone works together to complete the Final Chapter!
First, each player draws seven tile letters from the supply bag (or ten tiles in a single player game). It’s important to look at the left side of each player’s book to determine what the requirements will be. Remember, this is a cooperative game!
Then, flip the three-minute sand timer and everyone rushes to complete words. The most important thing is to use up the letters, because bad things happen if too many letters are left over! Do this, then work together to find words that fulfill each book’s requirements.
The middle of the table is the Library, where players can put unused letters to share them with other players. By the end of the phase, no player can have more than eight words, and there are hopefully fewer tiles remaining than the Library Limit (this depends on the chosen difficulty).
If there are more unused tiles than the limit, flip all of them over and randomly select one. Burn this tile and place it on the Burn Tracker. If you fill the Tracker, you lose!
If any player has more than eight words, discard down to eight, and put a letter from one of the discarded words on the Burn Tracker. Put the rest in the Discard bag.
If any letters were burned this round, no players may bind books. Otherwise, players can bind books by discarding the words that fulfill the requirements on the book. Discard these words to the Discard bag and flip over the completed book. If necessary, draw another book from the alternate color book deck.
Once all players have finished their books, begin the Grand Finale! But this will take a while, so at least a few times, you’ll likely hit the last phase of the round.
In this phase, one of the Illiterati will attack your team and their attempt to save literacy!
Draw a card from the Illiterati Villain deck and place it face up. If another card from the same Villain was drawn on an earlier round, these effects chain together! Put the new card on top of the last one with all effects showing, and resolve each one, in order, beginning with the card just drawn. If not, just resolve the single villain card.
If you successfully survive the attack, start the next round. If the draw bag is empty at any time, the discard bag becomes the new draw bag.
The Final Chapter
Eventually every player will have bound their books. When this happens, draw one final book (either color) as a team. To complete the Final Chapter, each player must fulfill the requirement on the right side of the book. If even one player cannot do it, the team cannot bind the book! Continue through the phases until you can bind the final book, or your team loses by filling the Burn Tracker or running out of Villain cards.
Illiterati is nearly everything I look for in a word game. Much like Bananagrams, Illiterati dispenses with the area-control nature of Scrabble and also allows the free rearranging of letters. I love the thematic tie-ins, too, which is something I also said about Spell Smashers. The difference is that I can actually get Illiterati to the table with my family due to its shorter play time.
Our kids enjoy Illiterati because they can enjoy shared success with Anitra and me. Competitive word games are frequently saddled with inequity due to domain knowledge, and Illiterati does an end-run around this through its collaborative nature. As parents, we’re able to both solve our own puzzles and work with our kids to help them solve theirs. From time to time, we’re even surprised by their ingenuity. Together, we can win the game.
I also love the simultaneous play in Illiterati. Although there isn’t a fixed number of rounds, the three-minute timer establishes a flow to the game that allows players to switch between puzzle solving and executing the mechanics that bring the game together. This back-and-forth keeps the game moving with a good cadence.
I also can’t say enough good things about Audrey Jung’s wonderful artwork. I first noticed her work on Rival Restaurants, and I think it fits perfectly here. Illiterati is clearly a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, so the almost comic styling of the villains hits just right for me.
For less than $40, you can pick up a copy of this wonderful word game yourself.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
The Family Gamers were provided a complimentary copy of Illiterati for this review.
Illiterati - Leading the League of Librarians!
Age Range: 7+
Playtime: 30 minutes
Number of Players: 1-5