INWO CotW Contest Guidelines V 3.29

Granted, this advertisement (used with permission of Steve Jackson) was from Pyramid Magazine, and thus you are not now holding paper within your hot little hands. But don't mind that--the sentiment is the same.

INWO Card of the Week Contest Guidelines

Here, for your reading pleasure, is the CotW Contest Rules with suggestions and commentary about the inwo-cards list. If you have any input, please contact me (Seth Cohen) at

Legal Stuff:
"Illuminati", "Illuminati: New World Order", "INWO", and "Assassins!" are trademarks of Steve Jackson Games. This page and others located nearby have been created without authorization from Steve Jackson games, quoting a limited amount of material from INWO (where necessary) in order to stay within the limits of fair use.

You can find the Homebrew Card page at Sam Kington's site, which is also known as: ( Sam places all cards submitted to the inwo-cards list on his site. Like Lynette, Sam does this free of charge, so you should thank him and our Netrep copiously. .

Submissions to the contest can be made by emailing your idea to Subscription to the cards list is necessary to submit.

Subscribing to the inwo-cards list can be done by emailing with the phrase "subscribe inwo-cards" in the body of your message. No other text is necessary, and you can leave out the quotation marks. The inwo-cards list exists for people to get feedback about their cards, not win a contest. However, since all submissions to inwo-cards are examined for the contest, please follow this format if you wish to attempt to win a prize. If you don't follow these guidelines, you should still find plenty of people on the group willing to comment; however, your card will not be selected as a winner. Also, please do not submit cards to the inwo-list; the inwo-list and the inwo-cards list serve different purposes.


The standard format for card contest submissions is this format (which imitates in text the actual layout of the card):

Groups, Places and Personalities

Type: Group
Name: <name>(personality, organization, or place, if desired)
Graphic: what you picture the card looking like
Color Text/Quote: "<whatever>"
Card Text: (What the card does)
Power: # Resistance: #
Control Arrows: In: (T or B) Out: (T, B, L or R)


Type: (Plot, Resource, Goal, or NWO <R, B, or Y>)
Name: <name>
Color Text/Quote:
Card Text:
Optional 2nd color text:
Requirements: (ie.. Requires action or discards, etc.; Disaster!, Gadget Artifact)


Type: Illuminati:
Illuminati: Name
Special Ability
Special Goal

For example, the Card Convenience Stores would look like this:

Name: Convenience Stores
Graphic: side shot of the local Stop nLoot with barbed wire around it.
Quote or Color Text: none
Card Text: There's one on every corner...a worldwide network of informers. Any group card you play as an "agents" card gets an extra +5 for either attack or defense. If anyone else plays an "agents" card, you may give them the +5 at no cost. The Convenience Stores have no effect on the power of duplicate Illuminati cards.
This group has +10 against any Attack to Destroy.
Power: 1 Resistance: 2
Alignments: corporate
Attributes: none
Requirements: none
Control Arrows: In:T Out:R

It is usual and customary on published INWO cards to use an asterisk (*) to note where an alignment, attribute, power or resistance can change according to the special ability of a card. It is incorrect to use the convention (sometimes) in place of the asterisk, unless you have specified under what circumstances this modifier is in effect. I recommend using the asterisk and making the special ability text of your card clear.

Do not right justify, tab over or indent your text. Put your text at the left side of the screen. It's easiest to read that way. Right justified monospaced text is actually *harder* to read on a CRT screen than plain old, ragged-right text. If you use a formatter, use a 70 column line width. Don't use longer lines and expect everybody to word wrap. I use a CRT screen, and sometimes it's a real pain, especially when people have been responding to the message and the pertinent information has moved further to the right with each reply.

If you want to know why this format differs slightly from the format in the INWO-Faq, you can check out this site for your answer.

Please include all of these categories when submitting a card. Incomplete cards may be disqualified. You may name the parts of your description something else, if you think it necessary, as long as it is clear what you're doing. Your cards will be immortalized in Sam's CotW page, so remember that you're not just doing this for yourself. It should make sense to Sam (and his scripts) and the rest of us, so please do not delete any categories.

If you plan to submit material for the contest, please follow the guidelines. Some of these may seem contrived and arbitrary, and some exist simply to make life a little easier.

If you violate one of my pet peeves in your submission, I'm going to go into your post already biased against it. As objective as I try to be, that makes it unlikely your card will win. I don't have unreasonable demands, and it's not too difficult to follow my desires. If you deviate from the guidelines by a high margin of error, you will not win a prize.

My peeves (summarized in descending order of importance):

Follow the suggested format for card postings.
Include all portions of the card format in your post.
Card text should not exceed 80 words.
Spell check and manually proofread your submissions.
Don't submit several cards in one posting, unless the cards are thematically linked.
Do not indent your text, or use lines longer than 75 characters.
Avoid signatures, particularly long ones.
Put a meaningful "Subject" line in your posting.
If you have updated your card designsay so in the subject.
Don't post other people's material, without their permission.
Don't be redundant.

My peeves, in length:

If you're submitting a card similar to an SJ Games card previously published (eg: a Disaster, a Zap, etc.), try to follow the format that SJ Games does. It reduces the odds that the text on your card will be difficult to understand. And please include all details and text necessary to write up the card and play it in a game. It means Sam has less to do, and I can more accurately check whether or not you're meeting the length restrictions. Cards are small, and they can't hold a lot of text. Brevity of text increases the usefulness of the card.

Proofread and spellcheck your cards. It's amazing how bad the submissions sometimes are in this department. You're writing for hundreds of people. That's more people than would read a typical letter to the editor of a large daily newspaper. Don't look foolish in print, or no one will take your idea seriously. Or humorously, for that matter.

Continuing on the same topic, I've been informed that "on the 'net, don't criticise or set standards for anyone's spelling unless you single-handeldly invented the English language." An interesting concept. I wonder how he discovered my secret that yes, I am the inventor of the English Language! 8^)

Try to limit yourself to one card per submission. I rate all the cards, and it's hard to rate a group of cards as they will be sure to vary. If you post a group of cards, it makes it harder to consider it for the contest. If the cards are thematically linked, however, that's something different. That's a different prize.

Keep a short signature, or use no sig. You'll find this important wherever you are in the email community. I'll get your name from your address, or from you manually signing it. If you add extra, I just have to delete it. It takes more time, and meaning the contest will be later.

I want to see a subject line that I can use to distinguish your post from other posts. Also, if you post a new card in a reply to someone else's card, please alter the Subject line in a meaningful way. It is unnecessary to say "CotW Submission" or "Card of the Week" in the subject; by definition, all cards are CotW submissions if sent to until I either eliminate them or give them a prize.

Don't be redundant. If the pertinent text is already there, then I don't need to see it again. And neither does anyone else. Also, feel free to check out Sam Kington's Inwo card page, as many ideas have already been used to extinction. If you use them again, you will not win the contest. Santa Claus, Microsoft, Bill Gates, Excalibur, The Village, Steve Jackson Games, Gary Larson, the Patent Office and Atlantis fit this category. Please do not make me add to it. Please!

Things you want to know regarding the card you've submitted to the contest:

I download each week's cards home, and there I have time to look at them and judge them. After I finish the card selection, I log back in and produce the CotW announcement. Barring service problems, excessive spamming by clueless posters, holidays, studying, actually going out to play INWO or public drunkenness, the contest results are published each week for the previous week's entries.

I don't usually have enough time to comment on cards. If you specifically want my input, just ask for it. It won't guarantee your winning, but I'm always willing to help with card design where I can.

I don't pick my own my opinion, that would be unfair. I like 'em all, and I can get my own bee for myself out of my own fridge for the prize for writing a card -- or even if I haven't recently written a card! It's my fridge, darn it! 8^) Cards I judge to be better than the rest of the week's submissions will win one of the prizes that I offer. Special prizes may be awarded at irregular intervals for various reasons. Because I am not omniscient, I don't know if an idea is original or plagiarized. Many good cards are drawn from the same fount of ideas...that is, different people seeing the same thing and producing cards from that concept.

My general assumption is that cards have been reviewed for flaws, praise, or plagiarism by those subscribed to the cards list. I will not be held responsible for cards that do or do not win that are flawed or close to someone else's design. I hold to the guidelines I have produced so to best avoid such problems. If you have problems with a design that someone has done, raise your complaints before I award prizes.

The list subscribers have a large portion of power determining the outcome of this contest. If they find flaws in a design, and the card design is not altered and reposted in a improved design, the card may be eliminated from the contest. Cards will always be considered, no matter how many times they are submitted...but there's no guarantee that they'll win if I've seen them 20 times already. And if you don't agree with changes suggested by list patrons, say so. That way I know that you're paying attention to the people offering you help.

If I reject your card, keep trying. Almost everyone each week gets rejected, and even the people you see who win multiple times get lots of rejections. The best card design makes for the best chance for winning. Those who follow the SJ Games Submissions Guidelines for writers (posted on their web pages) will increase their chances for winning.

Card text should be clear and terse. Due to space constraints on blank cards, 80 words is an upper limit on text for plot cards; due to Power & Resistance print type, 70 words are the upper limit on group cards. If your card exceeds 100 words, I will assume you are ignoring these guidelines and will most likely disqualify it from winning. Hint: If your text covers more than a page of screen (CRT 72 column), the odds of your winning are greatly reduced. Illuminati cards are the hardest to write, and hold the least amount of text. Look at 'em, you'll see what I mean.

[The word limit refers mainly to the "Card Text" portion...what the card does. It should also include the "Color Text/Quote", as that takes up space on the card. Fully visualizing the graphic is fine, but think moderation. Don't fill up a screen with lavish interpretations of the card graphic (which is at most about 5cm by 7cm). If I can't see the card title and the card text at the same time, I disqualify the card.]

I don't want to get involved in a fight over a name. If more than one person has submitted ideas, and the card names are identical, I may choose the best one or ignore both. Have a good idea, but a copied/similar name? Find a different name for it, or meet the other person halfway & join forces. Work together; you'll win more quickly together than apart.

It's easy to find that an idea has lots of applications. Guess what: If you add all the ways that a card name can affect the game, you'll end up with four cards' worth of text on one card. It won't win, and it won't be possible to write it up on a blank. Take a step back, and then decide which element(s) of your design are most vital. Turn the other ideas into other cards.

Three prizes are regularly offered:

Card of the Week (read: best overall design)
Card of the Wack (read: best laugh, great design)
Card of the Weak (read: cute but useless due to various factors)

Other prizes are offered as necessary. For example:

Mention with Honors (a design that merits attention; usually someone working above and beyond the call, producing multiple excellent thematically linked cards)
Illuminated Conspiracy (read: subtle and Illuminated idea, not suitable for all, but necessary to mention.)
Great Minds Think Alike (1: a familiar title, with a new and exciting design; 2: a parody of a SJ Games card, or especially, a parody of another person's Homebrew card design)

Each winner, in addition to being immortalized in the CotW Page is welcome to stop by my place, have a beer, give me a cat, and attempt to offend some of our local law enforcement community with blatant total nudity. If someone gives me prizes otherwise worth distributing, I will be happy to do so (lobby SJ Games at your own risk.) Finding my place to get your beer is your problem. I already know how to get home.

Seriously, tho: if you are of legal drinking age and plan to be in the Maryland (USA) area...and I owe you a prize (or 30) email me and I will tell you how to reach me. If I'm away, tough noogies. You've been warned.

Things I look for, that I like to see in cards:

Cards should be "balanced". If a card gives a benefit, then it should be compensated for by a cost to use. Group cards with high power or good special abilities should cost to control or use them. If a card is severely unbalanced so as to be nearly useless, refers specifically to other homebrew cards for purposes of play, requires INWO players to do things (like cry "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!") or has text in excess of the limit for purposes of humor, it is a good candidate for the "Card of the Weak" prize. If it is overbalanced in the opposite direction (e.g. "That card's more powerful than France!") then the card may be disqualified. Resubmissions are considered. Cards better balanced stand a better chance of winning. Examine the cards you already own, published by SJ Games. Most will give you hints as to what ways to best balance your cards.

No one card can do everything. If your group or plot's ability can do more than two things, you're probably trying to pack too many ideas onto one card. Think carefully about the elements of your design you would most like to see in play.

I am not enthralled with the concept of rolling dice to determine the effect of a card. I'm not saying that's not effective, but many of the cards printed by SJ Games *do* something. Having a card do something and then have that effect taken away by the roll of the die (eg: on a roll of 1-3 do something, and on a roll of 4-6 do nothing) annoys me. See if you can find a different cost, if it doesn't affect the theme or the playability of the card.

Several factors are looked at: usefulness, playability, humor, terseness of text, proper format, and completeness.

If the card has little or no use, it is a candidate for Card of the Weak.
If the card is not playable, might be Weak, but might become disqualified.
Humor: Card of the Wack, but also good for Card of the Week. This is a game, meant to be fun. It helps if the card makes me smile.
Terseness of text: If you can say what you mean in clear, precise, terse language, then your chances of winning increase immensely. Follow the card format listed above or in the Inwo-list FAQ. Complete all portions of the design (Text, quote, etc.), even if to say "None" or "Not Applicable" N/A is acceptable. If you design an Illuminati, remember: They get no quote.

If people have made suggestions, and you approve, resubmit with changes and say "This is my improved version." Trust me, it helps. If people have made suggestions, and you don't agree with them, you should defend your design so that I know your mind. If you don't comment at all, I may think that you're being rude to the list-patrons, and thus disqualify you that way.

Also, if you are not on the list, say so so that people can email you back personally with their input. If we don't know you're not on the list, don't complain that you got no response from the patrons.

I apologise for the length of this, but I wanted to let you know where things stand. Keep smiling, and keep creating!


Thanks to many (hopefully, you know who you are) for help and commentary.

Special thanks to:
Lynette R. F. Cowper <> former INWO Netrep
Glen Barnett <>
Keith Edward Casner <diomedes@server.Berkeley.EDU>
Franklin W. Cain <>
Sam Kington <> Card Homepage Site God
Mark Bassett <> Speling Editor

Seth A. Cohen
INWO CotW Adjudicator

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