Illuminati is a name that refers to several groups, both historical and modern, and both real and fictitious. Historically, it refers specifically to the (Bavarian) Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded on May 1st, 1776, which was dedicated to the systematic and stealthy conquest of nations, one by one, and ultimately the entire world. In modern times it is also used to refer to a purported conspiratorial organization which acts as a shadowy power behind the throne, allegedly controlling world affairs through present day governments and corporations, usually as a modern incarnation or continuation of the Bavarian Illuminati. In this context, Illuminati is often used in reference to a New World Order (NWO). Many conspiracy theorists believe the Illuminati are the masterminds behind events that will lead to the establishment of such a New World Order. Confusing the issue further is the fact that there are also several modern fraternal groups which include the word "Illuminati" in their names.
In more rare cases, the Illuminati might refer to a gnostic elite who do not cooperate completely with the Bavarian Illuminati's agenda of world domination, but like those who do, they focus upon the belief that they are uniquely empowered by their pseudo-Buddhist-like enlightenment, similar to the intelligentsia classes of today are empowered by their education and intelligence. These are people who consider themselves to have become illuminated and have achieved a far greater mystical understanding of the universe than the vast majority of the ignorant masses of the world. Many secret societies and mystical traditions are concerned with the attainment of this kind of illumination or enlightenment via occult practices, and with keeping its secrets to themselves and their initiates, such as the Rosicrucian Societies and Martinist Societies.
Illuminati is an unusual card game (not a trading card game) made by Steve Jackson Games (SJG), inspired by The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. The game has ominous secret societies competing with each other to control the world through sinister means, including legal, illegal, and even mystical. It makes fun of conspiracy theories and also contains satirical portrayals of groups not normally associated with conspiracies (Star Trek fans, for example). It can be played by two to eight players. Depending on the number of players, a game can take between one and six hours.