Illusion Card Game Guide

Is your color perception on point? Are you able to see through the trickiest of illusions with clarity? If so, you’ll be able to master the art of Illusion in no time and show off your skills to your friends.

Anyone who’s on the hunt for a game that stands out from the crowd will appreciate the unique idea behind this 98-strong deck of cards. Find out everything you need to know about the game, including how to play, in this Illusion card game guide.

Illusion: an Overview

Illusion was designed by Wolfgang Warsch, a man who has more than earned his excellent reputation in the gaming industry for creating other complex and mind-bending card games like Wavelength and The Mind.

It was first released in 2018 and since then has proven itself a hit, making an appearance at numerous prestigious gaming awards. In 2019 alone, Illusion was a J.U. Guinho “Families Game of the Year” finalist and a nominee for “Best Parlor Game” at Guldbrikken Awards.

The year Illusion came out, it saw similar recognition from the industry, with the game being nominated for “Best Party Game” and “Best Card Game” at the Golden Geek Awards. Unfortunately, it has thus far failed to secure an award, but the game remains unique and accomplished nonetheless.

The whole game is based on color-themed optical illusions. Each round of the game requires you to estimate the proportion of colors on each card.

For example, if the color for a particular round is green, you need to order the cards so that the amount of green progressively increases. Sounds simple? Not when you see how complex the illusions get!

Each turn, the challenge increases as the difference in color distribution between the cards grows smaller. You’ll need a real eagle eye to win this card game, that’s for sure.

The Design of the Card Game

Pandasaurus Games Illusion

Wolfgang Warsch, the Austrian game designer and molecular biologist, channels his enduring love of party games in Illusion but combines this with the unusual complexity of optical illusions.

This is certainly no ordinary card game. While many offer mindless fun and rely on chance or deception, Illusion asks its players to look closely and look again, using their concentration to unravel the Illusion.

The box that the cards come in is deceptively simplistic – plain black with a striking question mark in the center – however, the cards inside are anything but plain.

Each one combines red, green, yellow, and blue in a vibrant display of complex patterns and shapes.

What is an Optical Illusion?

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term, an optical illusion is something that appears to be other than it is; it can deceive the eye to see something which, in reality, doesn’t exist.

There are three types of optical illusions:

  1. Literal illusions
  2. Physiological illusions
  3. Cognitive illusions

Warshch’s game deploys a kind of physiological Illusion designed to make it difficult for a player to accurately perceive how much of a particular color appears on one card compared to another. It does this by utilizing repeated shapes and patterns, which can confuse the brain.

The Aim of the Game

The aim of the game is to collect arrow cards; the first player to collect three wins. Arrow cards are won by either correctly questioning the sequence of cards or when a card is found to be placed in the correct position despite being questioned by another player.

How to Play

Illusion is easy to play even if you haven’t encountered the card game before; the rules are simple to follow, but the game can provide hours of fun thanks to the many combinations of cards. Here’s how to play.


Setting up Illusion shouldn’t take any more than five minutes.

Shuffle the twelve arrow cards and place them on the table face down. Then, turn over the top arrow card and place it face up in the center of the table or playing area.

The stack of colored cards needs to be shuffled and placed colored side up at the table’s edge. It’s essential to make sure that the cards are shuffled properly; if you play regularly and fail to shuffle the cards, you will find the same pattern of cards appearing repeatedly.

Take the top color card from the deck and palace it next to the arrow so that all players can see the design on it. Make sure that the back of the card, which contains the all-important percentage information, isn’t seen by anyone.

Now you’re ready to get started with the actual game.


Decide who is going to start the game. This could be done by drawing straws or rolling a die.

The first player takes the card at the top of the color deck and places it beside the card that is already on the table beside the arrow, either on the left or right, depending on the direction of the arrow and the distribution of color.

For example: the arrow is red and faces to the right, with the first color card on the right. When the first player has their turn, they must decide whether the card they have picked up contains more or less red. 

If it contains more red, they should place it to the right of the current card. If it contains less, they should place it to the left of the existing color card and to the right of the arrow.

Again, it’s crucial that the back of the card remains hidden from all players at all times.

The game continues in a clockwise direction. At the start of a turn, each player must decide whether they agree with the current order of the cards or if they want to question the accuracy of the entire row.

If the player agrees with the current arrangement of the cards, they pick up a new color card and place it in the correct position in the row, either to the left, to the right, or between two cards.

It is not permitted to rearrange any cards retrospectively after they have been played.

As long as nobody questions the order of the sequence, play continues in this way in a clockwise direction.

Questioning the Sequence

If a player disagrees with the current arrangement of the cards, they must declare, “I don’t believe it.”

After this, all of the cards are turned over to reveal their true percentages, showing whether the order was correct or not. The row is correct if the percentage increases from left to right. Additionally, if two adjacent cards have the same percentage, this is correct.

If the player who questioned the order of the sequence turns out to be right, they win the arrow card as a reward. However, if they turn out to be wrong, then the arrow card is awarded to the player who put the final color card down.

At the End of the Game

Remove all color cards from the table as they are no longer needed. The next round is set up and played as described above, starting with the player who received the arrow card. The first player to earn three arrow cards is the winner.

Alternatively, if you choose to play twelve rounds of Illusion, then the winner is the player with the most arrow cards at the end.

Who is Illusion for?

Pandasaurus Games Illusion

Illusion is a card game for two to five players aged eight and above.

It has a unique appeal because it demands concentration and careful thought from players rather than just sheer luck. As such, it’s likely to appeal to people who enjoy puzzles and other intellectually stimulating games.

Despite being recommended for children of eight years and above, Illusion is better suited to older teenagers and adults.

Fortunately, if you need a game that’s suitable for younger children we have a guide to the best board games for four-year-olds and the best board games for three-year-olds.

How Many Cards are There in Illusion?

Illusion comes with the following components:

  • 98 color cards
  • 12 arrow cards
  • Instructions

Alternatives to Illusion

There are literally hundreds of different card games out there, most being relatively inexpensive, so finding one that you love shouldn’t be too difficult.

Here are four great alternatives to Illusion, some of which are similar and some of which are totally different.

The Mind

The Mind

As I mentioned earlier, The Mind is another card game designed by Wolfgang Warsch. Like Illusion, the aim of the game is to place the cards in the correct order, but there’s one important catch: nobody is allowed to speak.

Players must attempt to create their own silent language in order to communicate the correct sequence. Large gestures are forbidden, adding an extra layer of difficulty. Great for families and friends alike, this mind boggling card game is a real hit and has sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide.

  • Players – 2-4
  • Recommended age – 8+
  • Playing time – 20 minutes



UNO is a classic card game that’s renowned the whole world over. It’s easy to learn and simple yet addictive to play – all you have to do is get rid of your hand of cards as quickly as you can by matching with the color or number of the card at the top of the deck.

Special cards like skip, reverse, and draw twos create another element of excitement, reversing not only the order of play but, in some cases, the good fortune of players! Kids and adults alike can get stuck in and enjoy the game – no wonder it’s popular the world over!

  • Players – 2-4
  • Recommended age – 7+
  • Playing time – 30+ minutes

Cards Against Humanity

Cards Against Humanity

Now this definitely isn’t a game for the kids. Cards Against Humanity describes itself as “a card game for horrible people” and has a reputation for saying the unsayable.

Renowned for containing shocking statements and controversial ideas, this hilarious card game is sure to cause a stir at any gathering.

  • Players – no limit but ideal with 6-8 people
  • Recommended age – 17+
  • Playing time – 30 minutes

There’s Been a Murder

There's Been a Murder

There’s Been a Murder is an easy-to-learn social deduction game requiring players to work together as detectives. It’s different every time you play, so there’s plenty of opportunity for strategizing, and each time you can keep track of your ranking to see if you’re improving.

  • Players – 3-8
  • Recommended age – 14+
  • Playing time – 30 minutes

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can You Play Illusion With Two People?

Answer: Yes, you definitely can! It’s fun playing as a pair because this heightens the competition, but you can also play as a bigger group.
Discover more two player games in this board game guide.

Question: How Long Does it Really Take to Play Illusion?

Answer: The average time is fifteen minutes, but the amount of time it takes really depends on how carefully you’re thinking about the sequence of cards. If you spend a lot of time studying them and working out which position is right, then the game will take longer.

Question: Where Can I Buy Illusion?

Answer: You can buy Illusion on Amazon here.

Question: Is Illusion a Family Game?

Answer: Illusion can be enjoyed by both children and adults alike, so it’s a great game to play as a family.
Are you looking for other family games to play? If so, check out our guide explaining how to find the best family board games.

Recommended reads:

Illusion – is it Worth Buying?

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not always the biggest fan of card games when winning relies solely on luck, but Illusion offers something very different, and I like it a lot.

The optical illusions are both fascinating and frustrating in equal measure; just when you think you’ve worked out where to place your card in the sequence, you find out you’re totally wrong! Such is the power of the Illusion, and it’s what makes the game so enjoyable to play. While the premise is simple, there’s never a dull moment.

Ultimately, I’d recommend giving Illusion a go – especially if you like card games that require a little more thought.

Another card game I would highly recommend is Cards Against Humanity. Want to know more? Read our ultimate guide to Cards Against Humanity, or find out what expansion packs are available to take your deck to the next level.

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