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INNOVATION

Reviewed by Chris Kovac

INNOVATION (Asmadi Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 30 minutes; $25)

 

Innovation is a civilization building themed card game, designed by Carl Chudyk (of Glory to Rome fame). The game is a medium length gamer’s game which plays in about 30 minutes to an hour depending upon the draw of the cards and the skill of the players.innovationbox

The game consists of 10 decks of cards each representing about 100 years of history and the technologies in those eras. You start by giving each player a player aid which defines the various player actions and has places to keep track of achievements and score cards one obtains during the course of the game. Next you separate and shuffle each deck then arrange them in numerical order face down in a circle starting with the one deck (prehistory) and ending with the ten deck (information age) leaving enough space in the middle for 10 cards, one from each deck, which are achievements which you can buy during the game. A smaller deck of special achievement cards are set off to the side. These can be claimed by meeting certain conditions during the game or getting a particular technology card. Finally you deal two cards to each player from the number one (prehistory) deck. Each player then decides on a start card which they place face down in front of them. The start cards are then turned over and the person with the technology card name highest in the alphabet starts. A players turn consists of performing two actions. The possible actions are: Meld, Draw, Dogma and Achieve.

The Meld action is laying out a card from the players hand face up. There are five colors of cards and each is a separate pile. You lay out cards on top of one another unless directed to splay the cards in a specific direction due to a dogma action. Splaying means shifting the cards so all cards in a pile show some icons, the number depending on whether the cards are splayed left, right or up. This can change who has majority of a certain symbol type which is important in the Dogma action.innovationback

The Draw action is picking up a card from one of the card decks. You can only draw from a deck equal to the highest deck number on face up uncovered cards. You can draw from the next higher deck if the deck you would normally draw from is exhausted.

The Dogma action is in many ways the heart of the game. To do a Dogma action, you choose one of your face up cards and perform all the actions listed on the card in order. Each face up card shows three icons of various types. Each Dogma action has an icon at the beginning of its text. Each time you do that dogma action, you compare the number of icons you have of the type shown at the beginning of your Dogma with that of the other players. If the Dogma starts with “I demand”. any player with fewer icons of this type must perform these actions (usually giving you a card or cards). Otherwise. if any player(s) has more icons of this type, he gets to perform this action before you. The dogma actions can be quite complex involving the collecting and discarding of various types of cards in order to get things like cards for scoring or draws from higher decks or in some cases one of the special achievement cards.

The Achievement action is claiming one of the achievement cards in the middle of the decks. You buy the cards using your score cards. Each card costs five time the deck number (i.e. a prehistory achievement card cost five points [5×1]). As mentioned, you can get one or more of the special achievement cards if you meet the conditions on the card or you successfully use the appropriate technology dogma. If you get a certain total of achievement cards (bought and specials) based on the number of players, you win the game immediately.

Play continues until either a player wins by getting the set number of achievement cards or he has to draw a card from the ten deck and it is empty. If this happens the player with the most score points wins the game.

Much of the strategy of the game is playing your various technology cards down to create a “dogma” engine to get cards and achievements while preventing other players from doing so using the “I demand” Dogma actions. The great variety of actions makes the game interesting though the random draw of the cards does result in a fairly chaotic game at times. The cards are nicely produced though a bit thin which means they will wear fairly quickly. The other problem I had with the game is the rule book which was confusing to read in parts resulting in some confusion on the definitions of the terms on the cards and how the game actually worked. Learning the game from someone who has played before makes it much easier to learn. The game has spawned an expansion called Innovation: Echoes of the Past which alters some of the conditions of the game (particularly in creating the 10 card decks) and adds new actions including “foreshadow” (enabling cards to be held in reserve for later use) and “echo” (which allows for multiple actions to be triggered.)

Overall, I found Innovation this to be a decent gamer’s game and one that would especially appeal to those who like games where you have to create point generating engines such as Dominion. – – – – – – – – – Chris Kovac


 

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