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on July 20, 2011
This game is fun, but you should know that it's rather a wild game, in the sense that sudden reversals of fortune regularly occur. That means that (1) any killer strategy you develop is likely to get killed, and (2) players should be emotionally prepared to have victory snatched away from them at the last minute. Luck is a big factor, but it is still a thinking person's game. You usually have many options for what you can do, and the impact of the different options is very heavily influenced by what cards you and other players have in play. Players are likely to want to spend a little time on each turn thinking through their options. I haven't been playing it for awfully long yet, but I suspect that it isn't really a game you ever "get good at". The game is just too variable for that.

It's also worth noting that the theme of inventions and cultural development is pretty much purely decorative here. It's nice decoration, but don't expect to learn anything of to find anything more than a vague connection between the name of an innovation and what it does.
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on December 1, 2013
Innovation is pretty quick to learn and doesn't take long to set up, and there is often enough strategy involved to satisfy the more hardcore gamers who want to be asked to think. However, it seems to have some game balance issues that prevent me from giving it more than three stars.

One (usually) wins Innovation by racking up a certain number of achievements, and the most common way of attaining these achievements is by racking up a certain number of points in the scored card section. The catch is that one doesn't spend the points scored to earn the achievement, and only one person can get the achievement for a certain number of points. That means that if one person can get a few points ahead on scoring, the same person can easily get the 10 point achievement, then the 15 point achievement, then the 20 point achievement, etc. all while the players just slightly behind are almost completely prevented from making any progress toward victory despite scoring points, improving their hands, etc.

Yes, there are cards in the game that can disrupt the leader's streak and restore something besides frustration to the other players, but one has to draw the right card, have enough of the icon required by that particular card to use it effectively, etc., which means that it can easily be a longshot even with intelligent play. If you like a lot of a game's outcome to hinge on "Hail Mary" plays and occasional wild swings of fate, then you may well enjoy Innovation a great deal. If, however, you prefer a bit more certainty that intelligent strategy will be rewarded with at least a noticeably closer game, you might find Innovation a bit frustrating. Of the games of Innovation I've played so far, I've found only about 1/3 of them to be balanced enough to be truly interesting, and that's with all of the players being experienced strategy gamers. Thus, I find it hard to recommend for the true strategy game fan.
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on September 10, 2012
Innovation: 2-4 Players, Ages 14+, Average Play Time: 30-60 Minutes

Have you ever played Civilization, be it the video game or the board game? If you have, then you'd be familiar with the concept of a "tech tree." If you haven't played any sort of game where you're leveling up your civilization, then imagine a giant tree and at the bottom of said tree are the technologies that start your civilization off...things like "writing" and "the wheel." As you go up the tree, you advance in technology, unlocking things like "bronze working" and eventually things like "rocketry." The tree branches out into different areas of tech, covering different aspects of a civilization like the military and economy.

Innovation, as best as I can describe it, is Civilization: The Tech Tree Card Game, sort of. The game consists of cards ranging from ages / techs one through ten, the number is clearly written on the back of the card. On the face of the card is a specific technology like "the wheel" and various icons and actions that affect gameplay.

Players will be drawing cards from these ages starting with the smallest one first (age one) and gradually start working their way up. Their main goal is to score points and achievements. A player wins if they reach the number of achievements required (the number varies based on the number of players) or as indicated by a card that they might draw in the later ages.

A card has actions on them accompanied by an icon, along with icons that run along the bottom and left side of the card. These icons are counted when determining whether or not a player can share in an action or during an "I demand" action by another player.

Besides the cards players hold in their hand, they form a playing area in front of them which houses piles of cards that have been played. Each pile has its own color, up to five piles, representing the different aspects of a civilization. When placing a card onto its colored pile (called "melding"), it goes on top (unless otherwise indicated), replacing the previous card and its available actions. Some cards allow you to shift your colored cards either up, down, left, or right so that the icons on the cards underneath are visible. This is called "splaying."

On a player's turn, they get to perform two actions from the following list:

1) Play (meld) a card from your hand onto one of your colored piles.

2) Pick up a card (draw) from the appropriate age. The age you can draw from is based on the top cards in your play area. Whatever the highest age card is in your play area is becomes the age you are able to draw from.

3) Claim an achievement (achieve). A number of conditions must be satisfied to claim an achievement.

4) Perform an action on a card (dogma). This is the very heart of the game as all of the cards have various abilities. Some allow you to shift or "splay" your cards in a direction making more icons visible (making you more powerful), some cards allow you to score cards / points which is key to claiming achievements, and other things that can affect other players.

I won't go into the rules in detail, those interested would do well to Google the PDF of the instruction manual so that they can see all of the odd terms and game mechanics that the game offers.

At first, I have to admit that I was intimidated by this game, even though it was simply just a deck of playing cards. There were so many cards, each with their own actions on them...it got to the point where some cards made me pause for a minute so that I could try to figure out their effects. Once players overcome the hurdle of understanding the game terms and mechanics, the game will play out smoothly.

Vinnie Jr, the eleven year old, had the toughest time understanding what each of the cards did. He often didn't know what the best move was because he didn't understand half of the cards. He still enjoyed playing the game, but if you are trying to teach this game to beginners or younger kids, you'll need to be patient and make sure you clear your afternoon. To be fair, the game DOES say that the recommended age is fourteen and up...though I still think that Vinnie Jr can get used to it if given the right amount of help and patience. Readers, keep in mind, I'm not bashing the game for having complex cards...I'm simply advising you to be patient with beginners and younger kids.

An hour into the game, we managed to get up to age four. I'm sure as we continue to play the game over and over again, we'll get used to what all of the cards do and play will be much quicker. That concept is similar to that of any card game like Magic: The Gathering or Wiz-War in that there is a learning curve on what all of the card possibilities are.

Overall, the game was fun. We were constantly comparing icons to see who could share in what actions, so be prepared for a little math. For the first half hour, it was pretty chaotic.

Would I recommend it? That depends. Are you someone who isn't intimidated by reading and interpreting a plethora of card actions? Are you willing to be patient with those who are having a hard time understanding certain concepts? Do you play complex card games often? If the answer is yes to most of these questions, then yes, I'd recommend it.
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on March 26, 2011
Innovation is an easy game to set up and teach. It's also pretty easy to learn, which is deceptive; as you and your friends will immediately begin to formulate relational-strategies between cards for your next game... only to find that the following game plays out entirely different! The replay value of this game is refreshing!

My only reservation in purchasing Innovation, was that gaming would be limited to 4-players, however... it does allow for team play, which has been FANTASTIC and even more fun than gaining a solo victory!

This games low cost is the icing on the cake. I would recommend Innovation whole-heartedly to anyone that considers themself a fairly serious gamer. This must include you... who else would take the time to read this short review? :)
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on February 26, 2015
Innovation is chaos in a box, the best kind of chaos! I've got Innovation and the first expansion, Echoes of the Past. This is unique variety of deck building. Building your own deck, stealing cards from other players' decks even after they've used them to score. There are some cards that are very powerful, cards that can seem overwhelmingly powerful if played in the game's early rounds. But, their power can be negated or stolen by the power of other cards later in the game. At first play, I thought my son was going to take the game in a walk. Later, cards fell my way that allowed me, first, to take the card from him and exert some special powers of my own. He won; but, the game was very close. I love the "splaying" mechanism in which cards in any one particular stack of cards you have in front of you are slid left, right or up, revealing portions of the cards underneath. Because the power of each stack is determined by the number of specific symbols on the top card, spreading the cards reveals additional symbols on portions of multiple cards which may lie underneath. Suddenly, a top card which -- moments before was not particularly useful in forcing an action at the table -- becomes much more useful with the "re-enforcements" provided by the addition of a few or many more of the same symbol revealed in the cards below. A later action may force that player's pile of cards to "re-unite," once again hiding those cards beneath the top card and the power -- at least for the time being -- is lost again. The game provides many ways to win, even a few completely random ways provided you're able to capture the card that makes that alternate winning condition available. The game can get crazy. The only reason why I'm giving Innovation (and the game gets better with the Echoes expansion; I can not say how good it gets with the Footprints expansion, although I have heard Footprints adds little once you have Echoes.) four stars instead of five stars is you may have friends who will find the game too busy. The group of five with whom I most often play games includes my 26 year old son, my 50+ year old best friend and his two sons, teen and twenty. Things broke down this way: I love the game; and, my son does, too. My friend is not so much a fan. His teenage son would play; but, it wouldn't be his first choice. His twenty-some year old son asks me to bring it. You just have to know your group. Oh, and have a bit of table space available. You're going to need room for "splaying" those cards.
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on June 13, 2014
On an initial difficulty scale of 1-10, I'd say this is about a 5 or 6. However, the more you play, the more your strategy starts to evolve and it can become very cerebral. Be warned, though: This game is one of those where you are actively messing with other players (think about Munchkin, Illuminati, etc.). As such, if you are ultracompetitive, this might be the type of game that ruins a friendship. :)
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on July 12, 2015
Compared to other strategy games, Innovation is very easy to set up and learn; additionally, the game itself is very compact, making it easy to carry to picnics, game nights, etc. Games are relatively short - around 45 to 75 min, in my experience - so they are not as much of a time-suck (I'm looking at you, Agricola).

The game has SIGNIFICANT replay value. There are countless strategies to use depending on the cards in your hand, the cards you have played, and the cards your opponent has.

One potential downside compared to other games I have played: there is an element of luck. There are a few cards that, when played right, can lead to the player with the lowest score winning the game, or significantly damaging the player with the highest score. This makes things interesting, as you can never be assured of winning until you have actually won, but is a little disappointing if you are the person in control who ultimately loses because of these cards. You still have to think heavily - what cards/ages remain, how many symbols your opponent has, which card to play, which color to splay, etc - which makes this game one of my favorites. Overall, I definitely recommend this game.
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on March 5, 2013
My husband and I bought this game because it allows for 2 players. It's an excellent game that has a bit of a steep learning curve at the start (mostly because of the large number of cards) but a fairly quick game once you've learned it. I prefer the 2 player version even though it allows for multiple players because it can take a long time to read all the cards on your and other boards. I've played the online version but again, the reading took a long time and it's nice to have the physical cards to shuffle through instead of having to hover to head the text. It's a better card game than Munchkin and the small box is easy to bring with you when going to play with others. I recommend it for couples in particular who like to play board games together.
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on June 21, 2013
I'm glad I made the purchase. I had played the game many times before but bought it because it is a great two player game and different mechanically from most of the games we've been playing.

Some of my friends dislike the game because of how swingy (I'm winning big time... two turns later I've lost) the game is. If that will bother you, think twice. But otherwise jump right in. It is a moderate difficulty the first time but super easy to play every time after that.
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on August 31, 2015
I very much like this game. I have a short attention span and have no patience for a game that takes too long to learn. I like simple games with simple rules that have deep strategies that become apparent the more you play and this game does not disappoint.

One of the things that I like is that things change all the time, and sometimes dramatically, the person who has been ahead for the entire game now is the loser and the person the furthest behind is suddenly the leader. Good strategy game with cards that provide enough randomness that you will be kept guessing.

One of my favorites.
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