Innovation: Third Edition Card Game (4 Player)
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- For 2-4 Players
- 30-75 minute playing time
- Tons of replay value
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Innovation is a civilization-building card game by the designer of Glory to Rome, Carl Chudyk. It contains 105 cards organized into 10 progressing ages, each representing a different idea, technology, or innovation throughout history. Every card has a unique ability, leading to interesting combos, interactions, and diversified play experiences across multiple games. It is built on simple base mechanics, with the complexity deriving from the wide variety of game text on the cards. It won the 2010 Golden Geek Award for Best Card Game, awarded by Board Game Geek.
Legal DisclaimerContains small pieces that may be a choking hazard. Not intended for use with small children.
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|Item Dimensions||0.75 x 4.12 x 5.62 in||4.4 x 7.1 x 1.5 in||3 x 12 x 15.5 in||1 x 5.5 x 4 in||3.75 x 5.25 x 0.75 in||5.51 x 1.96 x 5.51 in|
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Innovation is a game about technological advancement. There are ten stacks of cards representing ages of technological advancement starting at Pre-History (with innovations like the Wheel and Pottery) to the Information Age (with Stem Cells and the Internet). Each card provides a unique ability, called a Dogma action, which ties into the theme and the function of the technology surprisingly well.
The mechanics of the game are so strong that you could play the game completely ignoring the theme, but there is just something especially fun about using Domestication (an Age 1 card) to domesticate Electricity (Age 7) or to be a modern day Robin Hood and use Archery (again Age 1) to steal somebody's Computers (Age 9).
Easy to Learn, (Initially) Hard to Keep Track Of
Innovation, like other games by Carl Chudyk, has cards that serve many potential functions. Cards can be used as score or can be returned to do some Dogma action. They can also be played (Melded) to your board, so that you can use their unique ability. Each card is one of five colors (also marked with symbols, for the relatively colorblind), which loosely ties it into a technological theme (e.g. Red for military, Purple for civics) and determines where it is played on the board, effectively limiting you to one usable card of each type (a Yellow card must be melded on top of another Yellow card, if you have one on your board).
Each card's Dogma is tied to a particular symbol (Leaves, Castles, Lightbulbs, etc.) and also has three such symbols on it, which are thematically tied into the function of the technology (e.g. the Steam Engine card has two factories and a coin on it). More importantly, if you have more of a symbol than other players you can make demands of them and play Dogmas based on that symbol independently, but if they have more than you, they get to (or have to, in some cases!) do the Dogma as well.
Between score, age, unique Dogmas, and symbol dominance, there is a LOT to keep track of, not just on your board but also on your opponents'. This information overload can turn off new players (which is probably why some reviewers say they didn't make it through a game), but you will be handsomely rewarded if you get past this initial hurdle.
The mechanics of the game are actually very simple and the cards are well-designed to optimize clarity, so, after a couple rounds, it's easy to get a handle on the symbols needed to do what you want to do. This opens up interesting decisions about what cards to meld, based not just on what ability they provide, but also how they play into the constant jockeying for symbol dominance (or, sometimes, trying not to be dominant).
The primary way to win the game is to score points and use those points to get achievements (one is available for ages 1-9), but there are so many ways to reach this objective. Do you latch onto a particular card's score mechanism and ride it as long as you can, at the expense of technological advancement, or do you race for higher ages, symbol dominance and more powerful technologies? There are also special achievements and even win conditions unrelated to achievements that are tied to particular cards, so you could win without scoring at all!
With each card being unique, I have never played two games of Innovation that were very similar (and I have played the game A LOT). At times, it may seem like a particular card or strategy is OP, but eventually your opponent will almost certainly prove it has a weakness that can be exploited (sometimes not until a later playthrough).
The game is remarkably balanced despite having so much variability (the same is not true for its expansions) and even when you seem out of the race, there are strategies you can employ to sneak in a victory from behind. Even in games that I have lost badly (it happens sometimes), I've always felt like there is something I could do and that victory might be in my grasp.
This is the 3rd Asmadi Edition of the game, which has updated its art since the 2nd Edition, which I have spent most of my time playing. Having not spent much time with the 3rd Edition yet, my initial reaction is that some of the clarity of the cards has been lost in the pursuit of aesthetics. The 2nd edition cards were pretty spartan, but also very easy to read. Perhaps with more time with the 3rd edition, I will find the flourishes aren't distracting. The general layout of the cards are still very logical and consistent.
This game is also published by IELLO, but with a dramatically different aesthetic. To my understanding, IELLO favored theme/art over playability, lacking consistency in how information is presented on the cards. To me, that is an absolute deal-breaker.
It is worth noting that the upcoming expansions are being published by Asmadi (at least to begin with) and will be consistent with the 3rd edition card design, which is yet another argument for picking up this particular version of the game.
BUY THIS GAME! It is easily the best $20 I have ever spent on a game (it's currently even cheaper). Innovation is just plain fun!
Don't let the initially overwhelming amount of information turn you off. Play through a couple of rounds and you may find, as I have, that several years later, you're still drawing cards that nudge you to explore new strategies.
Innovation, by contrast, is one of the most well-balanced games I've ever played. It has just the right mixture of luck and strategy, so you feel like you have a shot at winning even against people who know what they're doing. Best of all, though, you can easily swing from last place to winning the game (at least among 2 players, which is usually what I've played). And it happens both ways, I've been shocked by the number of times I think I've clinched the win, and my opponent leverages a much lower-powered card to destroy me. I love love love that aspect of the game, it keeps you on your toes.
The game has excellent replay value (much higher than a game like Catan), the way they randomize the cards and the nature of the game makes it so each iteration feels completely different. I've seen cards be utterly useless in one game and win the game in others. It's fascinating to play, and always makes me curious to see what will happen next time.