Review: Innovation

I promised a review of Innovation, and here it is. And only a week or so after I promised it! Woohoo!

Innovation is, essentially, the entire Civilization computer game, distilled down to the tech tree (the best part of Civilization IMO) and a large deck of cards.

If that description doesn't make you drool… well you're a very different person from me and mine. That's okay, though.

The game, developed by Carl Chudyk and published by Asmadi Games, is designed for 2-4 players in which you develop a civilization via technology from the stone age to the modern era. For ages twelve and up, it is a complicated, chaotic game that takes a certain amount of playing before it clicks in your mind. But once it clicks, it is insanely addicting.

Every turn you have two actions to spend on one of four possible things to do. You may draw a card, you may play a card onto your board, you may execute the effects of a technology (called in the game dogma), or you may achieve. You may do any action twice (including executing the same dogma twice) but you only have two actions.

The goal of the game is to achieve. Achievements are acquired when you meet their requirements (usually a certain amount of score) and have reached the appropriate level of technology on your board.

To obtain score (needed for most achievements), you execute the dogma of the different technologies in play on your board, or participate in the dogma of another player when you are more advanced than he is. Not all cards allow you to score. Sometimes even when you are eligible to score, you still cannot score because you lack cards to score. Cards may be removed from your board or your hand to your score, and vice versa, depending on the dogma effect.

There are five different technology families, differentiated by color, and you may only have one of each in play at a time. But each technology card also contains a variety of symbols around the edges, and your technology stacks may be splayed out in various directions to display the symbols from previous technologies.

When someone else executes a dogma effect, there is a symbol associated with that dogma, and the quantity of this symbol on your board determines whether you participate in the technology's effect (or, in the case of an attack, are immune or susceptible to it).

If all of this sounds complicated, there is no way around it. It is complicated. And things change fast. It's almost impossible to plan your turn in advance, because so much can change during the other player's turns. Every action you take (except achieving) is really a gamble of varying degree.

There is a large component of luck in Innovation, as there is in all card games, but also room for strategy. A player familiar with the game has a distinct advantage over the novice, because knowing what dogma effects do and which technologies are compatible allows the experienced player to make better strategic gambles. But the high level of chaos means it's not a great game to play with those who suffer from analysis paralysis.

It is outstanding as a two player game. Himself and I played two rounds tonight after dinner and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It has the best replay value of any two person game I've ever played.

All things considered the game is very well balanced, an impressive feat for a complicated system. There is the possibility of a run away win in the very beginning… but this generally spurs the players on to a rematch, so this may be a feature, not a bug.

It's a fascinating game. If you like Civilization, or you like games with elements of both strategy and chaos, I highly recommend you give Innovation a try. But be prepared to buy it as soon as you're done. It's that addicting.

This review is entirely spontaneous, and based solely on the hours and hours I've spent playing the game. I received no compensation for this review. Those are Amazon Affiliate links though.


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