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Subject: A New Review for a Fairly Old Game rss

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Ben Wickens
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I am slowly trying to review all the games that are in my top 100 or so games and focusing more on games that do not get that many reviews.

Innovation has 50 odd reviews but none for a while so thought it was worth sharing my thoughts on the game.

There are lots of problems with Innovation:

-Its not pretty
- It takes up a lot of table space
- there is a lot of take that, luck and randomness in what is ultimately a very thinky game
- scales in ways that some wont like and there is a lot to keep track of at higher counts
- Although it is fairly simple rules wise there are a lot of terms to keep track of and there is a lot to keep track of generally with the game
- It is a little clunky and can sometimes, particularly with 2 sometimes feel like it stalls, has turns where not much happens and sometimes overstays its welcome.
- Takes a play or two for it to start making sense in terms of the rules, terms, flow and what you should be doing in the game
- Although there is theme it is pretty abstract
- Games like Glory to Rome and Mottainai capture a similar feel but in a way that feels more fun and more room for skillful play and maybe even some strategy

Still though Innovation is for me a great game.

Firstly there although the splaying mechanic and the majorities for the symbol powers mechanics used in the game take a bit of fiddle to keep track of they do create choices that do not exist in many games. Although many games have come since there is enough to set this apart from the crowds that have come after.

Secondly Innovation is a game with 110 unique cards all with wildly different powers. There is lots to discover as well in terms of situations and ways you can achieve a lot with an individual card power. Some are straight forward, others can take a while to work out when and how to use. The two actions a turn really give you some potential to set up some great combinations without it ever feeling too chaotic or uncontrollable. Then if at any point 110 different card powers isnt enough you can add one of 4 expansions to the mix to add an extra 110 cards each to the mix.

Thirdly this is a game that rewards repeat play. In the first game there is a lot to take in with reading all the card text, the achievement (dominations) text and keeping on top of the rules. After a few games you kind of know what the text on the early cards is, you know roughly when and how the cards will be often used so it gets a lot easier and quicker to digest everything. However you will also see fresh ways that you can utilise the cards and how you can manage your choices.

Fourthly this is a game that rewards determination. You can often see yourself being behind with weaker cards and feel there is little you can do to catch up but with patience and determination there are lots of cards that give abilities that work better if you are behind, there are cards so situationally powerful that they can swing the game back in your favor, even if it might take a little longer to catch up on achievements etc.

Finally this is one of my favorites for online play - the computer doing the rules checking (what exactly does that power do), tracking scores in the different symbols, always opponents to play against ( both live and asynchronous now its on Board Game Arena) - it just works so well. It is a game that shines brightest with repeat plays and works brilliantly online.

With 2 I still like Mottainai much, much better and with 3 I would rather play Glory to Rome or Mottainai instead but I like the variation that Innovation provides and I like how despite many games coming after Innovation it is still able to feel unique and relatively unsurpassed at what it does.

I think this game will work for people who like the chaos of Flux type games but want something with interesting choices and strategy but not want to play something as strategic or complex as Mottainai or Glory to Rome. I have a friend who ticks those boxes and its one of our favorites to pull out.

It achieves much of what I like about say Dominion but does not need as much cards or set up time as Dominion and offers a bit more of a long term experience. That is not to say I prefer it to dominion but I do think it needs expansions much less than Dominion does and is much more portable.

All in all its a great game well worth considering picking up if you like the idea of a game with lots of non-obvious but never overwhelming choices, fun combinations and radically changing situations. It works great with 2 (particularly with Echoes expansion thrown in once people have played the base a few times) and it is a game I am always happy to get out and play. Without repeat plays it wont work for lots of people and even with repeat plays some will find it too long, fiddly or random for what it is but with the right regular people (or online) I think it is well worth thinking about.
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David Nichols
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Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful review. My wife and I have played Innovation over 100 times, and have found that it never plays the same way twice. We take it with us whenever we travel, as it takes up very little space in our suitcases (even though it does require a bit of table space).
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Ben Wickens
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I think Mottainai is even better as a travel game as it is less than half as many cards (you do not really need the play mats but if you take them they dont take up much space) and it takes up a lot less table space. Whilst I prefer the game play in Mottanai for some people that game wont work whether cause of the extra rules, concepts, choices, strategies or abbreviated playing time. Even more than Innovation it does take a few plays to see its charms.

Innovation though is a great game and I am very happy to play it almost any time, particularly with 2-3.

Whilst Dominion really needs expansion content to stay fresh for lots of plays Innovation manages to have a lot of life in it and even plays better the more you know the cards with repeat plays without needing expansions.

I still really enjoy echoes but really only if the people I am playing with have played the base game half a dozen times or so first. And even then I will be happy to just play the base game if they have a strong preference.
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Candace Mercer
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I agree with almost everything the OP said. I love this game but it does have a high learning curve for a game with 110 cards. Once you add the expansions it really does become a gamer's game, so much going on to track, a lot of it not intuitive. It is a bit hard to teach - which, given how simple the basic actions are, it counterintuitive. I guess it is the terminology, which is not a novel assertion.

I love it because each game plays out so differently. Just BOOM it can flip. The balance is fine tuned in that regard. there are few games where you can clearly be so lagging and then with a couple turns, a couple key cards, be back on top or at least in the running. I can see how that annoys people who are in the lead, but again - balance - I am not sure I can name another game that balances so sharply on the edge of brokenness but in reality, anything but broken.

I have played 50-100 games - I didn't use to track my solo plays - and yes I do play it solo - ideally with three hands (see my micro badge - I am my own worst enemy) - and they games can end in so many different ways.

I think Carl Chudyk is vastly underrated as a designer. I love what they can do with so few resources. To me that belies an elegance not matched by a huge box of components.
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Francois-Xavier
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Nice review, I just got the game and am enjoying it a lot. Regarding the artwork, I think it's an issue with the normal edition, but the Iello edition is actually quite nicely illustrated.
The learning curve felt ok, but I have played Glory to Rome and Mottainai, so I am used to Carl's designs. On the other hand,I stil have a lot to learn as there are so many things to keep track off and so many wild combos to be experimented with. It's definitely a gamer's game.


 
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Mike Stevens
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I have only played Innovation once in person and that was a 3-player game back in 2014 with a couple of friends who owned the game. I did not do very well but enjoyed it. Last night I got on Board Game Arena for the first time in quite awhile and was looking for a quick game. I saw that Innovation was available and got into a 2-player game. Not sure how many games the other player had under his belt but I got some good cards out early and before I knew it, I had 6 achievements and had won the game pretty easily. During that game I had no idea that the number of Icons factored into if your opponent also got to take the Dogma effect if he had the same or more icons than you.

I enjoyed it so much that I played a second game against a different opponent and again had a runaway win where I must have draw the most powerful cards that appeared to almost make the game broken. This morning I got on Board Game Arena again and played another game of Innovation and this time the guy beat me 37-0 with 6 Achievements to my 0. Now granted he had played quite a few more games than me and he was very helpful in giving me tips but that was a game where it felt like no matter what I did, there was no way to beat him. I did find a card combo that allowed me to eventually pull all of his scoring cards out of his scoring pile taking him to zero but there was no way to get rid of his achievements. He just worked his scoring back up and he also had a card that removed all of my points as soon as I would get them.

I played again right after that against another guy who also had played about 10 games and won 5 of them. Once again, luck, card draw, lucky play, whatever it was, I beat this guy 38-0 with 6 achievements to his 0. During the game chat he even told me that he had just read 3 strategy guides prior to playing this morning and thought that he had a good strategy. So I have played 4 2-player games and they were all blowouts. Is this common in this game? Are certain card combos just broken and too powerful?

There is a lot I like about this game and I agree with most of what you said in your review but if the majority of games are going to be feast or famine then this game will quickly move to the bottom of the barrel for me.
 
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There are some very powerful combos in the game, and several cards can be highly swingy on their own, but I find the game has a kind of "brittle elastic band" pattern - if one player gets a bit of a lead, they'll be brought back into the fold soon enough (usually because their score + top card + icon engine loses one of its components), but in some cases the lead will get beyond a certain point, and then they break away and coast to the finish. The trick, then, is to catch them before they hit that break point, and there are a few ways to do it:

1. Beat them in icons on their powerful dogma. That way you get to share the non-demand or don't get hit with the demand.

2. Sometimes, you want to *not* share their dogma. Often it's just too tempting to turn down, but consider whether giving them a free draw is worth it.

3. Force them to share an undesirable dogma. Something that makes them draw and meld a 1, or scores a top card they need for their engine. Alchemy and Physics are good for destroying hands, with a little luck. And even something like Experimentation can mess up a player's plans if they're forced to meld over a linchpin card like Agriculture.
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