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Subject: Caution: Not Glory to Rome. Not Fun (For Me) rss

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Alex G

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Note from the future

I'll let this review stand, since at the time I meant it, and felt these things. But a few years later I gave Innovation another try, and now it is one of my favorite 2p games, and I rate it a 10. My one piece of advice is to sit near your opponent, where you can see their cards well, until you know the cards really well. Unlike many games, you need to know exactly what everything your opponent has can do. I mean it. Great game, and I like it better than GtR now.

DISCLAIMER
I'm basing this off of only a fairly small number of plays (< 5), all 2p. Take this with a grain of salt, YMMV, it could grow on me(?), etc.
UNDISCLAIMER
But I definitely WANTED to like this game. I am a fan of Glory to Rome. I like quick card games. I like special powers, don't mind some complexity, etc. etc. I pre-ordered and awaited the arrival of this game with excitement. I liked it little enough to get rid of it not that long after. I felt no desire to give this more of a chance, and I am a softie for games getting a few breaks before they get tossed, especially if the game is from the designer of a game I really like.


That said, my opinion is:

Innovation is a sort of boring, irritating, and unenjoyable game. I am unsure how strategic/tactical the game can be vs. unpredictable due to swingy card powers and luck-of-the-draw. Maybe if you learn the cards well and think hard 2p can become a real battle of wits. I have no problem with that, and in fact the better player (not me) dominated the 2p games I played, fairly handily. That's not the problem.

What is? I'm not sure which one thing dominates, or what'd have to change to make me care about getting rid of this more, but some things come to mind:

Theme

Other than card titles, the civilization theme is not really there, except for one (fairly well done) bit: teching up to higher levels is a bit fun and feels like 'advancing'. But cards don't do anything that has some abstracted resemblance to their title, as far as I can see. Sure, foody cards have leaves and "ideas" stuff is lightbulbs and gets you better tech levels, but it's so abstract it makes Race for the Galaxy look like detailed operation of a galactic empire. So, no theme. Glory to Rome's cards all sort of fit the theme, sometimes comically (Vomitorium/Latrine anyone?) so.


Feel like you're rolling around here?


See? This is Glory to Rome

Stuff

There are lots fewer things to DO. You don't build up "cool buildings" you earned by paying for them. In Innovation, if you have a card in hand you can play it, and use its power immediately. If it's a "demand", you may not gain anything from it, but there it is. If it's not a demand, someone else may benefit too, but the power is around and ready. You do a bit of tedious icon-counting, and you're good to go. The lack of patrons means that, long term, you don't really develop a strategy per se, only tactics of your cards (which may be strong enough to run you to the end of the game, sure, but they're very ephemeral much of the time).

Design / Info Overload

An additional, "minor" (though perhaps this is the killer) problem is the graphic design -- yeah, it is BORING, and oozes anti-theme (looks like a software design powerpoint or something), but more importantly, you have cards with BIG icons but TINY text, and your opponent will have five and you'll have five, in a 2 player game. And knowing EXACTLY what those ten cards, often with two powers each (and the powers are complicated, a couple of lines of small font wording, with conditionals and relations between variables and such) do is KEY to playing well. I suppose once you've played a dozen times or more and know the early cards at least by heart, this becomes less problematic, but there's a real UI issue here. You can't easily keep track of all powers, you may fail to notice a lousy power you ignored for a while suddenly is going to be great due to a 1-icon shift in balance of power, or you, uh, may misread an opponent's card. This isn't the killer issue, but it's a problem. If you don't like the game that much to start with, the curve to learning what all cards do takes a while. This problem only gets worse in a 3p+ game.


Try reading them all, upside down, splayed, across the table

I Don't Know What It Is

But, really, the heart of the problem for me is a mysterious lack of personality and a rather dry, "count stuff, draw cards" feeling. Some people call this a very very very improved Fluxx. I think there's something there, though it's clearly a vastly better game in terms of depth/interest (there's a lot of thought possible and good play probably really helps you win), but it's not that much more fun. Why? I don't know. But be warned, just because you like Glory to Rome, you may not like this much.
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Dave Kudzma
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Quote:
But be warned, just because you like Glory to Rome, you may not like this much.


I totally agree with this statement.

I love this game but you certainly shouldn't go in with GtR in mind.

I would have to also state I abhor the comparisons to Fluxx. It's nothing like Fluxx.

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Alex G

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locusshifter wrote:
I would have to also state I abhor the comparisons to Fluxx. It's nothing like Fluxx.


Yeah, maybe true. There is one similarity: I don't like either very much. Ok, I loathe Fluxx and just dislike Innovation in a mild and sad way.
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I was definitely getting a "Fluxx sense" from what I'd read, it's helpful to hear you confirm that - I detest the randomness and swings of fortune in Fluxx, and I don't think anything even remotely similar will work well for me.
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Alex G

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The swings aren't Fluxx swings, but they are swings. I'm not sure my problem here is a lack of a game, like with Fluxx. Your choices at least matter. Well, 2p. There is card synergy that persists over a few turns. Most of the swings are from icon changes.

But, wait, why am I defending this game I just gave a negative review of? Sorry, just my feelings about Fluxx coming out.

But it's very easy to forget something, also, like that the super-power you just dropped makes (lousy card from Age 2 they have) suddenly very strong because you no longer have any of a rather useless icon.
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David Neumann
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alexd wrote:
...but more importantly, you have cards with BIG icons but TINY text, and your opponent will have five and you'll have five, in a 2 player game. And knowing EXACTLY what those ten cards, often with two powers each (and the powers are complicated, a couple of lines of small font wording, with conditionals and relations between variables and such) do is KEY to playing well.


I've only played a couple games (can't tell if I love it yet, but found those two games to be enjoyable), but I didn't worry at all about reading the opponent's dogma effects. I just looked to see what icons those dogma effects used (the little picture next to the text). I had no problem discerning which icons were there, and therefore I knew that no matter what his dogma was, what icons I needed to defend or share. I didn't see the small text being an issue.

Of course, this may be a problem if the other players had the cards memorized, but it wasn't a problem with a bunch of newbies.

Agreed, however, that it isn't GtR!
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Chris Cieslik
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You're free to like or dislike the game. Comparing it to Fluxx, however, is flat out ridiculous. The games are nothing alike, except that they both contain cards. I happen to like Fluxx. Fluxx, actually, was my gateway game into the world of Euros, because when I went to Origins for the first time(for a SW:CCG Open) I happened into the Looney Labs room and saw things like the Icehouse system. (I knew who they were because I had played Fluxx a few times.)

There is a density of information in Innovation that is difficult to overcome the first few times you play the game. Indeed, if you ignore all the information, the game will 'play itself' as random actions are taken. This is true, however, of any game. It is my experience that a more skilled + knowledgeable player will win games of Innovation a large percentage of the time. For example, at GenCon, I played eight games against players of varying skill. I won all eight. (It's only fair, I have played it a few times )

I do sympathize with the issue of the text size, but there is unfortunately only so much card space available. The icons need to be large to be seen from across the table, and I felt that the text was never going to be readable across the table without being read aloud by its owner. I did not want to move to a RFTG-style cryptic iconography, because the quantity of types of actions is so much greater.

I am sad that you didn't like the game, and do agree that liking GtR or Innovation does not necessarily imply liking the other. They are different beasts -- the common link is the sense of 'controlled chaos'. I hope you find more games you do enjoy, or if you have a chance to play Innovation again, it is a more fun experience for you.
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Alex G

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Neumannium wrote:
found those two games to be enjoyable), but I didn't worry at all about reading the opponent's dogma effects. I just looked to see what icons those dogma effects used (the little picture next to the text). I had no problem discerning which icons were there, and therefore I knew that no matter what his dogma was, what icons I needed to defend or share.


Hmm, but then deciding what icons are worth defending/sharing is hard. Let's say my opponent has 9 dogma effects, over 5 icons. Not unusual. Probably one or two I don't care about, one or two will kill me, and which are which is going to change rapidly with my hand size, icons, and score pile.
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Dave Eisen
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I like it more than you do, but the fact that it is impossible to read the text on all the cards for all players in a reasonable way, and even to see which icon each card's dogma sharing is controlled by is a real failure in graphic design. Without knowing this information the game feels awfully random and it just isn't easy to get the information.

Maybe this is just steep learning curve and eventually I will memorize all 105 cards. Maybe. But it feels to me more like a real problem which will limit me to 8-10 plays before getting fed up.
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Alex G

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Chris,

I hesitated to write the review, because I wish you guys (and Carl) lots of luck! But I think the game has properties that will result in some people who might think they are the audience not liking it, so someone should give voice to the "loyal opposition."

I understand the issue on card text, and think this is a "I'm not sure how to do it" issue, unlike, say, Defenders of the Realm, which I like but think the graphic design was simply POORLY DONE.

I agree it's not much like Fluxx. In part due to an actual interesting structured set of endgame conditions you can play towards. Achievements are forever. There's some tiny resemblance, though, that some people do observe.
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Alex G

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dkeisen wrote:
I like it more than you do, but the fact that it is impossible to read the text on all the cards for all players in a reasonable way, and even to see which icon each card's dogma sharing is controlled by is a real failure in graphic design. Without knowing this information the game feels awfully random and it just isn't easy to get the information.

Maybe this is just steep learning curve and eventually I will memorize all 105 cards. Maybe. But it feels to me more like a real problem which will limit me to 8-10 plays before getting fed up.


I had this issue with Le Havre, too, some, though there it's more cards but with slightly (iirc) larger text. Of course, that game has as a result failed and sunk into oblivion, shunned by all.

Actually, I think Innovation may be the fast, non-economic, non-resource, no worker-placement card game equivalent of Le Havre, except it is best 2p.
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David Neumann
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alexd wrote:

Hmm, but then deciding what icons are worth defending/sharing is hard. Let's say my opponent has 9 dogma effects, over 5 icons. Not unusual. Probably one or two I don't care about, one or two will kill me, and which are which is going to change rapidly with my hand size, icons, and score pile.


I usually open my mouth and ask him what that dogma does.

I'm not saying you're wrong but, for me, it didn't ruin the game in any way.

Definitely not any worse than trying to read special powers (not shown by an icon) on cards in Race for the Galaxy. In that game, if I don't know what a card does that was played, I'll usually ask as well.
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Dave Kudzma
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indigopotter wrote:
I detest the randomness and swings of fortune in Fluxx, and I don't think anything even remotely similar will work well for me.


I think the key is that experienced players perform better in Innovation.

While there is some randomness knowledge of the cards from experience breeds more success.

There are real decisions to make throughout the game once you're familiar enough with the cards that reduces the chaos; much like Race for the Galaxy in that respect IMHO.
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Chris Cieslik
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alexd wrote:
Chris,

I hesitated to write the review, because I wish you guys (and Carl) lots of luck! But I think the game has properties that will result in some people who might think they are the audience not liking it, so someone should give voice to the "loyal opposition."

I understand the issue on card text, and think this is a "I'm not sure how to do it" issue, unlike, say, Defenders of the Realm, which I like but think the graphic design was simply POORLY DONE.

I agree it's not much like Fluxx. In part due to an actual interesting structured set of endgame conditions you can play towards. Achievements are forever. There's some tiny resemblance, though, that some people do observe.


Certainly no hard feelings -- not everyone will like every game! As long as reviews and ratings are presented honestly (as opposed to say, rating a game a 1 because its designer is a vegetarian and you own a cattle ranch, or rating a game based on a beta version), I have no problem at all.

Graphical design is always an issue that varies with personal taste. My goal was maximum functionality, along with a clean design. I think the cards are pretty to look at, and if I'd had a huge budget for art it's possible we would've done more with the backgrounds of individual cards to heighten the link to the innovation they represent. Maybe once I win the lottery
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locusshifter wrote:
I would have to also state I abhor the comparisons to Fluxx. It's nothing like Fluxx.

To the extent that it is like Fluxx, it is too much like Fluxx, but it just a little like Fluxx.
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angelkurisu wrote:
You're free to like or dislike the game. Comparing it to Fluxx, however, is flat out ridiculous. The games are nothing alike, except that they both contain cards.


Well said Chris. We both see eye to eye here.

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locusshifter wrote:
I would have to also state I abhor the comparisons to Fluxx. It's nothing like Fluxx.


I don't like the comparisons to Fluxx either, but I have to admit that that is how the 4 player games feel.

It is also not the first time I've heard the comparison, so to some folks where Fluxx represents 'randomness in card games', this game is just Fluxx-Civ.

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Alex G

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If you guys want to quote me on "this is the Le Havre of card games" feel free. I mean it in a sort of bad way, but (a) it reminds me of Le Havre more than Fluxx, by far and (b) it is probably a very solid endorsement in the eyes of many, many people.
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Alex G

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The Fluxx thing's a red herring for me. I'm not sure how random 2p this game even is. Once you know cards, I'm pretty sure clever long-term and short-term play is very possible.
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alexd wrote:
If you guys want to quote me on "this is the Le Havre of card games" feel free. I mean it in a sort of bad way, but (a) it reminds me of Le Havre more than Fluxx, by far and (b) it is probably a very solid endorsement in the eyes of many, many people.


I don't much care for Le Havre, either.
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I totally disagree that the game is dry, and think the comparisons to Fluxx are not accurate, but I do appreciate how well you presented your views in that you gave reasons for why you disliked the game. I don't have to agree with you to understand your point of view!

The card text can be VERY daunting until you become more familiar with the cards. You have a very good point there. Once you get more familiar with them, however, the game begins to sing and speed up amazingly. The real joy here is the card combos and the ebb and flow. I like it because it usually means that you are never totally out of a game. Someone may sprint out to an early lead, but early card effects fade as time passes, and the castles of age I and II that were so devastating slowly give way and become impotent to later more advanced technologies. The key to playing this game, in many cases, is digging for cards that will correct an icon imbalance to "stop the bleeding", and then using that huge hand of cards you got from digging to make your own engine that will devastate everyone else. Being locked into one idea of how you want things to progress will make you lose. This game is all about read, react, adjust, attack and maintaining your icon advantage as long as you can until someone overtakes you for a time. More plays may have helped you see some things, but then again, why play something you don't like? Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
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The better you know the cards, the less dry the game becomes. But it's no great looker. If there was a different way to present the information on the cards, I can't think what it was, either.

4-player games in particular can have some wild swings. Though they don't feel as arbitrary as those in Fluxx, and I'm sure that the "surprise wins" in ages 9 and 10 will become more predictable as we learn the cards.

The other issue with a 4-player game is that I feel I can only really start planning my turn when the player to the right of me is taking his go; any earlier and things will probably be completely different by the time I am due to take my turn. It makes the 4-player game somewhat long IMO.

Playing this game just a few times before consigning it to the back of the shelf is time wasted; much like Race for the Galaxy, either put the effort in to playing it half a dozen times and hope something clicks, or don't even start.The first few games are both underwhelming and pretty chaotic. I've found that as my experience with the game progresses, I'm getting better at spotting useful combinations and I'm having more fun with it, but it's still some way short of hitting the sweet spot.
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alexd wrote:
Actually, I think Innovation may be the fast, non-economic, non-resource, no worker-placement card game equivalent of Le Havre, except it is best 2p.

I like Le Havre quite a bit, but I'm not sure how this description makes Innovation anything like Le Havre!
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Alex G

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I think we were seeing combinations, and playing moderately well for lacking deep card knowledge. I didn't find "the play has no thought or depth" to be the problem.

Look, this game isn't THAT much harder to start playing well than, say, Glory to Rome or Race for the Galaxy. It just isn't, I'm pretty sure. I liked those pretty dang quickly (ok, I finally burnt out on Race, but that's another story).
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Alex G

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I did not find it overly chaotic. That was not the dang problem! That is the problem some people have (I suspect they were playing with >2 p), but it isn't what I disliked. I just didn't enjoy the strategy/tactics there were, though they were there. The outcomes were related to play, with "long shot comebacks" only done by heavy investment, etc.
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