One of the most innovative games I've played in a while is Innovation! (First, yes I love puns. Secondly, this is actually a true statement.)
Innovation is an abstract version of a civilization building game. Whereas you go through "ages", your powers get better but you never really feel like you're building an empire (and you don't really get troops to attack people with). But that's ok. What you actually do is this: each turn you get to perform two actions. These can be to draw a card, play ("meld") a card from your hand, "achieve" if you have enough score (gaining a certain number of achievements wins the game), or activate a card effect for one of the cards you have "melded" ("perform a dogma"). That sounds pretty straightforward and possibly even boring. Where things get interesting, however, are when you are performing a dogma. When activating a card's power, the power is related to a symbol - a castle, leaf, crown, clock, etc. If another player at the table has more of the corresponding symbol showing than you do, then they have to do the card action first. The game keeps going like this until one person has enough achievements to win (or the last draw pile is empty and someone has to draw from it; or one of the instant win conditions is met).
The first thing that I like about Innovation is how the dogmas work. Specifically, there are two different kinds of card powers - there are "demand" powers, and there are normal powers. Both of these are related to the number of resource icons each player is showing. If you perform a demand action, then all of the players with less resource icons than you of the given type are affected (generally negatively). If you perform a standard action, then everyone with as many of that resource icon as you get to perform the action first (this generally helps them, but it can sometimes allow you to perform the action more powerfully). This works really well. It encourages people to both have good cards in front of them, but also to make sure that they have large amounts of resources showing - specifically for whatever power their opponents are using.
|Skyscrapers - A very powerful card!|
Another thing to realize before deciding whether you would like Innovation is that the game plays out quite differently with different numbers of players. I have played it with 2, 3, and 4 players. With 2, obviously you have the most control over what happens in the game - you're going every other turn. However, you have the hardest time catching up if a player starts winning (I believe) because you have nobody to help you slow down the leader. On the other hand, a 4-player game is almost chaotic because so many things can happen between your turns that you almost feel like the game is out of control. Yet, with key strategic moves, you may be able to score a victory. There is a good chance that you will have a strong preference of what size of game you enjoy most when playing Innovation.
My main con for Innovation is that I felt like it deserved to have some better art and graphic design. This isn't something that I normally care much about, but I felt it warranted mention here. Whereas the graphic design that allows for the splaying is beautifully setup, much of the art feels like generic "Clip Art" that you would find anywhere on the Internet. Plus, whereas the player aids are helpful, it would be nice to also include what the end of game conditions are as well as how to gain the non-age specific achievements (these are some special achievements that you can get throughout the game for being the first player to match a certain condition - like having all of the cards on top of your piles be from age 8 or higher).
Overall, I give Innovation an 8.5/10. I really felt like this game brought some fresh new ideas and I really enjoyed them. However, the power swings in the game are a bit more extreme than I would like, which kept the overall game score down just a touch.
If Innovation sounds interesting, you might also enjoy Glory to Rome, Race for the Galaxy, and Sentinels of the Multiverse.
I would like to thank Asmadi Games for providing me with a review copy of Innovation via Game Salute.