Tabletop Review – Innovation

My wife and I always love to try out new games.  Board games, card games, whatever.  Oftentimes, we’ll make our way to our FLGS (friendly local game shop) to try something new, since they have a good-sized library of games that we can pull out and play while you hang out there.

We recently stumbled across a very interesting card game, called Innovation.  It is designed for 2 to 4 players, ages 14 and up.  Games seemed to last about 30 minutes for just the two of us, and the box states it may last up to one hour for four players.  It doesn’t have a lot of pieces, and the rules are printed in a small booklet, but the game-play is very intriguing, not to mention unique.  We loved it so much that we immediately bought a copy from the store and took it home with us.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, too.

Here’s what you’ll find in the box:

Innovation 0 - Contents

You’ll find a rule booklet, obviously.  But there will also be a set of cards with numbers 1 through 10 on them.  These cards represent various Ages throughout history, as man discovered and learned various things, and advanced humanity from the very first ancestors to the present.  These Ages are named, as you’ll see on the cards.  In addition to the Ages, there is a separate set of 5 cards that represent special achievements, which I’ll cover in a little bit. Lastly, you’ll have player cheat sheets that double as your play area, and a pair of action cards that get passed to indicate when the player has finished their turn.

Innovation 1

Typical setup for Innovation. Ages around the outside, achievements in the center.

To set up the game, each of the sets of numbered cards are separated, shuffled, and placed in a circle around the center of the table.  Set the 5 special achievement cards to the side of the main area so that everyone can see them. Then, one card from each number is taken from the top of each deck and splayed, one on top of the other, in the center of the table in order from 1 to 10. The cards in the center of the ring represent various achievements that players can obtain throughout the game, in addition to the 5 cards mentioned earlier.  Each player is then dealt two cards from the first Age for their starting hand.  To decide who goes first, each player chooses a single card from the two they were dealt and places it face-down on the table.  Then all players flip over their cards, and the player with the card whose name’s first letter is closest to the beginning of the alphabet becomes the starting player.

Each player gets two actions on their turn, and play moves clockwise around the table.  The available actions are: draw, meld, achieve, or dogma.  A player may choose the same action more than once per turn.  So you could draw, meld, achieve, or perform dogma twice on your turn, if you so desire.

To win the game is simple (and yet not so simple…), be the first player to obtain six achievements.

Innovation 4 - Player Area

Colored card piles above, scored cards to the left of the cheat sheet, achievements to the right.

Let’s take a look at each player’s typical play area. You’ll utilize the cheat sheet to mark your area.  Tuck cards that have been scored under the left side of the cheat sheet, and splay them out so everyone can count the number of points you currently have.  When you score achievements, these cards are tucked under the right side of the cheat sheet, also splayed so that other players know how many achievements you currently have.  And, lastly, above your cheat sheet is where you’ll place each colored pile in front of you, separately.  These piles may become splayed to the left, to the right, or up throughout the game, as you can see above.

On to the actions. Remember, players can only take two actions on each turn, but may use the same action more than once.

Draw:  A player looks at the top cards in each pile in front of them, and the top card with the highest Age is the pile they may draw from.  If that pile is empty, the player draws from the next-highest pile available.  (Example:  If the highest top card in front of me is from the 4th Age, I can draw cards from the 4th Age pile.  If that pile is empty, I can draw from the 5th Age pile.  If that pile is also empty, continue up to the next-highest pile that is not empty and draw from there.)

Meld:  A player may place a card from their hand onto the top of the appropriately-colored pile in front of them.  There are five colors in the game.  If you do not currently have a pile of the color card you wish to meld, place it in front of you to start that card pile.

Achieve:  To achieve, a player must have two things: sufficient points (5x the Age number on the achievement) to obtain the achievement, and they must also have a top card of equal or higher value of the achievement they are shooting for.  (Example:  If I am attempting to gain the third achievement in the center of the table, that will be the 3rd Age achievement.  This means I’ll need a minimum of 15 points in my score pile, and I’ll need a top card from the 3rd Age or higher in one of my colored card piles in my play area in order to take the achievement action and place the 3rd Age achievement card in my play area.)  Achievements cannot be stolen during the game.

Dogma:  Here’s the most-interesting part of the game.  Each card has actions listed on it.  Once it has been played from your hand onto the top of one of your colored card piles, you can use one of your actions to perform what’s written on the top card in your player area that you choose.  You’ll perform all of these actions, in order.  Dogma actions may allow you to steal cards from other players colored piles or score pile, trade in cards for higher-Aged cards, score cards, splay colored card piles in left, right, or up, utilize the various symbols on your cards, or numerous other actions.  These cards are what really make the game unique and fun every time you play it.  Because of the nature of the game, you cannot be afraid to attack or steal cards from the other players to achieve victory.

Again, simply take two actions of your choosing (Draw, Meld, Achieve, or Dogma), and then it’s on to the next player’s turn.

And we can’t forget about the Special Achievements.  These are placed to the side of the table.

Innovation 3 - Achievements

The 5 special achievements can be earned at any point in the game, as soon as the player meets the criteria on one of the cards.  There’s no action required, you simply take it and add it to your achievement section of your player area.  These achievements are fairly difficult to obtain, and also easy to ignore over on the side of the table.  Don’t forget to keep these in mind as you play.

We’ve found no other game like Innovation.  It’s fun.  It’s unique.  And it’s not difficult to learn.  The game mechanics are very different from anything else we have played, and they change with every game due to the vast number of card combinations.  This game will certainly be in our game library for a long, long time.  Definitely two thumbs up!

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