Reviews

Playing Innovation online

 

In 2012 Allen, Han and I wrote a blog post together and listed our top ten games at the time. Only one game appeared on all three of our lists – Carl Chudyk’s Innovation. The pandemic situation in Malaysia is pretty horrible now. Lately the three of us have been playing more or less regularly on BoardGameArena.com. One of the games we played recently was Innovation
 
The one word that comes to mind when I try to describe Innovation is “crazy”. This is a game about human civilisation and human inventions. There are 105 cards in the game, and every single card has a different power. To win the game, you need to claim a certain number of achievement cards. One way to do this is to score points. The other way is to fulfil some very specific conditions with your nation. Cards in the game are divides into 10 eras. As your progress through the eras, their abilities become more and more powerful. Some of the Era 10 cards can outright win the game for you. 
 
None of us were newbies at Innovation, but we all struggled when we played online. It wasn’t because we were rusty. It was because online play was too quick. Most of the card abilities were executed by the computer automatically. Cards flew across the screen. We could not keep up. Our actions were presented conveniently as buttons or cards to click. We instinctively followed the visual cues to click, and didn’t spend enough time to study our cards or the game situation. We became overwhelmed. There can be such a thing as being so good that it ends up being bad. This was not the fault of the system. It was entirely our fault. In our second game, we deliberately slowed down to ponder our cards and our opponents’ cards. Only then we managed to catch our breath and think clearly. We shouldn’t have let convenience lead us into hurried and sloppy play. 
 
In the screenshot above, I had 6 cards in hand (green area), and it took time to study each card and consider its utility. 

 

 
At the top right, you can see the strengths of every player in the 6 areas. This is convenient. When playing the physical game, you often need to count the number of icons of every player, which can be tedious. There are 6 types of icons in the game. 
 
Actions available to you on your turn are highlighted in blue. If you want to use the power of a card  in your play area (i.e. its dogma), just click the card. If you want to play a card from your hand (i.e. green box), just click the card. Other actions like drawing a card or claiming an achievement card are shown on the white bar at the top whenever they are available. 
 
This screenshot above only shows my nation and my hand. To see the nations of other players I need to scroll down. At the bottom right there is a reference card. A zoomed-in view is available. To the left of the reference card you can see all the cards in your score pile. To the right you can see achievement cards you have claimed. 
 
 
You can enlarge any card to read the details like this Combustion card above. In this screenshot, the blue, green and yellow cards in my play area are already stacked (i.e. have more than one card played) and they are also splayed (i.e. spread out to reveal some of the icons of the cards beneath). You can view those non-top cards. Sometimes you need to, but not frequently. Yes, this game is quite daunting for new players because of so many cards to read. Stick with it. It’s a crazy fun game! 

 

 
BoardGameArena only has the basic game available and none of the expansions. I think Innovation is already a splendid game even without the expansions. The expansions are nice-to-have. 

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