Review: Innovation – splay, score and dominate

Innovation - packaging

Inventions are the only things, that keep mankind going. If we did not have those rare thinkers, who are not satisfied with what they have and are constantly trying to improve something, we would be still hunting mammoths with spears instead of flying into space. And there is never enough games, that should remind us about that.The place where we are and who do we have to thank for it.

This group includes also a card game from the author , who became famous since publishing Glory for Rome. Innovation shares with this game a few principles, although we have not played it yet. Game was published in 2011 under the brand OriGames, but it is distributed throughout Europe by the French company . We have to thank them for this review copy. All illustrations, which can be found in the game, we created by , a .

We have already mentioned, that this is a card game. But its looks can be a little deceiving, when it comes to first impression. The game is hidden in a nice dark box with illustrations of many famous personalities. This box is not made of metal, but it catches up a lot of with its elegance and we are sure, that everybody will like it. It is not divided into two parts – base and lid – as usual. The box is a whole, and its upper side can be tilted. When in closed state, the lid is attached to the box edge with a magnet.

Innovation - game is ready

Inside awaits you 105 cards with innovations in five colors – purple, yellow, red, green and blue. The groups are divided by type of invention, so red is usually a war color. But the important thing is, that these cards are divided not only by color, but also according to their upper left corner also according to numbers from one to ten. The same number is printed in large on the back of a card and once more in the tiny font in corner of the card. You can tell by yourselves, that when its repeated three times, this should be the most important information on the card – the time, where it fits. The first time period, where will you start the game is First Ages. Each of the periods is called by some major event or their position in history.

On these improvement cards, you will also find several color icons in the bottom and also a long text describing this card specific abilities – its dogma.

In addition to these cards, you will find also five card domains, which can be obtained via fulfillment of certain specific conditions. The last part (except the instructions) is made of four game board of hard cardboard, which serves not only as an ordener, but also as a source of hints for players.

Innovation - game is ready

Fortunately, help is in most situations not needed. Innovation is essentially a very simple game. The only hitch is, when you should start learning its specific vocabulary, which are used in rules and in the game. Besides the aforementioned word dogma, you will find also dominance, influence, splay and score. For example, the last one will initially cause you wrinkles, because it is not mentioned in the text of the rules and you have to find its meaning in the lexicon of terms. Only to learn, that to score a card, you should inserted it under the board from the left side in a way, that only a corner with a number of era is peeking out. This number means a value of this card now in influence points.

But before we look on the detailed description of the game itself, we have to prepare it. You divide cards by the back number into ten stacks. You can for example spread them on the table as a circle. From each randomly mixed pile, you take one card and put it without looking into the center of the table. These cards will reward dominated in any era and you will not play with them. This way the variability of Innovation is sustained even for future games. You place also five special cards dominance near.

Each player takes a game board and also two random cards from the first deck. He places one of them (according to his choice) in his gaming zone – over the game board and puts the second one in hand. This is when the game is ready and innovators can begin to struggle with their inventions.

Innovation - game is ready

We have already mentioned a moment ago, that card game Innovation is actually very simple. Players are entrusted only with four options – draw a card, play it, activate one of the dogmas of cards in their zone, or to announce dominance of some era. And dominance is one of the ways to win. But away from the winning conditions, we must play first.

Drawing cards is simple. Just take card for deck according to your highest era number card played in your area. If the pile contains no card, then take a card from the next available era. Important rule, that is easy to miss, is that you cannot pick up cards from lower decks, if you already have a higher card in front of you. You can not go back in time!

Playing cards and activating their dogmas is the heart of the whole game. You play the cards on the table in colorful piles, so that only the last of them is visible from each color. This way previous inventions become obsolete, wheter you want them or not. But often you can still benefit from these cards below, as you will soon see.

Innovation - cards

You can of course also activate only those cards, on which their dogma is visible – the top card of each colored pile. Together, you can then have up to five dogmas, which can be activated and used in each round. But you need a certain number of icons for their usage. You must be in control of at least that many visible icons, as the dogma card shows to benefit from its capabilities.

In the game, however, there are two kinds of dogmas – those, from which will you benefit yourselves and those, through which can you harm others. In the case of the positive ones, using of their abilities relies only on you meeting the icon condition. But from these positive dogmas (cooperative, as they are called in the game) can benefit also other players, if they have at least that much icons of the same type as you got. Negative (supremacy) dogmas function in the contrary way – it affects all players, who meet their condition number of icons and you play them to do them harm.

But if you could only command icons on the five cards, that are visible in front of you, it would be not enough. There are total of six symbols found in game, and some cards do not even have three of them. Fortunately, the game uses splaying – means moving cards to one side in a way, that there can be seen more than one. You kind of explode them, so that one icons always sticks out for each card in a given direction. You can splay them to given side. All of these visible icons can be used to activate dogmas.

Innovation - game in progress

By dogma activation players head for dominance by scoring cards and getting points of influence for them. When someone manages to get influence five times more than the value of given era (for example twenty points for the fourth era), then he managed to dominate it and can take a card from the center to mark it. But domination is only one way to win.

The game ends, when one player gets the required number of dominate cards – you are sliding them under the right side of the player board. But there are also other ways to victory. If the game is exceptionally well balanced, a situation may occur, when a player needs to draw from the pile higher than ten. At this point the game immediately ends and the winner is the player with the highest points of influence. The last third option is a win thanks to the dogma effect of some cards and complying with its terms.

Innovation is a card game, that will surprise you. It uses great ideas and works together beautifully. You will learn and grasp these elegant and simple rules quickly. And that is important property in card games. Yet it remains a thoughtful and challenging game to play. Do not be fooled with its simple appearance.

Innovation - cards

In fact, you will need a lot of tactical skills. You can choose many ways to continue in each round and only some of them will guide you on the path to victory. Should you activate a dogma? Or do you prefer to draw antoher card first, so you have more icons to play with and stronger position agains your enemies?

It is essential not only to keep overview of your cards, but also inventions of your rivals. It may be deciding moment, when you gain something from their dogma or you use a supremacy effect and command them to do something unpleasant to their civilization. You should always have at least as many icons as they possess.

It is just these interactions, in which players strike attacks on one another, that are enjoyable core of the whole game. You can not simply just play on your turf, but you also have to watch others and think about how could you hurt them and what could they do to hurt you. Moreover, in a situation, where you think you have an easy path to victory guaranteed, there may come a surprise. The game has several ways for it to the end and before you manage to collect the last dominance, some of your opponents may sneak by with a dogma win.

Innovation - cards

One hundred cards is sufficient. You would always play a little differently. And the offer is also different thanks to cards set aside at the beginning. Yes, there can be times, when you can get the same card as your starting hand, but once you invent something else, you start to specialize your nation and you immediately depart from track of the previous game.

Innovation is a game, that really deserves its name. Besides the fact, that it really deals with innovation, it also contains several innovative ideas. Invention and the way of making the history a little bit in your own way is source of tension. Did you choose the right path? If you love civilization games and want to build them all the time, you can pull this up instead of Through the Ages (review), whenever there is little time. You like to lead civilizations, plan and harm others? Innovation is definitely for you. The rest of you should at least try to play it. Remember: Innovations are all around us.

DesignerCarl Chudyk
ArtistAlanna Cervenak, Carl Chudyk, Cara Judd, Robin Olausson, Anders Olausson, Christophe Swal, Cyril Van Der Haegen
PublisherAsmadi Games, Asterion Press, Grok Games, Hobby Japan, Hobby World, HomoLudicus, IELLO, Igrology, Lacerta, Ludofy Creative, One Moment Games, Schwerkraft-Verlag, Smart Ltd, פרש משחקים: Game Knight
Year Published
# of Players2 - 4
User Suggested # of Players Best with 4 players
Recommended with 2, 3 players
(500 voters)
Playing Time60
Mfg Suggested Ages12 and up
User Suggested Ages12 and up
(65 voters)
Language DependenceExtensive use of text - massive conversion needed to be playable
(86 voters)
CategoryCard Game, Civilization
MechanicAdvantage Token, Hand Management, Layering, Melding and Splaying, Take That, Tech Trees / Tech Tracks, Variable Phase Order
ExpansionInnovation: Artifacts of History, Innovation: Cities of Destiny, Innovation: Echoes of the Past, Innovation: Figures in the Sand
FamilyComponents: Multi-Use Cards, Digital Implementations: Board Game Arena, Digital Implementations: Yucata, Game: Innovation, Mechanism: Tableau Building
Primary NameInnovation
Alternate NamesInnowacje, Инновация, חידושים והמצאות, イノベーション, 创世发明, 曠世發明

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: Innovation – splay, score and dominate
Final word
Innovation is a card game, that will surprise you. And not only by its interesting gameplay, but moreover with ideas, which it contains. You will play cards and use their abilities - dogmas - in battle for dominance over different eras of human history. Their usage can be in both directions - to your benefit or to hurt your rivals. You can expect lots of conflicts and backstabbing in this game, because history was like that all the time. And maybe that is, why it is best in two players. When you enter Innovation world in more players, you can be easily reached by bad luck. So.. if you are looking for some nice civilization card game, then you have found it..
Reader Rating0 Votes
game will take you on a grand journey
simple card game
nice box
large variability
lots of conflicts
several paths to victory
original concepts
some terms are hidden inside rules (but they are there)
sometimes luck influences the outcome of game, mostly in more players
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