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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Innovation Goes to 11

by W. Eric Martin

On April 4, 2023, Chris Cieslik, owner and developer at Asmadi Games, ran a Twitch livestream (now on YouTube) to announce a new edition of Carl Chudyk‘s Innovation, and the biggest news from this announcement is that the base game — as well as all five expansions — will now contain an age 11.

Wait, five expansions? Yes, a new expansion called The Unseen will be released, along with new editions of Echoes of the Past, Figures in the Sand, Artifacts of History, and Cities of Destiny.

A new version of the base game will be published, along with Innovation Ultimate, which will contain everything in one go, with a BackerKit crowdfunding campaign scheduled for June 2023.

Screenshot from the livestream

If you are not familiar with Innovation, the short explanation is that it’s a civilization-building card game for 2-4 players in which everyone starts in prehistory (age 1) and advances through humanity’s timeline, building up an array of icons so that you can use your card powers, mooch the powers of others, and fend off attacks. Your goal is to claim achievements, which is mostly done by collecting points and advancing through the ages. Each of the 105 cards has a different power, with the effects getting drastically stronger as you move to later ages.

For a longer explanation that focuses on how the game feels when you play it, you can check out this post, which contains my initial review after eight games in 2010, followed by updates after 90 games played, then 168 games played.

With the introduction of age 11, many of the cards in the base game and the expansions have been updated, sometimes to weaken or strengthen a card that was a must have or an overlooked child, but also to drive gameplay into the later ages more frequently. Let’s look at the age 1 card Archery, for example:

Forgive the video screenshot, which has darkened part of the image

In all previous editions, Archery has only the topmost dogma power, and it tends to be fairly situational. The opponent might have as many castles as you, so you can’t demand from them, or they might not have higher age cards because they’re scoring them with Agriculture or otherwise getting them out of their hand.

Now Archery will let you remove a low-age achievement from play, giving you another way to catch up because you can kill the benefit that the opponent might claim by being ahead of you in their development — and if the 1 and 2 achievements have been junked, then players will likely move into higher ages since you need a top card on your board that’s at least as high as the achievement you want to claim.

Fermenting, on the other hand, has been weakened…or strengthened? Maybe both. Here’s the new version, which adds a second effect to what’s on the earlier versions of the card:

Sometimes Fermenting doesn’t do much more than draw you 1-2 cards per use, but every so often you can use it to draw 4-5 cards over and over again, then you can use that raw material for many purposes.

Now, if you don’t tuck a green card after using it, Fermenting goes away, possibly taking many other cards out of the game with it. You need to keep tucking green cards to cultivate that Fermenting — but maybe you don’t want to. Perhaps the opponent has moved up to age 3 or 4, and you’re still drawing cards from age 2. You can decline to tuck a green card, and now the age 2 cards will vanish, putting you on the verge of age 3.

Cards in age 11 will often feature a new, seventh icon, and some cards in ages 9 and 10, such as The Internet, have been altered to bring that icon into play earlier.

Asmadi had news of other games as well, but I’ll save that for a separate post. Innovation is my number #1 game of all time, and these changes are massive, so I wanted to highlight them and the new expansion, although Cieslik didn’t reveal much about The Unseen other than to say that it’s a “lower power shift” expansion that would be more welcoming for new players. (Often cards in the expansions are highly specialized, being useless in many situations but overpowered in others, thereby challenging you to get your civilization into those situations, which is not always easy. Artifacts of History contains an instant win condition on an age 2 card, for example, but making that happen requires a lot of luck or work.)

I’ve bought every previous edition of Innovation — sometimes multiple times! — and I’ll buy Innovation Ultimate as well. I have zero complaints about Chudyk and Cieslik changing anything because I still own all of those editions and can continue to play them…and maybe this new version will be even better. We’ll see! In any case, this game has given me so much joy over the past thirteen years that I’m happy to support their efforts to release more of what I love.

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