First Impressions of Inventions: Evolution of Ideas – Chains, Chains, So Many Chains

Vital Lacerda, master of interweaving mechanisms, has given us a new game, hurray! Vital is one of only a handful designers for which I actively seek out to try as much of their oeuvre as possible: Ryan Laukat, Vladimir Suchy, Jeroen & Joris from Splotter, Vital Lacerda are all designers that constantly seem to challenge and re-invent themselves. Whatever the game might be about, there is always something interesting and new to discover.

Vital’s previous title Weather Machine had unfortunately left many cold, me included. It had multiple aspects that felt reminiscent of his other games, but both its theme as well as its core game loop didn’t grab me. It felt too procedural and with less interesting decisions to make. That the theme was more fantastical than earlier games didn’t help either. As a result, I was both excited and relieved when I saw the first images of Inventions: Evolution of Ideas. I looked at that beautiful board, heard its interesting premise, and backed it almost immediately.

Now, many months later, the game finally got fulfilled and I’ve been binging it ever since it arrived at my doorstep. Vital Lacerda’s games are by nature complex and take lots of plays to truly get a good grasp on them. But here is what I’ve found so far…


In Inventions (and no, I’m not going to use the full title all the time, sorry), players are doing nothing less grandiose than presenting ideas, inventing them, and spreading them in the world. Something like that inevitably takes a bit of setup. It’s not quick, but it’s not as painful as for example a Voidfall either, which we usually made sure to setup before the others would arrive. I haven’t tracked it precisely, but there is a good bit of sorting and removing tiles for lower player counts involved.

Let me talk you through the main components. Starting on the left of the large main board, there are two columns of milestones, large squares made out of the typical thick, pleasing cardboard Eagle Gryphon uses for its Vital Lacerda games. Unlike a civilization game where technologies usually build upon previous technologies, ideas in Inventions are enabled by milestones that automatically enter the game due to the course of multiple eras. At some point for example “Sailing” inevitable enters the game, access to which initially will be limited to just one player before becoming more and more common knowledge. Without access to a milestone, a related idea can be presented but it cannot be invented. As in real life, smart ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s the execution part that’s tricky. Milestones come in groups of three or four per era with the upcoming set being on display on a small side board.

Next to the milestones are the action selection spots for the 10 possible actions a player can choose by placing one of their three columns there. Quite handily, each action shows a sort of laundry list of icons walking players through the various specific steps of each action. We’ll talk about these later in detail, but in my head I group them into just 3-4 core actions with the rest being supporting actions that one tries to somehow combo onto the main action to not waste turns.

The largest part of the board is the world map, which is split into 7 regions, each with a holding space for the players’ citizens to represent influence in that region and an attached area off the map where an idea for that region can be developed. During setup, a fixed set of ideas is placed into random locations with each player claiming one by placing one or two of their citizens on the respective “specialist” spot to the left of the card. These show a bonus that is given for presenting an idea in that region, such as gaining additional citizens, straight VP, or even presenting a further idea. The game comes with 7 specialist tiles, so their position will vary but it’s always the exact same set of bonuses. In a similar fashion, there are smaller bonus action tiles called knowledge tiles that are randomly placed on the board above each of the regions on the map. These can be triggered when moving citizens on the map, more on that later. Above each one a small wooden sage token is placed which players can pick up during movement to convert into a new citizen.

Finally, in the top left corner of the board is the turn order track as well as the era track that governs the pacing of the game. A play of Inventions consists of just 13 turns, split into 5 eras (A-E) with a final 6th era (F) that is just for end game scoring. But don’t let that fool you. I’d recommend reserving 4-5h for your first play depending on how much time you had to work through the rules beforehand.

On the era track, a small figure called Chronos (a nice metal piece in the Kickstarter edition), unrelentingly moves forward as time progresses, triggering end of era phases in which certain parts of the player boards are reset, old ideas are deprecated, and new milestones enter player. Again, there is a helpful summary of all the steps that will happen right there underneath the era track.

There are a couple more things to the side off the mainboard that require setup: There is a stack of idea cards that needs to be sorted by era and which is placed on a small side board, as well as three trays of so called progress tiles, hex-shaped cardboard tokens. These come in sets of 7 different functionalities with 3 copies each, of which one copy might need to be removed depending on player count. Brown technology tokens allow comboing one action off another action and thus almost do two turns in one, but are one-time effects. Turquoise economy tokens offer powerful effects that can be triggered once per era, and white culture tokens provide permanent boost to the normal actions such as automatically doing two instead of one movement for each movement action that is used.

There’s a fourth type of progress token called Wealth which represent end game scoring opportunities (e.g. 1 point for each two citizens you own, 3 for each technology progress tile you have). These are placed in random locations next to the regional idea spaces on the main board and also require removing copies depending on player count.

Each player gets a personal player board which is used mainly to hold a couple of additional player tokens as well as serving as the area onto which players puzzle the progress tiles they collect during the course of the game. I’ll gloss over this for now, but it’s interesting to remark that the arrangement of bonuses in the progress area is actually slightly different for each player colour.

Citizens, ideas, eras, progress tiles. Specialist tiles, sages, milestones. Influence, economy tiles, knowledge tiles. There are lots of different elements at play here and in typical Lacerda fashion, a first teach/play will be rough and then things smooth out over the next 3-4 plays. There is actually a nice flow to the individual actions, it’s just a bit much to take in. My regular playgroup is used to heavy games, so it’s quite remarkable that multiple people independently expressed how lost they felt after the initial teach. I remember a similar feeling when first learning Kanban EV and having to watch a couple of playthroughs and how-to-play videos to make the dozens of individual parts come together and developing a cohesive mental image. It’s not that each thing on its own is difficult. You’re more grasping for what its purpose might be and try to remember all the details.

The game sets each player off with three private goal cards for additional scoring at the end which helps to give at least some orientation. They show regions to place influence or citizens in or combinations of ideas to collect. But overall setup can be described as a bit involved and then leaving a feeling of “and what am I supposed to do now?”.

The Turn

As mentioned before, Inventions plays out over just thirteen turns split into multiple eras. So despite its civ-like look with its world map and idea cards that might on first glance be mistaken for technologies, this is an efficiency race more akin to a Grand Austria Hotel than an Advanced Civilization or Civilization: A New Dawn.

On a player’s turn, the player basically does three things: check how many chain tokens they have available that round (typically 1 or 2, based on their position on the influence track situated to the left of the world map), perform their single action for that round by placing a pillar, and then optionally place progress tiles they have collected into their player board. Let’s dive right into the action mechanism as the other parts will then become more clear later on.

Each player has three “workers” in the form of pillars, a larger “epoch” pillar and two smaller “season” pillars. If the Chronos figure on the era track stands on a gear symbol, the player takes one of their smaller pillars and places it on an accessible action spot. Any row the player already has a pillar in cannot be used again for that era and placing a pillar to where someone else already has placed one might give that player additional influence, depending on player count and type of pillar. So over the course of each era, options naturally narrow down. While the two smaller pillars are returned to the player during change of eras, the larger epoch pillar stays on the board and is moved to another location whenever Chronos stands on a spot with a pillar symbol. This further limits players in what they can do, but luckily there are lots of options to work around this limitation.

At the heart of Inventions is its chaining mechanism. Out of the ten possible actions, three – present, invent, share – do not allow any chaining at all (with a small asterisks here, more on that later) and thus end your turn. The other 7 actions can lead into subsequent actions, thus extending your turn. Again, the handy summaries next to each action make it easy to see what’s what. There are four actions that have a red chain symbol next to their last step and a symbol indicating what effect can be chained to that action.

For example, when moving a citizen to a region that contains a sage, a chain token can be spent to perform the action printed on the cardboard tile in that region. When recalling citizens from the map, a player can trigger an action printed on an invention they own, and so on. The nice part here is that these trigger full regular actions, so a move action can lead to a recall action can lead to an invent action if the player has the sufficient number of chain tokens available. The key lies in previously having set up things to be able to kick off the right subsequent actions. E.g. what you can chain to with the recall action is limited to the invention you previously claimed and what you can set off with the move action depends on what bonus tokens you can reach on the map with your citizens. Lots of small choices here and that will multiple turns later make the difference between an epic turn and a rather short one.

Keeping track of all the combinations of things one could chain together can quickly become overwhelming, or rather it’s tricky to keep track of everything. One might start moving and then forget what the end goal of their turn was or three level deep realise they miscounted how many chain tokens they’d need. The number of choices gets even broader because three of the ten actions do not even require a chain token to trigger another action: the Heureka action advances a player’s marker on the era track, gives them access to a new milestone, and provide them with a bonus that in many cases is a new action. The other two options for sending diplomats to and retrieving them from milestones also trigger actions printed on the milestone tiles themselves. So a full turn might be that you start off with moving a citizen on the map and end by inventing a card, but in the middle having advanced yourself to a new era, presented new ideas, retrieved a diplomat, and done 2-3 other things. The amount of comboing that one can do in Invention is truly mind boggling. It gets even worse by additional having the option to use the brown progress tiles as a one time effect to chain an otherwise unrelated action to another action (e.g. move to invent).

It’s nearly impossible to accurately describe all the actions and implications here. So let me instead give you a high level overview of the main elements of the game and you’ll just assume everything is somehow interconnected with everything else, because it usually is.

The Life of an Idea

Ideas start out as cards one gets from the common deck of ideas, with every player always having a hand of two of them. They are split into three categories matching the three types of progress tiles (technology, culture, economy). If a player presents an idea, they choose a region that doesn’t currently have an idea, place the card in the respective slot and places citizens from their board on to the bonus tile to the left of it, gaining the shown bonus. If the idea ever makes it out to the world, that player will gain victory points for it.

Either the same or another player can invent the idea by placing a citizen of the idea’s color next to the top right of the card. They however need access to the milestone listed on the card, e.g. “Fermentation” requires access to “Control of Fire”. As time progresses and milestones become common knowledge, this restriction often has no effect on the players or just is a temporary restriction that allows a single player to present the idea and have a good chance to invent it themselves. If the idea ever makes it out to the world, the inventor can claim the idea card itself which has three main effects: placing progress tiles of that category gets cheaper, they have one more option to combo when recalling citizens, and having inventions of certain eras is one of the three private end game goals. Overall though, most new players seem to intuitively overvalue claiming invention cards a bit because they think off them as “technologies” from other games that allow them to build bigger and bigger things. Their effect in Inventions actuality is more subtle, but still an important one.

Sharing an idea with the world moves citizens from next to an idea card onto the respective region in the world, increasing their influence in that region. The presenter of the idea gets VP, the inventor the card, but the person that shared it can claim one of the wealth tokens (=hex tiles that provide end game scoring) next to it. This produces a slight dilemma: one wants to share ideas one ideally has presented oneself to get the VP but also do it in regions where the personal goal card says one should spread influence and also one gets the right type of wealth tile that matches one’s overall strategy. It’s multiple things coming together and not achieving all three isn’t a disaster, it’s just inefficient, and that might bite you in the end.

There is an optional step of innovating (I usually think of it as “improving”) the idea. This is not needed to be able to share the idea, but whoever innovates can a) combo off the respective chain action printed on the card, b) immediately gets an additional citizen, and c) gets yet another citizen when the idea is shared with the world. So innovating is a great way to get more citizen and influence on the map.

Influence in the World

Having lots of citizens in the regions of the world enables a player to do two things: for one, they can use the move action and thus trigger actions on bonus tiles spread in the world, which is a nice, indirect way to do things because it also provides the player with a turquoise economy progress tile in the process. It’s also an “easy out” if the placement of one’s pillars doesn’t allow one to do a certain action. I came to think of movement as an attractive workaround with bonuses, so an easy choice to chain onto whatever I originally wanted to do.

The other reason why one wants citizens on the board is to take the “gain influence” action for which one needs plurality (=have more citizens than each individual other player). Doing this action allows a player to place one of their speech bubble tokens on to the board, gaining them some direct VP, plus steps on the influence track (which provides them with more chain tokens each round), plus returning citizens to their player board which one needs to present/invent/innovate as well as place progress tiles, plus it even allows chaining into another action. Gaining influence is a typical example of an action in Inventions: there is one primary thing why you will usually do it (=gain influence and thus more chain tokens), but there are multiple other aspects that might come in handy when timed correctly.

Gaining influence is one of the more tangible aspects of Inventions. During setup, one of the personal goal cards shows 4 regions the player is supposed to gain influence in and the more one makes to do so in, the more points are awarded. One gets citizens on the map by being part of the development of ideas and can turn those citizens into influence by choosing there respective “gain influence” action which requires plurality. If you don’t have it, move in citizens from other regions until you have it. It’s simple, familiar, easy to understand. However, influence on its own isn’t worth much and sometimes even has a misleading allure because it is such an obvious target. As with every other aspect of the game, it’s not about gaining influence and then you’ve won. It’s all about squeezing every little bit out of everything you do. Sometimes it makes sense to go for it, sometimes it’s way more lucrative to not waste time on it and double down on something else.

The Importance of Progress

The progress hex tiles and respective area on the player board add yet another dimension to the game. A rule of thumb is that with every turn, a player usually wants to utilise all their available chaining tokens and at least gain one progress tile. That’s no easy feat when 6 out of 10 actions actually don’t give a player access to a progress tile at all. Inventing gives a player a brown hex tile, but those cost both a chain token and influence to activate and are thus more relevant later in the game. The wealth tiles one gets as a result of sharing an idea only have an effect at the end of the game and are quite costly to play. The most lucrative during the early game are the turquoise economy tiles, but those one only gets when recalling citizens from the board, thus cutting one’s own influence short. The other prime target are the white culture tiles one gets for moving citizens, resulting at least in my group’s meta in people often trying to somehow chain a move to their normal action.

But gaining hex tiles is only part of the equation. When a player receives a progress tile, they place it in one of four slots at the bottom of their player board. At the end of their turn, they can decide if they want to place them on the board’s progress area. There are two reasons why one might not always want to do so: one, the less of the 4 slots are occupied, the more influence it costs to place progress tiles. The other reason is that placing a tile requires citizens, moving them from the top half of the player board towards the bottom and laying them flat. Only after an era ends do they become active again.

Placing a tile gets more and more expensive the more neighbours the tile has but less expensive the more idea cards of that type one owns (=has invented). E.g. placing a white culture tile such that it is adjacent to two other tiles cost three white citizens, reduced by the number of white invented idea cards one owns. Wealth tiles have a base cost of two citizens and are not discounted by invented idea cards, making them quite expensive to play when the board gets full. To make things worse, the location of tiles matters both for getting the bonuses they cover and because some of the wealth tiles reward large groups of the same type of progress tile (e.g. 3 VP for each turquoise tile in the largest connected group).

Overall, progress weirdly feels both disparate and tightly interwoven with the other elements of the game. It’s your own personal mini game that you need to make work, otherwise you’ll lose a lot of potential end game scoring points and not have the ongoing benefits from all those other progress tiles. The thing that glues everything together is that one needs citizens and/or idea cards of the right type to be able to pay the increasing costs to place additional tiles.

One aspect I want to highlight is the clever use of “aspiration” tiles. Whenever a player gains a progress tile, they don’t have to immediately pick which exact one they choose but instead mark which type of tile they get by placing one of the aspiration tiles into the holding slot with a specific side pointing upwards. Only after they are done with their turn do they then exchange it for the exact tile they want and then place progress tiles on their board. This keeps the flow of the turn up and leaves the decisions to a point where the next player can already start their turn.

A word of warning though: always go through the list of steps of each action. With all the chaining going on, players often are so excited and focused on all the actions they can pull off that they completely forget to take the respective progress tiles! It only becomes noticeable when multiple turns down the line they are wondering why they still haven’t managed to fill up their four holding slots for progress tiles.

Game End

I had to simplify and skip over a lot of aspects of Inventions, but that should give you a good general overview of what’s going on. Chronos unrelentingly moves forward, players do their turns, try to chain and combo as much as they can, and every couple of turns things are reset and new milestones come in. The game ends after Chronos moves into the 6th era, the end game scoring phase. Besides the points players have gained by presenting ideas that later actually have been invented and shared (and sometimes gaining VP as part of the move action, something I have skipped on for sake of brevity), players then score their wealth tiles, two of their three private objectives, and gain a few points based on where they are on the influence track.

Scores I’ve seen so far usually range in the 110-130 range, with anything above that being an exceptional well played game and below it during teaching games or when players aggressively blocked each other. Of that, players usually get 10-20 from their private objectives, if things go well around 40-50 from the wealth tiles on their progress board, and 5-10 from the influence track. So in-game VP from presenting ideas and VP for claiming influence are actually a substantial part of the overall scoring and should not be neglected in favour of inventing an idea and just gaining the card.

Solo & 2p Mode

When playing with two players, an automa (also called Chronos) is used that has a very basic mechanism: it walks along the world map and if it comes to a region without an idea, it will present one. If there is an idea, it will invent it. If it’s already invented, it will share it, unless it’s not involved in the idea so far in which case it will innovate it. It’s rather simple to operate and doesn’t detract much from what the human players are doing. However, to maximise efficiency, players need to keep an eye on where Chronos is and which region it will travel to next. That way one can for example gain points from presenting an idea without then bothering to invent it.

In solo mode, an additional automa called Hephaestus is added. Where Chronos choses its action based on the region it travels to, Hephaestus chooses its region based on the action decide by a small automa deck. Hephaestus also supports chaining actions, gives you influence if it places its pillar on spots you are in, and in general does a little bit more stuff than Chronos would do. In a fashion that reminded me a bit of the solo mode in Kanban EV, both automa gang up on the human player and combine the VP they gain due to their efforts.

I quite like the solo mode of Inventions. It’s a good, chunky efficiency puzzle to figure out, with one rather predictable component (=Chronos) and one less predictable one (=Hephaestus). So far, I’ve only beaten them once on normal difficult, which felt very satisfactory. There are a few small “dings” I would give the solo mode: one, I usually have to play it in two sittings, doing era 1-3 one evening and 4-6 the next. All the comboing and what ifs are quite taxing and I found it a more enjoyable experience if I didn’t force myself to complete it on one sitting. Two, the player colour you choose for yourself and Hephaestus matters as one of its actions goes counter-clockwise from its own spot in the milestones display.

The final thing I don’t quite like is how easy it is to forget something. I found myself doing one of Hephaestus actions, even chaining off it, and only later realising it wouldn’t have been able to do the original action because it respects the pillar placement rules. The more crucial one though is how easy it is to forget to give the automa progress tiles – which is relevant for their end game scoring. I wished there would have been some small icon on the automa cards themselves as a reminder to take the tile when doing certain actions. With the otherwise excellent iconographical work of Ian O’Toole, I’m a bit surprised that this wasn’t added.

Production, Upgrade Pack & Kickstarter Promo Cards

First of all, shout out to Ian O’Toole! I just love the color scheme on this one, starting from the cover, the board, the illustrations on the milestones, to the tone of beige of the insert. The production is the same high level of quality we come to expect from Eagle Gryphon Games by now. A couple of things in the rulebook could have been better, especially looking up details such as what the effects are of Chronos being ahead of you or how exactly certain wealth tiles score. And there are a few tweaks to the iconography such as the progress-tile reminder on the automa deck I would have liked to see, but overall I don’t have any serious complaint. Apparently the German edition of the rules has a lot of issues and so I’m happy I decided to go with the English edition.

As was the case with Kanban EV, Eagle Gryphon Games added things to the Kickstarter Edition that buyers of the retail edition can get with a separate Upgrade Pack. This include cosmetic upgrades such as the nice metal replacement for the Chronos figure, meeples for the automa Chronos / Hephaestus (which otherwise would be represented with non-player colour pillars), wooden speech bubbles that replace the cardboard influence token of the retail edition, and side boards for the milestones and idea market. For gameplay, the Upgrade Pack adds another type of private objectives, more knowledge tiles to give variety to the actions that can be trigger when moving on the world map, and public goals that get scored after each era. I haven’t tried the public goals yet, but the variety in knowledge tiles and the cosmetic upgrades I found worth getting this for. This is in contrast to Kanban EV where I rarely ever use the supercharge expansion that comes in the Upgrade Pack.

The KS promo cards are idea cards that replace (not add to!) existing idea cards. I haven’t even bothered checking them out yet because I find the idea cards in general so abstract that I don’t really care which specific names are in there.


Puuuh, what a game. There are so many intricacies and details I had to skip over to keep this somewhat readable, it would be hard to count them. I could also talk for a long while about all the implications of the various elements, but I reserve that discussion for when I hopefully manage to convince Vital to join me for Origin Stories one day. I’ve for long thought of Vital Lacerda as a master watchmaker that has a neck for putting different cogs and levers together in a way that it’s a marvel that his games work at all. As with modern watches, to enjoy games like Inventions, you need to be in the market for something that is beautiful and an example of craftsmanship at a highest level, not just something that tells the time. If you’re looking for a functional reduction in rules or a 60-90 minute experience, this is the wrong category of game. Similar to Splotter’s output, Vital’s big box games are expensive and not for everyone. One needs to invest time and multiple plays to go beyond the initial rules hurdles and disorientation of being faced with so many mechanisms that one doesn’t see a clear path to what one is supposed to do.

This is more true for Inventions than for any other Lacerda game I’ve played, for multiple reasons. For one, the theme/setting of Inventions is rather abstract and doesn’t draw players in as much as other titles. Being a fine wine maker in Vinhos, struggling as an art dealer in The Gallerist, developing & building cars in Kanban EV, rebuilding a disaster-struck city in Lisboa, even building a colony in On Mars, these were all themes that are evocative, relatable, and might cause players to pick up a book on the topic or watch a documentary. In Inventions, I couldn’t even name you one of the ideas I invented the last time I played. Despite the lovely illustrations, it’s all just restrictions, colours, and actions for me. The flavour text of the ideas is banned to the back of the rulebook and things like progress and influence are just cardboard bits and wooden tokens. I think a lot of players that backed Inventions might get turned off by the heavy rules load and having falsely hoped for some Civilization-like game from Vital Lacerda.

The other main difference for me is that Inventions doesn’t have the cohesion of Vital’s other titles, and I think that’s a result of the scope of the idea behind it: putting into form how ideas are shaped and spread both trough time and space is such a huge topic with so many potential elements that could be integrated that it’s difficult to both not overburden players nor oversimplify things. Take in contrast Kanban EV: by now, I’ve internalised the rules so much that it feels like skipping rope for me. Watch the timing here, be careful there, and I’m generally good. Without looking it up, I would guess on paper Kanban EV and Inventions have roughly the same amount of rules. But Kanban boils down to a simple question: in which department do you want to go next? Even after repeated plays, Inventions on the other hand is more a case of “let’s see if you can figure out what’s the most efficient thing to do in this situation”. A friend jokingly compared it to a four hour math test. Don’t get me wrong, we all had a great time. But we felt mentally exhausted, I hadn’t really payed that much attention to what the others were doing, and it wasn’t always clear afterwards at what point things started to go wrong.

Would you be surprised if I now tell you that Inventions: Evolution of Ideas is likely to become my second favourite Lacerda ever? I sure would be if I’d be reading the above! Yes, I had hoped the theme would come through more. Yes, I wish it were less convoluted both in setup as in mechanisms. Yes, I wish it would be quicker to play. Yes, I wish it would be less expensive. All of that is true. But as an abstract efficiency puzzle, it’s pretty damn good!

Inventions shines when you manage to do five things in one turn and afterwards the board state strangely is even better set up for your next turn than it was before. When you get into trouble because your own pillars are in the way but you got the right inventions and had moved that one citizen in the right region so you now can find a workaround and do things nobody else can. It’s a painful learning process to get there and even now, I still mess up some time and ruin a perfect turn because I spent one too much influence three turns ago. The effect of this becomes most noticeably when playing with new players. They do one thing, maybe chain one additional action on to it, where more experienced players seem to consistently do three times as much. There is definitely a learning curve to this game and I’m still at a point where I feel I now see the trees but not yet the forest. Case in point: during yesterday’s play, I almost maxed out my progress board with only two gaps remaining. I had chained and combo-ed like crazy but had lost track of my private objectives. In the meantime, a friend had been stronger when it came to presenting ideas, snatching up points during the game, and maximising his objectives. He won by 2 points despite rarely having used all his chain tokens and his progress board being half empty!

The solo mode of Inventions is also quite good, which is always a bonus for me. I kind of have a suspicious Inventions might become almost a solo-only game for me because one friend already waved the white flag and said it’s not his type of game. It’s too opaque and obtuse for his liking and I can totally understand that. And if I think about it, how many people do I know that would frequently play such a beast of a game with me? How many of those willing to spend 4 hours with a rules- and choice-heavy game wouldn’t rather prefer to play Hegemony, John Company, or some other game where they later on have a great story to tell?

Which brings me to my final point and the thing I’m still contemplating about: is Inventions “fun”? I’m not sure. It’s a great challenge, it can make your head hurt if you want to put all of you in it and squeeze out the absolute maximum. But do I have a good time? The fixed setup elements and missing emerging narrative make it feel like I’m playing the same type of puzzle over and over again, like solving Sudokus and optimising for speed to solve them. My point scores go up, but do I have new experiences, new clever tricks I learned? I seem to always go for the same progress tiles first, making me wonder how balanced they as well as the private objectives are. I also wonder how much player interaction there will really be in the long term. I sometimes block others from gaining influence in a region by putting citizens there, but I haven’t really noticed much contention regarding milestones or idea cards for example. The milestone limitation to invent ideas also much more rarely came into play than I had initially thought. Both things to explore in future plays.

Overall, I would sum Inventions: Evolutions of Ideas up as follows: don’t let looks deceive you. Yes, it’s Vital Lacerda and Ian O’Toole at it again, but Inventions is quite different to other titles by the same duo. It’s more abstract, it feels longer to play, it’s easier to miss things, there are more “what if I…?”, more small subtle effects that make a difference multiple turns down the line. It’s a different Lacerda experience, but a very attractive one if you’re in the market for a head-crushing, multi-hour, multi-dimensional optimisation puzzle with great looks and production. Especially if you’re also a solo gamer, I would say take a look at this one as it’s one of the best solo modes of Lacerda games I’ve played. If you’re however looking for something thematic and more – for a lack of a better word – comforting, I’d still recommend rather going with Kanban EV or Lisboa instead. Inventions: Evolutions of Ideas will fry your brain, and you gotta be in the mood for that.

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