Progress Contagion, No Wait, Pandemic Technology - Progress: Evolution of Technology Review

It’s strange but even though I’m not usually a fan of anything history related, I do have a soft spot for technologies. When was that invented, how did it revolutionise the industry or our way of living, etc. It’s actually why I grabbed a copy of Timeline so I could learn a bit more on the subject (and as a side note it’s a solid way to educate you).

It’s not just technologies in real life though, it’s anything involving “tech” in games as well. My favourite part of any civilization game is upgrading technologies whether it’s through the ages of history or in a futuristic 4X setting. It’s my favourite part of Sid Meier’s Civilization and Clash of Cultures and even though it’s a tacked on theme, it’s what drew me into Innovation.

It took me a while to consider about grabbing this game. I bypassed it when it got released around Essen 2014 and I hoped to find someone else who had it. Unfortunately that never happened and as such I finally grabbed a second hand copy at the UK Games Expo. Is this an innovative marvel or simply an outdated concept?





Designer: Agnieszka Kopera / Andrei Novac
Publisher: NSKN Games
# of Players: 1-5
Ages: 10+
Play Time: 90 Minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: 1184 / 6.84


Cosmetic Upgrades

Component wise, there’s not a ton here, but what there is generally pretty good. The player boards are sturdy, the tokens are large enough so that they’re easily distinguished and the artwork is fairly impressive on the technology cards. Have fun punching out the player boards though and have a bin nearby, you’re going to have a lot of tiny cardboard squares by the end of it, perfect I suppose if you’re into designing mosaic art.



In the Kickstarter version (and maybe the retail one I’m not sure) you also get tokens for victory points and a central board for the cards, but these are completely redundant  as you count up the points on your cards/boards at the end anyway and I’m pretty sure players can find a spot on the table to place a couple of decks with discard piles. Given that a page in the rulebook is dedicated to a recommended setup layout for each player, I think extended player boards would have been more useful. On the same note the rulebook is fairly well laid out and picking the rules up is straightforward although take note of the rule for the draw action being your last one in a turn. It’s mentioned once really briefly and then never mentioned again at any point when describing the turn sequence or on the reference cards.


So Thin You Can Almost See The Gears

Despite the artwork being very appealing, the theme is quickly dead on arrival. Granted, in the games defence it’s going to be incredibly difficult to do a thematic game based on technologies alone, but this is essentially pure mechanics at work. The designers even acknowledge in the rulebook that due to the widespread nature of how technologies came about, they aren’t always matched up perfectly to the ages that they appear in. Your attributes that you upgrade are nameless and the three different power tracks you can increase for victory points might as well be red, blue and yellow for all it matters.

Normally you spend knowledge points to discover new technologies, but you can also gain free ones if you happen to have the prerequisite to hand and this is about as thematic as the game gets as for the most part, these tend to make sense and at least follow a logical progression. There aren’t as many technologies as I would have liked though in each age as you basically end up with extra copies in games with more players. So you’ll quickly run through the deck in your first few games and wish there were more to hand. This might pave the way for future expansion, but I don’t think there’s enough longevity here to keep it going until then.


Sitting In An Exam Room With No-One Peeking At Your Work

People in the past have always ragged on games like 7 Wonders for being what they call “multiplayer solitaire” games where despite the fact you’re playing with other gamers, you’re essentially playing your own game and not caring. On a side note I disagree whole heartily that 7 Wonders is like that but I digress. Well you ain’t seen nothing yet, because this is multiplayer solitaire defined. Aside from the occasional point where a player will draw a card that you wanted, there is zero interaction between the players. What your neighbour is building has no direct impact on your game other than how far ahead he is on points. In fact the only minor hint of interaction present is in the mini expansion where players can contribute knowledge to a widely available card for bonuses and/or points. But again, it’s so minor you will barely notice it.

So what you have here is essentially a straight up mechanical Euro game of efficiency. No direct player interaction, just a race for victory points. It gives me the same vibe as Pandemic Contagion, a spin off from the popular co-op game Pandemic where you took control of the viruses and upgraded your attributes to boost card draw or infection rates. That game too was mostly multiplayer solitaire bar the concept of sharing cities with other viruses (and spoiler alert, I found it really boring). Progress is definitely more advanced overall, but considering both of these games came out in 2014, it’s disturbing how similar they are.

Feels Like Researching In Real Time

One of the biggest issues in the game is the time length for what it offers. With players taking several actions on their go and having to think about their plan as well as considering how each card they pick up affects said plan, this game drags on a lot. The suggested playing length is 90 minutes on BGG and it’s entirely possible for the game to take longer than that. But even 90 minutes is too long for a game like this. Pandemic Contagion is usually wrapped up in a shorter time, but even that game can drag on for ages and this kind of game I don’t think warrants a long playing length. Take Dominion for example, that’s an engine building game, but how quickly can you wrap up even a 4 player game of that in comparison to this?

Don’t even think of playing this with 4 or more players as you’re going to be stuck there till cardboard becomes obsolete and even a 3 player game can take a while with new players. Its sweet spot is therefore either 2 players or solo, not that there’s much difference between the two due to the lack of interaction. Oh and unless you really enjoy this game, you’re going to want to seal the Age IV deck expansion if you have it in a vault somewhere and never bring it as this only extends the game further without introducing anything new.

The solo mode can be wrapped up in fairly quick time if you know what you’re doing, but all it boils down to is the same game with a timer mechanic tweak thrown in. Try to score the most points and then try to beat your score. Solo modes in Euro games are usually a hit or miss affair as nothing much tends to change in how they operate. Add in the players and it doesn’t really feel any different, but it will overstay its welcome.



Verdict

Sadly this didn’t turn out to be the innovative new take on researching technologies that I hoped for. Rather than be a fun game, it’s more like a puzzle based on an efficiency engine with not that many ways to go about it. It quickly outstays its welcome especially in higher player counts and just doesn’t provide enough excitement to keep me interested due to the lack of player interaction to the point where I’m mentally bored.
It bears a lot of similarities to Pandemic Contagion, which I wasn’t a fan of either, in that it uses the same mechanics of tracking your skills and upgrading, however it is definitely more advanced by far. The rules themselves aren’t complicated, but I guarantee some analysis paralysis is going to hit when you start increasing the actions you can perform each turn in the later ages. 
This has quickly ended up on the trade pile and if it’s made me think of anything, it’s about my copy of Innovation sitting on the shelf that desperately needs to hit the table again. It has technologies also, but tonnes of tactical play and player interaction. Progress: Evolution of Technology is very visually appealing and if you like engine building games and don’t mind multiplayer solitaire, try it out as it will probably be right up your street, but it hasn’t gripped me personally. I guess I’m not going to like every game you put in front of me that has technologies in it.

You Will Like This Game If:

  • You enjoy games based on efficiency – it feels like an engine building puzzle.
  • You intend to only play this with minimal players or solo.
  • You enjoyed Pandemic Contagion as this is the older step-brother.

You Will Not Like This Game If:


  • You want player interaction for this is the poster child of multiplayer solitaire.
  • You wanted a thematic game on technologies – it’s very mechanical in nature.
  • You wanted a quick game as with 4 or more players this overstays its welcome.

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