Review: Inner Compass

In Inner Compass, you are searching for meaning in your everyday life. Make the right life choices, experience the full spectrum of emotions, create meaningful memories, and — ultimately — find your own inner compass. The most enlightened player wins!

The Good

Several Logistics Puzzles in One (+3)

First and foremost this game, while it sounds deep and meaningful, is actually a logistics puzzle combined with hand management. I don’t mind this aspect at all. The game rules restrict scoring from several aspects on the community board and from the personal board, ultimately determined by the hand you have but all simultaneously interconnected. The amount of weaving in these elements is interesting and engaging.

Player Count Matters (+2)

When imprinting on the main board, or spending memories to associate to a profound moment, this can be occupied by more than one player’s game piece but becomes slightly more difficult for subsequent players. For this reason, the gameplay felt so different between two players versus three or more players. It’s the phenomenon of area influence and area control games that requires those extra elements of luck to break the tug-of-war, race- or chess-like aspects that occur between two players. Some folks don’t like this variability but depending on the mood I’m in I appreciate this in this specific game.

Balanced Mechanics (+5)

I enjoy the balance between what card to take based on direction traveled versus what to imprint based on location landed. This to me is the only thematic segment of the game and the most unique mechanic. When you combine this with the timing on scoring plus variable game end, it’s a well-rounded and balanced experience. It’s also hard to set yourself up to continue momentum on scoring so there’s room to catch up if you’re behind.

Fluctuating Values in Scoring (+5)

The set collection aspect to the game that determines whether you can position yourself for end game scoring is tricky in a good way. Imprints can change in intrinsic value if others around you are also going for them. Think of it as rarity in your life experiences; when sharing stories or getting to know someone it’s often — but not always — telling of their character based on these unique experiences. The game rewards players in the same way for engaging with out-of-the-box elements.

The Bad

Downplays Feelings and Makes Assumptions (-6)

The only area of end game scoring I somewhat agree with are the Quality Tiles shaped like post-its. They bring detail to things like emotions that surround another type of emotion but it still doesn’t do justice of the range of feelings and often dialectical experience of others. The Memo Pads on the other hand are just nonsense. For example, why does the physical formation of my imprints of memories influence whether I’ve found equilibrium? The board itself is modular, and it’s saying that regardless of the types of emotions I imprint that I can find these qualities in my life. I disagree wholeheartedly! Another example: marriage is what you call imprinting on love? That’s not the case for everyone, and it excludes representation of those that choose not to marry but are capable of demonstrating love. Passion doesn’t equate to anger. Being sensitive doesn’t require that you are constantly sad. The qualities just either hit on Absolutely Not or Okay, I’ll Allow It. It’s awful to me.

The Ugly

Easily Re-themed (-1)

As you may have noticed from the prior section, this theme is a bit touchy for me. I do have daily struggles with mental health and emotional instability, so I’ve spent much of my adult life developing an understanding for feelings and their roles in decision making. So when you present a game that is through and through a logistics puzzle with hand management, you really didn’t need to get into the feels. If you want to teach folks about emotions, the range of them, what it means to hold onto them, try a different approach with fully incorporating and influencing the game mechanics. Don’t diminish their importance. Over time during my games we were just saying “I will move to red” or “I’ll spend three yellow”, and when that happens you know that something didn’t need a theme.

Requires More than One Play to Like (-2)

It took me three plays to really appreciate the possible stories but I wish it didn’t take that long to grow on you. I made a significant effort to try and look at the gameplay through the designers’ eyes, to try and put my stubbornness aside and really delve in. That did not happen for the first two plays, and I barely became comfortable on the third play. I’m still confused about my relationship to this game today.

Difficulty: 2/5 for Advanced
Satisfaction Grade: C (74.7%) for Good
Worth Your Money? No.

Available April 2020 in all stores that stock AEG games.