So, I freely admit that I sometimes adore abstract games. Clever themes are awesome, but a good abstract can really make gameplay the star of the show, and I’m a sucker for that. On the other hand, when an abstract is both mechanically engaging and has a unique or interesting theme slapped onto it, well, that’s pretty much the best of both worlds for me.
Fortunately for us, Inner Compass met us in the middle rather beautifully, delivering an austerely attractive presentation built around the theme of the search to understand one’s own values through imprinted memories and experiences, all built on top of an engaging mechanical puzzle of a game.
Gameosity received a review copy of Inner Compass from Alderac Entertainment Group
In Inner Compass, players are looking to attain personal enlightenment by exploring their own life experiences, imprinting significant memories, and coming to understand their own values.
Regardless of how you’d like to engage Inner Compass’s rather unique theme, over the course of the game, you will be looking to move tiles from your player board to the main game board. In order to do so, you will need to spend cards of the color of the space you are looking to imprint, in a quantity based on the space’s color.
Gathering cards is one piece of the Inner Compass puzzle. On your turn, you must move your piece at (at least) one space orthagonally, and you will pick up one of the 4 cards on offer, corresponding to the direction you moved your piece. Should you pick up a card that matches the color of the space you’ve moved to, you will get a bonus off the top of the deck.
For placing a square, you will get some points (the value of each color will shift every time someone takes this action) and more importantly, when you manage to remove a complete row or column of squares from your player board, you will be able to place one of your scoring tokens on one of the value tiles.
These tiles determine how each player will score bonus points at the end of the game, and are drawn randomly at the beginning of each game. That lends some randomness that increases variability and replayablility.
But if you want more variety in strategy, we highly recommend playing with the advanced variant, found on the opposite side of the player board. This version of the game makes it so that each of the 3 rows of your player board let you take a special action when you remove a square from them – either letting you spend an off-color card, gaining bonus points, or actually moving previously-placed squares for more optimal scoring placement! This variant adds just a little more strategy as well as flexibility to your gameplay, and we definitely liked it more than the base game.
The third time a player manages to empty either a row or column from their player board, that will trigger the end of the game, at which point scores are totaled and a winner is declared! You’ll add up the points you earned from imprinting memories throughout the course of the game, along with whatever points you’ve gotten from end-game scoring.
Inner Compass did suffer from a couple of little nitpicks – sliding around the memory cost bits every time someone imprinted was a little bit of a chore and the gameplay was definitely a little ‘samey’ both from turn to turn and from game to game. But those aside, we really enjoyed ourselves with it, especially when using the ‘advanced’ variant, and recommend fans of abstracts definitely check it out!