Inner Compass Review

Inner Compass
Area Influence, Hand Management, Pattern Building
Alderac Entertainment Group
Asger Harding Granerud, Daniel Skjold Pedersen
Stephanie Gustafsson, Jeremy Nguyen
2-4

Inner Compass is undeniably abstract in its gameplay, but that doesn't stop it from being a fun solitaire-ish puzzle that manages to have a a unique theme pasted onto its straightforward mechanical core.

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.

Jess
Jess
And I’m pretty much the opposite – I love theme, and sometimes abstracts, particularly contentious ones, frequently aren’t my thing.

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.

Andrew
Andrew
Or the goal of the game is to place little squares in patterns that will result in the most points. Either way you want to look at it!

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.

Jess
Jess
Now, that can get surprisingly puzzly, since you’ll want specific colors of cards in order to imprint your memories, but sometimes it’s *so* tempting to go for a bonus even though it might not be immediately what you need.

Andrew
Andrew
On the other hand, sometimes the card you need isn’t available from the offer, and there’s nothing you can do about that besides just draw cards and hope to cycle it along. Of course, that might mean that another player will get the card you just uncovered, which can be a little maddening, but hey, that’s a life experience too, I guess.

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.

Andrew
Andrew
Though only to a certain extent – the rules aren’t *that* different from each other, so you might be looking to place adjacent to black squares in one game and on top of yellow squares in the next, but it’s not huge variety.
Jess
Jess
Yeah, but I have to say, there’s something about the puzzle of moving your piece around, collecting cards as efficiently as possible, and trying to hit a couple of different scoring opportunities that I really got into.

Andrew
Andrew
Oh, I absolutely agree! I liked Inner Compass a lot, precisely because it was a really smooth hand management puzzle. And while the scoring opportunities aren’t all that different from game to game, that sorta doesn’t matter – the pleasure is in the puzzle, and between the different scoring and the random layout of the board, games will never quite play out the same.

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.

Andrew
Andrew
So all in all, I really liked Inner Compass. It’s not a complicated game, but it’s easy to engage and the puzzle aspect of it is really fun. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, either, and I appreciate that.
Jess
Jess
I liked it too, which surprised me a little because of the whole ‘contentious abstract thing’. But Inner Compass isn’t really contentious – in fact, the players really can’t interact or block each other, and it feels almost more like an efficiency race than anything, so that you can make sure to get your pieces out when and where you want them before someone else ends the game.
Andrew
Andrew
Totally! And even though the theme is only lightly applied, I honestly appreciate it – the card artwork subtly reinforced what emotions those memories came from, and even the instructions had insightful little passages about finding one’s inner compass. Did it contribute to the game in any way? Not even a little! But I still appreciated it.

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!

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