Life can be a confusing path filled with many different emotions. Inner Compass is a board game which is themed around dealing with these emotions. So, can you balance your emotions to find your Inner Compass?
The Game and Set Up
Inner Compass is a set collection game for two to four players. During the game, players are trying to imprint memories of various emotions. This is done by discarding sets of cards, to score points. Different emotions need a different number of cards to be discarded to imprint a memory. Players also score points on the Qualities board by clearing rows or columns of their board. These Qualities can equate to a lot of points at the end of the game.
First arrange the four sections of the life board into a two by two square. This will form the main board for the game. Each player takes a player board as well as the player piece, value tokens and player cubes in the same colour. The player board should be placed normal side up and a cube placed on each square of the board.
Place the Qualities board near to the main life board and the quality tiles and compass in their slots. Place the Situation track next to the game board. Put the six emotion tokens randomly onto the board, although the X token should not be in the top space.
Place the Enlightenment Point tokens near the board in reach of all the players. Shuffle the Emotion cards and place them in a pile. Then draw the top four cards and place one of the cards at each of the four main compass points.
Finally, a start player is chosen at random. That player receives one card, the next player receives two cards, and so on. In reverse turn order players then place their player pieces on the board. Pieces cannot start on the same space or in the same group of connected coloured tiles as another player.
How to Play
A player's turn consists of five actions, some of which are optional and some of which are not.
Firstly, the player may choose to move their piece onto any other space of the same colour in the same group as the space they are currently in. Next, the player must move their piece exactly one space in any of the four main compass directions. If they moved within their colour group with their first move, they must now move to a different colour. Players can move into the same space as another player piece but cannot move off the edge of the board.
Then the player may then either make one more move in any of the four compass directions, or they can take an emotion card. The player selects the face up card which matches the compass direction in which they have moved. If a player takes a card of the same colour as the space they move in to they get to take a bonus action. That player can then draw a face down emotion card from the deck.
The player can then imprint a memory, if they want to. To do this they discard card of the matching colour as the space they are on. To imprint a happy (yellow) memory players need to discard one card, to imprint a sad (blue) or fear (black) memory, they must discard two cards, to imprint a love (white) or anger (red) memory, they must discard three cards. If a player wants to imprint a memory in a space where other players have placed a cube, they must discard one extra card. The two types of emotion at the bottom of the situation track need one less card (to a minimum of one card) to be played.
Due South That's the Way I Heading
The player then takes a cube from their player board, of the same emotion type as the space they are on, and places it on the space their piece is occupying. They then gain enlightenment points equal to the number to the right of the corresponding emotion on the Situation track. The Emotion token which has been scored is then moved to the bottom of the Situation track. All other pieces are moved up accordingly. If the black X reaches the top, this is placed at the bottom of the Situation track and all other pieces are moved up.
When a player clears a row or column on their player board, they take one of their value tokens and place it next to a Quality tile on the Qualities board. If they are the first player to place their Value token next to that Quality tile they get three points. Players only score Qualities which have their Value token next to them at the end of the game.
At the end of their turn, a player can only have ten cards in their hand. If they have more than ten cards they must discard any excess cards. Or if a face up emotion card was taken this should be replaced by the top card of the draw pile. If the draw pile is empty, shuffle the discard pile to form a new draw pile. The next player can then take their turn.
Play continues in the way set out above until someone completes a third row or column on their board. That player receives the Inner Compass token. All other players then get to take one more turn. Players then add up their enlightenment points from the tokens accrued during the game and from the Quality tiles they have selected. The player with the most Enlightenment Points wins. If there is a tie the player with the most Emotion Cards left wins. If players are still tied, they share the victory.
East Bound and Down
The quality of the pieces in Inner Compass is high. The player pieces and cubes are chunky and well made; it feels like they will last for a long time. The memo and notelet pieces for the goals are cleverly done and fit well into the spaces on the scoring track. The enlightenment point tokens are sturdy and there are plenty of them.
The game is bright and colourful too. It pops on the table. The use of vivid colours for each emotion helps this. However, one of the emotions (love) is indicated by white cards, and so white squares on the board. One set of player pieces are white. When scanning the board at a glance it can be very difficult to pick up on these white pieces. Another colour could have been used to better effect. This is especially true as two other player colours are a pale yellow and pale mint which look great on the board.
I was initially attracted to Inner Compass due it’s theme, after all a board game about emotions is pretty unique. Unfortunately, I do not feel that the theme translated into the game. The different colours on the cards and board are supposed to represent different emotions. But when playing the game it felt as if i was discarding sets of the same colour card rather than feeling emotions. In the rule book there are mentions of the negative impact of bottling up too much emotion. Whilst this is very true in real life, again, this did not translate to the theme of the game. There was a hand limit of ten cards which allowed for ample building up of various emotion cards.
In addition, there are only three types of artwork for each emotion. It would have been better either to have one picture for each type of emotion, or different emotion pictures on each card. The three types of artwork on the cards do match those on the player boards. However, you don’t have to discard a certain type of artwork to play a cube from a particular space.
That is not to say I dislike the game. I enjoy an abstract game and this is what Inner Compass is at its heart. This is a game which is more about it's core mechanics with an interesting theme than the theme per se.
The system of taking the card of the compass direction you move makes for some interesting choices. Do you want the bonus of moving to a space, taking a card of a matching colour and being able to draw an extra card? Or do you want to go a different way where you may only draw one card but will then be able to imprint a memory?
Players have to decide how to clear their player board. There are only three tiles to a column so you can clear these quickly. If you only clear three columns you could miss out on point scoring opportunities from having placed fewer tiles. Players also need to choose when to imprint a memory. If you imprint the same type of memory as the previous player it will be worth less points. However, you may have to play fewer cards to imprint the memory.
There are interesting decisions when it comes to where you will place your value tokens. Players only have two Value tokens and a choice of five scoring opportunities. This means there can be some difficult decisions about where to place Value tokens.
If you are looking for an abstracted set collection game, with an interesting movement mechanic then you will enjoy Inner Compass.