Trading securities, buying real estate and selling it at high prices, monitoring raw material prices: all of this sounds like a scene from the everyday tele-exchange. Not very inviting for the general public - and not entertaining anyway, right?
Two financial experts from Cottbus have come together to create a trading game from real economic cycles. Compass - The business game is the name of Jörg Kiefer and Michael Linke's idea and it is primarily intended to help laypeople to understand the business world a little better. How good the board game is and whether the educational game actually provides entertainment can be found in the following review of Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel.

Real estate, raw materials, stocks, entertainment?

Kompass is a business game by online marketing specialist Jörg Kiefer and insurance agent Michael Linke. Both are seasoned experts in their fields, but inexperienced as game authors. With Kompass, the two Cottbussers are now bringing a board game onto the market, the subject of which sounds like heavy fare: Kompass - The Economy Game. Conceptually, the title seems to be somewhere between Monopoly and modern trading game - but apparently with a 90s touch.
The first impression after opening the packaging is surprising: Compass - The economy game is similar to the classic board game Monopoly. Intentional or pure coincidence?

In any case, the board game is a real surprise package at first, because information about the game content is completely missing on the packaging. This happens with other titles as well, but it's uncommon these days. After all, buyers want to know in advance what they are getting for their money - or, in financial terms, investment.
Because it is obvious what is in a game box, lists of materials in reviews are also rather uncommon.
In case of Compass - the business game However, we cannot avoid listing the contents:

  • Game board
  • Compass needle
  • 4 pencils
  • Game Block "Depot"
  • 18 destination cards
  • 60 market event cards
  • 1 character "the market"
  • 24 resource cards
  • 24 security cards
  • 24 real estate cards
  • A set of banknotes in 8 denominations

This material should then be used to playfully depict economic cycles as realistic as possible. Compass - The business game is expressly described as an entertaining learning experience with which adult laypeople, but also schoolchildren, should approach basic economic topics.
Spreading out the square - and not completely neatly processed - game board has something of a déjà-vu. Shape, structure, concept: even casual gamers will somehow be familiar with this from a classic American board game. Using big titles doesn't have to be a flaw, however, what is ultimately important is a functioning game system.

In Compass – The Economic Game, the two authors rely on a manageable mechanism. Each player is randomly assigned a so-called target card, whose "mission" has to be fulfilled in the course of a game. This can be owning 10 condominiums, a fixed portfolio composition or a number of certain bonds. The idea of ​​variable game goals is basically good, but the goals are comparatively interchangeable. It makes little difference which goods are traded. This is less due to the choice of targets than to the uniform gameplay. The basic mechanics of Kompass - The Economics Game simply doesn't allow for more variety in its current form. The different destination cards provide variety, but you could build on that.
At regular intervals, namely depending on the number of steps the game character takes, the economic phases alternate, each setting the prices for the goods. Nice accessory: the terms are explained briefly and clearly on the enclosed explanatory sheet. The process is now simple: players buy and sell trade goods as cleverly as possible in order to achieve their set goal. Whoever does it first wins: it's easy.

Frequent gamers will not challenge the action. For casual gamers, the simple trading principle is definitely attractive. As is so often the case with more static concepts, the game idea wears out quickly. You could get Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel off the shelf as a quick title for in between, but the comparatively long game round duration hardly allows that. And so the title fights against its own mechanics through a combination of uniformity and patience. It should have been made leaner and faster.

Act until the financial advisor arrives

Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel is about tough business deals. So that there is no doubt as to the seriousness of the board game, the authors have printed a clearly visible warning on the packaging, which is intended to protect successful Kompass winners from rash real money investments in the real world:

“The game does not necessarily correspond to reality and can lead to ill-considered investments. "Kompass - The Economic Game" only teaches you the basics and properties of the individual economic phases. We strongly recommend the advice of an independent financial adviser before making any investment mistakes on your own.”

Imprint on the game packaging

You could almost take this print as a joke, but the rest of the board game is anything but comedic. In the end it is up to the players to evaluate the jokes from the financial world.

With Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel, the authors Michael Linke and Jörg Kiefer want to depict business cycles in a playful way and make them come alive. In principle, this works well, even if the basic economic actions are rather simple compared to reality: Buy goods, sell goods, buy new goods - to maximize profits, of course.
Significantly more complex business games are available. Kompass scratches the surface of what is actually happening in world markets. However, if you compare what is offered with what is communicated, it quickly becomes clear that Kompass – The Economic Game is essentially intended to appeal more to families. They want to “bring families and friends together around the table,” say the authors themselves about their work. This basically works well with the catchy rules, but the board game is not (or at least hardly) aimed at children.

Review of the board game Kompass, the economy game
A trip into the past: The packaging design looks rather old-fashioned, but the basic idea is impressive. Compass is a solid board game with factors that need improvement.

The theme of the game is rather conservative, but that is probably always an economic cycle for laypeople. Anyone who engages in the idea of ​​Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel will be rewarded with an interactive learning concept: in fact, Kompass clearly illustrates the main features of capitalist systems, especially for those who have never come into contact with them before - or who are aware of the existence of global economic cycles have ignored.

The dramas of the real business world can also be found in the form of random market events in the strategic board game Kompass - The business game. Simplified, but with a noticeable impact on what is happening. The well-known trick with additional events is not new, but has been chosen wisely. The course of the game gains noticeably more dynamism.
At Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel, the tension curve is generally rather shallow. This is due on the one hand to the constant availability of goods and on the other hand to the fact that interactions between the participating players are not included in the concept. Everyone plays and acts on their own, which paradoxically makes the activity of trading itself - i.e. the exchange of goods - appear very one-dimensional. At this point in Kompass - The Economy Game, potential has been wasted, because player conflicts would add additional tension to the course of the game.

If it gets emotional, it is because of the market events mentioned, which give life to the events. It quickly becomes clear: here you could have delved deeper into playful details, maybe even had to.

Otherwise Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel is quite solid to entertaining. Only the overview is more frequent in the course of a game, because the size of the game block for the listing of the merchandise does not match the actual processes. In the worst case, the game turns into a pure mess of paper because at a later point in time it is no longer clear when which goods were bought at what price. A clearer mechanism would be helpful here: for example through the use of chips or player boards, which would only work well if the total available goods were physically limited.

Friendship ends with money

Wherever there is trade, it is about money. And it is precisely on this central issue that the two authors Michael Linke and Jörg Kiefer make mistakes in two respects. In a game of Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel, large amounts of play money are thrown across the table. The makers completely eliminate this beneficial haptic component by using poorly processed banknotes.
Yes, Monopoly also relies on a similar quality in terms of game material, but Monopoly is also over 80 years old and the game material is firmly associated with the brand. Beautifully printed fantasy banknotes instead of approximation to the euro, a few valuable coins and some pretty exchange gimmicks would have given the table action a lot more grace. Too bad.

A clear point of criticism is the game material. The play money in particular does not meet modern standards.

What also doesn't fit is the purchase price of the board game. Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel costs just under 50 euros, which is at least 10 to 15 euros too much for the game material on offer. Of course, the production costs for a small publisher are enormous, the economic risk is noticeable and the options for a first-time work are limited - but the pricing will put off potential buyers.
In doing so, the authors are actually doing something right with regard to the economic longevity of their “product”: Game material such as blocks or banknotes can be reordered. Of course, this only makes sense if the basic version can be sold in large numbers on the market. And that works nowadays with uncompromisingly good quality, a strong brand or attractive purchase prices.

From the point of view of the authors, the idea of ​​retrofitting could even be expanded: post-market events, additional cards, modifications to the game board - the possibilities for monetization are unlimited. It is important to place yourself on the competitive market with a board game. The siphoning off of the income will follow later, perhaps with a second title.

Authors are open to criticism

In order to understand the listed points of criticism, it is often helpful to understand them from the point of view of the authors. Most decisions are not made by chance: they are backed by specific considerations - sometimes wrong ones. Michael Linke and Jörg Kiefer were open to critical comments from reviewers and the community. 

A main point of criticism was the incomprehensible pricing. Compass - the business game costs around 50 euros in stores. Too much for the content on offer. When asked, Michael Linke revealed that when setting the purchase price, they were guided by the pricing of games such as Monopoly, Risk, Catan and Co, which all cost around 45-50 euros when they were launched. In addition, the fact that Kompass Spiel GbR is a small start-up and not a large publisher must be taken into account in the assessment. The educational background of the business game is also important, says Linke:

"KOMPASS offers not only fun and excitement but also an immense learning effect. Players have already said that you can learn more from this game than from a book or online video on economics and finance. The opportunities and risks of buying shares, real estate and raw materials are simulated in an uncomplicated way. So that even those who are “poor about business” are unconsciously introduced to the topic.”

The educational background of the business game is also important, says Linke

The price question is ultimately relevant for potential buyers who are toying with the idea of ​​themselves Compass - the business game to acquire. Occasional gamers are often less critical of the quality of the game material, but on average they also spend far less money per year on board games.

With regard to the production processes and the country of manufacture, the start-up thinks like many game manufacturers: For cost reasons - with the exception of a few regional manufacturing processes - most of the production takes place in China.

Nevertheless, Michael Linke and Jörg Kiefer are pursuing the long-term plan to have production carried out entirely by regional manufacturers.

“The game is partly produced in China, with individual production processes taking place regionally. These individual processes are primarily related to printing and product assembly for final completion. This also includes the final packaging process. The production of the game packaging, the game board, the game pieces and the pencils is carried out in China, where we cooperate with a Chinese board game manufacturer.
The other materials such as the game instructions, the explanation of terms, the depot blocks and the play money are produced by us in Cottbus. In the long term, production should take place entirely regionally on site.”

Michael Linke comments on the production processes

The authors made a conscious decision to design the play money notes. On the one hand to differentiate yourself from other games, on the other hand to adjust the color of the play money to the economic cycles. Michael Linke himself admits that there is a need for improvement. For this reason, sample copies have already been printed in improved quality.

“We also wanted to distinguish ourselves from many games with the banknotes and deliberately decided on a design based on the euro instead of a dollar bill, as is customary in many games. We have also taken into account two other small hidden motifs. The higher the denomination of the banknote, the more the pointer on the watermark compass moves towards Boom. In addition, the colors of the banknotes are also adapted to the colors of the economic cycles. In the next step we will focus on improving the banknotes. Some copies with improved quality (richer colors, more tactile paper) have already been printed as a test.
Overall, the design is due to color psychology. In this way, the properties of certain colors were taken into account for the assigned economic cycle.
That led to the design, which also makes the game packaging stand out on the shelf.”

Design decisions were made consciously.

The rather static gameplay reduces the replay value of Compass - the business game noticeable. New content would have to be published at regular intervals in order to provide motivating incentives for owners of the game. Game designer Michael Linke refers to planned innovations.

“You can already buy an expansion pack of the banknotes in our web shop in order to play it with even more players. This is noted on the front page of the definition of terms. This will be followed by the publication of additional 2018 market event cards at the end of the year. 60 live examples from 2018 will be recorded there. The 2018 stock market year was characterized by many economic and political events. We want to include these in the game and produce them for each additional year in the future in order to bring the game even closer to reality.
There will also be a revised version.
Due to the great response, we are already developing a follow-up version, "Compass Future". There, the focus is always on the future of the economy. This includes future economic trends such as cryptocurrencies, alternative energies, technologies, artificial intelligence and robotics.”

The authors have already planned new content.

The two Cottbus self-publishers consider the gameplay of their first work to be accessible and unique. It was a deliberate decision not to encourage trading among gamblers explicitly by means of set rules. Michael Linke refers to well-known classic games and the fact that trading in goods or granting loans among players is basically possible - the so-called house rules should then determine this. 

“Here, too, we deliberately opted for a game principle that is unique. Trading on the stock exchange or real estate market is accessible to everyone. But, as in reality, this can only be done through a broker or bank. Thus, everyone should have the opportunity to make or refrain from investing. That's why we decided on just one character to symbolize the market. 
However, trading or loan making among players is not excluded. It's similar to Monopoly, where its own rules have developed over the years."

The two authors at Kompass consider house rules to be essential.

The game authors of Compass - the business game are well aware of the criticism of their work. In the long term, there will therefore be changes to your trading game. Developing a board game is a process that is gradual and based on experience. 

Images of Kompass - The Economy Game


Number of players: 2 to 4 players
Age: from 12 years
Playing time: 40 to 120 minutes
Difficulty: easy
Long-term motivation: medium

Published by Kompass Spiel GbR
Author: Michael Linke, Jörg Kiefer
Graphics: Jörg Kiefer
Year of publication: 2017
Language: German
Cost: 50 Euro


A fair review can never be a total slam of a game. And there is also a suitable target group for Kompass – Das Wirtschaftsspiel. Primarily occasional gamers, families or groups of friends will feel entertained with the offered concept. The shallow trading game ripples along smoothly, but sometimes tends to tempt players to create a "slip chaos". As fitting as the idea of ​​the “depot block” may be in a business game, the listing of purchases and sales over the course of a game can become confusing. It's frustrating at times, because as a player you lose your focus in moments like this.

Otherwise Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel is strongly reminiscent of Monopoly, even if the game's plot differs significantly in detail from the classic. The authors Jörg Kiefer and Michael Linke must have fluctuated between courage and security thinking during the development, because the Kompass rules do not seem completely detached and independent. Nevertheless: anyone who knows the success of simple games like Monopoly also knows that such titles can find numerous buyers - as long as the mix of game idea and high-quality material is right.
And this is exactly where the authors make the crucial mistake. Material and purchase price do not match. The game board is not processed properly, the imprint of the playing field is stuck crooked, the cards would have been nice with pretty illustrations, the banknotes are of poor quality, printed pale and haptically in need of improvement. With all the criticism of the material, it should not be forgotten that there is no big publisher behind the board game - just two foreigners from the industry who wanted to realize an idea. For around 50 euros, however, clearly more quality has to be brought to the table, there is no doubt about that.
In case of doubt, this does not induce potential buyers to purchase the game, but the background to the game is important for a review. Reducing expectations to a realistic level tends to lead to a fair assessment.
And so the desired educational game Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel becomes a lesson for the two authors at the same time. Every point of criticism can be corrected in a subsequent edition in order to make the title competitive. After all: the title works in its main features.

Seasoned board game experts will hardly be enthusiastic about the title of the two Cottbus finance experts. The events on the table are too monotonous, the strategic components are too few. Anyone who can do something with low-action business games, for example from the 80s and 90s, can take a look at Kompass - Das Wirtschaftsspiel without hesitation. However, as a player you shouldn't have high expectations in terms of sequence, tension curve and complexity, otherwise the fun of the game ends in depression.
Sometimes it is the question of the right target group that decides the quality of a board game - or at least contributes to it. Frequent gamers will be hopelessly under-challenged with the concept and will not discover any added playful value for themselves. For casual gamers and beginners, on the other hand, we rate the trading game with three out of five possible points.

Andre Volkman