Review: Compatibility
Publisher: Mattel (under license from Crown & Andrews)
Year: 1996
Tagline: Do Great Minds Really Think Alike?

Compatibility cover

how we met

In my opinion, the cover of Compatibility is pretty terrible. It looks like one of the many dime-a-dozen party games that my eyes fly by at thrift shops. But if I haven’t seen a game before then I am picking it up to get a closer look. The back of the box describes the gameplay pretty well. It sounded like fun in a silly party game kind of way. Plus I am a sucker for games with tons of photos in them, so I threw down my $2.99 and took it home with me.

Six people playing game

Photo from the back of the box that won me over. I want to be them

how it plays

The object of Compatibility is to be the first team to make it to the finish space on the game board. Teams move ahead by scoring points and are represented by little paper-doll-looking pawns that chain together.

Close up of pawns

Two of the conjoined pawns

Each turn one player rolls the die, flips up one of the TOPIC cards and reads out the word next to the number that was rolled. All teams play simultaneously. Each player has an identical deck of 52 cards with various pictures or words on them. Your job is to choose the photos that best match the word in play, with the ultimate goal of choosing the same cards your partner chooses. The space on the game board will indicate how many cards you are allowed to choose, ranging from one to five.

Example images

Some of the images from the deck

Your chosen cards should be ranked into relevance or choice order. For example, the top card is your first choice, second card is your second choice and so on. It does not matter how you rank the cards as long as you and your partner are organizing the same way. These cards remain hidden until all players have completed this process.

When everyone is ready, each player simultaneously reveals their cards one at a time. Teams receive two points for each correct match, or three points if the match is in the exact same ranking for both players. Teams then move their co-pawns ahead on the game board the number of points scored and another turn starts.

sample play showing cards for the word passion

Sample play using the word “passion” that would score 5 points: 3 points for the exact match of the couple and 2 points for matching red in different locations

how it went

One of the best things about Compatibility is that it allows all players to play at the same time. No one has to sit out. And the game includes an astonishing number of words. Some of them can be really difficult to choose pictures for. One example during our gameplay was “role” and we all struggled to interpret that in a way that would be common enough for matches. That being said, the challenging words make for some interesting results. Apparently all my fellow players think dolphins are pets. 🙁

sample topic cards

Nine of the 100 TOPIC cards

Our gameplay went pretty smoothly. The game was not too long. None of us spent too much time stuck on the same space. None of us had big fights. John and Keri maintained a pretty solid lead and ultimately won, but we weren’t too far behind.

overview of game board with pawns

The game board

A common complaint about Compatibility is that the pictures are dated and don’t work well. The pictures do have room for improvement, but I like that they are dated.

After completing the game once the way it was intended, we discussed ways to improve the gameplay. We decided it would be fun to play a new way where we see who matched best amongst all of us. We would use a single pawn and move it using the die roll, but we would keep to the number limitations it landed on. Then we would track scoring with everyone just on paper. I think that would be an interesting approach, particularly if you have players in your party that are not well acquainted. We’ll have to try it next time.

play or pass

Play. Even people who do not enjoy party games often find themselves playing party games just because of the nature of holidays and get togethers with a wide variety of people. This is not a bad choice for a group party game but supports only six players. I played it a couple of times recently and realized that the game may not have great staying power. I’m interested in creating new pictures to breathe new life into the game. Wait did I say new life? I meant wicked, inappropriate humor.