Wednesday 7 March 2018

Review: When I Dream card game

In a hugely competitive market place, publishers are finding all kinds of ways to make their game stand out from the crowd, from splashy cover art to fancy components to the occasional animal costume (I'm looking at you, Paul Grogan!)

But Repos Production definitely went the extra marketing-mile last summer, when they launched When I Dream into the board gaming stratosphere by literally tying it to a balloon and floating it into the upper atmosphere...

You know you need to work on your life goals when a board game makes it 20 miles closer to your dream of space travel than you ever will!

When I Dream - box art | Random Nerdery

Speaking (tenuously) of dreams, I'd better talk about the game itself! It feels like this would be a good spot to write something witty about whether the game was going to be a dream or a nightmare, but I'm sure that must have been done by now...

When I Dream is a party game for 4 to 10 players where everyone has a go at interpreting their (really, really odd) dreams using clues given to them by the other players.

One player becomes the Dreamer, taking their life into their hands and placing huge trust in their friends by putting on the snazzy sleep-mask blindfold that comes with the game. Everyone else is allocated a role as a Dream Spirit: Fairy, Boogeyman or Sandman (every time I read this, I just hear Metallica).

When I Dream - dream spirits | Random Nerdery

Each round is broken into two phases: Night and Day. As night falls, the Dreamer starts to snooze and players take it in turns to give them a single-word clue to describe the first Element of the dream. Elements are words shown on the beautifully illustrated cards tucked into the cozy-looking bed at the centre of the game board.

When I Dream - bed | Random Nerdery

When the Dreamer thinks they know what's being described, they can interrupt to make a guess. If they're correct, the Element card is removed and placed on the yellow side of the board. If they're wrong the card is placed on the blue side instead. The Dreamer isn't allowed to know if they're right or not, so make sure you're quiet about it! Once this is done, play starts again with the next card and continues in this manner until two minutes (timed with a handy sand timer) have passed.

Not all the clues given will be as helpful as they might seem; whilst Fairies will always be trying their best, Boogeymen will be actively working to make the Dreamer get the wrong answer. Sandmen will keep changing sides to try and get an equal number of correct and incorrect guesses.

When I Dream - game board | Random Nerdery

With the Night phase complete, the game moves into the Day phase. The Dreamer tells everyone about the dream they just had, trying to mention all the Elements that they've guessed over the last two minutes. This is so much harder than it sounds! They can then take off the sleep mask and everyone counts up their points for the round. Fairies and the Dreamer score points for each Element the Dreamer identified correctly. The Boogeymen score points for every card the Dreamer got wrong. The Sandmen score extra points when Fairies and Boogeymen score same number of points.

The game ends when everyone has had a turn at being the Dreamer, and you can quickly add up your points tokens to see who has won.

When I Dream has plenty of points to praise. It's really light, quick to teach and simple to learn, especially with the concise and nicely written rulebook. The little plastic bed that stores the Element cards is hugely eye-catching and brings loads of novelty appeal to the game. It's also very practical, with the headboard conveniently hiding one of the words to make sure everyone always knows which end of the card to be look at. The artwork is amazing and mad, with contributions from 20 different talented artists across the Element cards (and not to forget the beautiful box art by
Gaël Lannurien).

When I Dream - element cards | Random Nerdery

Most importantly, it's tons of fun. I even enjoyed the hidden role aspect of the game, which is very unusual for me. Games like The Resistance, Spyfall or even Battlestar Galactica tend to stress me out when I'm one of the 'bad guys', as they require you to actively lie and I'm awful at it. I'm terrible at making up fake stories and I'll always get caught out trying to tell them. In When I Dream, though, the hidden role is much lighter. There are no lies to tell; as a Boogeyman (or sometimes as a Sandman) you just have to think of a word association that's close enough to fit with what the Fairies are saying (so you don't get identified by the Dreamer) but clever enough to lead the Dreamer astray. Non-stressful, but still challenging!

The challenge does seem to show up in scoring, though. It feels a bit easier to score points as a Fairy, and since your role in each round is down to luck of the draw you can end up avoiding the Boogeyman role and raking in the (adorable) points tokens.

When I Dream - points tokens | Random Nerdery

As with any word association game, there's the risk that a group who play together a lot would start to build their own shorthand for communicating particular words to the Dreamer. This is mitigated in large part by the huge pile of cards that come with the game, which are double-ended and double-sided to give you 440 words to potentially choose from. This would be easy for Repos to expand in future with Dixit-style card packs if they wanted, but even with the standard deck I think there's plenty of replayability in the base game.

When I Dream - components | Random Nerdery

When I Dream gets a huge thumbs up and is definitely a keeper. That just leaves the small matter of deciding what has to go in order to make a space for it on the shelves! Repos Production keep putting out brilliant games for bigger groups (7 Wonders, Ca$h 'n Gun$, Secrets, Concept) and they're fast becoming a favourite publisher and I can't wait to see what's next.

When I Dream - sand timer | Random Nerdery

When I Dream

Designer: Chris Darsaklis
Publisher: Repos Production
Play time: 30+ mins
Players: 4-10
Age: 8+
Cost: RRP £26.99 [Find your friendly local brick-and-mortar retailer in Europe]

Thanks to Asmodee UK for sending me a copy of the game to review. If you enjoyed this post perhaps you could take a look at my Facebook page and leave a like or come and say hello on my Twitter or Instagram feeds!