As children, we were all woken up in the middle of the night by nightmares we couldn’t describe. We all laid back down with our eyes wide open, afraid to fall back asleep. We all drifted off to sleep in hopes that thing we were afraid of wouldn’t return to haunt our dreams.
In Dream Catchers, from Singaporean publisher Play Nation, players come together to protect children from the nightmares that lurk in the shadows of their minds. Work with your teammates to capture sweet dreams for children, and save them from the terrors that stalk their dreams. Chase away the monsters under the bed so that the littlest ones can have a pleasant sleep. Do all this before the night ends and you’ll win the game!
At least until tomorrow night.
In Dream Catchers, players work cooperatively to make sure children have a good night’s rest. Each round is split into a Dream Catcher phase and a Night Phase.
During the Dream Catcher phase players may each perform up to 2 actions from choices which include capturing sweet dreams, chasing away nightmares, and fighting monsters under the bed.
Dream and nightmare cards are displayed in a 3×3 grid in the center of the table and each card has a number of symbols on it matching Power Cards held by players. These Power Cards are used to capture sweet dreams (which advance the “Sweet Dreams” track towards victory). Some captured dream cards will provide treasure in the form of one time use cards.
Power cards also allow players to chase away nightmares, and to defeat the monsters under the bed (both of which themselves chase away sweet dreams cards from the center play area).
Every time a dream card is chased away the nightmare track increases by one. If the nightmare track ever reaches the end, the game is over immediately.
Balance and consideration must be given not only to which dream cards a player captures, but also which nightmare cards are left on the table, and in what position.
During the Night Phase time passes and monsters will emerge from the shadows to hide under the bed. If there are ever 3 monsters under the child’s bed the game is over.
To win the game, players must move the Sweet Dreams track to the end before any of the loss conditions are triggered.
Dream Catchers is a beautiful game. The artwork is illustrated amazingly well with intricate and detailed illustrations featuring all sorts of wonderful dreams, terrible nightmares, and horrible monsters. Some of these cards are genuinely scary and are probably pulled from some textbook on dreams.
The game includes a super handy and well done single sheet flyer which walks you through the process of setting up the game. I wish more games had a single sheet like this, as it certainly speeds up the process.
The gameplay is light and simple. Take some cards from your hand and try to find matches for it somewhere. With 3 different types of cards to choose from you’re sure to be able to match something. Being able to trade cards with other players also means that if you don’t have the cards you need, you could trade to get that missing symbol which allows you to chase away a nightmare. The iconography is consistent, clear, and easy to read.
The game isn’t perfect of course. When trying to defeat a monster, not only do you need power cards matching the symbols on the monster card, but you must also roll the dice and meet or exceed the number shown in the upper right corner of the monster card. This feels unnecessary and arbitrary, especially since you’ve already got to collect 3 symbols instead of 1 or 2 like with the dream and nightmare cards.
Dream Catchers is a fun and interesting game, and one which is relevant to everyone who has ever had a bad dream. With cooperative gaming on the the rise, it’ll take a solid entry to dislodge some of the big names in the hobby. So does Dream Catchers have the muscle to make that happen? It’s currently on Kickstarter right now, so give it a look and see if it’s right for you and your gaming group.
Note: The publisher had some concerns around shipping costs and so cancelled the campaign. They plan to relaunch later in the month.