Something moved beneath my bed. I quickly open my eyes and reach for the lamp. It shines. But scratching does not stop. I’d like to run out of bed for my parents, but I’m afraid to put my feet down. Something is screeching under the mattress as if it wanted to tear it from the bottom. I’m not calm and start calling for help. Where are you? Please? Anyone!
Being a child in a dark room alone at night is not easy at all. In the wardrobes, behind the windows and under the bed, monsters are waiting everywhere for their chance. Just like in the Dream Catchers board game. But there, fortunately, besides monsters, are also hunters, who fight for good dreams and catch the bad ones. But such a profession is not easy at all, so from time to time, some bad dream will slip through them. And Gabriel Leow, who decided to train as dream catcher, knew it well. Game was introduced at the Spiel 2017 fair in Essen by Play Nation Studios. A wonderful fairytale illustration were made by Ping Ting Sim.
Box is not overly large, but it’s filled to the brim. There is not much space inside, because in addition to the rules, hidden under lid with dream landscape, there is not only a booklet of rules, but above all five game boards. Each of them displays bed with one frightened dreamer and three scales – top runs from the right to left and shows time remaining until dawn, below are two counter lines for good and bad dreams.
From that offer, players choose any room, that they want to defend against nightmares today and place it in the center of the table. Around it, they reveal a bunch of cards: big square dreams and monsters, smaller treasures and cards of protection forces. He then creates a dream plane of nine random cards (three by three cards), that can contain both nice dreams and nightmares. Each such card has in the lower right corner symbols of the icons, that are needed to collect it.
Individual participants receive each one character (dream defender) card, as well as four random action cards, that always contain one symbol. Common board is equipped with pointers of good and bad dreams (starting space according to number of players), hourglass counter and, above all, couple of monster tokens. These marks turns (roughly every second turn), in which monsters try to take control of dreams.
Players alternate in turn and always try to make the most of their action cards. Each time, they have two action points, that can be used in any way. At one point, they can exchange one card from a hand with a teammate. This makes it easier to create sets of symbols, that are needed to collect good and bad dreams from the dream plane.
Second action relates to situation, where active player is able to create a set of symbols, that correspond to one of the nine dreams requirements in the offer. They simply discard cards with these symbols and thus they can collect that dream card. If it is a good dream, it means moving counter of good dreams forwards. Paying for nightmares and getting them of dream plane will only improve chances of success for the next phase of the game, but will not bring any instant bonus with it.
Once the player has used both of his actions, it’s time to give a chance to monsters and nightmares. First, players move time gauge on top scale of the board by one step. Whenever this hourglass token arrives on a position with monster token, an attack occurs. Players reveal top card from the nightmare deck and put it under bed (board) with child. Monster can now be attacked by players within their turn. This extends the number of possible actions to three. But here, its not enough to have just a set of three symbols. In addition, team of protectors also needs luck – player rolls a dice and needs to get at least monster strength shown in upper-right corner of its card. If he does not succeed, then he does not lose cards, but monster remains hidden under the bed.
Well, that has an unpleasant effect. When monster attacks, it destroys all dreams containing one particular symbol. The longer the monster is under the bed, the more damage it can deal. And all the dreams, that disappear should be replaced by new cards at the end of the round. If it means a new nice dream, then everything is fine. But if a new nightmare appears on the plains of dreams, there is a problem. Every dark dream tries to find a kindred horror in the plane. To do that, nightmare can move up, down or sideways (according to the printed arrow). Whenever it arrives next to another nightmare with the same symbol, horror indicator is moved by one step.
Only then will the second player get to his turn. Dreams appear, are fulfilled, and monsters attack the defenseless children in their sleep. Team does not hold action cards in hand, but may have it openly in front of them and can freely talk about their intentions. The whole team will only succeed, if it collects enough good dreams and reaches the marble box on the scale. Instead, loss can meet team in few different ways – whenever three monsters appear under the bed or nightmare marker reaches final space on its scale. In both cases, the protectors’ efforts were vain and child is struck with a nightmare.
Dream Catchers are a dreamlike cooperative game for more experienced kids and adults. The whole thing is revolving around cards in hand and collecting icon sets. Fortunately, individual team members can spend one action point to hand over cards and help each other. The game is fairly random – difficulty of monsters differs, number of active nightmares may vary and all of this has a major impact on the players.
They often have a big problem choosing with danger is bigger. Do they prefer to take a risk by trying to roll a monster dice (and risk losing one action), acquire a good dream or remove a nightmare? These are choices, that can have a significant impact on the game. And everyone should do it as a team. Of course, the chances are, that there will be some active player telling everyone what to do. And yet, sometimes players do not play any action in their turn (they do not have a good set of icons) and they may even skip one action.
Without co-operation and little luck, you do not have much chance of winning. Players get help from treasure cards, that can be obtained from some of the collected dreams. The game is well balanced and the victory and defeat are balancing on a sharp razor until the last minute. Rounds are flowing really fast and losses may come in all possible ways. The biggest problem is probably the time to catch enough good dreams before timer runs out and then number of monsters under the bed, which may easily overwhelm you.
The biggest problem with this game is, that the player rounds are quite long. Fortunately, Dream Catchers is a cooperative entertainment, so you are involved in decisionmaking even outside of your turn. They can even help with the offer of cards or consult with other team members. All players have one common task and they have to watch for any change. Yet it’s a long waiting, especially if you play in four. Ideal in terms of dynamics, games are best in two.
Game and its theme are really imaginative, and that is also true about the mechanisms. In the end, its about collecting sets, but they need to be used in an interesting way. Very nice is the unpredictable mechanism of nightmares. They appear inconspicuously on the plain, but they can also create a series of successes at the end of one round. Once nightmares find their soulmate, their cards leave the plains and new ones are revealed. This means, that with a few mistakes, pointer jumps a few boxes and floods the entire team.
Whole game does not take too long and the children will get to sleep within thirty minutes. Additionally, although the whole game is tuned to a fairy tale, it is not aimed at children. Thanks to more complicated rules and more decision making, it is suitable for more experienced children, parents or adult players. On the other hand, families will be really amused by this game and they can work together.
The game processing is fantastic. All components have a real dreamy look and they bring smile to your face. Everything looks really beautiful and the box contains a number of unique and interesting illustrations.
Dream Catchers is a cooperative dream game, that is telling story about children, but older players will protect them. The pleasant song of coincidence and cooperation means, that this game is spreading the joy everywhere it arrives. Dream Catchers are a relatively difficult game of nightmare escape, which offers wonderful processing on top of everything else.
+ wonderful processing
+ interesting turn
+ game time
+ hard choices
+ tight victories or defeats
- longer waiting times for multiple players
- greater dependence on coincidence