A Dream Within A Dream - Onirim 2nd Edition Review

This is the second of 3 reviews I'm doing on the Ominverse games released by Z-Man. Castellion has already been uploaded and Sylvion will be next (Urbion doesn't get a lot of mention these days so I've chosen to ignore that one). In terms of popularity though, this one tends to be the hit among gamers, particularly Zee Garcia who I would say is the sole reason I even heard of this game in the first place, though I was in my early stages of gaming at the time. Solo games as I've mentioned do strike a chord with me given my current living situation so the Ominverse games were a perfect series to try out. Maybe one day there will be a time when I'm constantly playing two player games with Miss Right and I'll start looking more into those. . . hey come on, Onirim is about dreams so I'm allowed to express one!

As before I'm not concerning myself with the two player option. It may be a good way to play this game, but it's hard enough for me to get two player games to the table as it is and I already know of plenty of other options I'd recommend first, two of which have come out in 2015 and will no doubt get a review in the future - can you guess what they might be? Ooooooo teasers!



Designer: Shadi Torbey (2014)
Publisher: Z-Man Games
# of Players: 1-2
Age: 14+
Time: 15-25 Minutes
Rank/Rating: 765 / 7.27


You're Waiting For A Train


You're trapped in a labyrinth of dreams and nightmares and must find your way out by locating 8 doors that provide your escape. However you must also contend with wandering nightmares that hinder your progress and seek to keep you trapped within the dream world.

Onirim is a solitaire style card game where you must play three cards of the same colour in a row to unlock the doors of the corresponding colour, of which there are 2 doors in each. The catch is that each card also has a symbol on it and no symbol may be played twice in a row. Key cards can potentially unlock doors as soon as they are drawn from the deck or be discarded to allow you to rearrange the next 5 cards to your liking. Unfortunately should you draw a Nightmare card, you'll be forced to choose between a number of painful outcomes that reduce your chances of escape.

The key to success (tumbleweed) is to carefully play around the Nightmares by making the best use of each card in your hand. A mix of tactics and luck will be required to escape and in case you thought it was too easy (which it really isn't) there are several mini-expansions to tailor your Onirim experience as you see fit.

Dreams Feel Real While We're In Them


The artwork for Onirim is nicely suited to the theme it's going for, being a dream state, however note that it's a different style completely to what you will have seen in something like Dixit. It's very much something like you would expect from an old, dark, animated kids film and it's going to be very hit and miss for people. Personally I can take it or leave it as the rooms portrayed don't really add much to the gameplay itself, you'll mostly be focusing on the colour and symbols shown. That being said, it feels more like being in a dreamworld than say Castellion which was a collection of obscure looking creature shapes.

There's a ton of shuffling in this game and depending on how you treat these cards, they will see wear before too long just by shuffle frequency alone. The price point is very low though so it's not a big deal, I don't even bother with my copy, but if you sleeve the cards, you'll definitely have to chuck the insert and even then you'll be at the limit. It barely takes up any table space making it ideal for travel.

Onirim is definitely one of those card games that's simple to play, but hard to master. You'll be done with the rulebook in 5-10 minutes tops, getting stuck in and in a little bit longer than that time period, probably getting beat down to a pulp. This is not an easy game to beat and requires careful timing of when you play your cards, trigger prophecies (deck manipulation) and encounter nightmares. This is what makes Onirim fun to play though. Luck will screw you at random times just like in any other card game, but with its short length you'll reshuffle and try again, determined to succeed. Now even with the prophecies there is definitely more luck in this game than skill, but that balance can be mitigated with the help of some extra additions. . .


My Name Is Mr Charles


The big selling point of this 2nd edition of Onirim is that there are 7 mini-expansions included in the box. This is the saving grace for this game as without them I would probably say it wouldn't have very good longevity. However these expansions give a good amount of variety and thus there are lots of combinations that can be attempted depending on how much of a masochist you are as each one will generally increase the difficulty by itself and that's before you attempt the "advanced" versions on each one, which I swear is only for those who think that Ghost Stories is a walk in the park. Compare this to Castellion where those were essentially mild variants, these actually have a significant impact on the way Onirim plays. Each module consists of something that makes the game easier and something that makes the game harder.

"The Towers" introduces a new type of card that allows more searching and deck manipulation, while also imposing an additional victory condition. This one works quite well in upping the difficulty of the game without making it too complex, but man does it make those nightmares frustrating when they start sending towers back into the deck. Needless to say I've yet to win with these included. It's OK, but not particularly exciting.

"The Crossroads and Dead Ends" introduce location cards serving as a wild "joker". It also contains 10 "Dead End" cards, that remain in players hand until a player discards the whole hand. This is hands down my favourite of the mini expansions because it's so simple to incorporate, yet is very well balanced within itself. The jokers are incredibly useful during the game, but those Dead Ends are annoying in limiting your options. But time it well and you can let the nightmares help you out with that. It also gels better with the whole theme of navigating a dream labyrinth. Adding extra cool stuff without complicating the game, always a good way to design an expansion.

"Happy Dreams and Dark Premonitions" adds evil time bombs that will impede your progress at predictable moments of your quest as well as helpful but unreliable allies. The Premonitions are downright nasty and you'll quickly want to use any Happy Dreams you find to remove them from the game rather than their other useful abilities. I feel that Onirim is hard enough already without needing to make it insane so I doubt I'll use this expansion much, but it has a random setup for variety and will certainly appease the Onirim veterans out there.

In "The Book of Steps Lost and Found", you must find the eight Door cards in a randomly given order and may remove discarded cards from the game to cast powerful spells that will help you complete this difficult task. Oh yeah when I say difficult, I'm not over-exaggerating here. You want to take Onirim to masochist levels, THIS is the one you incorporate. It's one of the most popular expansions among gamers and I can see why it would be, but I find it just makes things TOO hard. As if getting the doors in general and dodging nightmares ain't hard enough you now have to get them in a prescribed order? JESUS! It's a toss up though because the spells are fun to use and I wish they were an expansion on their own, but they will get me using this expansion from time to time despite the insane difficulty spike so it's still a solid one.

"The Glyphs" introduces a fourth symbol on location cards (apart from Key, Sun and Moon), which makes it easier to compose the row of unrepeated symbols. The player must then find one extra door of each colour (so 12 doors in total) to win overall. In addition, glyphs can be discarded to trigger a slightly improved version of the prophecy ability to help find doors. It's a very easy addition to include although what it seems to do is make the game a little easier, but also extend its length. Even with the improved prophecy ability, you're still locating 12 doors instead of 8 and it therefore takes that little bit longer to achieve without actually adding much new to the experience. I can take or leave this one, but it combines well with other expansions.

"The Dreamcatchers" are four cards that guard the Limbo piles. The Limbo pile stays with the Dreamcatcher until an effect allows the player to shuffle the pile back to the deck. If all Dreamcatchers are full and new cards should come to Limbo, a Dreamcatcher is discarded and his cards shuffled back. However four new "Lost Dreams" cards are supposed to be in Limbo at the end of the game, as an extra winning condition - so discarding all the Dreamcatchers means a loss. This one can be a bit fiddly to manage but it drastically cuts down the amount of shuffling you have to do in each game. You almost won't care if it makes the game harder or easier overall, you're just glad to be able to put the deck on the table and actually leave it there for longer than 10 seconds.

"The Door To The Oniverse" brings several one-time ability cards as "inhabitants of the Oniverse" and one extra colourless door to find. This one I'm not a fan of. Normally I like having cards with special powers, but you don't have much control over when they appear without using other abilities and if you can't use them effectively at the time, they get discarded without effect. So half the time they aren't being used and you're constantly having to check the rulebook to remember what their individual powers even do until you've committed them to memory. A pass for me.



Verdict


Onirim is a challenging solo game that's dead easy to learn and play, but will foil you just when you least expect it. Now on its own, it would be a bit lacklustre and get boring quickly, but the expansions allow you to tweak the game in countless ways to your liking. Not all of them are great and you may find find you'll stick to a couple at all times and occasionally use others, but you've got plenty of variety to dig into for repeated plays to find your optimal setup and all for a very cheap price when all things considered. Everything stores in the box nicely, though sleeving is essential if you want to preserve this game for the long term and in that case, forget the insert.

I'm trusting Zee's opinion a lot more these days when it comes to small games - OK it doesn't always hold true, but here's another example when it does. It's nothing overly new and the theme is fairly limited, but it's smooth and addictive and probably a must-buy for solo gamers who need a quick fix for their withdrawal symptoms. So far, it's my current top pick from the Omniverse series, however, I've yet to dive into Sylvion. . .



YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You want a cheap game suitable for travel.


You're looking for variety - the basic game is dead simple, but there are so many expansions to experiment with for variety.


You want some quick games in the collection that allow for solo play, but could be adapted for two should the need arise.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You want an easy ride - this is a challenge and with some expansions, particularly on hard mode it's the definition of masochism.


You want to play this mainly with 2 players - it's focus is on solo play and there are lots of better 2 player games out there.


You would get irritated quickly by the sheer amount of shuffling.


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