Date played: June 24, 2020
Basic details: 1-2 players (cooperative); 15 minutes
Gist of the game: In this game, you are traveling through a dreamscape and need to find 8 doors before the dream ends. Obtain all 8 doors before the deck runs out and win. Have an empty deck when you need to draw and you lose.
To get a door, you must either play three cards of the same color in a row or, upon drawing a door from the deck, discard a key card of the same color from your hand.
You begin the game with a hand of 5 cards that includes neither doors nor dreams. On each turn, you play or discard a card, draw your hand back up to 5, and shuffle any cards you put in your limbo pile (such a door that you didn’t have a key for) back into your deck. If you discard a sun or moon card, play proceeds as normal. If you discard a key card, you trigger a prophecy. To carry out the prophecy, look at the top 5 cards of the deck, discard 1, and put the remaining 4 cards back on top of the deck in any order. If you draw a dream (nightmare in the base game) card, you must resolve it immediately. To resolve a nightmare, you must do one of the following: discard a key card; place a door card you’ve acquired in the limbo pile; reveal the top 5 cards of the deck and discard all except door and dream cards, which are placed in the limbo pile; discard your whole hand and draw a fresh hand the same way you did at the beginning of the game, with door and nightmare cards going into the limbo pile until you have a hand of 5 dream location cards.
If you play 3 cards of the same color in a row (but no two cards of the same symbol placed next to each other), you get to search the deck for a door of that color. There are 4 colors and 8 doors, 2 of each color.
In a 2-player game, each player must acquire 4 doors, 1 of each color.
There are also 7 expansions built in, each involving the addition of a new set of cards and new objectives beyond just collecting the 8 doors.
Color commentary: This is a fun game, and I’m really enjoying the aesthetics of the Oniverse with its Jean-Michel Basquiat-esque artwork. It’s a pretty light game, though it ultimately involves a tremendous amount of shuffling (every time you put your limbo pile in, after finding a door, etc.), possibly an excessive amount. Like, it felt like equal parts playing and shuffling, and still I would see runs of like 3 nightmares in a row every time I shuffled (and every time I saw them, I separated them, only to see them again the next time I shuffled).
This game is more portable for 1 player than 2, though depending on the public space it might still be a little large (wide) even with 1 player. There’d be no problem at a 4-top, but it might be a little cramped at a 2-top. Because the total width ends up divided between partners in a 2-player game, a 2-player version might work better at a 2-top than a 1-player would. That said, compared to something like Catan or even like Machi Koro, still very portable.
Every expansion appears to make it more difficult to win the game. One expansion, for instance, requires you to earn the doors in a specific order. I wish they added something besides additional difficulty, because they all look incredible, but I like winning, and they all seem like they would decrease the chances of doing so by moderate to extremely large amounts.
Thoughts M might have had if he had played: This may come as a surprise, since I never comment on the artwork of games, but I also enjoy the abstract boldness of the Oniverse games. A lot of the game is luck, in terms of having the right cards at the right time to make a run of 3, but there’s a definite strategy involved when choosing what action to perform when resolving a nightmare. If you only need 1 more door and your hand isn’t helpful, it’s probably a smart move to discard your hand. Unless it’s the very beginning of a game, you probably don’t want to put a door in limbo because of the dwindling number of cards in that color to earn it back. Discarding a key if you already have both doors, or even just one of a color, is a potentially good call, and keeping a key card on hand even after earning both doors of that color as a kind of nightmare insurance isn’t a bad idea. Discarding 5 cards from the deck is a real gamble because that grouping may have the cards you need, and also increases the nightmare-to-location ratio since nightmares don’t get discarded if they’re drawn as part of the 5. Nonetheless, if you have a hand that is going to work for you for at least one door and you don’t have a key you can discard, discarding from the top of the deck might be the best choice.