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Review: When I Dream

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Let me tell you about this dream I had the other night. I didn’t make much sense, I can say that for sure. There was a dancing waffle in a circle of prancing horses, which were all playing trumpet. This all happened on the back of a giant whale.

At least, that’s what I remember.

It’s not easy to comprehend what I’m seeing, or remember the whole story, When I Dream.

How It Plays

In When I Dream, players take turns as the Dreamer trying to guess as many secret dream words as they possibly can. The Dreamer wears a blindfold (or otherwise covers their eyes) while every other player offers clues, one at a time, during a 2-minute round.

The players giving clues can only say one word at a time, can’t do a “rhymes with” or “sounds like” or say a word derived from the secret word. Clue-giving goes in clockwise order. The Dreamer gets one guess for each word; right or wrong, you move on to the next word. However, the dreamer can wait for as many clues as they desire before dropping their guess.

All the stuff!

However, things aren’t so straight forward. The clue-givers are given secret roles at the start of each round, and the role they receive determines the way they score points.

Fairies always want the Dreamer to get the word correctly, and earn 1 point per correct guess at the end of a round.

Boogeymen always want the Dreamer to guess incorrectly, and earn 1 point per wrong guess at the end of a round.

Sandmen want to achieve balance. If the piles of right and wrong guesses are exactly equal, the get points for the number of cards in 1 pile plus 2 bonus points. If the piles are only 1 apart, they get points for the highest pile, and if the stacks are 2 or more different they get points for the lower pile.

The Dreamer gets a point per correct guess. At the end of a round, before opening their eyes the Dreamer gets a chance to recap their dream, telling a story using the words they guessed throughout the round. If the Dreamer manages to use every word they guessed correctly in their retelling, they gain 2 bonus points.

The game ends after every player has been the Dreamer once. Everyone counts up their points, and whoever has the most is the winner!

Although in the end, we’re all winners

What Do You Dream About?

Don’t play When I Dream for the points.

It’s always a bit weird to say something like that. After all, what are games but organized, friendly competitions, and what is the point of a competition that has no measured victory? We can argue day and night whether a game with no score is actually a game, but some games (especially cardboard ones) are best enjoyed for the experience. Now, saying this – I don’t think you should toss out the scoring complete. This isn’t Concept, in which the scoring mechanism makes zero sense and the actual challenge of getting people to guess clues with weird icons is fun enough. The scoring system here works pretty well, actually.

But at the same time, you have little control over your final score and so to get too hung up on it will ruin the fun. Points provide a bit of motive, a bit of measure, but at the end of the day it’s the experience of When I Dream that matters most. Only the Dreamer has significant control over points scored, and each player is only the Dreamer once per game – so don’t worry about it.

What a comfy-lookin’ bed

So, what is this game? It’s a great twist on a classic mass-market formula. Almost everyone I know is familiar with word-guessing games, and have likely played 2 or 3 in their lifetime; Catch Phrase, Taboo, even Charades. Few people will be jumping into complete “here there be tigers” territory, but When I Dream switches things up with its hobby-game-ish twists to make for quite an interesting experience, and a fun challenge.

The biggest hurdle for most players is putting on that blindfold. It’s pretty intimidating to be the one at the table with dulled senses, and it feels kinda surreal. You’ve also got a lot of pressure – everyone is looking at you, giving you clues, expecting you to get the right answers. All the while you know deep down you’re going to screw it up and look like a fool.

I highly recommend you push past this first hill, because once you get rolling you’ll have a lot of fun. Being blindfolded (or covering your eyes or turning away, as some players just feel too uncomfortable with the mask) allows you to focus on the clues you are receiving and forget about other things. When you’re concentrating on hearing the words people say, you forget to think about everyone staring at you.

Take a rest from the weariness of seeing things

Truthfully, no one is really staring at you, either. The clue-giving roles present their own unique challenges, and everyone will be staring at the next word trying to think of the best clue to give.

Fairies, for example, are the most straightforward but have the biggest burden. It’s not easy giving clear, representative clues in a single word, and fairies are the most vested in finding great clues. You need clues that stand out from the bad clues and lead the Dreamer in a clear direction. You’re with the dreamer all the way, providing a sense of teamwork and solidarity; frustration when things go wrong, and elation when you drop successful clues that lead to a correct guess.

The Boogeyman role is a chance to ease up on the pressure. You don’t have to think up good clues, because you don’t want to help the dreamer guess correctly. Still, it’s not a boring or lazy role. Your best bet is to avoid blatantly obvious bad clues and drop hints that lead the Dreamer askew. Your success relies on getting them to guess Trombone instead of Trumpet, Table instead of Desk, King instead of Knight. And you know what? It’s pretty fun to give bad clues.

These creatures only exist in your dreams, you know

Then there are the mischievous Sandmen. Frequently the Dreamer lands almost naturally with nearly equal piles of right and wrong answers. The real challenge comes when a Dreamer goes on a run – either good or bad – and you’ve got to desperately work hard to swing things in the other direction. This can be especially tricky, because the Dreamer may have already established in her mind whether or not she’s listening to your clues.

What surprised me most about this game was how possible it is for the Dreamer to start to figure out who is a Fairy or not. At first it seems a herculean task; you’re blinded, relying only on voices and single words in rapid succession. And yet, through some mystery of the human mind, I haven’t played with a single person who has felt completely confused. There’s some instinct that can pick up on consistency of clues, and more often than not bad guesses are near misses, not completely off the charts. There is a caveat, though; this is a game best played with a group of people you know. When you know people and know their voices, it’s easier to categorize them in your mind and remember which voice to trust. When you can’t put a face or name to a voice, it’s almost impossible to keep track of who’s giving good clues. I know from experience – I played with a group of complete strangers in a dimly-lit room at Gen Con, and it did not go well. I wouldn’t say everyone needs to be good friends with everyone, but it certainly helps if you’re familiar with more than half the people there.

The artwork is delightfully bizarre

On the other hand, you’re only blindfolded for one round, so it’s not the end of the world.

As far as components go, there are some great things in the box and some not so great. The cards are large and brightly illustrated, with 4 words per card (2 on each side, 1 on each end) that are cleverly designed so that only 1 word is visible during play. This is due to a fancy bed-shaped card holder that enhances the feel of the game, and a neatly organized board that indicates where to put right and wrong guesses. Scoring reminders are printed on the board as well. Also, the blindfold has a fun little design on it and should fit most people.

The included sand-timer has not been great, however. More than once the sand has gotten stuck (ruining my best round of guesses ever, which my group voted to re-do after the timer got stuck), which is frustrating. We often use a smartphone timer to replace it, because it’s so unreliable.

If I may come back to the topic of points again. Like I said, the scoring makes sense – everyone gets points when they do a good job in their role, and the Dreamer can earn a few bonus points on their turn. But most of the time half the people are scoring one value of points and the other half are scoring a different but close value of points, and there’s not much you can do to earn yourself extra points at any given time, everyone tends to clump together by the end and the final score doesn’t feel like it means much. It’s strange, because you feel motivated to score as many points as you can every turn. Anyway, that’s why I suggest playing for the experience.

Can you tell a story out of these words?

It’s not a deeply strategic game, or a highly creative one. However, it’s a fun and unique challenge with a great setpiece on the table, and it’s a game that’s widely accessible to a large audience. It provides some great twists to a classic formula, and I highly recommend checking it out if you can. Especially if you’ve got some non-gamer friends who enjoy word guessing games.

iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Asmodee North America and Repos Production for providing a review copy of When I Dream.

  • Rating 8.0
  • User Ratings (1 Votes) 8
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Summary

Pros

Great twists on a familiar setup
Wonderful art and other components
Different roles keep things unique and challenging
Very accessible, easy to teach and learn

Cons

Points don't feel like they matter at all at the end of a game
Sand timer in my copy kept getting stuck

8.0 Very Good

Futurewolfie loves epic games, space, and epic games set in space. You'll find him rolling fistfuls of dice, reveling in thematic goodness, and giving Farmerlenny a hard time for liking boring stuff.

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