When I Dream (Asmodee) Board Game Review

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In When I Dream each player takes a turn being a "dreamer," trying to guess cards as the entire table gives them one word clues. But there's a catch: some players are "fairies," trying to help them guess correctly, and other players are "boogeymen," trying to cause them guess incorrectly. (There's even a sandman, who simply strives to keep balance). At the end of their two minute turn, the dreamer attempts to recount as many correct guesses as they can. The game is scored, and the next dreamer takes their place. 

A solid game for kids, When I Dream is probably not going to capture the attention of many adults for long. For adults, it's definitely a party game -- it can play up to 10 -- but some issues with its balance make it more of an "experience" than a "game."

Game Details

Players: 4 to 10

Game Time: 30 Minutes

Age: 8+

Genre: Guessing / Hidden Role

How Does When I Dream Play?

"Candle."

"Frog."

"Water."

"Lake."

"Fire."

"Watch."

"...Pond!?"

The dreamer covers their eyes. They then need to guess a sequence of cards in a row, with a two minute timer. They can only guess once. When they guess, the card in question is placed in the "correct" (fairy) pile or the "incorrect" (boogeyman) pile. Each card has two words on it, but only one word is used at any given time. The image on the card is a fanciful amalgam of both.

This game, like many great party games, pushes people out of their comfort zone. Dreamers are in a particularly vulnerable position: their eyes are physically covered with a blindfold, and they are being forced not only to guess cards, but also to tell a fanciful dream based on those cards. By putting people in a uniquely vulnerable position, When I Dream breaks the ice and opens things up for other, more complex games. 

Roles in When I Dream change from dreamer to dreamer. At the beginning of each dream, roles are passed out, with one being left out of the pile. 

For the dreamer, the game is to guess which people are lying and which people are telling the truth. You have to do that by identifying individual voices and trying to pick out a common thread among the responses. You also need to guess (or pass) fairly quickly, because the time is running out.

For the players, the game is to give clues as quickly as possible that reach your desired goals. Fairies are trying to give straightforward clues. Boogeymen are trying to give clues that are close, but misleading. Sandmen are simply trying to give clues for whichever side is falling behind.

At the end of their turn, the dreamer is given the opportunity to recount their dream; they are encouraged to tell an exciting story. If they can guess all of their correct cards, they get a bonus of +2 points. Fairies and boogeymen get points equal to the amount of cards they have in their stack. Sandmen have the most complex scoring: if the two stacks are equal or close to equal, they get the highest stack amount. If the stacks aren't equal, they get the lowest stack amount. And then it passes to the next dreamer.

How Does When I Dream Look?

Like Dixit, art is a major part of When I Dream -- and it's where the game shines the most. But unlike Dixit, after some time, you begin to realize something kind of subtle: the art has nothing to do with the game. In fact, the game actually plays faster if you ignore the art completely.

Consider a card that kept coming up: a crab with lighters for its claws. At one end, the "crab end," is an ordinary red crab. At the other end, the "lighter end," are, well, lighters. You see the entire image, but you only see the word "crab," as the "lighter" side is not in play. The only thing you actually need to do is focus on giving clues for the word "crab," as the dreamer themselves cannot (and might never) see the card.

The only advantage to even having game art is for the boogeymen, as they can use the card to give false clues in tandem. If the boogeymen work together, for instance, to always give clues for the other side ("lighter"), the card might be useful. Unfortunately, that also completely unbalances the game.

Weird note: At a glance, we couldn't find the title "When I Dream" anywhere on the rules. That's not a good or a bad thing, just bizarre.

What's in the Box?
  • 1 bed (which holds the cards)
  • 1 sleep mask
  • 1 board
  • 1 sand timer
  • 110 dream cards with 440 elements
  • 11 dream spirit cards
  • 104 point tokens
  • 1 rulebook

How Does When I Dream Play?

Balance is probably the biggest issue of When I Dream, which is heavily skewed towards the boogeymen. It becomes obvious to the clue givers immediately who is giving "correct" clues and who is giving "false" clues, but the dreamer doesn't know this. Boogeymen can simply give clues that are close to each other (or that are on the card). Because it is already more likely that the dreamer is going to guess incorrectly -- and because there's a fairly equal number of boogeymen -- the only limiting factor is the sandman, who has perhaps the most difficult job. The sandmen can give good clues, but because they oscillate between giving "good" clues and "bad" clues, the dreamer may simply ignore them. 

Further, because roles change between turns, and there's only a single round -- each player dreams once -- it's very easy for someone to get the boogeyman role multiple times or for someone to only get fairies. Thus, the score doesn't really have a time to statistically even out. If you receive "boogeyman" more often than others, you are almost undoubtedly going to score higher. And someone will receive boogeyman more often than others.

When I Dream is a party game -- and it's an interesting, dynamic party game, at that. But the truly limiting factor is that it's only interesting once or twice. Once you realize that the art on the cards don't really matter, and that the boogeymen are always at an advantage, the game itself becomes rather repetitive. As an ice breaker game, though, it's top notch; it's cute, has attractive art, and is simple to explain. 

The Verdict
  • An interesting experience that pushes people outside of their comfort zone.
  • Some great art on the cards; unfortunately, the art feels redundant.
  • Unbalanced, and probably not worth playing more than a few times.
  • Good for kids, if your kids already understand the inherent unfairness of life.