A wise man once said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Obviously, he wasn’t as wise as he was made out to be. If he knew about the things that went on while he was sleeping, he’d sing a different tune. Danger lurks in the shadows and there are monsters around every corner.
But we are not alone in this fight against the forces of darkness. Unseen, unknown, our protectors hide beneath our very noses. Dressed in the guises of things all too familiar to us – teddy bears… rocking horses… cowboys – our protectors wage a nightly battle on our behalf to keep us safe.
In the game of Bedtime Heroes, you will guide an army of toys in defense of your sleeping child.. your Dreamer against a seemingly never ending torrent of monsters. Each monster encountered has a certain power and can only be defeated by rolling dice equal to its power. These dice rolls are manipulated by toys which are obtained by means of a public auction. Beware, though. It’s not going to be as easy as just buying whatever you want and cutting a swath through hordes of baddies. Some toys are not so friendly and can be used against you in an effort to thwart your monster-slaying attempts. Do you have what it takes to take on the bad guys in this Monsters, Inc. versus Toy Story mash-up or will your Dreamer never get a good night’s sleep again? That is entirely up to you.
Now, before I get too much further into this game, I would like to take a moment to thank Steve Venezia, the game’s creator, for sending me the prototype copy of this game that I am basing this review upon. Without his generosity, this review would not be possible. Steve’s generosity, though, has not had any effect upon my opinion of this game. Rest assured that if this game is terrible, I will tell you so. If you like what you read here and this seems like the type of game that might be right for you, then I encourage you to check out their Kickstarter page and consider showing them your financial support. You can view their Kickstarter page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/118018119/bedtime-heroe...
I would like to preface this section as well as the rest of this review by reiterating that this review is based upon a prototype of the game and does not necessarily reflect the final quality of all of the pieces involved. Neither does it reflect any stretch goals that might be unlocked during the course of the Kickstarter campaign. That being said…
This game does not have very many components. First, there is a set of five six-sided dice. On three sides of these dice are large black dots and, on a fourth side, is a large red dot. Also included are five sets of cards. The first set features the Dreamers. On one side of the card, we see a small child snuggled comfortably into their bed with their favorite toys close by. In one scene, a little boy rests peacefully with his favorite cowboy lying on the pillow next to his head. In another, a little girl snuggles her pillow while her favorite teddy bear, clad in a knight’s helm with a sword in its hand, keeps a wary eye open. On the back sides of the cards we see an almost perfect reflection of the scene on the front side of the card with one exception. In the foreground looms a menacing a shadow – a grasping claw here, a twisted tentacle there – and our Dreamer is no longer dreaming. Instead, they look on with an expression of abject fear, toys held tightly to them in their terror.
The second set of cards is the Voting cards. On the front sides, the cards each contain a number from 0 to 4 on top of a blue background. On the reverse is a collection of question marks. These are the cards that are used during toy auctions to bid for toys.
The third set of cards is the Toy cards themselves. The toys are the heroes of this game and, as such, are featured prominently in the middle of each card. At the top of the card, contained in a yellow banner, is the name of the card. Below the illustration is a description of what the card does. Some allow you to re-roll dice. Others allow you to nullify or even outright use for yourself the effects of opponents’ cards. On the backside of each of these Toy cards is an illustration of all of the toys collected together – a group photo if you will.
The fourth set of cards is the Monster cards. There are three types of monsters and they are all terrifying in their aspect. One is an orange creature. Covered in scales with long, pointy teeth it glares at you from beneath its curled horns. Another is a yellow beast that resembles a dragon with a long furry body and 12 legs. Perhaps the most terrifying thing about this creature is how almost friendly it appears. But the grin on its face belies its devilish nature. The last monster is blue with purple speckles all over its body. With its slanted, half-closed green eyes and its large jagged, yellow smile, this monster is clearly enjoying itself. At the bottom of each of these cards is a collection of dots. These dots represent the monster’s power. On the backside of the card is an illustration of a closet with its doors partially shut. Through the barely revealed opening, we can see the terrors that wait within peering out at our Dreamers with malice in their hearts.
The fifth set of cards is double-sided with the same image on either side. The image is of a large chocolate coin – its golden foil rolled back to reveal the chocolaty goodness beneath – floating atop a brown background. These chocolate coins are used to purchase Toy cards during the toy auctions.
Also included are two rules sheet. The first is fully illustrated and describes the various components and the starting layout. The second sheet lacks illustration and describes the actual game play. The rules are written very concisely and are very easy to understand. All in all, it’s not bad as rules sheets go, but it could be improved with a few clarifications and revisions and a few more illustrations.
The set up for this game is fairly simple. First, each player selects a Dreamer card and places it sleeping side up in front of them. Then they will receive one set of Voting cards and five Chocolate Coin cards. Once all of the players have received their starting cards, it’s to lay out the rest of the game.
The Toy card deck is shuffled and placed face down into the middle of the table and then one card is placed face up on each side of this face down cards. When this is complete there should be eight face up cards. Then the Monster card deck is shuffled and placed face down next to the Toy card tableau. Then three cards are drawn and placed face up onto the table. The rules specify here that fewer cards should be used for a shorter game. By this, they mean that a smaller Monster card deck should be used (and I highly recommend this in a game with only two people because it can drag on for quite some time otherwise).
After this is done, a starting player is chosen and then they are given the dice and you are ready to begin playing.
During a player’s turn, they can choose two actions from a list of several available actions. The player doesn’t necessarily have to choose different actions, though. They can perform one action twice in a row if they like. The different actions will be described in better detail in later sections. The list of available actions is:
Draw 2 Chocolate Coins and add them to your hand
Refresh all of your used Toys
Buy a Toy
Battle a Monster
Use an “Action” Toy
Put a woken Dreamer back to sleep
PURCHASING a TOY
If a player chooses to purchase a Toy, then begin by declaring which Toy they intend to purchase. Then, every player may choose as many or as few Voting cards as they like and place them face down in front of them. Once every player has finished selecting their Voting cards they will all reveal them simultaneously. The player with the highest Voting card total will win the Toy that was being purchased and take it into their possession and place it face up in front of them. Then they will pay back to the supply an equal number of Chocolate Coins as their Voting card total. If there is a tie, then the player who is closest to having a turn will win. After the Toy card has been purchased, a new card is flipped over to replace it.
(NOTE: It is here that the first rules clarification needs to be made. It is unclear whether the Toy would go to the next player who has any kind of turn remaining to them at all or to the next player who has a full turn available to them. To make it more fair, my group plays with the first option. If a player tries to purchase a Toy as their first action and ties for the win, they will win the Toy and have a chance to use it before their turn is complete. Whether or not this is incorrect is unclear.)
USING and REFRESHING a TOY
To use a Toy, the owner of that Toy simply does what the text on the card says and then flips that Toy card face down to show that it has been used. However, there are limitations that dictate when certain Toy cards can be used.
Toy cards which allow a player to re-roll dice may only be used during battles. Most of the other Toy cards specify when they can be used with one exception. There is a Toy card called ‘Broom’ which reads: “Action: All other players must flip over a Toy of your choosing”. As there are some Toy cards which allow other players to manipulate your own Toy cards, it is conceivable that this card COULD be used during a Monster battle as a reaction to something that has been done to you. However, since it clearly says “Action”, then it can be reasonably assumed that this is clearly an Action card and would use up one of your available actions if you used it in this way and that seems a bit unfair considering you can use as many dice re-roll cards during a Monster battle as you like. So, to avoid this kind of thing, I have decreed that you must make your card flipping decisions BEFORE you engage in a Monster battle.
(NOTE: It is here that the second, third, and fourth rules clarifications need to be made. First is the issue that I mentioned about the ‘Broom’ card in the previous paragraph. Secondly, if you try to flip over my ‘Rocking Horse’ - which allows me to fight the monster that you were going to fight - and then I use my ‘Broom’ in reaction to flip over your ‘Broom’, what then? Is there a stack that gets resolved or is my ‘Broom’ targeting an invalid target since your ‘Broom’ card is already flipped over? The other thing that should be clarified is this – can a ‘Broom’ be used to flip over a Toy card that has already been flipped? This could be beneficial if you wanted to use another one of your Toy cards to copy the effect of another card on the table, but the Toy card that you wanted to copy had already been flipped over.)
BATTLING a MONSTER
If a player chooses to battle a Monster, then they will announce which Monster it is that they intend to battle. Then that player will roll the dice and if the number of black pips that come up equal or exceed the number of dots on the Monster card then the Monster is defeated and the player that defeated it will add the defeated Monster to their pile of vanquished Monsters. If the Monster is defeated and there are any red dots revealed, then the player will draw a number of Chocolate Coin cards equal to the number of red dots and add these Chocolate Coins to their hands.
However, if the Monster is not defeated, then the losing player must flip their sleeping Dreamer to its awakened side. Then the Monster immediately goes to the next clockwise player with a Dreamer who is asleep and that player must fight the Monster. If the Monster goes around the table and is never defeated, then it is removed from the game permanently. The only way to put Dreamers back to sleep is for players to use the ‘Put a woken Dreamer back to sleep’ action on their turn. This is important because a player may never engage in a Monster battle if their Dreamer is awake.
END of GAME and WINNING
Once the last Monster has been defeated, the game will come to an end. The player who has the highest total of defeated Monster cards (not the total amount of cards, but the total of all of the dots on all of the cards) will win the game.
Let me begin by saying this: Bedtime Heroes is an incredibly simple game and, depending on who you are playing the game with, this is either its single greatest strength or its biggest weakness. Serious gamers might not enjoy this game as there is very little player action and much of the game is left up to random chance. However, the lightness of the game's theme and it's ease of set up, ease of play, and the fact that it is very easy to learn sets the perfect scene for a friendly filler game.
I had the great pleasure of demoing this game with my game group recently (we had a full six player game going on) and the reactions were very mixed. Some people were simply just sitting back and enjoying the company and companionship of others while playing a game that doesn't really matter. Others were chomping at the bit because they felt that they were totally at the whims of chance and they were just itching to do something... anything... that would put them in control of their fate. Were I to put myself into one of these categories, I would definitely be leaning more in the direction of the former than the latter.
Here's what bothers me about the game - the length. This games feels like it goes on forever. It felt that way in the two-player games that I had played and I thought that it might be better in a larger game, but if anything, it actually got worse. It is my personal feeling that there are far too many Monsters in the game and that the Monster card deck should be much, much smaller.
You might think that such a heavy reliance on luck would also be a big problem, too. Yes, there is a lot of luck involved as far as the Monster battling/dice rolling goes, but the luck factor never feels very punishing as there is always a plentiful supply of monsters to fight and your chances of success can be changed somewhat by purchasing the right toys. It is here in the Toy purchasing that I found the aspect of the game that really spoke to me. By cleverly bidding on Toys that I didn't really want, I was able to lure Chocolate Coins away from my opponents so that I had a better chance of grabbing up the Toys that I DID want. I also appreciated the way that some of the Toy cards interacted with others and I enjoyed figuring out clever ways to turn those interactions to my advantage when I was fighting monsters.
In the end, is Bedtime Heroes fun? That answer is yes. Does it have a very high replay value? My answer would be no. I could see this being a great family game as it is very kid friendly and it's very easy to play, but I'm the kind of board gamer that really enjoys deep, highly strategic games and Bedtime Heroes simply does not fulfill this for me. Don't get me wrong, it's not a terrible game. It's just not a game that I can see hitting my gaming table very often. However, I encourage you to go check it out for yourself and make up your own mind.
Thanks for checking out the game David!
There are definitely too many Monster cards in the version you received. The game's duration can be shortened by simply starting with fewer monsters in the deck; you can have games as brief as 10 minutes if you want.