Alex Limoges
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I am writing this as a sort of « traveler’s journal » into the Oniverse.

When I bought the game, I was not sure what to do with the advertised 7 expansions. This was both a lot, and not enough. A lot, because, there are so many combinations that I was not sure how to manage them all. Not enough, because I am used to a game that integrates its different components to create something organic. What I had was a very simple game and all sorts of possible ways to change it, but no « advanced » game suggested by the creator.

I asked for combinations and got several answers, but I thought I had to go through it all myself.

When I acquired the game, I tried playing the base game. Then added all expansions except The Towers and The Door to the Oniverse, then everything.

What I decided to do, after many confusing games, was to return to the basic game, then add every expansion one by one, alone, to the basic game and write down my impressions, with the intent to then try many other combinations.

Here’s the results of those peregrinations… hoping it could be interesting for those who are discovering Onirim.

This post will be updated as I try more combinations.


First journey - BASE GAME


What a difference it made going back to the base game after several games with all seven expansions. I suddenly enjoyed the purity and simplicity of Onirim. I could not see, the first time around, that the game, at its core and in its simplest form, was centered around the keys and the nightmares, the former allowing you to reveal and manipulate the first five cards, the latter, forcing you to discard them. Both get diluted as you add cards in the deck, as many other ways allow you to manipulate it, and as added objectives or dark premonitions weigh more heavily on the possibility of defeat than the prospect of a nightmare card.

After a few games, inevitably, I felt that the renewed simplicity’s pleasure wore off as I got the impression that I had “solved” the game. The only time I hesitated was when I had laid down two cards in a series but did not have the 3rd one and actually had three cards of another color in hand (and no key to make a prophecy): should I keep looking for the last card or start a new one? I guess the answer to this question is contextual. Also, I had started putting cards in the discard in five piles, one for each color and one for the nightmares, so I could see at a glance which color I should stop dropping. What I needed was something to add depth. I moved on, but with a different perspective, which is what I was looking for from the onset…

I will give a personal appreciation of every combination from now on, based on how they modify the base game, according to the following criteria:

Difficulty
Depth
Ease/flow
Appreciation
Notes


Every combination is being compared to the base game, so I use this scale:

X = means this aspect stays about the same as the base game. It might be a little less or a little more, but not significantly so.
- = slightly less, - - = less - - - = significantly less
+ = slightly more, ++ more, +++ significantly more

Please remember that I am never talking about the actual merits of an expansion, but what I think about a specific combination. The first “journeys” are always a combination of the base game with a single expansion, but further combinations might change the appreciation of an expansion.


Second journey – THE LOST STEPS


When I added all the expansions, this one appeared to me as absolutely essential. Somehow, I might have changed my mind as I added this expansion alone to the base game. Solving the maze in a specific order did not seem to add the needed depth. I felt like it meant two things: 1. Whenever I had two somehow equal options to put down a color or another, I would choose the one that I needed (which was obvious) 2. I would simply need seven cards in the pile to adapt the maze to whichever color I was putting down, which sometimes meant accepting a nightmare instead of avoiding it. This is all rather meager.

In retrospect, what I like the most about this expansion is the option of removing five cards from the discard pile to look at the five cards under the draw pile and put one on top. Manipulation of the decks is an interesting mechanism. I thought that while adding this expansion to the base game alone fell flat, maybe this option alone (removing 5 cards) would make it more interesting in synergy with other expansions.

Difficulty X
Depth X
Ease/flow -
Appreciation -

Notes: adds no card to the deck.


Third journey – THE GLYPHS


Something immediately struck me as I added this one to the base game: does Onirim need to last longer? Having returned to the basic game, I thought the length felt just right. What is gained by increasing the number of doors? It’s a question, not an answer. Of course, it makes the game harder. As for the glyphs themselves, they add to the deck, which means that they change the balance of the keys/nightmares. Not the doors, since this expansion actually adds doors.

The interesting part of this expansion is the fact that the glyphs force a decision: they give you a fourth option to the sun/moon/key trio when you lay down cards, but then, you cannot use their power. This power, alone with the base game, I felt was really just a gamble. You draw the first five cards, grab a door if there is one, then put the others under the draw pile. Having glyphs near the end when the deck is thin could really be powerful.

I grew fond of this expansion with time. Trying it alone with the base game made it longer, since it doubles the number of doors, and in fact, I am tempted to say that the game is slightly harder, although the power of the incantations can really turn a game around.

Difficulty X
Depth: +
Ease/flow X
Appreciation +

Notes: adds 16 cards to the deck.



Fourth journey – THE DREAMCATCHERS



There was something I was doing wrong when using this expansion when I was playing with all of them. It felt unduly hard. Playing it the right way, I was not obsessed as much with the dreamcatchers filling quickly. This expansion was the first to add a new objective instead of modifying existing ones. Previously, I thought the aim of this expansion was simply to solve the issue of overshuffling. It did that, and I was thankful for it. Adding dreamcatchers to the base game alone made me think specifically at what it was adding to the game. I did not see the firs time around that this expansion was not only making the game harder by asking you to catch lost dreams and avoid overfilling the dream catchers. It gave you an all-new and original way to avoid nightmares, which was not coming from luck (getting a new hand after a nightmare) but could actually come from careful planning. I also saw that I could try to string lost dreams and nightmares to net them with a single catcher.

After a few games, it became clear that the Dreamcatchers would be part of many, if not all the combinations of expansions that I would deem worthy in the end. It was also the first which I was, after giving it a closer look, entirely positive about. I also thought it felt perfectly right thematically. Also, it was worth noting that contrary to some expansions, it adds only four cards to the deck,

Difficulty X
Depth: +
Ease/flow X (the mechanism affects the simplicity, but you shuffle less)
Appreciation ++

Notes: adds 4 cards to the deck.


Fifth journey – THE TOWERS


The Towers was an expansion that, reading comments here and there, I believed was weaker before I even tried it. Like the previous expansion, it adds an all-new objective. It’s also one of the expansions with the effect of thickening the deck, therefore changing the balance of the cards. I enjoyed the games I played with this configuration, although the mechanics, as I think about them, are curious. Adding the towers is dangerous since nightmares will demolish them, unless you send them back into the draw pile. I felt like luck alone would allow me to draw the different tower cards and put them down without seeing them destroyed before I got the four colors. I failed, and then I won, but purely out of luck. I tried again. I understood that I the strategy with those towers was to accumulate a few in my hand, as long as I could see how to string them, then put them all down in consecutive turns to limit the chances of them being destroyed. This time, it was much more enjoyable, much less luck-driven, and it gave me something else to think about than just acquiring doors.

I have one quibble with this expansion. The power of the towers is too similar to that of the keys. I am not sure I needed a second way to look at the top cards of the deck and reorder them. Of course, since the towers add 16 cards, they change the balance a bit, and therefore the proportion of keys and nightmares, so the expansion partly solves this by giving a key-like power to the towers themselves and by having some nightmares potentially returning to the deck. Still, this expansion adds many more chances to reorder the top of the draw pile.

It remained to be seen how this one would synergize with other expansions.

Difficulty +
Depth: +
Ease/flow -
Appreciation X

Notes: adds 12 cards to the deck.


Sixth journey – DARK PREMONITIONS



This was the first of the expansions clearly meant as a way to increase the difficulty of the game (which is welcome). The happy dreams are few, so they don’t add to the card count much, but they do little to balance out the dark premonitions. I enjoyed the games I played with this expansion, as instead of systematically going forward, I had to step back and climb up again. I thought that some of the dark premonitions effects could have been a little more interesting, though, such as the two that simply ask you to put a door back into the limbs (which might be more interesting with the Dreamcatchers than with the base game). One of the cards requires you to draw two new dark premonitions and apply the effect, which feels a bit random. The other thing that I find a bit odd is that the main effect of the happy dreams is simply to cancel the dark premonitions before they trigger, so if you should draw them very early, the dark premonitions are toothless, while if you draw them late, they will apply and you won’t be able to do anything about it. Since you should normally see some of them early, then you will have to choose which premonitions to cancel.

The happy dreams do have some other powerful effects, so at least, this expansion often asks you to make a choice, accepting a boon or taking away a bane, which is very positive. One last thing that can be problematic: as you add expansions, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember to apply the dark premonitions. It was not an issue here along with just the base game.

Difficulty ++
Depth: ++
Ease/flow - -
Appreciation X

Notes: adds 4 cards to the deck.


Seventh journey – CROSSROADS & DEAD ENDS

The simplest of all the expansions. It adds no objectives and only consists in 8 dead end cards and 8 crossroads cards. As simple as it sounds, it actually cleverly changes the way you handle nightmares. It’s subtle, but you can actually try to get rid of the dead ends, which act as dead weight in your hand, by placing a nightmare at the top of the deck with a key. The expansion adds another way to get rid of all the cards, an escape, which usually means accepting to lose some cards to get rid of the dead ends – which is not as efficient as using the nightmares. The crossroads are powerful. The multicolored key becomes a sort of joker card. I had the impression after a few games that this expansion actually makes the game slightly easier. It’s because the option to drop cards or to use the dead ends to take out a nightmare makes the dead ends less threatening than the crossroads are helping. I believe, though, that this expansion adds some depth to the game without making it more complex. I would most probably use in most combinations. It does add 16 cards to the deck, though. There is one key among the crossroads, no new nightmares. Since half the cards help and half hurt you, I think it balances out, but I would think that the “hard mode” suggested with this expansion (the crossroads can only be the second card of a triple) will be necessary unless the combination chosen already makes the game hard enough.

Difficulty -
Depth: +
Ease/flow X
Appreciation ++

Notes: adds 16 cards to the deck.


Eight journey – The Door to the Oniverse

This expansion clearly makes the game easier, as you gain some pretty powerful cards and only have to open a new multicolored door. I have not been overwhelmed by the necessity to go read the rules to remind myself of the 8 different powers, but I was only using this expansion and the basic game. I could see that one would quickly learn the powers. For the very first time, the rules did not seem to cover a few situations. I did not know what to do with the characters if they came up at the start of when I was drawing 5 new cards. I thought the cards clearly added depth. I wished there were “dark” characters instead of a new door as the added objective, or a door that would actually be harder to open, using a different mechanism. The white door felt like a rather weak addition, although, like the multicolored key, it’s a card that has more chance to interact with others. There is no way to make this expansion harder, so it will have to be combined with harder expansions, since I do not believe that the game needs to be easier.

Difficulty - -
Depth: +
Ease/flow -
Appreciation -

Notes: adds 8 cards to the deck.


COMMENTS:

After trying each expansion along with the base game, I drew some conclusions that enlightened the choice of further combinations.

1. I lose more games than I win (I have a tendancy to think many play the game slightly incorrectly, and trying the app will show you if you are making a mistake with the rules. Still, I want the game to be hard, and I try to add diffulty.

2. I have the impression that adding too many cards to the deck might have a negative effect to the ratio of keys/doors/nightmares. This will need to be tested. I will need to take into account the number of cards added to the deck when making combinations.

3. I need to add depth without affecting the ease/flow too much. Those two variables need to be looked at together.

4. Some expansions add objectives, some don’t. I would like to try adding no more than one, maybe two objectives at first.

5. I rejected no expansion, although I did not appreciate Lost Steps alone with the base game and felt somewhat unimpressed about a few others. On the other hand, I really appreciated two expansions, Dreamcatchers and Crossroads, which I want to add to several possible combinations.


EDIT:
CONCLUSIONS AFTER SEVERAL HUNDRED GAMES

I want to revisit this post and give my final conclusions on Onirim.

I now believe the following two configurations to be my favorite:

1. BASE + Glyphs + Dead Ends & Crossroads
(using the hard mode for Crossroads)
2. BASE + Glyphs + Dead Ends & Crossroads + Dreamcatchers (using the hard mode for Crossroads)

I have come to the conclusion after so many games that Onirim shines while you add no extension affecting the flow of the game. Book of steps, Towers, The Door to the Oniverse, Happy Dreams all affect the core game by adding what I consider to be extrapolatory mechanisms.

Glyphs and Dead ends keep the basic game elements the same, except for the Incantations (more on this in the next paragraph). Adding Dreamcathers ramps up the difficulty a bit and prevents excessive shuffling, while not affecting the core elements of the game.

And finally:

Please consider banning the incantations (using the extensions without the power of incantations) if you like a true hard mode.
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Daniel Wilmer
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Thanks for this. A most interesting journey looking forward to the next installment. Like your rating system too.

If I were to add the promos then I would probably rate them as

Diver/sphinx/confusion:
Difficulty +
Depth +
Ease/flow ---
Appreciation+
Notes: adds 3 new dream card and lots more shuffling. The choices seem better on paper then in game but quite thematic and offers different type of deck manipulation.

The mirrors:
DifficultyX
Depth++
Ease/flow+
Appreciation++
Notes: completely alters the main method of exploration. Very different from any other expansion but has potential compatability issues.

Hope that helps
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Michael Lee
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I really enjoyed the read... look forward to more!
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Alex
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milthurs wrote:
I really enjoyed the read... look forward to more!

Me too!

I was looking for similar insight when I first bought the game. This is why I strated a poll few weeks back.


SolarJ wrote:
The mirrors:
DifficultyX


You should give it a try it with the Rainbow.
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Jānis Rudzītis
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afafard wrote:


SolarJ wrote:
The mirrors:
DifficultyX


You should give it a try it with the Rainbow.


It has a very little impact on difficulty (I would say - it remains the same)
 
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Jānis Rudzītis
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Solipsiste wrote:

Eight journey – The Door to the Oniverse
For the very first time, the rules did not seem to cover a few situations. I did not know what to do with the characters if they came up at the start of when I was drawing 5 new cards.

The Denizen cards are Dream cards - place the Denizen card in the Limbo pile.
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Alex Limoges
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Thanks for the comments. I took good note about the denizens in limbo.

I wish I could find the rare expansions...
 
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Jānis Rudzītis
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"Z-man games" store
http://www.zmangames.com/apps/search?q=onirim
 
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Daniel Wilmer
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Solipsiste wrote:

Thanks for the comments. I took good note about the denizens in limbo.

I wish I could find the rare expansions...


The mirrors expansion cam be tried with just some placeholders as it adds no cards to the deck. Similarly you can use some of the other expansion cards as placeholders for the diver/sphinx/confusion. Mirrors is definitely worth a try.
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Alex
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baltaistehws wrote:
afafard wrote:
SolarJ wrote:
The mirrors:
DifficultyX
You should give it a try it with the Rainbow.

It has a very little impact on difficulty (I would say - it remains the same)


I fail to see how this can be possible.
The additionnal victory condition requires you to discard 4 pairs (6 with Rainbow) of specific location cards.

Sure, there are other mirrors that can help but exploring them is a risky gamble.
 
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Jānis Rudzītis
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There are situations in the base game when you are forced to discard a card from your hand. Now (in „The Mirrors” expansion) you can do it in a meaningful way – instead of discarding you place them (as a pair) under a Mirror card. The exploration of the Moon mirror card is the most difficult - placing a pair under the Sun/ Rainbow mirror isn’t so critical (usually I leave the fulfillment of the Moon mirror card to the last part of the play).
On the one hand, there is more danger in probability that you will draw a Nightmare card unprepared, but, on the other hand, if you have only 3 or less cards on your hand, then the Nightmare is less dangerous. Yes, there are some nice combos, e.g., Blue+Key mirrors, if I resolve the Blue mirror in the second part of the game, I search for 2 Keys which I place on the top of the deck, then discard 2 Nightmares and take 2 Door cards (of course, there must be 2 Key cards under the Key mirror card already).
Recently I started to add 1 or 2 Nightmare cards from „The Sphinx, Diver, and Confusion” expansion to „The Mirrors” expansion, because I won >50% even with the Rainbow card.
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Daniel Wilmer
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afafard wrote:



SolarJ wrote:
The mirrors:
DifficultyX


You should give it a try it with the Rainbow.


I've played with the rainbow and the glyphs expansion to utilise all the mirrors (as well as the towers if I remember rightly - that didn't go down too well).

The rainbow mirror is perhaps easier to fulfil in that you can play two different colours (although each pair needs a matching symbol, the symbol for the second pair does not need to be the same as the first pair played to that mirror). Why it makes it the expansion harder is that mirror is now sucking up another 4 cards, meaning that plays overall are required that much tighter. This is also important as one card is now required from the brown locations, making it harder to get the extra door from brown plays to the brown mirror, or standard brown explores.

Why I wouldn't rate the mirrors expansion higher in difficulty overall than the base game is that it totally changes the focus of plays, with only partial focus on exploring the labyrinth. In fact with appropriate use of all the mirror abilities and a bit of foresight from keys it is very possible to get all the door with very little conventional exploring. This is also why I'd rate it higher for depth (new strategies) and general appreciation. The Rainbow mirror does make it a bit harder than the base game but once the strategies are clear I didn't see it as interfering with the difficulty level too much. What it does do is clash in very difficult to manage ways with other expansions. Surprisingly it's not broken as far as I could see, but I haven't played it with every expansion.


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Daniel Wilmer
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baltaistehws wrote:
There are situations in the base game when you are forced to discard a card from your hand. Now (in „The Mirrors” expansion) you can do it in a meaningful way – instead of discarding you place them (as a pair) under a Mirror card. The exploration of the Moon mirror card is the most difficult - placing a pair under the Sun/ Rainbow mirror isn’t so critical (usually I leave the fulfillment of the Moon mirror card to the last part of the play).
On the one hand, there is more danger in probability that you will draw a Nightmare card unprepared, but, on the other hand, if you have only 3 or less cards on your hand, then the Nightmare is less dangerous. Yes, there are some nice combos, e.g., Blue+Key mirrors, if I resolve the Blue mirror in the second part of the game, I search for 2 Keys which I place on the top of the deck, then discard 2 Nightmares and take 2 Door cards (of course, there must be 2 Key cards under the Key mirror card already).
Recently I started to add 1 or 2 Nightmare cards from „The Sphinx, Diver, and Confusion” expansion to „The Mirrors” expansion, because I won >50% even with the Rainbow card.


Why not go the whole hog and add in the full The Sphinx, Diver, and Confusion expansion to The Mirrors for some challenging fun? I'm sure I'll try at some point but certainly not rushing to.
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Jānis Rudzītis
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Thanks for your suggestion! Usually I use to play 15-20 minutes, when I have a break.
But I already played this combination (Sphinx, Diver&Confusion + Mirrors) I added also "Happy Dreams and Dark Premonitions" - it was one of craziest experiences, because "Mirrors" and "Dark Premonitions" have opposite objectives + randomness of SDC. Recommended!
Why I like "Happy Dreams and Dark Premonitions" so much? Because it works against one of my favourite strategies (to obtain 2 Doors of same color as soon as I can - and then I can use this color as I want).
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Trevor James
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Excellent overview. Enjoyed your comments very much. I've only played the base game then dreamcatchers with dark premonitions and find this quite difficult.
 
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