Designer: Gabriel Leow
Artist: Ping Ting Sim
Publisher: Play Nation Studios
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 25-35 min.
Dream Catchers is a cooperative casual game for 2 to 4 players. Players are dream catchers who visit children in their sleep to collect sweet dreams and remove nightmares to help them sleep tight for the night.
Play power cards to catch a sweet dream for the sleeping child or remove a nightmare to prevent them from attacking the poor kid. Players may trade cards with each other to help in their task.
Monsters appear throughout the night to attack the dream catchers and dreamer. If three monsters are hiding under the bed, they wake the child up and the game is lost!
Collect the required power cards and catch the nasty monsters. However, some monsters are cunning and may escape if you lose the die roll!
At the end of each player's turn, time passes and dawn draws near. Help the child get a good sleep before the night is over and do it before the monsters wake the dreamer to win the game!
NOTE: This is a preview of Dream Catchers ahead of its January 2018 Kickstarter campaign. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
The first glimmer that caught my eye for Dream Catchers was their very well done, thematic, animated trailer. If you haven't seen it yet, you can find it on the main page of the Dream Catchers site. It does a great job of setting the stage for the theme and tone of the game!
In Dream Catchers, you and your cooperative group of friends or family (2-4 of you) are acting as adorably illustrated animal fairy protectors - dream catchers - who are responsible for stopping nightmares and seeding good dreams in children. The theme is exceedingly well played out through the illustrated components and through gameplay itself.
Learning the Rules and Setup:
The rulebook for Dream Catchers is a full size, 20 page booklet with a large font and lavish full-color illustrations throughout. It is easy to read, clear, and well-laid out. It's quite easy to pick up and teach yourself the rules in just a few minutes. In addition, the game comes with a two-page fold-out leaflet titled, "Setting Up for Your First Game." This makes set up very clear and easy to understand!
Dream Catchers does need a bit of shuffling and dealing to set up, but is fairly quick once you are familiar with which cards are which. The main playing area, the "Dreamscape," is a grid of Dream/Nightmare Tiles that you will try to collect or vanquish. Beneath that is an oversized Bedroom Tile which, with the help of adorable wooden monster meeples, will help you keep track of how well the child is sleeping (how many dreams and nightmares) and how close the night is to ending with the dawn.
Each player draws a Character Card, which gives you not only a cute picture of a fairy panda or other cuddly fairy animal, but also a special ability during the game, and a hand of Power Cards, which have icons to match the icons on the Dream and Nightmare Tiles.
Game Play and Mechanics:
Dream Catchers is a cooperative hand management, set collection game. Each player's turn consists of a Dream Catcher Phase, where you can perform two actions, followed by a Night Phase, where you must advance the time marker, bring out monsters, and refill the Dreamscape with more Dream or Nightmare Tiles (drawn from a single deck).
Your choice of actions on the Dream Catcher phase is simple and easy to understand. You can trade a Power Card with another player (easy to do since all hands are kept face-up on the table); turn in a set of Power Cards with appropriately matching icons (representing some combination of Love, Treats, Fantasy, Discover, Courage, or Strength) to either catch a Dream or a Nightmare; or turn in cards and roll a die to try to get rid of a Monster from under the bed. Having two actions allows you to trade and then catch a dream, or to catch two nightmares, etc.
Each dream caught advances the dream mover on the track on the Bedroom Tile, and some allow you to draw a treasure card which can help you further. Your goal is to fill the sleeping child's head with dreams before dawn, without letting her succumb to nightmares or the fear of three monsters beneath her bed.
The Night Phase of Dream Catchers is when you need to advance those bad things that could ruin the night for your sleeping child. You advance the wooden sand timer marker along the night track: if it would need to advance beyond the last space - dawn - and your child's head is not full of happy dreams, you lose.
Some of the spots along the night track have monsters on them: when the timer reaches one of these, you pull a monster tile from the stack and add it under the bed. If at any time there are three monsters under the bed, you lose.
Finally, you'll refill the Dreamscape, filling spots that were left empty when you caught dreams or nightmares. When you pull a new nightmare tile, you check to see if it shares matching icons with an adjacent nightmare - if it does, then you discard all matching tiles and advance the nightmare mover one spot for each discarded tile. If the nightmare token gets to the end of its track, you lose.
If the nightmare tile doesn't match an adjacent tile in its first placement, you move it in the grid according to the arrow on the tile, and check to see if it matches adjacent nightmares in its new location. This move-and-recheck rule was the only rule in the game that felt complicated for my 11 year old daughter and was the only thing we had to double-check in the rules because it wasn't immediately intuitive. It does result in more matches, though, making the game more challenging than it seems at first.
The overall game play of Dream Catchers is easy to understand and lends itself to diving into the theme. The cards are all uniquely and adorably illustrated, so you can incorporate the items or ideas you're using to take care of a nightmare or furnish a happy dream into a brief tale of your success.
Balancing the ease of learning to play and actual mechanics, Dream Catchers includes a set of five different Bedroom Tiles, each of which has its own challenges, and you can choose which bedroom to play based on how much challenge you want to face during the game. This gives the game a good dose of replayability, as my daughter has already suggested replaying the game until we're able to beat each of the five bedrooms at least once.
Artwork and Components:
Oh, the artwork! Dream Catchers is filled with sweet, almost cartoony fantastic images of flying cats and two-headed dragons, giant pizzas and candy trees. The bedrooms are richly detailed (and each comes with its own short backstory in the end of the rulebook) and full of interest. My family was immediately drawn in by this unique, eye-catching artwork and we feel it really helps give the game a strong thematic presence. Each card is like its own little story.
The components for Dream Catchers were well done, too - we fell in love with the little green monster meeples and the other wooden movers. The cards have a sturdy linen finish, and the bedroom tiles are pleasingly solid, with rounded corners. Even the die - large, glittery pink, and translucent - fits with the tone of the game.
The only issue we had with any of the components is that the actual rulebook is 1 or 2 mm too long to fit easily into the box - we have to bend it just slightly each time to get it back in the box. Hopefully that sizing issue can be fixed with the Kickstarter print run - but even if it's not fixed, it's not a big enough issue to detract from the game.
Dream Catchers is a lovely game with a unique theme, imaginative artwork, and easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master mechanics. We love cooperative games at our house, for all ages, and this game was a really solid fit for us right now - my 11 year old daughter in particular adores the artwork and the theme. She loved the image of herself as a fairy panda giving a child sweet dreams full of flying carpets and roller coasters.
I was very pleased with the components, the rulebook, and the selection of tiles to change the level of difficulty. We were surprised that even though the game play is fairly simple, we still couldn't win the game with the easiest bedroom on our first several playthroughs - that means we'll get more table time for this one than we may have thought at first glance.
Dream Catchers is a lighter game - it takes between 20-30 minutes for a game once all players are familiar with the game. The strategy isn't too deep and the game play isn't complicated. I know for many game players, that's something that would keep you from choosing a game, and this probably isn't something we'd take to a game day at our FLGS. It's a good fit in our home, though, because we play a lot of fillers and lighter games on weeknights with the kids.
The only component drawback was the sizing issue with the rulebook; the only drawback I can see to game play overall is maintaining interest in the game once we have successfully completed each bedroom a handful of times.
Dream Catchers draws you in with the fantastical artwork and the endearing theme; the rules and layout are simple, but avoiding the nightmares and monsters turns out to be much more challenging than it appears! Dream Catchers is a solid family cooperative game that will keep us coming back for more in the hopes of filling every child's head with sweet dreams.
Players Who Like:
Dream Catchers will appeal to players who like lighter cooperative games, such as Forbidden Island or Escape; set collection games like Sushi Go or Lanterns; and also to players who are drawn to adorable themes, such as Strawberry Ninja or Kodama.
I am giving Dream Catchers 8 out of 10 super meeples.
See more reviews from Alexa and EBG at http://www.everythingboardgames.com/p/reviews.html