Whispers. Hey.“Where am I?” Hey. “I must have been walking in circles.” Hey. “I’ve seen that talking fish three time already.” Hey, you, pretty boy, hey. “A talking fish? That’s…”
You are lost in the labyrinths of a dream world, very lost. Walking through the chambers of a library, the corridors of a giant garden maze, piles of equipment in the observatory and fishes, lots of fishes in the aquarium, you must try to find the exit and get out of this terrifyingly, confusing world
What you get for your money:
109 cards and the rules.
How do you play the game:
Onirim is a card game. You can play it solo or cooperatively with two players. The game comes with three small expansion. Here, I’ll explain the solo base game and the expansions.
In the base game, there are three types of cards: Labyrinth cards, Door cards and Dream cards.
The Labyrinth cards come in four colours. Red, the Observatory Labyrinth. Blue, the Aquarium. Green, the Garden. And the brown, the Library. There are 2 Door cards for every Labyrinth and 10 Nightmare cards. All these cards are shuffled together, you draw five cards and the game begins.
You’ll be playing cards, one at a time next to (on top of) each other looking for the doors that are hidden in your deck; hidden in the dream Labyrinths.
A Labyrinth card shows either a sun, a moon or a key symbol. When you place a card on the table the symbol must be different from the previous one. When three cards of the same colour are next to each other, you can search for the corresponding Door in your draw deck. You’ve found the Door.
The keys have multiple uses. You can use them as regular cards, but you can also discard them to look at the top five cards of the draw deck. You must then discard one of those cards and you may rearrange the other four. You can also use a key when you draw a door card of the same colour as the key in the draw phase, discard the key and you can immediately claim the door.
When you draw a Nightmare card, you must discard it card and do one of the following things. You can discard a key card, discard your whole hand, you can shuffle a Door back into the draw deck or you can draw five cards from your draw deck and discard all Labyrinth cards.
When the draw deck is empty, the game is over. When all eight doors are found before that, you’ve won the game.
This game has three little expansions included in the box. The first one, “The Books Of Steps Lost And Found” , adds eight goals and a spell card. The goal cards will give you the exact order in which you have to find the doors. First blue, then green, blue again, etc. You can now also use three spells: change the goal order, look at the bottom five cards and put one on top, and discard a Nightmare card from your deck. You have to pay for these spells with cards from your discard pile.
The “The Towers” expansion adds twelve tower cards, three of each colour. You must have one of each colour in front of you at the end of the game. They have to be placed next to each other, have moon and sun symbols on them and, similar to the Labyrinth cards, they can’t be placed next to Towers with the same symbol (on that side). The Tower cards can also be used to look at the top cards of the draw pile and rearrange them if you want to. Be aware, when a Nightmare is drawn, all Towers cards (except when you have four in a row) must be discarded or else you have to put the Nightmare card back into your deck.
The last expansion, “Dark Premonitions And Happy Dreams”, adds eight Premonition and four Happy Dream cards to the game. You have to draw four random Premonitions at the start of the game and these have a trigger condition, like ‘two green doors are found’, and a penalty, like ‘put a discarded Nightmare card back into the draw deck’. The Happy Dreams are shuffled into the draw deck and can be used to get rid of these Premonitions. You can also use them to look at the top 7 cards, discard some if you want to and rearrange the rest. Or, to look for one specific card in your draw deck.
OK, so you are lost in a dream labyrinth. You think you know the way out. The red door should be somewhere on the other side of this observatory, right? Then an awful, ugly monster rises out of the darkness. You run, scared and disorientated.
This game does feel a bit like that. The feeling of time ticking away and you still don’t know how to get out of a tricky situation is a familiar nightmarish emotion. The panic, the sweat. Onirim has a similar tension.
The keys don’t make any thematic sense except when it comes to the opening of doors. Also, premonitions and the towers aren’t a perfect fit for the ‘I’m lost in a dream’ theme. The Books can be. They’re like a map, guiding you through this maze.
Some mechanisms feel abstract, like the moon and sun alternation and the key abilities, other things feel quite thematic, like the things I said above.
Earlier I reviewed Urbion, from the same designer. Onirim feels like it’s younger brother, a little younger. At least the base game does. The mechanisms seem to be somewhat easier to grasp and the game is also ‘easier’ to win, in my experience. You still have to remember which cards are in the discard pile and which are in the draw pile, but this game feels less mathy than Urbion. There a little bit more luck involved in Onirim. Especially when you look at the handling of the Nightmare cards (comparable to the Chaos cards in Urbion). In Onirim you have to deal with them immediately. In Urbion they have an immediate effect, but they also have a long term effect, they stay on the table, and you have to deal with that too.
There are only three things that are really important in the base game, the moon-sun-key alteration, remember which cards of what colour are in the draw deck and to keep in mind that a Nightmare can haunt you, any time, so use your keys wisely. The mechanics are pretty straightforward and seem easy, but you have far more suns of a colour than moons and keys, so you really need to think ahead. Suns can clog up your hand. Throw them away for a new card? But, you can’t lavishly throw your moons away, there are only a few of them. And don’t just use keys for looking at through the deck, they might come in handy when a door or a Nightmare pops up. You have a lot of thinking and planning to do and sometimes you just have to push your luck.
The expansions are interesting. The Books can make things easier in one way, they guide you into a certain direction. But lack of freedom makes it feels more difficult and a bit more luck dependant in another. Especially early in the game, when you have no or a small discard pile. You need the right cards for the first door you have to open. Later you can use the spells to help you get out of tricky situations.
I feel the Towers expansion is the easiest one and again, luck is quite important with this one. If you are lucky to draw a lot of towers in the first couple of turns and you are able to place them in front of you, you don’t have to worry about having to discard them when Nightmares pop up and the ones left only give you more benefits and that makes the game much easier. This is the least interesting expansion because of this.
The Premonition expansion is the most interesting one. Terrible things will happen unless you use the Happy Dream cards to discard these Premonitions, but sometimes you really need the Happy Dreams for other things. You constantly have to think: “Do I want short-term or long-term benefits.
I think Urbion is at its best with all the expansion added to the base game. I don’t think that this is the case with Onirim. It is best to play the game in its basic form or with one expansions added. I do not recommend to play with all expansions at the same time. That’s to chaotic for my taste.
I have one last thing to say about the gameplay. This is a solo game only, not a game for two, just you and your dreams.
I really like the artwork. It fits the theme very well. It’s a very blurry, a bit weird world. Beautiful watercolour illustrations.
Quality of the components
Good cards, no linen finish. There a lot of shuffling, so your cards will damage quite a lot eventually. I’m not fond of a tin, please give me a small box instead.
I really like this game. I would say this game is a little easier than it’s big brother, but that does not spoil the fun. Both are excellent solo games. Which one is better? Hard to say, Onirim is a little easier and a little more luck driven. That doesn’t have to be bad, it just depends in what kind of mood I am. There are more expansion for this game, but I think only two of them are really fun, the Books and the Premonitions. The Towers are also fun, but not as much.
Maybe Urbion is a bit more fun. Or Onirim? I don’t know, but who cares! Both are excellent, portable, cheap and quick solo games. You have to think a lot. Decisions, decisions, decisions, that’s a must for a solo game, but it’s light enough to play on a weekday. When we are all pretty tired from working in the coal mines or at the bank, right?
Don’t fall asleep, you might get lost…