03rd May2019

‘Dream Catchers’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail


In Dream Catchers, each player controls a friendly sprite who visits children in the night, chasing away their nightmares and ensuring that they have sweet dreams and a good night’s sleep. Monsters hiding under the bed will threaten to wake the children and gobble them up, and so they must also be chased away.

Dream Catchers is a cooperative game for two to four players in which the players will draw from a shared deck and use the cards in their hand to affect a grid of larger cards that will be placed in the centre of the table. Each of these central cards (arrayed three by three) represent the dreams and nightmares that the child, shown on a separate board, is having.

The idea of Dream Catchers is simple and whilst this is clearly a family friendly game, each of the bedrooms (the boards showing the different children) have a different difficult level thanks to a couple of factors. Every bedroom has three tracks, one each for good and bad dreams (nightmares) and then another which tracks elapsed time. As time passes, new monsters might appear under the bed and should there ever be three monsters, the players lose.

Whilst it might look like it would appeal to very young children (as it did mine) Dream Catchers is actually only really playable by kids of about eight years old and upwards, I’d say. The basic mechanics are simple, so let me explain them first. On their turn, a player has access to a few actions and can take any two of them. Most commonly, the action they’ll take will involve playing at least two of their cards to catch a dream or defeat a monster.

The way that these actions are achieved is the same – the player will use cards in their hand that match the symbols shown on the dream or monster. If the dream caught is good, it advances the good dream track, but if it’s bad, nothing happens. In either case, the captured dream is removed from the grid and a new one is drawn – more on that in a moment. If a monster is defeated, it is removed from under the bed and discarded.

Now, regardless of whether a captured dream is good or bad, when a new one is drawn, it will be taken from the top of a face down pile and placed. If it’s a nightmare, it might trigger a chain reaction. This happens when bad dreams are placed next to other bad dreams with the same symbol, and there’s a further rule that says if a chain reaction doesn’t happen right away, the bad dream moves one space and may then trigger.

When nightmares trigger, then all of the linked bad dreams (which is usually just two, but can potentially be three or even four) are removed and the nightmare tracker advances that number of spaces. If it ever reaches the end, then the child wakes up screaming and the players lose. Worse still, cards will then be drawn to fill the gaps and again, bad dreams can trigger once again.

The basic concept of Dream Catchers is all about managing the number of nightmares on the board, defeating the monsters (each of which comes with its own negative effect) and all the while, attempting to deliver enough good dreams before the timer runs out. Each sprite has its own special ability to assist in the effort and players can trade cards, so there’s a real cooperative feel to the game.

There are a fair number of different bedrooms in the base game and much like the cards, each one is beautifully illustrated with a lovely, whimsical style that still delivers a ton of personality and detail. The Dream Catcher sprites are all cute and characterful, and there are seven to choose from in the Kickstarter Edition that I was sent (six in the final retail run) which means that there’s plenty of variety.

The other components are also very well done. The monster and nightmare cards are a little frightening (without being terrifying) whilst the good dreams will resonate with any young child. Unicorns, family, sweets and all the usual stuff of childhood memory flows throughout. The tokens used to track time and dream status are beautifully sculpted, making Dream Catchers a treat to behold.

Overall Dream Catchers is an interesting and surprisingly compelling hand management game with simple mechanics and beautiful artwork. It’s definitely a family, cooperative game that doesn’t pretend to be anything else, but it’s a lot of fun if you can get the right group of players together. A really fun and beautiful addition to a family game shelf.

***½  3.5/5

Dream Catchers is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.


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