Solo Buzz: Onirim

I was looking through the upcoming games I’m interested in, and wasn’t really finding anything I wanted to write about that had rules for me to peruse.  So, I’m going to do something a little different.  This is the first of what may become a recurring feature on this blog where I talk about solo games.  These can be games designed as solo experiences or variants (official or unofficial) of multiplayer games.  Basically, I’ll give you a rundown of the game and then play it, giving you a rundown of the experience.  We’ll start off with…

image by BGG user goblintrenches
image by BGG user goblintrenches

Onirim is a 2010 game from Belgian designer Shadi Torbey, and published in the US by Z-Man.  The game is for 1-2 players, but it seems to me that it’s a solitaire game with a two-player variant rather than the other way around.  The game takes around 15 minutes to play, and comes with three expansion modules to mix in to make life more difficult.  Onirim is a straight card game, and there are 109 cards in the box (76 for the base game, 33 for the expansions).  The theme is that you are a Dreamwalker, walking around in a Labyrinth attempting to find the doors.  On the way, you may encounter Nightmares, which really screw you up.

Set-up of the game is fairly simple: from the deck, you draw a hand of five cards.  If you draw a Nightmare or a Door, you set it aside into a Limbo pile and continue to draw until you have five cards with sun, moon, or key symbols.  At this point, any cards in the Limbo pile are shuffled into the deck.  You then either play a card into your Labyrinth or discard a card.  Your Labyrinth is a row of cards played in front of you.  You don’t have to match colors; however, if you have played three cards of the same color in a row, you may search the deck and claim a dDoor of that color.  Two things are important about this: you can’t play two symbols of the same type (sun, moon, or key) consecutively, and you start a new set of three after claiming a Door.  So, if you play a fourth red card, it’s actually the first of the second set of red.

You can also choose to discard any card from your hand.  If you discard a key, you trigger a Prophecy – draw the top five cards of the deck, discard one, and put the remainder in any order.

Once you have played or discarded, you draw the top card of the deck.  If it’s a labyrinth card, add it to your hand and continue play.  If it’s a Door, you may claim it if you can discard a key of the same color.  Otherwise, the Door is placed in Limbo and you continue to draw.  If you draw a Nightmare, you have several options.  You can discard a key (no Prophecies here); you can discard a Door you have already gained to Limbo; you can reveal the top five cards of the deck and discard them (Doors and Nightmares go to Limbo); or you can discard your entire hand, and draw a new hand of five with all Doors and Nightmares going to Limbo.  Whatever the result, you only stop the draw phase when you get up to five cards.  After this, any cards in Limbo are shuffled into the deck.

You win if you can get all eight doors out.  You lose if you can’t draw any more cards to complete your hand.

OK, I’m off to play a game of Onirim.  I’ll be back with my results momentarily!

PSB

I’m back.  After putting two Doors and four Nightmares into Limbo while trying to get my first hand (I shuffled, honest), I was able to claim a brown Door with a key on my first draw.  I got my second Door (green) by adding three green cards to my Labyrinth – this after getting rid of a Nightmare via a Prophecy.  I got my first red Door with three red cards in the Labyrinth, and the second green Door with a key.  Halfway to the goal, it was looking good.  And then the Nightmares started.  I got rid of the first one with a brown key, and the second with a green key I didn’t need anymore.  I got rid of the third one by discarding my hand, and that move allowed me to claim the second red Door.  I was able to get my first blue Door with three cards in the Labyrinth, and as I was working on the final brown door in the Labyrinth, I drew it with a brown key in hand.  All I had left was the final blue Door…and then I was killed by a spate of four Nightmares in a row.  Oh well.

One thing I really like about this game is its inherent simplicity.  You’re just trying to get the doors.  You play or discard, then you draw.  Choices are made in figuring out how to best get the doors, and in determining how best to deal with the Nightmares.  As you claim doors, some cards become useless and good fodder for discards.  I love getting keys for doors that are already claimed because they become free Nightmare deterrents.  The game plays fast, and it’s a sufficiently challenging diversion.

Now, on to the expansions.  First, we have The Book of Steps Lost and Found.  This module consists of eight goal cards and a spell card.  The goal cards are shuffled and laid out in a row.  This is the order you must claim the doors.  You also get three spells you can cast by discarding cards from your discard pile.  Paradoxical Prophecy is cast by discarding 5 discards and placing one of the bottom five cards on top of the deck (that would have helped me in the last game – my blue door was on the bottom of the deck when I lost).  Parallel Planning costs seven discards, and allows you to swap two goal cards.  Powerful Punishment costs 10 discards, and allows you to discard a drawn Nightmare without applying its effect.

I’m off to play this one now.

PSB

And…I’m back.  The initial set-up for my goals was brown-blue-green-blue-red-green-red-brown.  I claimed the first brown Door with three cards in the Labyrinth before having to do much of anything, but then I had a dilemma.  I had three red cards in hand (including a key) and two green cards (including a key).  The red door was kind of far down the line, so I started discarding red cards.  I used the red key to dump the first Nightmare, and then was able to get three blue cards to claim the first blue Door.  I then happened to have three green cards in my hand, and was able to get them into the Labyrinth for the first Green door.  Another Nightmare soon came out, and I dumped the top five cards of the discard, disappointed that none were a Door or a Nightmare.  I then was able to get three blue cards out for the second blue Door.  After discarding a brown key, I was able to perform a Prophecy that helped me get the first red Door by stacking red cards on top of the deck, as well as discard a free Nightmare.  My luck continued as I was able to claim the second green Door with three cards to the labyrinth, and then I drew a green key which I used for another Prophecy.  This didn’t get me any red cards, but I was able to discard a Nightmare and had a brown Door in the mix as well.  With no immediate prospects for red, I put the brown door near the top so I could reshuffle.  I cancelled a Nightmare with 10 discards, and then drew a red key that gave me enough cards to get the red Door.  However, while attempting that, I drew a brown Door.  I had been saving a brown key, and was mad that I couldn’t spend it on the Door.  I then drew a Nightmare, and decided to discard the top cards of the deck, which ended up being two Labyrinth cards and three Nightmares (shuffled back in with the brown Door).  I drew again.  Nightmare.  Five cards, all Labyrinth, gone from the deck.  I drew again.  Nightmare.  I spent ten discards to ignore it.  I drew again.  Nightmare.  I lost.

This expansion makes things more difficult by requiring you to fulfill goals in a certain order, but balances that with the spells.  I didn’t make use of the Paradoxical Prophecy or Parallel Planning at all, and that may have made a difference for me.  Definitely another level of experience, and one I’ll have to play some more.

Next is The Towers.  This adds 12 Tower cards, 3 of each color that are shuffled into the deck.  They are considered to be Labyrinth cards and can be played in an additional row.  These only have sun or moon symbols on them, and you can only have one of each color in the row with no two same symbols adjacent to each other.  In fact, you have to have one of each to win.  Since there are three of each, you may discard one, then rearrange the top 3-5 cards of the deck (depending on the number on the Tower you discard).  If a Nightmare comes out, you’ll have to discard a Tower you have played in addition to the normal Nightmare effect.  You can discard any Tower in the row, but the remaining cards can’t have the same symbol.  You can choose False Destruction and not discard a Tower, but after resolving the Nightmare, it goes into Limbo instead of being discarded.  Once you have the four Towers out, they are no longer affected by Nightmares (though there is a more difficult variant where Towers are always affected).

Playtime!

PSB

Back!  I very quickly got three Towers on the table – blue, green, and brown.  I then got a Nightmare, and discarded the brown one since I had another in my hand.  I was then able to claim the first red Door with three red cards in the Labyrinth.  After that, I managed to get a blue and a green Door the same way (as well as the second red Door), and had several keys in hand, so I was feeling good about my chances.  I then drew a red Tower, but it wouldn’t fit in the Tower Alignment due to its symbols, so I discarded it to rearrange the top four cards of the deck.  I drew another red Tower and a brown Tower, and when I discarded the brown one, I discovered a Nightmare lurking among the next cards.  I put it on the bottom of the stack behind a blue key, and discarded a blue key from my hand to for the Prophecy just before drawing the Nightmare, pushing it down again.  However, this time, I put the Nightmare just before a green Tower.  When I drew the Nightmare, I discarded a key from my hand and the green Tower.  I was then able to play the new green Tower, and that allowed me to finish the Alignment with the red I had in hand.  That out of the way, I started looking for the final four Doors.  And I found them.  I only had one more problem with a Nightmare, which I just used to discard my worthless hand, but I got rid of others with the keys I had been saving and not using (the Labyrinth was great for helping me save keys).  I also was able to use keys for Prophecies and Towers to rearrange the cards to stave off the other Nightmares, and successfully claimed all doors with cards to spare.  Victory at last!

The added challenge of the Towers was not quite as difficult for me as the previous expansion.  I think I got pretty lucky with my opening hands, and was able to ride that wave to victory.  The matching of symbols made things tough, but being able to rearrange cards was very valuable.  I was able to manipulat ethings in my favor, which was crucial to my success.  Without my luck at the beginning, it might have been a different story; however, I think I learned some important things about the strategy of this game.

The final expansion is Dark Premonitions and Happy Dreams.  It comes with 8 Dark Premonition cards and 4 Happy Dream cards.  The four Happy Dreams are added to the deck, and the Dark Premonitions are shuffled with four laid out face up.  These are bad events that will trigger when certain conditions are met, and are then removed from the game.

  1. If two red Doors are on the table, all red Chamber cards from the deck are discarded.
  2. If two green Doors are on the table, a Nightmare card is taken from the discard pile and placed in Limbo.
  3. If two blue Doors are on the table, two key cards are discarded from the deck.
  4. If two brown Doors are on the table, a gained Door goes in the Limbo pile.
  5. If two Door cards of the same color are on the table, one goes into Limbo.
  6. If at least five Doors are on te table, two new Dark Premonitions are revealed.
  7. If at least one Door of each color is on the table, all Happy Dreams from the deck are discarded.
  8. If at least three Doors are on the table, you discard your hand, draw a new one, and reveal a new Dark Premontion.

These all look pretty nasty.  However, there are Happy Dreams, which are the opposite of Nightmares.  If you draw one, you can remove a Dark Premonition, reveal seven cards from the deck and discard as many as you want, or put a card from the deck of your choice on top of the deck.  Sounds good.  Let’s go!

PSB

My Dark Premonitions were #1, 2, 5, and 6 (refer above for descriptions).  I had a Happy Dream in my initial draw, which saddened me – as it’s a Dream (like a Nightmare), I couldn’t keep it and get rid of that Premonition that was going to make me reveal two more.  However, I got one very soon after begining the game, and got rid of #6.  I got my first green Door in the Labyrinth, and thought it would be nice to get the second before a Nightmare came up so I wouldn’t have any to put back in the deck.  No such luck.  I discarded my hand for the first Nightmare.  I then got a red Door through the Labyrinth, and soon got a second (after getting nailed by a couple more Nightmares).  Since that was my second, I decided to resolve #5 and put one back in the deck.  This meant I didn’t have to resolve #1 yet.  After another Nightmare, I got a second Happy Dream which I used to discard #2.  A third Happy Dream came out, and I used it to reveal the top seven cards of the deck.  I was able to get rid of a Nightmare with this.  The fourth Happy Dream came out after I got a blue and a brown Door (and another Nightmare), and I did the same thing.  I was also able to stack the deck so I got three blue cards and three green cards.  I used these to claim the Doors, and I felt that it was coming down to the wire.  However, as I looked through the deck for the green Door, I noticed that there were no longer enough brown cards in the deck for me to get that Door.  So I called it.

The Dark Premonitions add a sinister evilness to the game, but the Happy Dreams are a well-balanced way to combat it.  I had some terrible luck with Nightmares at the beginning of this one, and I ended up discarding too many brown cards, which are apparently more rare than the others.

OK, here it is.  The big one.  Onirim plus ALL THREE EXPANSIONS.  Wish me luck.

PSB

Goals: Green-blue-brown-green-blue-red-brown-red.  Dark Premonitions: #2, 3, 5, and 7.  There were no green cards in my initial draw, so I started discarding reds.  I got a brown Tower, which I decided to hold on to for a bit.  After getting a green card to the able, I came across a blue key which I used for a Prophecy.  This allowed me to discard a Nightmare, and put a Happy Dream on top of the deck.  I used the Happy Dream to get rid of #7…I didn’t want to lose the other Happy Dreams.  After discarding one of my two green keys to get rid of a Nightmare, I managed to get three greens in the Labyrinth for the first green Door.  I discarded another key for a Prophecy, and found a Happy Dream and a blue key.  I put the blue key on top, and used the Happy Dream to get the blue door to the top of the deck, claiming it on the next turn.  Another Nightmare cost me a key, but then I got a green Tower, so I put my brown and green Towers on the board.  I then drew two more green Towers (I shuffled, I promise), so I discarded one to rearrange the top cards.  Because of this, I was able to claim the first brown door via the Labyrinth.  Two Nightmares came out then to wipe out both Towers I had in play, but I got out my spare green Tower and a red Tower.  I got my second green Door through the Labyrinth, which triggered #2 and added a Nightmare to the deck from the discards.  I then realized it also triggered #5, which meant that green Door was going back in.  Two more Nightmares then wiped out my Towers, and with no remaining green Towers, I was out.  I could have used False Destruction, but the deck was running out, and it was time to stop the bleeding.

A good solo game is going to kick your butt more than you kick its butt, and I definitely got my butt kicked in this experience.  Still, 1-4 isn’t too bad.  I probably won’t play with all three expansions again for a while, not until I learn the game better.  I’m very happy I picked the game up at GenCon – it’s a fast small game that’s a good alternative to the traditional solitaire games.  I can see this getting packed up and played in lots of traveling situations.  Thanks for joining me for the experience!

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