Buzzworthiness: In Dreams

Thanks to Side Room Games for providing a review copy of this game.

Today, we’re looking at a solo RPG that comes in a single card deck. It’s called

image by RPGG user mikeberg62

In Dreams was designed by Jamie Thul and Mike Berg, originally as part of the 2022 54-card game design contest at BGG. As mentioned, it’s a solo RPG. The basic idea is that you’re navigating a dreamscape to fulfill a certain goal, which is generated at the start of the game.

To begin, you’ll draw two cards from the deck. These two cards each have a number (2-4), and you combine those to get a two digit number (so a 4 and a 2 will give you 42). You’ll do this four times, and each two-digit number will give you a word or phrase that will get inserted into your main prompt: I am (blank) and am (blank), and before this dream ends, I must (blank) (blank). So my generated numbers of 33, 44, 23, and 32 will complete the sentence as “I am building a home and am righting a wrong, and before this dream ends, I must summon another dreamer.” Once your character and goal has been generated, you move into the gameplay proper.

An example of an encounter

To start an encounter, draw the top card of the deck. The number will tell you how many prompts there will be in this encounter (3 in the example above). You’ll draw the necessary cards to meet that number and place them all in a row. Finally, you’ll draw one more card and flip it to its non-text side, placing it at the end of the row. This is the location for your encounter.

On its right side, each of the encounter cards has four prompts (except for the final card, which is the location). On its left side, each card has an arrow. So each card will point to a prompt on the card immediately before it in line. In the example above, you see that arrows are pointing to “maiden voyage”, “best kept secret”, and “take heart”.

Once you have generated the encounter, you’ll check the icons below the numbers in the upper left corner. If two of the same symbol are adjacent to one another (as they are on the middle cards of this example), you’ll generate an event. This is done by flipping the top card of the event deck and placing it next to the deck.

An example of an event.

Each card in the event has an arrow pointing to the prompt you’re looking at. In this case, the black arrow points to an event about receiving a new article of clothing. The white arrow indicates that this event is mysterious.

Once you’ve generated your encounter and event, you’re ready to start journaling. This is basically where you write out what’s happening in this scene. For what we’ve already generated, you may write something like this:

I am traveling across the sea on the Vagabond, a mighty sailing vessel on her maiden voyage. I am traveling to a distant land to pick up some materials for the home I am building. Apparently, the contractors explained, the pine we were originally going to use would not properly channel the mystical vibrations needed to protect my best kept secrets.

As I stand on the bow looking at the moon shrouded by clouds, a woman comes and stands next to me. She stands silently for a moment, then turns to me and hands me a scarf. “Wear this,” she says, “and take heart. The dreamer awaits.” And then she is gone.

You can write whatever you want. When you feel you have successfully completed the scene, you can move on to the next encounter. Continue working your way through the deck until you have accomplished your objective as you interpret it.

image by RPGG user mikeberg62

The copy of In Dreams that I received is a preproduction copy, so there may be some changes before it’s actually released. But the game is quite beautiful. The art is produced by WOMBO Dream, an app that produces AI generated art based on your prompts, and definitely gives that dreamy feel that supports the theme. It’s all pretty surreal and abstract, andThe arrow system of figuring out what encounters and events you get allow for lots of variety in stories.

My only real complaint about the graphic design comes with the event cards. For some reason, I always want to use the arrows on their own cards rather than the ones next to them. I think it’s because one is white and the other is black, which is different than the other cards. It could also be because they’re pointing at the other card rather than all in the same direction. I don’t know really how to fix it, other than keeping the arrows the same color, but it’s a bit confusing to me at times.

The game really centers around the theme, as it’s an exercise in building a story. As it’s a solo game, this means that most of the play is going to take place in your mind. You can also see this game as a creative writing exercise, which comes with the journaling. It’s similar to one of those story prompt generators you’ll find on the internet, but with pictures.

As a board gamer myself, I often struggle with games where the point is to build a story. I like having clear goals, a definitive end point, and knowing exactly what I can and can’t do. This game falls into the role-playing game territory, where everything is very open-ended. It’s a dream world, so things don’t always need to make sense, and I find that the prompts are sometimes difficult to consolidate with the story I’m already telling. The game is also solo, which means you haven’t got other people contributing ideas. Like improv, I like it when people can work together to build a world. You absolutely could play this game with other people – maybe each person takes an encounter and builds off the previous one – but that’s not the way it’s designed.

As such, I don’t think this is really a game for me. That’s not to say that it is bad – I think it’s a very creative use of cards. The arrow system, as previously mentioned, is a clever mechanism that is really good at providing variety, and the events give you further elements to add to your story you may not have thought of before. The art is colorful and dreamlike, and it’s unique on each side of every card. It’s a game that I’ll be happy to recommend to fans of RPGs.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? In Dreams is a very colorful solo story-telling game, and a good experience for those who like RPGs or just need some prompts to help with creative writing. It’s not a game I think I would play often, but I do think it’s worth checking out. The Gamefound project should be be going live on October 10, and here’s the preview link (which should update to the project link when it goes up).

Thanks again to Side Room Games for providing a preview copy of In Dreams, and thanks to you for reading!

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