Imagine that the world is ending, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it; no heroes coming in at the last minute, no imminent scientific breakthrough that will make everything ok. That’s the premise of Dreams of Tomorrow, a new board game from Weird Giraffe Games currently on Kickstarter. Your world is over and the only way to protect humanity and save the future is by changing the past.
In Dreams of Tomorrow, each player takes on the role of a Dream Engineer. While your timeline is doomed, it’s possible to reach back into your past. You still can’t directly change anything. All you can do is send a powerful dream back in time and hope it inspires your ancestors to do more and be better. The hope is that they’ll be inspired to save the future.
At the end of a game of Dreams of Tomorrow, each player will have woven their dream together out of dream fragments collected during the course of play. Dream fragments provide game abilities and end game scoring. Each dream provides some amount of points, but it’s more effective to create a Resonant dream. Dream fragments have little symbols printed in the corner; building a dream by matching these symbols results in more points. This makes scoring simple and easy to understand, but the process of weaving your dream together is trickier.
Before a dream fragment can be woven into your dream, it must first be collected from the Dreamscape. This is an area of the table that holds a large display of the dreams available for purchase – beautifully illustrated by James Masino. The art represents things you hope will inspire past generations. There are images of gleaming cities, of spacecraft and interstellar travel, and of mystic landscapes. Once collected, the dream fragment sits in your Dream Catcher area and provides a special ability that can help you in your quest.
Dreams of Tomorrow’s core mechanism is a rondel. A rondel is a gaming system that involves moving your player piece around a circuitous path, collecting resources and activating abilities as you land in a space. Key to rondel games is the idea of player control. There’s no die dictating how far you move, it’s completely up to you. You can move up to 3 spaces for free, but if you are willing to pay enough resources you can move all the way around the rondel in a single turn. It’s a lovely system that gives you a lot of options and difficult cost-benefit decisions.
The rondel in this game is exciting not just because of those decisions, but because Dreams of Tomorrow allows you to modify the rondel itself. The play area is made up of a number of large tarot-sized cards split into a top half and bottom half (picture a large domino). At the beginning of the game players will move left to right across the top half of the row of cards before dropping down onto the bottom half and looping around right to left. These cards are known as the Collective Consciousness and – much like our own actual consciousness – is constantly in flux.
The abilities provided by the dream fragments do a number of things. Some give the resources necessary to purchase more dreams, others allow you to efficiently weave fragments into your main dream. My favorites are the ones that modify the rondel. Throughout the game, many changes will be made. Perhaps you’ll rearrange the cards, moving beneficial spaces away from your opponents and closer to you. Instead, you can activate abilities that allow you to flip the card to its backside which reverses the top and bottom. Any time a card is moved or flipped the pieces on it go with it, meaning you can use these abilities to change your physical location on the rondel. It’s clever and exciting without being overwhelming.
These pieces come together in an evocative package. For a game that clocks in at 30-45 minutes, it’s a rich experience that’s full of tense moments. It never feels mean but there are a number of opportunities for you to mess with your opponent’s plans. The fact that you often receive resources on an opponent’s turn ensures that you’re engaged and never completely lacking in options. Their ability to mess with yours means that the game state is constantly in flux – not unlike an actual dream. How you manage this changing environment will dictate how high your final score is, and thus how likely you are to save the future.
As someone who often plays solitaire games, I appreciate that Dreams of Tomorrow comes packaged with a solo-play option right out of the gate. A dummy player acts to move about the rondel, providing resources while stealing dreams right out of the Dreamscape. This player will constantly accumulate points so the solo mode feels like a race. You’ve got to manage your resources and build a resonant dream, but the longer it takes the more your opponent scores. There are a few difficulty levels that provide a good challenge and that’s before you introduce the Night Mare, cleverly represented with a little horse meeple.
Games that play in this 30-45-minute window are extremely popular right now and it can be tough for a game to stand out from the crowd. Dreams of Tomorrow succeeds on a number of levels. The art itself is dramatic and visually appealing. The rondel manipulation is novel and provides a tactical richness that draws me back to the table, and the final package is stitched together with the development chops that Carla Kopp is quickly becoming known for. The future is bright with Dreams of Tomorrow, both for our humanity and Weird Giraffe Games.
Looking for more quick sci-fi games?
- Settle the Stars and Build an Empire in 15 Minutes with JUMP DRIVE
- A Guide To The TINY EPIC Series of Games
- Customize Fleets Of Ships With A Roll Of The Dice In SPACE BASE
Image Credits: BeBold Games (Brittanie Boe)