You are caught in a dream, trying to get out before you succumb to the nightmares. That is the basic premise of Onirim and as simple as the premise is, so is the game. The basic game consists of 76 cards consisting of 58 labyrinth cards, 8 doors and 10 dream cards. The original edition includes 3 expansions and the 2nd edition includes an additional 4. Onirim can play 1 or 2 players, but it seems to be a pretty standard introduction to solitaire gaming so that is what will be addressed here.
To start the game the solitaire option players draw cards until they get 5 non-dream or door cards. Once they have 5 they reshuffle the drawn door and dream cards back into the deck and that is all that is required for set-up.
There are two options to start the game, either play a card or discard one. If you play a colored card with a moon or sun symbol in the corner, you then draw a new card to replace the one you played.
If you discard a card (with a sun or moon symbol), it will never be shuffled back in, but it will allow you to draw a new card.
If you discard a card (with a key symbol) you get to preview the next five cards. You can put the next five in any order, but you must discard one of the labyrinth cards.
In order to unlock doors you can do one of two things. If you draw a door and have a card with a key on it in the same color, you discard the key and unlock the door. The other option is to play three cards in a row (1 per turn) with alternating moon and sun symbols then you get to search the deck for the door and then reshuffle the deck.
When you draw a door but do not have the key you set it to the side until you have 5 cards in your hand again and then you reshuffle.
When you draw a dream card, you have a couple of options. Your first option is to discard your whole hand (including the dream card). The second option is to discard a key card in your hand with the dream card. The last option is to discard the next 5 cards from the deck (except for any other door or dream cards which are reshuffled into the deck)
Winning and Losing the Game
You win the game if you can successfully unlock all 8 doors.
You lose the game if you run out of the deck before you have unlocked the doors.
My Thoughts on the Game
I had seen this game recommended as a solid introduction to solitaire gaming many times so even though I have been playing solitaire games for a while, I jumped on a deal to get this game. The first time I played this game I thought it was much harder than it actually was. It isn’t that hard, but it’s also not that easy either. After quite a few plays I am winning around 25% of the time, which probably isn’t a very good percentage, but it is mine, so I will own it.
Overall I like the game as a portable, quick, limited space needed game. Beyond that though, I don’t think I will be playing the base game much more than in situations that call for those kinds of games. I have been told that the expansions add quite a good amount to the depth of the game so maybe I will change my mind once I play a few of them, but the base game, doesn’t do a whole lot for me.
I do like that Onirim can be played relatively quickly and without a huge amount of thinking. Some games make you think about so many options that your brain gets stretched to the brink of breaking on almost every turn. Onirim is not that kind of game. Sometimes you are playing a series of cards turn after turn without having to think about it at all. Then a dream card comes up or you need to decide about discarding a key. That is where some depth comes in. The depth is a kind of break from the monotony of playing labyrinth cards.
What I don’t like about it though, is that the depth is too few and far in between. Even when the depth comes in it is only a limited amount of depth too. When I pull a dream I have to figure out is I should discard my hand, a key, or 5 unseen cards? Most of the time that is an easy decision, and even when it isn’t, it is still not that difficult of a decision. It’s not a game that will make you think much at all.
The original edition came with 3 expansions so I would be remiss if I did not talk about them as well. You can play with each of them separately or combine 2 or all of them.
Expansion #1 – The Book of Steps
This expansion adds only 9 cards (10 for 2-player), but a whole lot of complexity. Before the beginning of the game you take 8 of those 9 cards and shuffle them. Those 8 cards have doors very similar to the doors in the deck, but as you lay them out one at a time in a row it dictates what order you must follow in unlocking the doors. That means the first door you flip over is the first door you must attempt to unlock.
The 9th card is a reminder of 3 spells that you can cast using cards in your discard pile. For 5 cards (removed from the discard pile) you can take the last 5 cards of the deck, pick 1 to put on top and arrange the other 4. For 7 cards you can move one of the doors, from the row of doors, one spot. For 10 cards you can get rid of a nightmare card.
This expansion was tough, but I liked it much more than the base game. Out of all of the expansions I would say it was my 2nd favorite. It definitely added to the complexity of the game by telling you the order in which you must try to unlock the doors which was nice, but it also gave you some choices to help combat that difficulty.
Expansion #2 – The Towers
This expansion added 3 towers in 4 different colors. Those towers were shuffled into the rest of the deck and nothing else was added. The towers add a new goal in addition to unlocking all 8 doors. Each color had a 3, 4, and 5 tower card and on each tower it had 0, 1, or 2 symbols on the left and right. The new goal is to lay down 4 towers (one of each color) in a row without aligning the same symbols from one tower card to the next.
The easiest towers to fit next to another are the 5 towers, but they also provide you the best bonus when discarded. If a tower is discarded you are able to look and arrange the number of cards in the deck equal to the number on the bottom of the card. The easiest tower to fit next to the others therefore also allows you to look at the most cards. The towers are in their own row so they are not played alongside the labyrinth cards. There is only one other difference in this expansion. If you have any towers played and you pull a nightmare card, you must destroy one of the towers or otherwise put the nightmare card back into the deck and reshuffle.
This is my favorite expansion. It adds more cards to the deck, which helps make the game a little easier, and provides two goals that you can work on simultaneously. Also, once you have your towers laid out it provides a different way to peek at the top cards and put them in the order you would like them to be. This would be my go to expansion and in fact it might just stay shuffled into the regular deck.
Expansion #3 – Dark Premonitions and Happy Dreams
This expansion adds some good and some bad. I don’t mean to say good parts to the game and bad parts to the game, but as the title suggests, there are dark premonitions which add negative effects whenever you obtain certain things (like unlocking 2 red doors, 3 total doors, etc). Then it also adds 4 happy dreams which give you special powers. The dark premonitions can be pretty nasty. You start the game by randomly selecting 4 out of the 8 dark premonition cards so you get a different game each time. Each premonition has a trigger, like 2 red doors unlocked, 2 of any one color unlocked and so on. Then the results can be anything from discarding your current hand to putting one of the doors back into limbo. I had a particularly nasty combination once where after you got both red doors unlocked you removed all of the rest of the red cards from the deck. If they would have been my first pair of doors unlocked then I would have also had to put one of the red doors back, making it impossible for me to win the game.
The happy dreams, on the other hand, are exactly what they sound like. They allow you to either remove one of the premonition cards for good, look at the top 7 cards of the deck and arrange them or search for one card out of the whole deck and put it on top. There are only four in the whole deck but if they come up at the right time then they are great!
This was my least favorite because it seemed like a harder version of the original base game without adding too much choice. Granted, the happy dreams are good things and can be powerful, but there are only four in the whole deck. Also, seeing as you can get a combination of dark premonitions that could make the game unwinnable (unless you use the happy dream to remove one) it relies too much on luck and not on skill or logic.
Like I said earlier, the base game isn’t super exciting, but it’s a decent game and probably good for an introduction to solitaire games. The expansions add enough for me to come back for more and make it a regular to take on trips since it is so small. In the 2nd edition there are even more expansions which would probably be worth a look too. If you are looking for a cheap, intro to lightweight challenge in a solitaire game that is easily taken on trips or squeezed into a short amount of time, then I recommend Onirim as a good buy.