Onirim – an exciting journey through whimsical dreams

After finally getting my hands on a copy of Onirim, I give my review and reveal how bad I am at trying to teach board games I'm passionate about....

Released: 2014 | Game design: Shadi Torbey | Art: Elise Plessis | Published by: InPatience

Onirim is a card game that challenges players to escape from a dream world filled with strange visions and nightmares, and is one of the games in the Oniverse series by Shadi Torbey.

It was released in 2014, and I have had getting copy in my sights for a while, but unfortunately it had been out of stock with a lot of my usual suppliers for some time. Finally, in early 2023, I received a message that it was back in stock, and so snapped up my copy as quickly as I could.

The game is designed to be played solo, but there is a 2 player cooperative mode as well. I have only played the solo mode, and have found that each game takes about 15 – 20 minutes to play, depending on what is happening around me, or how tricky the hand I have drawn is.

Onirim gameplay

On your turn, you will want to play a card from your hand to your ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’. To do so though, you have to follow certain rules – namely, that you can’t place two cards with the same symbol next to each other.

Using this constraint, you will try to get 3 cards of the same colour in a row. If you do, you find one of the 8 doors required to release you from the dream.

Find all 8 doors and you win the game! Easy, right?

Not really.

You see, you have to find these 8 doors before your deck runs out, trapping you in the dream forever! So there is a real sense of timed urgency, that forces you to consider each move carefully.

Added to that pressure are the ‘nightmare’ cards – which can force you, among other things, to reshuffle one of your already discovered doors back into the deck, meaning you have to ‘find’ them in the dream labyrinth again.

Or you may have to discard some cards to deal with the nightmare.

And when cards are discarded in Onirim, that’s it! They’re out of the game and you don’t get a chance to use them again!

When you know there are only a finite number of chances to find your doors, discarding too many cards can be devastating to your strategy and ability to resolve the puzzle, so it is very quickly an action that is taken very begrudgingly.

The nightmare cards add an extra layer of strategy to the game that keeps it fresh, interesting and challenging.

On being a terrible game teacher

After playing the base game several times, I tried to teach my husband how to play. I was so excited to share this fantastic game with him and was sure that he would be just as excited to sit down and play the 2 player mode with me, as I had been to play it solo.

I explained the rules and showed him the different types of cards, but I must have done a terrible job of it, because he just couldn’t seem to grasp the concept.

I tried to simplify my explanation, but he just kept getting confused and looking at me like I was speaking another language. I tried to show him how the dream cards work, but he just couldn’t seem to understand how they fit into the game.

After several frustrating attempts, I finally gave up. He shrugged and said he didn’t mind, was just glad I enjoyed it, and wandered off to read a book about swords.

It was disappointing in my ability to teach Onirim, because personally I love it, and was sure that he would too. I can’t help but feel that he is missing out on a lovely game experience, and it’s all my fault for not explaining it better.

But I guess for now, my husband and Onirim just aren’t meant to be – and that’s okay.

Design and quality

Personally, I find the game and its mechanics to be well designed and the artwork is whimsical and fun and adds to the theming perfectly.

Disappointingly, the cards are only of a standard quality, and as one has to reshuffle the deck a lot in this game, they can very quickly become worn.

My cards already look well loved after having unboxed the game several weeks ago and playing about 20-30 times. So for those that like to keep their games in pristine condition for possible future trading or selling, I would recommend card sleeves.

The constant re-shuffling of the deck – which one has to do after almost every turn – has gotten some negative feedback online, I have noticed, with some saying that they find it frustrating.

Personally, I find the moments of shuffling calming. It gives a respite to allow for strategising in a game that makes you feel pressed from all sides to make the right decision at every moment.

The box is compact and beautifully designed, making it easy to take with you to a board game night, or on vacation. The version I purchased contains all 7 expansions for the game! This means that once you have a handle on the base game, you can add in one or more expansions to build on the complexity or add new challenges whenever you feel ready.

I honestly really enjoy Onirim, and find it to be a great solo game that (for me) was easy to learn, challenging to win, and packed with beautiful artwork.

I can get it to the table quickly and pack it away just as quickly, making it perfect for those ‘in-between’ moments of family life – when the kids and the husband are occupied with something else, and I just want to indulge my board game passion.

If you’re looking for a new card game to play, Onirim is definitely worth considering as it is perfect for players who like a quick, challenging and satisfying game.

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