Review: Onirim (Board Games)
- Release Date (NA): February 28, 2018
- Release Date (EU): February 28, 2018
- Release Date (JP): February 28, 2018
- Publisher: Z-man games
- Developer: Asmodee
- Genres: Card game, solitaire
- ESRB Rating: Everyone
- PEGI Rating: Seven years and older
- Also For: Android
Back when I wrote my [url=https://gbatemp.net/review/doki-doki-literature-club.720/]Doki doki literature club[/url] review, I couldn't honestly write "you can't get this amount of quality for free anywhere else!". The reason was because at that time I had also discovered Onirim. It's a free android app based on a solitaire-ish card game. It's also free...and also of incredible value. Let's talk about that one, shall we?
In Onirim, you play a shaman attempting to visit the land of dreams. To do this, you need to open eight doors, hidden within the deck of cards. These doors - as well as the majority of the other cards - come in four colors: red, blue, green and white. You start with a hand of five cards, and each time you play a card you draw another one from your deck. You mostly play your cards on a single row of cards that's called "the labyrinth". If you play three cards of the same color in succession, you may search your deck for a door of this color and put this aside. That door is considered open and in itself, one eighth of your victory condition. If you don't want to play a card on the labyrinth, you can instead put one in the discard pile. This also lets you draw another card, but played cards can't be recovered. If you manage to get all the door cards out of the deck before this deck runs out, you win. If you can't draw a card, you lose.
Simple, yes? Well...Not really. There are three extra things to keep in mind:
1) the symbols. Beside the colors, cards have three different symbols on them (four if you count a door card as a symbol): a sun, a moon or a key. You are never allowed to play a symbol card if the last card had the same symbol on it, irregardless of the color. This means that to open a door, you've got to play sun - moon - sun, key - sun - moon or something like that of the same color, but never two of the same symbol in succession.
2) keys. The sun and moon symbols are the same, but keys offer three potential advantages:
-if you're holding a key when drawing a door of the same color, you may discard the key to immediately open the door (note: if you draw a door without having the key, it'll be shuffled in your deck again)
-if you discard a key, you may look at the top 5 cards of your deck (this is called a prophecy). Of these, you'll have to discard one and then put the remaining ones on top of your deck in any order.
-you can dispel a nightmare with it (see below)
3) nightmares: of the 76 cards, ten will be nightmare cards. Drawing one of these colorless cards means you'll have to do one of the following:
-discard the top five cards of your deck (note: any doors will be replaced by other cards and then reshuffled in the deck)
-discard your hand of cards (note: if you choose this, you'll replenish your cards with ones containing symbols...should you draw a second nightmare, it'll be shuffled in your deck again).
-discard one key (if possible)
-send one opened door back to the library (if possible)
That's it. Again: you win instantly the moment you get your eighth door open.
How it plays
First and foremost: the game is easy to grasp, and the app has a great tutorial to boot (interactive, shows the intricacies and is both brief and very clear). You should be ready to go within five minutes. But even simple, it has surprisingly much depth. You usually won't have three different symbols of the same color on hand, but which cards do you play? Which ones do you throw away? Will you ditch your row of two cards because you've got your 3-symbol match in another color? Do you really want to use a valuable key to just complete a row? How do you arrange your cards in a prophecy, knowing that getting a door from your deck will shuffle your deck afterwards? And what choices do you make when those darn nightmares show up?
The game has very fitting music and atmosphere. The daunting music and the crude crayon paintings (think 'The babadook') are scary in ways that many horror movies can only, ahem, dream about. At the same time, it's basic enough that any tablet (and probably most phones) will be able to handle it.
And as far as time's concerned: a game typically takes somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes without expansions. After some practices, I average at about 60% wins when playing. While this obviously depends on luck a fair bit, there is usually enough strategy and tactics involved to make it feel that I could've won each game. I'm not sure why, but there is a scoreboard based on some factors (the more remaining cards in the deck the better) and even a worldwide ranking system.
Let's talk money
Confession time: if this game wasn't recommended to me, I wouldn't have given it an honest chance. As many of you, I'm wary of mobile games being free. And even more of card games (I don't even dare to calculate how much money I've spend on magic: the gathering cards). Luckily, Onirim quickly set me at ease with that. It doesn't have extra cards to buy, booster packs or rare card shenanigans. It's one base game and (at the moment) three expansions that come to less than 3 dollars in total. And even for a mobile game, that's a very cheap price for what you get.
I know many of you hate the fact that mobile games tend to sucker you in with free stuff just to throw a paywall when you start to have fun. I hope the above has convinced you that that isn't the case. It is the base game. It doesn't beg for your money, and aside from other suggestions under "more by this developer" it doesn't have commercial breaks either. The expansions expand the base game in a way that doesn't leave the base game being inferior. The first one is even semi-free: all it requires is creating a user account with Asmodee (the makers of the game). You can see that how you want, but there's no denying: it's a GOOD expansion. In fact, in the next paragraphs I'm going to be blabbering about them. For now, keep in mind that you always use the base game. You can mix and match any combination of the expansions to it. The only cumulative effect is that it'll increase the playing time (after all, you'll be drawing more cards). Chances of winning are...perhaps a little better, but not by a massive amount.
This is my personal favorite expansion. It's also the one you get free after creating that account. It adds another symbol to the earlier mentioned three: glyphs. Even though there are only 2 glyphs per color, this adds extra variations to open doors. And glyphs have another advantage: discarding them lets you look at the top five cards. Should there be a door among them (no matter the color), you may immediately open this. The remaining cards, however, go on the bottom of your deck.
For the advantages of these cards comes a disadvantage. More specific: you'll have four extra doors (red, blue, green, white) that you will need to be opened.
The disadvantages may sound like they outweigh the benefits, but you'll quickly find that it balances itself out. Keys and glyphs combo well together, and since the doors keep circulating in your deck, using glyphs in the late game has a much higher chance of opening a door.
Crossroads and dead ends
So what does paying a buck get you? Well...16 extra cards for the deck. Six of those are multicolored symbols (3 suns, 2 moons and a key). They work exactly as they sound: they act like any color of the card. This means that if you have a blue moon and a multicolored sun on the labyrinth, playing a blue moon will open a blue door. Alternatively, playing a white moon and another white symbol will open a white door instead.
The counterbalance here are the ten other cards: dead ends. These are cards that literally do nothing. You can't play them on the queue or in the discard pile, so they just stay in your hand reducing your options. There are but three-ish ways to get rid of them:
-discard your entire hand and draw five new cards (which is a new option when playing the game with this expansion)
-discard them in a prophecy
-discard your hand when a nightmare comes along
The interesting thing is that the more dead ends you've got in hand, the more you actually WANT to draw a nightmare card. In other words: nightmares and dead ends are both bad cards, but they do they counter-complement each other.
The door to the oniverse
This last expansion adds 16 helper cards and one extra door to the game. This so-called 'Oniverse door' is a colorless one. Whenever you can open a door, you may choose to open this door instead of the one you wanted to open. However, in the end, it IS an extra door to open.
The helper cards (okay: denizen cards) are a different matter. When you draw one of these 8 helper cards (each one appearing twice), you're given the choice: keep them or discard them. Each one can aid you in your quest (once) and can be used at will...but you'll need to discard a card in order to put them aside.
My main gripe with this expansion is that it's hard to grok. The base game and other expansions almost explain themselves. The menu and the tutorial obviously have words in them, but the rest of the app simply doesn't need it. It takes less than two games to know everything about all the cards in the other sets, and if you make yourself familiar with each set before getting expansions,you don't need much explanations for these either. That door to the oniverse follows that unwritten rule, but not those helpers. The artist no doubt has tried, but there is no simple way to instantly recognize a card as "hey...this one lets me discard the current color topping my labyrinth". This breaks the flow a bit. I still have to enlarge the cards and read the descriptions each time, and...I often don't want to sacrifice a card for a benefit I might not even need. Or where the benefit is a "is this it?" effect (the fun of rearranging the deck is diminished once you've got a nightmare coming you can't dismiss).
Don't get me wrong: in the right circumstances a few of these can be incredibly powerful (I once threw three nightmares out the deck with one of these creatures...when there were only six cards left in my deck). It adds more choices, but because they are somewhat all over the place it's harder to gist out a strategy from it.
I said it at the start: this is at most about three bucks tops for a downright beautiful game. It has a good theme (more than any other solitaire game, at the very least ), has you pondering options and each win feels like an earned one. As stated earlier, I can't find a physical copy anywhere (it's out of print, meaning that the price has skyrocketed to about 80 bucks on some sites). I've played other board game apps that got me thinking to get the board game. This is almost the reverse: the app is perfectly fine. And to a degree even fitting if you play it in bed.
+ Great artwork and atmosphere
+ Simple to learn
+ Quick yet engaging
+ (Almost) free
- Not much. Erm...how about "leaderboards are rather useless feature" ?
Beautiful handdrawn art, a continuous and consistent theme (that isn't chewed to death). Everything in this game oozes quality.
It may be short sessions, but each one sucks you in perfectly. There is no technical issue whatsoever. Perhaps the physical game is a bit more tedious to properly shuffle each time (after all, you have to change series of the same color to totally randomness), but on the app it's all smooth sailing.
I'll be honest: I want to grade this much higher as well. But while I'm sure I'll enjoy this in years to come, this simply isn't a game you play non-stop. It's not as meaty as others, or designed to keep you busy and entertained. No matter how you look at it, it is a short game. You may play a couple sessions in a row, but it's not like you'll get addicted and play nothing but this game.
out of 10
(not an average)
What can I say? It easily jumped up to my favorite android apps, and perhaps even is that. If the physical game is ever reprinted, I'll certainly grab it as well, but until then I can't but recommend it as high as it deserves...about 9.1 out of 10 high. ;-)