The Shared Dream - ODAM Publishing
Game title: The Shared Dream
Game description: You and your compatriots take the role of Anima, special individuals who are able to bring the power of their dreams and nightmares into the real world. You make choices during the day, attempt to follow clues to discover what is really going on, and face off against various threats from the darkness in many different unique scenarios.
The Shared Dream and its expansions are difficult, complex cooperative puzzles that bring a fun theme and cerebral experience together while maintaining significant tension that have been the hallmark of co-op games since the release of Pandemic. The miniatures are also a nice solid part of the game that give it a unique flair. Unfortunately, a lot of the positives of the game can be lost to players who aren’t willing to give the game many play throughs to decipher the rules.
Really cool theme and miniatures
Solid Co-op experience
Brings a significant challenge to the table
A LOT of scenarios and content to play
A lot of the rules are really difficult to decipher
Game play can get bogged down with addressing tokens and such
This review is going to address The Shared Dream Base Game, as well as the following expansions: Night Terrors, Necrophobia, The Wrath of Axitath, and The Crux Collection. It should be noted that the review was based on the first printing of the game, and ODAM has since Kickstarted a second printing with some updated parts and rules.
The Shared Dream Base Game
The Shared Dream Base Game comes with a large amount of content in and of itself. With ten playable characters, a solid number of miniatures, five complete scenarios, a modular map system, and a plethora of other things, the base game is a fairly solid experience in and of itself.
The game is generally played in two phases– a day phase and a night phase. During the day, your character (the Anima) must contend with threats from their nightmares, manage the power of nightmare within themselves, can choose to call on the power of the conviction to transform into their dream-based alter ego (the Animus) and must track down personal clues to address the major threat of the scenario. During the night phase, the nightmares gather power and go on the offensive against the players. Each scenario offers some wrenches to throw in the equation, but they generally play in the same way.
The best part of the base game (and in many ways all of the expansions) is the difficulty level of the scenarios. Even the least complex scenario provides a hefty challenge for even the most well-versed co-op gamers. It is possible some of the scenarios creep into the “too difficult” category, and unfortunately, the game doesn’t really have a good way to mitigate difficulty within the scenario.
Unfortunately, the base game does have a couple major weaknesses. First– the box itself fits everything nicely when it’s in its punch boards, but the box quickly becomes difficult to manage and set up and tear down can become a “nightmare” in and of itself. Second, the rules were not, in my opinion, as well written as they could have been. In a game where there are a lot of complexities going on, having a rule book where the one sentence you need could be in any number of places quickly became a problem.
Night Terrors Expansion
This was really one of the more solid expansions. It brings in a new Reaver, two new player characters, and a pretty exciting scenario of your classic werewolves versus vampires. The difficulty wasn’t too high on this one, so it was still a fun experience, and of the expansions, the rules were written fairly solidly.
This zombie-fueled nightmare was unfortunately the weakest of the expansions for me. While I loved the theme of a necromancer parading around the town raising the dead, as well as some fun adjustments to core mechanics, the rules became a real problem here. There were paragraphs that did not seem to reference anything in particular, and a whole monster type that it wasn’t clear how or when they were ever used. I think this could have been much better with some editing and cleaning up, but as it stood, a bit of a let down experience.
The Wrath of Axitath Expansion
This fight against demonic forces is certainly not for the faint of heart. It takes an already challenging game and turns the difficulty up to eleven. The scenario is played in two phases– on earth and on “Laruna,” where the game play changes significantly with the aim of consolidating power to take down the mighty demon Axitath. The biggest challenge I had with the scenario is it adds in the possibility of straight up player elimination without the usual going through multiple combats. While it makes sense that coming into contact with the demon would destroy you, it can make for a sour experience for some players.
The Crux Collection
This was by far the most solid expansion. The Crux Collection is a series of ten solo scenarios– one for each player character in the base game. There are scenarios of increasing complexity, and all of them have some really great themes and stories that match the character. Also, playing the single player scenarios gave the opportunity to streamline some of the game play and mitigated some of the “bogged-down-ness” of some of the other scenarios.
Overall, The Shared Dream and its expansions are a pretty fun and very challenging cooperative experience. Visually, the games are solid and do a good job of communicating the theme and feel of the experience. Game play wise, I think there is something really great and solid in there that is uncoverable if you’re willing to put in many plays to figure it out. Otherwise, the rules would have benefited from some major editing. However, it should be noted that the second printing is supposed to have more edited and refined rules, so I would keep an eye out for the re-print. If you’re a fan of challenging co-op experiences, this game very well may be for you!