Onirim is a solitaire card game in the style of match three from hell. It is for 1-2 players and should only take around 20 to 30 minutes to play. It has incredibly high ratings on most game forums, so I was pretty excited to try it out.
This is the package you get to open when you buy this game. It’s beautiful, it’s creepy, it’s thematic. It comes with seven expansions and a base game, so I got right down to playing.
The theme of the game is that you are trapped in a dream and have to find doors to escape a labyrinthine dreamscape. On your journey you may encounter nightmares who force you to lose cards and potentially trap you in the nightmare. It’s small, it’s compact, it’s easy to setup and easy to pick up the rules.
To win the two-player game, you must find all eight doors (one of each color per player) and free yourself from the dreamscape. To progress, you must either play three of the same color location with alternating sun and moon symbols to search the deck for a door or play a key and draw a door of the same color. If you draw a nightmare, you have to get rid of it by either discarding your whole hand, the next five cards from the deck, or a single key card. And that’s all there is to it. It had rave reviews and seemed like a surefire easy fun way to pass an hour or two.
Mechanics: 3 out of 5
The theme doesn’t really work with the actual way the game works. Building a labyrinth isn’t reflected in the location cards (they’re beautiful, but how are they locations? How would they fit together thematically?) and the simplicity of the rules kind of ruins the intrigue of such an interesting theme. When we added the Crossroads and Dead Ends expansion (the only one that sounded even remotely fun or interesting) we thought maybe it would get more interesting, but the dead ends weren’t much of a threat (like the Nightmares, they were just vaguely annoying) and the wild cards that should have been super versatile still had sun and moon symbols, so they hardly changed the game at all. There’s a cute little nightmare token you can assign to a player and use once a game to eliminate a nightmare, I guess, but there’s no explanation for why that would be the case and we totally forgot it even existed. It didn’t match the rest of the components and didn’t fit in with the theme.
Gameplay: 2 out of 5
Unfortunately, this game just isn’t fun. It really is in all honesty just fancy match three. It’s not tense at all, it’s not thrilling, it’s just sort of annoying when you get a nightmare and have to decide how many cards to sacrifice. There’s very little strategy involved and we won every single round we played. When it was a close game, we were still unenthused because it felt like we had so little agency over the outcome of the game and were just shuffling through cards waiting for the right ones to come up or to draw a nightmare and discard some cards. Most people who liked this game seemed to be playing it solo, so maybe I made a mistake by playing the co-op version; but if the two-player is boring when you have another person to riff off and interact with, why would the solo version be more fun?
The box is amazing. The art on these cards is beautiful and unique. It looks awesome, and I was so excited when I pulled it out. It’s easy to transport and set up and tear down, compact and simple. That being said, the cards are pretty flimsy. I’ve only played this game three times now and the black edges of them are already all chipped and frayed from the constant shuffling in this game. If you do enjoy this game and play it often, you’re going to absolutely destroy these cards in no time. The deck size and card type make it hard to shuffle, so most of ours are already bent and crooked to boot. It was probably a really affordable game to produce and that’s why it sells for such an affordable price, but I would have paid a few more dollars to have sturdier cards since they’re literally the only component in this game.
Onirim is a lovely snooze-fest that is thematically confused, beautiful, and boring. Adding expansions doesn’t really help because the base game is flawed in ways that can’t be fixed by changing up the types of cards you can play around with. It would be an okay game to play if I was bored on a rainy day or a road trip, but I don’t think I would willingly play this when so many legitimately good games exist.