When it comes to board and card games, I highly consider my fiancé, Phuong’s input when deciding which game to pick. This is because Phuong’s go-to game is Scrabble. Don’t get me wrong, I love Scrabble because of its strategic wordplay, but this is the only game that Phuong has grown fond of for practically her entire life. So when I get her approval about any other game, it significantly means something. It is the reason why I picked games like Paperback, Letter Tycoon, and many of the Pandemic games we have in our house.
So when I saw this game “Dream Home”, I thought it looked really cute to play. I had to pitch it to Phuong. “Hey Phuong, there’s this card game called Dream Home, it’s about building your ideal home using cards.” She looked at me and agreed that we should get it. That was the endorsement that I needed to quickly send an order and purchase this game for us to play.
Dream Home is a 2-4 player card drafting game created by Klemens Kalicki and is published by Asmodee. In this game, you take cards from a community board in order to earn points. The cards feature different rooms that you can add to your own player board as well as special abilities in the form of tools, end game bonuses in the form of workers, and roof cards. This game lasts 12 quick rounds, and the player who earns the most points wins.
Setup is quick. Hand out a home board to each player and place the main game board in the centre of the table. Then take the two decks, the room deck and the resource deck and shuffle each of them. On the game board, place five room cards face up on the empty spaces of the bottom row and four resource cards face up on the empty spaces of the top row. Finally determine a starting player, and hand them the starting player token. That’s pretty much it.
There are two moves that you will do on your turn. First you will pick a pair of cards found on the game board that share the same column. This means that you will take one resource card, and one room card. Once you’ve taken these cards, you will place the room card in your home in such a way that it adheres to the following rules:
- A room cannot have any empty space directly below it (you definitely need some sort of foundation to build a room on the upper floors).
- Basement cards are built on the basement spaces, while any other room can be built on the top two floors.
- A room cannot exceed the maximum size specified on the room card. For example, the bathroom can only be one card big in the house, while the living room can only be three cards wide.
If you take a room card, and you either cannot legally play or are not willing to play the card on the board, then you flip the card over and place an empty room in the house. These cards are worth no points at the end of the game (unless you have the architect as one of your workers).
The top row resource cards usually give the player a special advantage or a bonus for points. At the end of the game you will need four roof cards in order to complete a roof. If you take a roof card, you will place it face down on your player board, and are not allowed to look at those cards until the end of the game. Decor cards allow you to place decorations in your house in order to score points. If you take a tool card, you can use its special ability whenever specified. These include switching rooms around on your board, mixing the cards on the game board, or even placing scaffolding so you can build a room on the floor above it. A worker card gives you an end game bonus or ability, and includes things like looking through the discard pile to get a roof card, scoring for empty rooms, and gaining additional points for putting decorations in your house.
I should point out also that there is a fifth column found on the board which only has one room card and no resource card. This is because if you take this card, you will gain the first player marker as your resource bonus.
At the end of the game, you score points based on four categories. Room points are earned based on how you placed your room cards in the house. Generally speaking, the bigger the room, the more points you will get. You score decor points if you placed decorations in and around your home. Functionality points are earned if you have a bathroom on the upper and lower floors, as well as having a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen in the house. Finally roof points are earned if you are able to get four roof cards, with more points being earned if all the roof cards are the same colour, or if you managed to take a roof card with a window in it. After totalling up all these points, the player who has the most points wins the game.
I like Dream Home for its simplicity. This a really quick card drafting game that’s easy to get into and quick to play. All you’re doing is picking a card from the community cards and adding them to your home board. There is also a clear strong advantage for being the first player, as you get the pick of the litter and determine which set of cards would be most worthwhile to your board, while the last player now has to get whatever is left over and hope that it fits onto the board properly. This is also why it’s important to time when you want the first player token and it is this element that makes the game somewhat strategic.
From the times that I have played with people, I have liked the conversations that come out of the game. When everybody starts scoring their final home designs, everybody gets to see how each other’s homes turned out. The design of the houses can sometimes get ridiculous. Sometimes a player will have a great living space and bedroom, but have absolutely no bathroom in the house (to which we joke around and say you can pee in a bucket that we can provide for you when you move in). Sometimes players are forced to put three mini kitchens around their home. There was even one situation where the house was practically filled with playrooms. Dream Home is definitely a light hearted game where the combinations of cards found on the player board prompt some lively and humorous conversations.
I should say though that this happens provided that you have a group of friends who are also lively and light-hearted. I’m not sure if the same thing would happen with hardcore gamers who focus solely on strategy. On that note, although its simplistic design is one of its strengths for new or beginner gamers, I also consider it to be a flaw as well. I felt that there was something missing in this game, and even after much reflection, I’m still having trouble figuring out what that something is.
Perhaps it’s the fact the scoring system is way too plain for me. I mean the only way you can be penalized in this game is if you have a small garage, an empty room, or an incomplete roof, as all of these situations will give you zero points. All of these cases could happen because you weren’t considering the timing of taking the first player token and nothing else. When picking a pair of cards on the gameboard, all the decisions are practically good, just some better than others, and with little to no conflict in picking cards, there is rarely that tension that make a card drafting game more exciting.
I felt also that there could be more cool rooms to add. The title of the game is Dream Home, so I was hoping that there would be some other unique rooms as well. I was thinking that this would become similar to Castles of Mad King Ludwig where you could have these modern interesting rooms. Perhaps a dining room, or a unique bathroom, or a man cave. Sure the game puts some of these rooms as a one room sized card, for example the study or the game room, but there are definitely more rooms that exist in real life than the ones provided by the game. I’m hoping for an expansion to be developed that could just do more, but it sucks that if an expansion does come out, I have to purchase one in order to enhance an already bland gaming experience.
I also felt that the player interaction within the game is limited. I mentioned before that the conversations that come out the game are great provided that you have people who are willing to socialize. But if we take that out, the only interaction within the game is when you are selecting cards from the main game board and hoping that a previous player’s action doesn’t screw up your own play. This is a solitary board game that I find similar to Karuba (which I will hopefully review in the future), but I find with Karuba, you are constantly looking at your opponent’s boards just to see if they’re doing actions more efficient than your own. In Dream Home, you are focusing on your board, and only your board. You could honestly care less about what your opponents are doing.
Overall, I give Dream Home a “meh”. I love the artwork and components; I think they are well designed and have an adorable feel to it. I also enjoy its condensed gameplay and how it can start teaching players about the card drafting mechanic. I was fond of how quick the game was and how easily you can do many plays of it. But honestly, I wish there was just a bit more in terms of its player interactions, room development, and scoring features. Definitely a nice appetizer to a board game night, but not a game that you want to have as a main course.
On a positive note, if I keep taking pictures of the boards that Phuong makes, I now have a good idea of what kind of home she wants in the future.
- Overly simplistic game that kids and beginner gamers can get into really easily
- Quick setup and game play. The 30 minute time suggestion is accurate
- Cool artwork and well designed boards.
- I enjoyed the theme of the game. It reminded me of the Sims. Theme can potentially create some great conversation pieces.
- Overly simplistic game that avid and hardcore gamers will find too basic.
- Felt that the game needed more in terms of scoring and rooms.
- Player interaction is limited.