When I started playing tabletop games I knew there would be many adventures ahead.
I knew there would be wars to fight and zombies to fend off, knew there would be haunted houses to explore and ghosts to converse with, I knew I’d have a chance to throw some Viking rage around the place and draw first in dusty western cowboy towns as the clock struck noon. But, trying to decide whether to place a second bathroom in my dream home or go with a larger kitchen, that one I didn’t see coming.
Yet there I was, planning and plotting every room in my three storey property like the very existence of civilisation depended upon it. Hats off to you, Dream Home, it’s been emotional.
Dream Home, the competitive house building game designed by Klemens Kalicki and published by Asmodee, is a game that proved far more engaging than I ever could have envisioned. If I’m to be brutally honest, and to be brutally honest I do like to be as brutally honest in my reviews as I possibly can be, I went in expecting something light and throwaway that was aimed squarely at the kids in the family. What I was hit with almost immediately was that to come out on top in Dream Home requires some genuine strategical thinking, and not just making the house look as pretty, or for myself and my OCD, as organised as possible.
Before I dig into the gameplay and mechanics, let’s first talk about the foundations of the game. The basic idea is that two to four players are in competition with each other to put together each room in their dream home in such a way that maximises the point scoring. Each player has a board depicting the shell of their house. In the centre of the table sits the game board. This game board contains two rows of cards, one above the other. The bottom row consists of room cards that can be picked and played within the shell of the house. The top row contains resource cards, these range from roof tiles to tree houses to a handyman, and offer various bonuses during and at the end of the game. The basic idea is that in turn each player chooses to draft two cards into their hand, one from the room row and one from the resource row. The trick is, that each card has to be in the same column, so for example if the room card was taken from column three, the player also takes the resource from column three. What this produces is some real tactical decision making about how best to proceed.
“I really want that second bathroom, but I only get a roof tile with it, however, if I take that handyman resource that would prove beneficial I also have to take another bloody kitchen and that might scupper me further down the line!”
Room cards are played instantly, some resources come into their own as the game ends. Now, I don’t want to write the whole rulebook here, so I’ll jump to key points. The rooms are worth points when played, but they get more points when combined with other rooms. So for example, a single card living room is worth one point, but, a double card living room jumps to four points, and should you embrace full Kardashian and go for a triple sized living room, this is then worth a whopping nine points! The scoring system reminded me very much of Sushi Go, where cards become more valuable when combined with others.
There are loads of little details and clever little gameplay elements within Dream Home, but I hate reading an overblown description of the rules of play in any review, so instead I want to talk about the actual experience of playing. And again, Dream Home shines from every window like Kevin Mcallister is trying to pretend he’s not home alone on Christmas Eve.
The game is incredibly easy to learn and easy to teach, that’s a plus point right away. What takes place in my experience at the table with Dream Home is everyone starts life pretty jovial, upbeat and friendly:
“Oh, you took the playroom I had my eye on, no worries, by the way your house looks great, I love what you’ve done with the cat bed!”
But, by the time the closing rounds of play roll around, and you desperately need that one card to complete the perfect build, things get brilliantly tense and a little fraught:
“You…took…the…kitchen…I am almost in disbelief here, you actually took the kitchen! What am I going to do now? Cook in the ******* tree house I suppose, yeah that sounds convenient! You **** ****!”
I’m exaggerating! Honestly. My children play the games, no swearing allowed. But Dream Home does a wonderful job of delivering a game that holds some very nice opportunity for tactical play, and also for seeing said tactics come crumbling down around your ears. It’s a really entertaining experience that moves at a good pace, keeps everyone involved and keeps you guessing as to the overall winner right until the points count is in. We played four times one after the other on day one of the game hitting the table, and that is something that very rarely happens.
In terms of the looks, Dream Home, is a real beauty. There’s an undoubted Sims vibe to the artwork, with a very cutesy approach, but it looks fantastic against the backdrop of the wooden table. The game has a real vibrancy to it and is superbly striking on the eye. I think in many ways, even when you lose the cards you’ve been chasing, and ultimately the game, it’s not too bitter a pill to swallow because the visuals are so soothing. Everything in the box is very well made. The cardboard pieces feel solid and ready for plenty of play, there are enough scorecards to keep track of a huge number of play-throughs, and the cards are small but look great with the detailed artwork and glorious colours.
One for the Kids
I can say without any doubts this is one that can be enjoyed by the entire family. As previously my youngest two, Harrison, 6, and Holly, 11, played, and this time we mixed and matched because everyone wanted to try this one. So it was equally enjoyed by my 16-year-old, Dylan, my 19-year-old, Courtney, and my “ahem” age undisclosed, wife, Rachel.
The game is a true family pleaser. It offers light hearted competition, and holds rules that even the younger members of the family will soon be at ease with. Play is fast and interesting, so the chances of young minds wandering is limited. Dream Home has proved a big hit in our household, and if you were looking for an alternative family game for Christmas then this one could prove a real winner.
Quotes from the Kids
Harrison (6) said, “I love Dream Home because you get to build the roof and then show everyone what you have at the end, it was fun.”
Dylan (16) added, “It was really good. Easy to understand and a lot of fun, it was also cool that Harrison could play and understand it quickly.”
As I said, with Christmas around the corner and the family descending upon your own home, I’d urge you to ditch Monopoly and instead try something entirely different, and much, much more fun. And believe me, Dream Home, fits that bill like my second kitchen fitted nicely alongside the bathroom (yeah, I was beaten to a card or two). It is a great looking, easy playing, family friendly, gaming treat and perfect as a gateway game to bring others in from the cold.
Dream Home is on sale for a very reasonable £24.99. Find it at your local store here
A big thank you to Esdevium Games for providing our copy for review.
Genuinely a complete treat! Nothing to complain about, just smooth play, simple yet strategic ideas and a whole dream home full of fun. One for the whole family, and any other families that might be passing as you play.