I find that pretty often, I end up teaching games to new players rather than getting to play a ton of games myself. While this hurts me a bit because I am starting to like a fair number of games at say, the weight of Vast or Millennium Blades (though I don’t own many), it also means that I tend to buy or pick up a lot of games that are pretty simple and easy to teach, but still a lot of fun.
In Dingo’s Dreams, Dingo and his friends Kanga, Kidna, and Koala (and maybe Honey?) have gone on Walkabout, but they’ve gotten lost in their dreams. They need you to get in there and help them escape from Dream Limbo, pretty much exactly like Ellen Page in Inception. Will you be able to lead them home?
So, at first, you’ll notice that you have four characters who are almost certainly best friends:
These characters are Dingo, Kidna, Kanga, and Koala. If you’re playing with a fifth player because you have the Kickstarter Edition, you’ll also have Honey, a bonus fifth best friend:
You’ll also have a ton of tiles, each with your character’s back on them and a color / landscape on the front:
You’re going to want to give each player their 25 tiles with their friend on the back, along with their named tile. You’ll notice you have five each of the following colors:
You’ll also have one of five different landscapes:
Hence, how you get 25 tiles. Have each player make a 5×5 grid and keep their friend’s tile out, as they’ll be using it on their first turn of the game.
Now, you’ll notice two different types of cards. One type is smaller, the Walkabout Cards:
And there are 25 of those. The other is much larger and these are Dream Cards (note that three are blank, so you can make your own!):
You’ll want to shuffle the Walkabout Cards and the Dream Cards, and then play one Dream Card face-up where all players can see it.
Once your play area looks like this, you’re ready to begin:
But one last thing! You might notice that you also have these five brown tokens and an extra card that looks a bit different than the other stuff:
These are known as Hazard Tokens and the Hazard Card. You might use these later, and I’ll talk about them a bit more towards the end of Gameplay, but don’t bother with them to start off.
So, how is this played? Well, have you ever played Bingo? Because … it’s kind of like that, to be perfectly honest.
Bear with me for a second.
What will happen is that one player (“the Dreamer”) will flip a card from the Walkabout Deck. The tile matching that card should be flipped over, so it’s now animal-side up. Imagine like you’re marking 47 on your Bingo Board. This is the Walkabout Step.
Next, the Dreamtime Step! Remember how you kept your animal friend’s tile in your hand? Choose a row or column in your grid, and slide your tile into the grid, like so:
As you’ll note, you push the other tile out of the grid, and that becomes the new tile you use next turn to push. Note that if you push out an Animal tile, it stays animal-side up. If you push out a Landscape tile, it stays landscape-side up. The only exception to this is that if you are holding onto, say, Red Ocean and Red Ocean is called next turn, you will flip Red Ocean to the animal side of the tile before Dreamtime and sliding it into the grid.
Your goal is to try and match the Dream Card to your grid by having tiles animal-side up at all of the swirly spots, like so:
Note that you don’t have to have a perfect match, as shown in that picture. If you get it, yell out your animal’s name (“DINGO!” for instance, which sounds strangely similar to … another game). That wins you the round. You can continue on with as many rounds as you want before you declare an overall winner. Give the round winner the Dream Card, as it both removes it from the rotation and serves as a point. If there’s a tie, both players score a point.
If you are planning to continue to another round, it’s far easier to just swap your animal’s name tile back out of the grid and then flip all the tiles back to their landscape side rather than reshuffling them (and, in fact, you should do that). If you do that, all you need to do is pick a new Dream Card and shuffle the Walkabout Cards. Dead simple!
If you are looking for slightly more of a challenge, remember the Hazard stuff I mentioned in Setup?
For an extra challenge, add four Hazard Tokens to any one type of symbol on the Hazard Card (making sure you’re not covering any spot that would be marked on the corresponding Dream Card you’re using). You can also cover the center spot with a fifth symbol if you hate everything. You have now introduced Hazards! These nasty things change the game because in order to win, you cannot have a tile animal-side up on a Hazard space! That’s a bit tough.
Even tougher still is that it’s totally possible (since you’re always flipping a tile to the animal-side each turn) that all players could lose, since they might be unable to make the Dream Card without putting an animal in a Hazard. If this happens, nobody gets any points and you start a new round. Sad.
Player Count Differences
Literally zero. Game plays about the same with any number of players since there’s pretty much no player interaction. Everyone plays on their own grid, so there’s no ability or reason to interact with the other players. The only thing that players can influence is game running time, since you need to all be finished manipulating your grid to continue, but that’s a standard bottleneck for games that require players to act simultaneously.
I … am not sure there’s a lot to say, here, but I’ll give it my best effort.
- It’s good to try and think a few moves ahead. I try to focus on getting the board to a favorable state with a few moves and if I get lucky on a flip that’s just an added bonus. Generally that goes okay for me.
- I find that keeping a “trash” row or column is usually helpful. This is just a row or column that you don’t fill in until last, meaning you can cycle it to get rid of tiles you don’t want to have in your hand without affecting the rest of the board you’re constructing.
- Try to get that center tile animal-side up first, if you need it. It’s pretty much the furthest tile to modify (since it’s three pushes away from anything, at minimum), so if you need it to look a certain way, it might not be bad to focus on that first, if it’s needed for the in-play Dream Card.
- I generally try to keep a lot of animal tiles one push away from being knocked off the grid and into my hand. I find that gives me options, so I can add animal tiles where I need them.
- Try not to overthink this game. Just kind of … go for it. It’s a short, light game. It doesn’t need to be that strategic.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The art. It’s Red Raven, so obviously if I like Above and Below‘s art I’m going to like this, but man it’s really pretty.
- Easy to set up, learn, and explain. This might be one of the simplest games to understand that I own. Seriously. I tell people, “well, it’s like Bingo, but with some ability to modify your card mid-game.”
- Great family game. Seems like a really easy game for kids to pick up, but it’s not wholly uninteresting for adults. Personally, I’m down to just look at the art while I play, but I also find it pretty fun. There are also a variety of boards that are easier or more difficult, in my opinion, to add some variety to the game.
- No player interaction whatsoever. You might find this to be a Pro, a Con, or a Meh, but with this particular game I think it’d be kind of obnoxious to have much player interaction. For me, it moves too quickly to really care that much if I win or lose. It’s just a nice filler.
- Cute theme. Who doesn’t love cute Australian animals? Not anyone that I want to play games with, that’s for sure.
- I enjoy games that are basically round-based. It makes it really easy for me to pick up, play, and then put them down since I can just hop in or out for a round. Very useful when hosting a game night.
- Maybe not a lot of strategy? I think the Hazards add at least a bit of intrigue to the game, but this is not a game you play if you’re looking for a deeply strategic experience. It’s more the game you play while you’re waiting for more people to get to game night. And … I think that’s fine, personally? It’s not trying to be Scythe or something.
- No real good storage solution. Putting it away makes me sad because I know it’ll always be a heinous mess when I pull it back out. A better insert would have gone a long way, here. As-is, the tiles will just go everywhere as soon as you move the box even slightly. I guess Ziploc bags might help a bit?
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, this is currently one of my favorite little openers / fillers. I love the art and theme, I like that it’s round-based, and it’s really easy to teach, so you’ll often see me at a board game night suggesting Dingo’s Dreams. I think the Hazards add a cool bit of strategic depth, sure, but I wouldn’t say that’s what I’d buy the game for. It’s a short game, a light game, and, ultimately, a solid game. I recommend it, especially if you’re looking for a light game that’s accessible and fun for the whole family.