Kickstarter review: Dreamwars, a Steampunk Horror boardgame
Set in the world of Ylen, 1 to 8 players will collaborate to fight their Nemesis through campaigns lasting from 1 to 4 hours. The Kickstarter campaign describes a Steampunk lore, and includes 8 miniatures in the core box. Stretch goals were also expected to add to the immersive experience.
Royal Art Games’ Kickstarter promises over 500 hours of play time, and a delivery estimated in June 2017.
With a core game priced 59 euros, this was enough for me to chip in and start a long wait.back to menu ↑
Once a Kickstarter campaign is successful, a game designer has to to go through a lot before delivering a product into you hands. Different games have different processes, and it’s not unusual for a delivery to be delayed. It happens to big names, it happens to smaller ones. The more complex a game, the more likely delays will occur. And when it comes to games with miniatures, well… A lot can go wrong there.
This project was really appealing for its universe, yet, a single paragraph in the campaign made me wonder “should I back this project?”: the Risks and Challenges.
Dreamwars was the first official project of Royal Art Games, and an ambitious one. The core box alone promised 475 cards and tokens, and 8 miniatures. Two booklets were also announced: a 24 pages manual, and a 80 pages Ordeal book. To this, you should add the board – a big one, 56x84cm -, and the dice, and a box to hold all of this.
The company had to plan all of this to estimate their delivery time. And that was before adding the stretch goals.
Additional dice. Additional cards. Additional miniatures. Additional markers… All of this additional content add a lot of work.
And, no matter how well prepared a Kickstarter campaign is, very often, a game is far from ready at the end of a campaign: rulebooks revision, artwork modification are not uncommon.
Yet, you need to appreciate the honesty of the creators, and their realism: they knew what was coming ahead. Maybe not every details of it, but they had a clear idea, and shared it.
The long year of wait started.
A comment I have towards Royal Art Games is regarding their updates: over the course of the campaign, more than 50 updates were posted, however the content during the “wait” period was a bit rough. This is not something major, but on some occasions during those long months, I had doubts on what was happening as the wording was short and straight to the point. Yet, do I really need more fancy updates (finger pointing at you, Space Goat Production with your Evil Dead 2 – awesome communication, but the announced November 2016 estimation was so unrealistic)
Anyways: days became weeks. Weeks became months… And a mail came in, essentially stating “guys, good news: the games are on their way!”
Yesterday, back from lunch, I got a surprise: a box was waiting for me. In it was Dreamwars, a Steampunk horror board game.
The game was received at the end of September: that makes about 3 months delays. Only. With some rework the Italian team had to get with their producers to ensure the quality of their miniatures, this is quite a feat. Compared to some other games, this qualifies as on time. All I can say is: bravo!
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A big heavy package on my desk. Marked, fragile, I could see the shipping didn’t damage the box, I could only expect the best for the content. But, what is this noise when I move the box?
Surprise when opening my package: I have the game plus two additional boxes. These two boxes encompass the stretch goals. At first, I got a bit disappointed, the box “Adventurer’s Kit” is a bit damaged – there was some empty space in the package, with no padding: some handling from the carriers may have been rough. But let’s be fair: first of all, there is a box, with artwork and description. Once again, this is more than many Kickstarters offer for their stretch goals. Second, I’ll most likely remove this box and store everything in the core box. And lastly: no component has been damaged…
This Adventurer’s kit contains 8 heros – 8 miniatures and sheets -, 15 common items cards, 15 tech cards, 15 cantici, 15 dream shards and 15 new events. Quite a lot to enhance the core gameplay.
There are a few more goodies in that box: I found additional dice and some plastic markers to replace the cardboard ones.
The second box – and here again: this is a box, with artworks and description – are the Dark Times Decks contains an additional 30 outland mysteries cards and 30 city intrigues cards.
In the coming review, you will discover what all those cards are about, and after some time: is it worth it having that many additional ones?
Let’s now open the core box – the exciting moment!
As expected, the core box first holds the rule book. These 24 pages describe everything you have to know to play Dreamwars.
The layout is clear, the font is nice and the text is easy to read. Number of illustrations come to document what you are reading. You would be surprised of how quick you get through the pages.
No comment is to be made on the quality of the rule book: the paper is heavy enough without being too much. It’s standard to the board gaming industry.
The Ordeals book is the second piece of literature you will find in the box. And you have there enough to read: 80 pages to document your adventures. Obviously, you are not expected to read them all at once. Even more: you should not! This Ordeals book contains all the stories you will live in the world of Ylen. Every Ordeal will start with a scenario, and will guide you to the following scenarios depending on the outcome of your actions. On the paper, this allows you to replay an ordeal 4 times to discover every branch.
With 9 ordeals of 3 scenarios and about 20 minutes of gaming time per player, you can evaluate how long you will be playing this game.
The writing style is really enjoyable and gives you the will to immerse yourself in this Steampunk world with hints of a lovecraftian inspiration.
It is now time to punch out all the tokens and Nemesis from the 5 punch cards. First comment: quite some work has been done on the artwork!
Overall, every component came out neatly, with the occasional miss – nothing different than any other game you would get.
My first concern however comes on the Nemesis tiles: some text is fairly small to read on them. With dim light condition and tired eyes, this is not the best experience. This text turns out to be the flavor text. Not essential to the game play but it helps on the overall RPG experience. Every detail relevant to the game is however easy to read and clearly visible. And the artwork is really nice!
The box also holds different sets of cards, some of 56mm x 87mm and the others of 44mm x 68mm. On these cards as well, the illustrations and attention to the story are to be noted, but I feel that the text could gain to being bigger.
The 9 Great Nemesis’ sheets are also available. The layout is clear, easy to read and I cannot wait to encounter all of them in my play.
I would have appreciated these cards to be on cardboard, but this doesn’t change much to the quality of these components.
The 8 heroes sheets are very similar to the Great Nemesis’ cards, in the sense that they are clear, easy to read – though they contain a lot of information – and really artistic.
On these as well, I would have enjoyed a thicker sheet, but that’s only me, and this will not impact the pleasure of playing the game.
The 8 heroes miniatures were the “go!” element for me to back the game in the first place. I am into steampunk, I love solo / cooperative games, a good story driven game gets me every time, but miniatures? Definitely! So I was waiting for them. The Kickstarter campaign was showing exciting sketches and renditions. The characters had… well… character. So I couldn’t wait. And this was before the stretch goals and the additional 8 characters.
There they are now, and most likely because of my excitement, I am a bit disappointed. Make no mistake, the miniatures are really nice and work perfectly on the map. I was just dreaming of miniatures satisfying my steampunk addictions and that I would be able to paint: these ones are just short of a little for my big expectations. They are a bit small to my liking, and the details are not as sharp as I dreamed them.
Nonetheless, they are on par with miniatures I received in many games and are aligned to all the good work done one that game.
The game also comes with 4 dice: these are orange 6 faces dice, with one customized face.
Last but not least is the map. A good board game comes with a board, and this one is a big 56×84 cm board. On the table, it takes quite some space. And this is great, cause roaming Ylen, from Halfen to Folkenburg is not something that our characters can do quickly.
On the map again, we can see a great attention to the artwork: from the map itself to the border, the thematic is respected and well represented. The world of Dreamwars is big, and contains number of locations to explore.
The map itself is glossy, which reflects some light. The spaces on the map are not always easy to make out at first glance, especially around Halfen. This will not remain an issue long as I get to know the game after a few plays.
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I really want to start a game tonight, even if I know I will not make it to the end. Following the piece of advice in the rulebook, I settle for an Ekathon themed game: it should be easier on me.
It takes me a bit of time, as I skim through the rulebook to understand the basics of the gameplay, and relate to the Ordeal’s book to prepare my first adventure. Yet, I enjoy this time. The pages of text are clear – the font and size used are easy to follow, there are no blatant issues of proofreading in the text, and the instructions are generally well explained.
After 20 minutes, The Gunner Aiber Bahal is ready to clear Ylen of the epidemic caused by Chamberlain Beogargon, the Keeper of the Deep.
The mechanics used are fairly standard: resolve an event phase – where a card will impact the world you’re in, and will add new Nemesis on the map – , activate the heroes, with different possible actions and movements, activate the Nemesis.
More of this gameplay will be described in a review after I get the chance to run a few campaigns. But at first glance, I can already feel it: there will be some challenge in the game!
I am also sold to the universe: this is a role playing game in a box. There is a story. Or rather: there are stories in that box. And I am already looking forward to discover more, and roam through Ylen.back to menu ↑
Let’s be honest: I am disappointed.
I should have taken the Horrors Hunter expansion and addons.
The Nemesis bags would have been great – easier to pack the game and clearly useful to play.
I was reluctant to adding another Great Nemesis and additional scenarios as I seldom play expansions on my games. In this game, this would be essentially new content, and I feel I would use it.
The story is interesting and I am sold to this steampunk universe. I can’t wait to read and live all the stories Dreamwars has to offer, even if it means spending a lot of time in Ylen.
Yes, some points are not totally to my liking – the miniatures are not as detailed as I would have hoped, and some text on cards are way to small for my aging eyes for example and I definitely need a more powerful lightbulb – but I already feel this game will be on my table for hours.
Now looking to the future: I would also totally chip in for more. There is potential in this universe, and the people who wrote the Ordeals’ book surely have ideas on the stories unfolding, no doubt about that. I bet they have a lot of stories to tell, and should it be in the form of game books, novels or expansions, I am sure gonna look forward to it.
As a company, I’ll surely be keeping an eye on Royal Art Games and their future Kickstarters: the road to delivery is never an easy one, but they did a fine job on that one! This box in my hands is the conclusion of 2 years of work for a team of 18 people – one can only expect the best on their next projects.
Now is time for me to spend more time on that board, and get these adventurers to fight their Nemesis!
Game Play #1 - Dreamwars
Game Play Dreamwars.