The eye-patched wonder Gabrielle sung the immortal words ‘Dreams can come true’ in 1993. If it wasn’t 23 years prior to Dream Home being released we would’ve all assumed she was singing about this family card-drafting game from Rebel.
Dream Home, as the name suggests, pits players against one another to build a perfect abode. Having built up your expectations, let’s review it and take it apart brick by brick!
What follows feels like quite a long ‘how to play’ introduction – without covering all the rules either! However, don’t let my garble deter you. When you play through this game you will realise that there is actually only a few things you can do. You will draw two cards and play two cards twelve times. Then you will score your Dream Home. If you want to find out more about the gameplay read on, if you don’t skip to ‘What it’s like’!
Each player receives an empty house at the beginning of the game. The houses are over three levels, the basement, first and second floor. These player boards surround the central card drafting board.
There are two decks of cards. One deck solely contains different rooms, such as kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms and bedrooms. The other deck contains resources, such as roof tiles, room décor bonuses, tools and employees that will help you in various ways.
The cards from each deck are laid out in their respective rows along the central board and the youngest player gets to choose first. They will choose a pair of vertically adjacent cards and place them appropriately on the game board, or alternatively choose the first card which gains them the first player token for the next round. The next player does the same, until everyone has chosen. The remaining cards are discarded and a new suite of cards are drawn.
There are a few constraints around placement of cards. For example, you cannot have a room floating with nothing to support it underneath. This means that you have to pay attention to fill up the basement and lower floor so that your dream home is not thwarted. If you place a décor item in a room finishes and cannot be expanded any further.
This game has been entered into the Board Game Review Hall of Fame.
The game lasts 12 rounds and when everyone has completed their dream home it is time to score. Many cards are worth more when played next to the same room type, for example a single card living room is worth one point, put it beside another and the size of the room earns you four points, add a further card and your living room is worth a whopping nine points. However, they also have a maximum number of cards that can be played alongside one another. Décor items finish a room too but add a few points each at the end of the game.
There are some unique room cards, such as the sauna, that are worth more points if placed next to certain rooms, in this instance a bathroom.
Points are also scored for functionality, having a bedroom, bathroom and a kitchen earns you a bonus 3 points, as does having a bathroom on both top floors.
Finally you score the roof. These cards are actually kept face down in a pile throughout the game, so players have to keep track of what colour they have been collecting and how many roof cards they have. If completed with four cards, roofs can score you 3-9 points.
The player with the most points wins.
What it’s like
There is some strategy and a little bit of luck in Dream Home with plenty of adapting when things don’t go your way. It is a lighter game and a bit of a filler but it is still pleasurable for the more seasoned gamer.
Play moves around swiftly and overthinking rarely sets in due to the limited choices each round presents. You will often be left disappointed that the cards have not quite gone the way you wanted, or you see the perfect card get swiped by the player before you.
While you keep an eye on other player’s boards, you are often so intent on getting your house to be the ‘Dream Home’ you envisaged at the start you cannot play particularly vindictively. You may be aware what they would want but ultimately you have to choose what is right for you. Drafting a pair of cards at the same time makes for some interesting decision making.
Players as young as five will get the mechanics of the game but will probably not quite get the strategy of it. Speaking from experience a younger player randomises the game in quite a novel way. They will get four bathrooms just to be first player or because they like the look of the room. In their quest for a Dream Home they will unintentionally thwart your quest for functionality, leaving you to wonder where you will sleep without a bedroom. Anyone age eight and over can be competitive.
This is a good looking card game. It reminds me of the computer game The Sims in its approach to the style. The artwork by Bartłomiej Kordowski is cheerfully bright and illustrates that you will be living the dream if you play this game. I did mention The Sims, and some people might draw comparisons with the house-building element of the digital game, personally I think this does the designer Klemens Kalicki a disservice.
The boards are well designed and are good looking. The cards are nice quality and have really cool inviting art on them. Each room is unique and you can really study them as they are packed with detail. Look for the DeLorean under wraps in the garage or the Indiana Jones inspired living room or the entrance to Narnia in one of the playrooms. Slight qualm over the lack of diversity on the character cards… could’ve done better there.
The box art is good too and the bright orange first player marker is shaped like a house and is sturdy and satisfying.
Now I love a box insert, and the house shaped plastic insert inside this game is brilliant. Probably one of my favourite inserts in fact, it all packs away beautifully. Arguably there is a lot of wasted space in the box too and it could’ve been shrunk down a bit quite happily.
The instructions are clear and offer plenty of illustrations to guide you and further information on many of the cards to settle any debate later on.
Final thoughts on Dream Home
There is no question that Dream Home is a firm family favourite in our house. It is quite rare that we find a game that is equally entertaining for the adults and for the children. More tricky still to find a game where everyone has a fighting chance of winning.
Dream Home is one of those games where you never truly know who has won until the final scoring. You can be feeling pretty smug with your perfect looking home when along comes an uninspiring abode that happens to have the perfect roof and a toilet on each floor and a clever little employee to snatch the victory.
Some could argue that the name is therefore misleading. You are rarely building your Dream Home! This is because there are plenty of compromises along the way. Some games I am left wondering what will happen when it rains as my roof is incomplete, or worried that I will have to defecate in the kitchen sink in the absence of a bathroom in my home. As that is one of my few negatives you can see why we rate it highly.
Number of players: 2 to 4 (6 with expansion)
Board Game Review Recommended Age: 7+
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 7+
Playing Time: 35 mins
Setting Up and Take Down Time: 3 minutes
Designers: Klemens Kalicki
Dream Home is an excellent introduction for entry-level gamers to card drafting games. With enough about it to keep the entire family entertained. The quality of the artwork adds to the overall theme and experience. That is why as a family we often return to our Dream Home.
Artwork and Components
Value for Money
- Great family game for all ages
- Easy to learn
- Some strategy
- Good looking and nicely themes
- Expansion available to increase player count
- Lack of Diversity on cards
- A lighter game
- Some minor luck of the draw
- Not masses of player interaction
- Box could be smaller
Buy Dream Home
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