You always wanted three bathrooms in your dream home, right?
Android, iOS & Steam
# of Players
Dream House is a set collection, drafting game with a spatial aspect from Asmodee Digital. Players are tasked with building, well, a Dream House by selecting rooms and bonuses across 12 rounds, adding them into their initially empty house. Once each player has had a chance to draft 12 rooms, the game ends and points are tallied. Whoever put together the highest point house wins, this typically takes about five to ten minutes.
Your Dream House starts with twelve empty rooms across three floors. Two of these are basement rooms, then two floors above, each with five rooms. The game begins with five pairs of cards showing. Actually, four pairs and a solo card. The bottom card on all five pairs is a room which can be placed somewhere in your house. The top card (not present on that solo card) is some kind of enhancement to your house, maybe a roof, treehouse, architect, sauna, or shelving.
The first player gets to immediately remove one of the pairs from the game (except in four player games), eliminating it from being chosen by anybody. They then choose one of the pairs, placing the room somewhere in their house and using the enhancement card if possible. This continues until all players have chosen a room this turn. Whoever takes that solo card gets to become the starting player next turn, which is a big advantage but has the tradeoff of not providing any bonus card. This continues over twelve rounds.
The devil is in the details here, of course. There are a few different ways to score points. Most directly, rooms are worth a variable amount of points based on how big they are. A three-card living room is worth nine points, while a single card is only worth one. Bathrooms are one point regardless of size, I guess your dream house does not include a master bathroom.
Grabbing cards to make rooms of the desired size isn’t all that interesting, so what else is there? One of the big impediments to your goal is that you can only build rooms that have a stable foundation below them. To start a game, this means three of your main floor rooms and the two basement rooms. In order to build the second floor, you need something on the first floor below it. This alone turns Dream House into a fun puzzle of timing and planning. But wait, there’s more! The bonus or enhancement cards really start to add something to the game. These can range from something as simple as a room decoration which can be placed in a room of a specific type, providing some small point bonus in the process, but also finishing that room, preventing it from being added to later. Roofs are a straight set collection task, the four best you have at the end earn you points, the ideal result being four roof cards of any matching color, with at least one of them containing a window. There are odds and ends like treehouses and birdhouses which simply gain you a point while being placed on the tree next to your house.
Finally, there is a whole service industry around home building to help. You can get a roofer which allows you a free roof card from the discard pile at the end of the game. A jackhammer allows you to sneak in and grab a card before the turn starts. A handyman allows you to swap two rooms in your home, and so on.
Dream Home is a simple, fun core concept that is extended just a bit by the addition of numerous bonus cards. Without the bonus cards, this game is probably way too thin. They add interesting decisions by providing a number of different routes to take. A matching set of four roof cards is worth a whopping 8 points (most of my scores end up in the 30s, for reference), but the roof cards you have taken are kept hidden which adds a small memory aspect to the proceeding. Smaller bonuses are available, but are sometimes necessary to get the room card you want. Or you could take a room with an attached helper, some of those abilities are quite powerful. Then there’s the decision between taking the first player room, which is a key part of the game, especially if you need something very specific to complete a room for big points. It all adds up rather quickly, making each choice fun and important.
I like what Dream House offers. It’s not going to be for everybody with as light as it is, but it is a fun set collection game that uses a nice drafting mechanic and throws in a touch of spatial planning, all of which are things that appeal to my general gaming likes. The theme is cute and ties in well with the game.
Barrier to Entry
Dream Home has a tutorial series which is presented as the initial stages of the campaign mode (more on that later). The first tutorial steps you through the basics of the game, explaining how room and bonus cards work, the rest add on details as they go. The tutorials are fairly hands-off, only asking you to drag and drop cards. However, each tutorial has an accompanying test game you can play which only features the rules up to the point which you have learned so far. This is a really handy feature, a fresh take on tutorials. The tutorials themselves left me a bit confused at times, but after playing through the sample game, I understood what the tutorial was teaching. The series is well paced, adding just enough with each new tutorial and is a great way to teach players the game.
Learning to play
Early in a game
Look and Feel
This game jumps off of your screen from the start. You are greeted with a fun cutscene when you launch the game (it is skippable, thankfully, so you don’t have to view it every time). The graphics are nothing special, but it all looks very good. The menus are super simple and easy to navigate. The in-game screen carries over the theme perfectly and the use of nice, bright colors makes everything pop. The attention to detail is apparent on the backgrounds and small details that would have been really easy to ignore but were treated with care.
Most of the game is played with drag-and-drop as you select and drag cards onto your board. There are quite a few tap to confirm situations as well, such as when ending a turn or choosing which column to remove if you are the first player. All of this works fairly well most of the time. I specifically have had issues using the paint roller button on the side of the screen, requiring a flurry of taps before it finally registers. Otherwise, despite being small, the button taps seem to register well. The game does feature an undo option.
One thing to note here is how hot this game made my phone run. This is something I rarely touch on because it is rarely a noticeable issue. After playing a game or two my Android phone starts to cook.
Dream Home features asynchronous, real-time, cross-platform online play as well as local pass-and-play. The online game options are thorough, letting you go so far as to choose the starting player. You can also invite friends to private games. Games are joined via a lobby system. Unfortunately, it is the same old Asmodee Digital system where you have to sit around in an empty game you’ve created until it fills up. And you will definitely be sitting because there is, as far as I can tell, essentially no online user base for this game. I’ve never actually seen another player online and there is an open chat which, at the time of this writing, was averaging about a message a week.
I was able to test out online play. Real-time games work just fine, no issues at all in fact. Asynchronous games, however, seem to be totally broken based on my limited experience. The app created two games for us when we only started one and, more importantly, neither player could take their turn after the first two or three turns in the game. Not a good experience. There also weren't any system notifications. On the brighter side, pass-and-play works really well. There is no hidden information so the game works very well with people sitting around a tablet or passing around a device.
Single player games can be played through a campaign mode or against one to three AI players. The AI mode is strangely hidden in the “Pass and Play” section of the game, you have to add new players and set them to AI rather than human. I can see this causing confusion to some players as it is far from obvious where to find this option. One possible reason for this might be that the AI is fairly awful at this game. My first game after the tutorial I was able to defeat two AI opponents quite easily. They did not play with any sort of apparent strategy, and often passed on obviously strong moves in favor of randomness. In short, don’t count on this game to provide a great AI experience.
The campaign gives you a series of different scenarios to tackle. Each one provides a different set of requirements from the clients, you must hit those to pass the scenario. You can also earn up to three keys. One is earned for completing the goals, a second for doing so while defeating the AI, and the third for hitting a point goal. The keys add another level of challenge, primarily through the third, point-based key, which is a big plus for replay value. Providing specific criteria definitely changes your strategy. As the campaign moves along, the scenarios get more interesting and it really ends up being a fun series of challenges. It kind of saves the whole app, to be honest.
The physical game has an expansion, 156 Sunny Street, that is not currently available in the app.
The game features 15 achievements to unlock, spanning both online and offline play.
The Wrap Up
Dream House narrowly escapes what I am going to start calling the “app wasteland.” This is a place reserved for generally well made apps that have no active online user base and offer really poor AI. Basically, well made apps that have no real purpose to most players because offline play is too easy and online play can only exist with private games. What saves Dream House from this fate is the campaign mode. Not that it is particularly difficult, but getting all three keys in each scenario can certainly take a few tries. This is escaping the wasteland by the narrowest of margins possible, but I did find fun in trying to build a “perfect” house within the constraints imposed by the different scenarios.
As a game, I actually like Dream House quite a bit. It is simple, but offers fun choices on each turn, plays quickly, and is wrapped up in a pleasant theme with bright, vibrant art. If you don’t think you will enjoy replaying scenarios to beat a goal score, then there’s probably not a lot in this app for you. However, it is priced pretty low so even if you only want to try the game and play through the campaign once, it could easily be a justifiable purchase. Chasing three keys across all of the campaign scenarios and maybe grabbing a friend for online games would give this some serious shelf life.