I never thought I’d find such delight in a simple puzzley game like Dingo’s Dreams. “Crikey,” I thought, “this is just flipping some tiles to match a pattern. Yawn.” (Author’s note: please bear with me and imagine the rest of this article in a really great Australian accent much like the one I’ve lost since living abroad for almost 10 years!). No, Nicole. You are wrong, and it wasn’t just the delightful and gorgeous art of Australian critters that makes this a great experience.
So, Dingo and his friends have gotten lost in their ‘Dreamscapes’. These Dreamscapes are 5×5 grids of lovely little tiles – landscape types on one side, and your animal type on the other (a dingo, koala, echidna or kangaroo). Each turn consists of a card being flipped to reveal a landscape type/colour which players will then flip to their animal side. With an extra tile showing your animal, you shuffle a row at a time, popping another tile out the other end (to use next turn for shifting) and hoping to get one step closer to matching the ‘Dream Card’ that will help your animal find its way home. Meaning you’re trying to match the pattern laid out on the Dream Card with the same layout of animal-faced tiles in your Dreamscape.
Sure, this sounds easy. I started calling it “shifty bingo” because it feels like one of those puzzles that have a piece missing and you poke around until you match a pattern. And you flip a few tiles and shuffle a few rows and think “oh ho HO I have got this, golly!” and you, friends, are wrong. It’s a great spatial challenge – especially seeing as, while all the players are flipping the same landscape tiles each turn, you’ve started with a different random layout on your Dreamscape to everyone else which means you’re all competing from different angles. And there’s a great variety of the Dream Cards, some of which can be quite a challenge straight up. But the game also offers more advanced play with ‘hazards’ blocking certain spots – meaning you can’t have any of your animals showing in those spots if you’re going to win the round.
My only real criticism of Dingo’s Dreams is that the randomness of setup can mean a disadvantage for some players depending on how the landscape tiles are flipped, but you should anticipate that going in. (I’ve played this a few times now and come soooo close to getting the pattern matched and being beaten to it by a turn or two!). I also wasn’t sure about the whole dreams/dreamtime terminology being lifted from Australian Indigenous culture, but I think the use of terms with Australian animals sort of sidestepped any strange cultural appropriation that would have turned me off this.
One of those “easy to learn, but much to master” games, you’ll find a lot to love about Dingo’s Dreams to play with friends and family. And I mean, really easy to learn – this can be set up and taught in about 5 minutes, and has a lovely short play time, meaning this could be a great game for your casual day or a nice night-ender for a more intense game night! Dingo’s Dreams plays 2 – 4 players, is designed by Alf Seegert and published/arted by Red Raven Games. (Is there any game they make that isn’t stunning? Gosh!)