This review is also dreamily available on Zatu here!
Dreams are strange. In fact, the entire idea of sleeping is weird. You go to a specific location in a specific attire to lay still and hallucinate vividly. Madness! But of course, it’s a requirement of most, if not all living things. (Who knows? I’m not an anthropologist). But generally speaking it’s what most people look forward to. It’s comforting, recharges you and is safe. Of course… Safety is relative, as not all dreams are welcomed. And that’s how Lucidity by Fox Tale Games sees dreaming. Lucidity is about being a dreamer attempting to take power from creatures within the dream realm. It’s a dice drafting/push your luck game with a big emphasis on balancing the risk/reward available. Being brave can be foolish, but pushing too hard may not take you out of the game…
The game takes place in a dream. Not in a loving memories, biggest fantasy sort of way… But in an “Oh lord, the demons are coming!”, nightmarish sort of way. The game is oriented around you and your fellow dreamers competing to be the first to accumulate 15 power which is stolen from Nightmares. The power you steal is accumulated from the Dreams you take (dice). These come in four flavours; Dreams of Envy, Dreams of the Depths, Dreams of Imprisonment, and Dreams of Primeval Fear. Lovely stuff!
At the start of your turn you decide how deeply you will dream, this will determine how many Dreams you take from the bag. More risk means more reward, but it’s unlikely any of the nightmares will let it go lightly…. You then get to discard two and roll the rest, resolving their results in a specific order. Rolling a 1 or a 2 is power, this is what is needed to inevitably win the game. Roll a ‘Hunt’ die and it goes in the Hunt track, filling this is an automatic loss. Exhaust results reduce the amount of time you can be in the dream for (ironically), and finally Shadow results entice the nightmares’ wrath. You can resolve the dice in any colour order but you must do them in the symbol order stated. You then check for filled rows and resolve any effects; Hunt first to determine whether you lose outright, then Exhaust to see if you can dream again (if not you end your turn), and finally Shadow rows. If you fill a Shadow row, you become that Nightmare through exposure to it! Even when exhausted, you can still become a nightmare! If you’re not exhausted and you’re not a nightmare, you can dream again by moving your counter one along the chosen dream track you’ve chosen, increasing the number of Dreams drafted accordingly. You can only dream three times before needing to rest, or if your exhaust row is full you must rest. Resting allows you to either remove exhaust Dreams or a Shadow Dream, so keeping an eye on your current situation can reduce the risk vs reward outcomes.
The Shadow results are what will drive the players to their demise as they’re focussed on hindering their endeavours. Each flavour of Dream (dice) has a Shadow result on it and each one will affect you negatively in some way or another. The Depths Dice are the most likely to cause you to become nightmares, and resolving a Depths Shadow result makes you draw another dream and resolve it, meaning it can quickly become a downward spiral. The Imprisonment dreams play on how exhausted you are and cause you to turn an exhaust result to a Shadow result. The Envy dice look the nicest but play on that really well; a Shadow on this result allows the player to the left to choose any resolved die on your player mat for you to re-roll. The Primeval fear aren’t as bad and allow you to take more risks by removing a Shadow and moving it to the Hunt track, though it’s deceptively easy to take liberties and be removed entirely from play!
Now the thing about most push your luck games is that there is clear risk. You push too hard and you’ll get bitten on the bottom! Lucidity doesn’t play that way. You’re not out, your play style changes. Now I know there will be that one individual who will clench their fists and go red in the face whilst proclaiming “THAT’S NOT TRUE PUSH YOUR LUCK!” and I don’t argue. It’s not truly risky if you can increase your chances of winning! But the consequence of pushing that risk too far is becoming that which you’re running from. You become the nightmare of the Shadow flavour you overstocked on. Now that immediately sounds really cool (who doesn’t love a good mid game team switch?) but your issue is then your limitations as a nightmare. Being all terrifying and spookily designed is wonderful, but you can only affect players who roll your flavour of Dream and get a Shadow result. In practice; you’re the Nightmare of the Depths and therefore blue, another player rolls a blue Shadow so you can take action. Alternatively on your turn, you can affect other dreamers’ current power that they’ve stocked in your flavour. Other than that you just get to look and sound cool. You can still win by removing all other dreamers or by being the nightmare with the most power, but as far as variety goes you become a two trick pony.
We got into a terrible habit when playing this and automatically pushed hard to become a nightmare, assuming that being bad was a good thing. We quickly learned that nice guys don’t finish last in Lucidity and that it was in fact the nightmares who were hindered. No arguments that it’s a cool idea and a unique concept, and you can win as a nightmare, but it’s not always worth it! On top of that, although being able to target other players is great fun in any push your luck game, dreamers are more likely to win than dreamers who turn into nightmares as they can reduce the dreams pulled by two and actively avoid taken nightmare colours. The game allows for many tactical manoeuvres and doesn’t hold back in terms of allowing nightmares to punish daring players. You can easily dream really deeply to start off and get a shocking result, and then decide to rest to prevent issues, or dream lightly and get a few rounds of dreams rolled and resolved. It depends on how quickly you want to win or how much of an advantage you have.
The dice. Ah man, I haven’t mentioned it yet but the dice! There are so many of them! 20 of each flavour, each variety with its own unique combination symbols to resolve. Some of the dream flavours are less “dangerous” but none are going to help you entirely. The Primeval Fear Dreams are purely risk/reward; they’re the only dice to host 2 power but also host the hunt result, the only result to completely take you out of the game should you be unlucky enough, the Depth Dreams cause you to take further risks, the Imprisonment Dreams make you end your turn sooner, and the Envy Dreams make your competitors more likely to target you. It’s excellently thought out, and there’s no immediate Dream to avoid until a few rounds in when you’ll be at risk from a more specific danger due to the happenings of previous turns. The player mats look awesome and are very easy to understand with everything labelled clearly. The felt bag fits the theme having the Hunt symbol on it, and the artwork on the Nightmare cards is stunningly horrifying. In terms of theme alone, this game nails it!
The game is reliant on you knowing what’s going on. Which Dreams you’ll keep will be dependent on which Nightmares are present, or which Shadows are in the highest quantity across player’s boards. On top of that, a tactical change to a Nightmare may play out well if you choose one that will mess with loads of people in quick succession. There’s a strong emphasis of knowing how you’ll play your turn for you, but player interaction is limited only to Nightmares, so knowing what everyone else is doing isn’t always necessary. The game plays differently every time dependent on what Dreams are drawn and whose playing, but it’s more of what you’ll enjoy in honesty. It’s not impossible to pick up and easy to teach, so it holds good weight as a filler or quick game.
We really enjoy Lucidity. The theme suits me personally very well, but even our less “run for your life” players agreed the entire game is excellently themed, and that it even helps enhance the experience. The Nightmare abilities reflect their titles and can enable anyone to take a sneaky lead should there be a plethora of that Dream flavour on player boards. Will this game break records and revolutionise your gaming shelf? Probably not, but it is one that’s definitely worth looking at, especially if you’re a fan of drafting or dice rolling games. Lucidity is a great game choice when looking for something enjoyable, thematic, but still light enough to just pick up and put down.