Indie Board Game Spotlight: Dreams of Tomorrow

After visiting the Boston Festival of Indie Games and reminiscing about some of our favorite Halloween board games, we’ve been itching to highlight an indie board game on Couch Bandits. And luckily, we had the opportunity to talk with Carla of Weird Giraffe Games (@WeirdGiraffes) about their latest title: Dreams of Tomorrow.

If you’re unfamiliar with Weird Giraffe Games, they’re focused on creating games revolving around player choice and strategy. They’ve designed a few games, which I recommend checking out, including Super Hack Override, Stellar Leap, and the upcoming Fire in the Library.

Dreams of Tomorrow is their next project, and they need your help to get it funded on Kickstarter! But before we get to that, Carla was kind enough to answer some burning questions I had about the game they’re designing.

Jake Roundy: Firstly, what’s the short-and-sweet description of Dreams of Tomorrow? What type of players would enjoy this game?

Carla: Dreams of Tomorrow is a set collection game for 1–6 players (~45 minutes per session), where you’re trying to save the future by sending dreams to the past.

Dreams of Tomorrow is for players who like games that are easy enough for new or casual gamers but also have enough depth and strategy for more experienced gamers. If you’re drawn to great art or games with background stories, you might also really like it!

Dreams of Tomorrow should especially appeal to gamers who want to play a quick game with unique mechanics—it offers a variety of ways to play, too.

Dreams of Tomorrow Official Art
Dreams of Tomorrow Artwork by James Masino.

Jake: What inspired the concept of Dreams of Tomorrow? If I can take a guess, I assume it came from a dream…but seriously, what about dreaming grabbed your attention?

Carla: Originally, Dreams of Tomorrow was a game called Totemic Rites. In Totemic Rites, the player built totem poles and went around a market gathering resources.

When I was trying to find an illustrator for the game, it became clear the original theme of the game wouldn’t work for a variety of reasons. I brainstormed a ton of different ideas, but sending dreams to the past just seemed to fit the mechanics. I’m also really into time travel, so it was inevitable I’d work that into a game.

As for the dreaming aspect, you go around these shifting action spaces in the game, and most spaces give resources to other players. I thought the shifting, coupled with everything you do affecting other players, felt like a joint dream experience. It actually fit a lot better than the original theme! I’m really glad I made the decision to change it.

Jake: Interesting! From there, how did you develop each dream sequence? Were you inspired or guided by dream interpretations? Did you pull from classic or common dream analogies or scenarios?

Carla: The idea behind the game is that you’re sending dreams into the past to get the people in present time to change what they’re doing to improve their future.

The dream cards represent things that could happen, the future we want to have, and the devastation that did happen. There’s a mix of positive and negative in there, so when you’re playing, you can create the dream you think will cause the dreamer to make the most changes.

Dreams of Tomorrow Official Art
Dreams of Tomorrow Artwork by James Masino.

Jake: How did you decide on the shifting rondel mechanism? And what development challenges came with incorporating and refining this mechanic?

Carla: The original rondel mechanism was one of the main reasons I signed the game and where I wanted to focus most of my development changes. Before I started making changes to the game, there was only one ability to shift the rondel, and it was rather rare. I added in several more, including the ability to flip over cards in the rondel, in addition to making them plentiful. This emphasized the best and most unique part of the game—the shifting rondel.

Jake: Very cool! And speaking of uniques aspects of the game, I understand there are two modes to play Dreams of Tomorrow: Pleasant Night and Terrible Night. What are the differences between these modes, and what was your intention in creating two separate modes?

Carla: In the Pleasant Night mode, only the other players can affect the gameplay area. This mode is best for your first few games to give you a handle on how to play the game. It allows you to try out different strategies to see what you like best.

The Terrible Night introduces the Night Mare; this horse will definitely affect your gameplay. The Night Mare takes a turn every round and can do a variety of things, based on what card it draws. For instance, it can clear out the Dreamscape, switch up the action spaces and move things out of your reach, or even steal your resources. The Terrible Night is for players who want to add in extra challenge and like dealing with chaos.

For further context, the Pleasant Night mode is essentially the original game. When I was developing the game to make it into the dream theme, one idea that came up a few times was the question: What if your dream ended up as a nightmare?

The idea for the Night Mare and how it works was based on the classic nightmare, where you’re going down a hallway and it keeps getting longer—you just can’t get to where you need to go. This is basically what the Night Mare tries to do in the game: It keeps what you want out of reach, so you work harder than you would otherwise.

I always enjoy adding in a lot of replayability into the games I design and develop, so putting in the extra mode was a way to increase the excitement and make you want to play the game more. Not only does the gameplay differ and require new strategies for varied player counts, but you can also add in a robot to battle—and you’ve got two different modes! That combination means you’ll definitely get a significant bang for your buck when you buy Dreams of Tomorrow.

Dreams of Tomorrow Official Art
Dreams of Tomorrow Artwork by James Masino.

Jake: The art direction is beautiful. What direction was given to James Masino, the illustrator? How do you think his art informs the gaming experience?

Carla: My art direction was to make the illustrations colorful and bright, with a lot of contrast. If you’ve seen a Weird Giraffe Game, you’ll be able to tell based on our bright color palette, and Dreams of Tomorrow is no exception.

For the illustrations themselves, I wanted a style that wasn’t like the average dream game out there, which tend to be either really out there or pastel and fluffy. This was one reason why I choose to go with James Masino; he’s an amazing artist, and he’s done some incredible sci-fi art in the past. Instead of straight sci-fi, I wanted a dreamier look to the cards, and James made that happen.

For the actual cards, I came up with a few of the illustration ideas, but I left some up to James, as well, as I really didn’t want to stifle his creativity. There’s a reason why I pay artists to do what they do best, and he took the game in a fantastic direction.

His art definitely improves the gaming experience. His illustrations draw you in, and the first time I played with his art, I was happily surprised that instead of choosing dreams to put in my dream sequence, as I was doing before, the illustrations actually made me change how I was playing. I wanted to create a dream sequence with the art I wanted to include—not just based on points or abilities.

Dreams of Tomorrow Official Art
Dreams of Tomorrow Artwork by James Masino.

Jake: How did the refinement process go? Were early reactions to playtesting positive? What challenges did you hit, and how did you overcome them in the final product?

Carla: The refinement process went really well! There was never a point where people weren’t happy with the game. It took a few iterations to get points and resources balanced, but then it was mostly figuring out what abilities the dreams would have and how often they would appear. Rondel-shifting abilities are now the majority, and during a typical game, you won’t see all the different abilities, which is a really good place to be.

Once the cards were where I wanted them, I spent a lot of time widening the player count. Games that imply they’re a certain player count should definitely work at that player count—and work well—so this took some time. The game was originally 2–4 players, but now, it’s 2–6!

Making the game go into higher player counts was relatively easy. I made a different set of cards for the rondel depending on if you have 1–3 players or 4–6. This made the game about the same length, regardless of how many players where playing and evened out the resources. Turn length is really fast in the game, so adding in an extra player or two didn’t increase the downtime by much, and the fact you gain resources on most players’ turns means you’re typically engaged even when it’s not your turn.

Next was making the solo version of the game. I tend to go with robot players for solo versions, so that’s the first place I went. I thought of all the things a player typically does in a game and boiled those down into something simple and easy to do. This resulted in a robot player that could cause the rondel to shift, give or take resources from you, and clear all the dreams from the Dreamscape. It took a bit of time to get the robot player maintenance to not be much but also have it add in the right level of interaction.

Once I had one robot player working well, I made a second and third robot, so there’d be an easy, medium, and hard robot. Now, you can experience the solo version you want. You can also add the robot into the multiplayer game to increase replayability and challenge!

Finally, there was the Troubled Night mode. This was based on how the robot player changed the rondel. It was tricky figuring out when the Night Mare would go. At first, it went after the last player, but that made it not so fun for the first player. Then, I came up with the Night Mare moving counter-clockwise; this took some getting used to for players, but it ended up making the Night Mare work out well! The player who was most affected by the Night Mare wouldn’t have to deal with it the next time they took a turn, so they got a bit of a reprieve.

Dreams of Tomorrow Official Art
Dreams of Tomorrow Artwork by James Masino.

Jake: Compared to Weird Giraffe Games’ other projects, what makes Dreams of Tomorrow stand out? How was the development process comparatively: easier, more difficult, or more rewarding?

Carla: Dreams of Tomorrow is the most positive of any game in the Weird Giraffe Games line. All of our games are family friendly and don’t allow you to really hurt other players, but in Dreams of Tomorrow, the most negative thing you can do is take the dream another player is going after (if you know what that is) or move them on the rondel, hopefully putting them further from the action location they wish to visit.

The development process was different in that I made more modes of play than usual and wanted to make sure these modes (Trouble vs Pleasant), as well as playing with and without the robot, worked well at all player counts.

For me, it was more rewarding than some other games I’ve worked on, as I love figuring out how to solve problems. This game raised a variety of challenges to solve with the solo modes, troubled night, and player count.

Jake: Wow, that definitely sounds like a lot of fun—both to play and design! Lastly, I was wondering if you had any advice for aspiring game designers?

Carla: Don’t give up! It takes so much iteration to make a good game into a great one, so if you keep playtesting, you can slowly make your game the best it can be.

If you’d like to learn more about Dreams of Tomorrow, check out and support their Kickstarter, and help us spread the love for this awesome game by sharing!

Major thanks to Carla for taking the time to speak with us. We’re super excited to see this project kick off!

All illustrations by James Masino.

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