In Of Dreams & Shadows, characters struggle to survive in a world dominated by spirits and other supernatural creatures. There are telltale signs that human civilization has been destroyed and rebuilt over countless years, but your perception of the world’s reality may be skewed. The feeling of what is real blurs with what people experience in their dreams…and nightmares. Each of the playable characters has a backstory or description that sheds light on their own individual motivations. Besides interesting heroes, the antagonists aren't simply evil for the sake of being evil. The villains, and their servants, are driven by their own needs and beliefs. Your goal is to defeat these villains...but what you do once they are defeated is another story altogether.
Of Dreams & Shadows, Act I is comprised of four phases. In the Action Phase, the heroes may move around the world, regain health, acquire resources, invoke spells, trade resources, use their unique powers, and purge shadows from the world. The Combat Phase allows them to fight their foes. During the Scenario Phase, each hero draws from one of the World decks or, if there is a quest token, they may draw from the Quest deck. In the Event Phase, a thematic event will immediately affect the heroes in some way.
Looking closer at the Action Phase, the challenge is to find a balance between purging shadows, which can summon enemies if left alone, and gaining Resource cards. It’s easy to ignore the shadows, because Resources cards work to allow characters to gain better abilities, recruit companions, and acquire better weapons. For example, Sidestep reduces your Might by one, but increases Agility by two during Combat, and casting a Warding spell will reduce the Foe’s attack by 1 to any Champion sharing the same space that Turn.
The Combat Phase resolves any clashes that occur on locations where Champion and Foe are together. In these attacks, the Foes will often be monsters from the story thread based on the villain chosen at the start of the game. While other abilities may come into play, the focus in on the defense, attack, and health scores. Champions will target a Foe and roll their attack, which must overcome the defense. Multiple Champions may attach a single foe in a round. A Champion may use their willpower to increase the die roll if they choose, or once per turn, they may use a willpower to reroll entirely. The Foe loses Health equal to the difference between the test result and the Foe’s Defense Score. Even if defeated, the Foe may return the attack in the same style of combat dice rolls. Certain cards will augment this system, such as ones with Ambush, or if the Champion is fighting an Epic Foe.
Examining the Scenario Phase, a primary way that the narrative for both heroes and villains are woven together in Of Dreams & Shadows, is through the World and Quest decks. Scenarios are drawn from these decks that drive the story forward. Completing a Scenario usually involves passing a test against a specific trait. Success could mean the hero gains a token to aid them in their quest, while failure may result in a negative consequence. Scenarios may also involve making a choice. These choices lead to different outcomes that change the story in some way and even lead to branching story paths in the expansion.
The Event Phase is a single card that affects all Champions or Villains. While in a rare moment, it can help the land to flourish (and therefore assist the Champions) more often it us used to further vex the players. Then, the Villain card determines how their minions will take further root across the land (placing Shadow Tokens and Foes on the World Map), moving the Fate Dial forward and the round is complete.
Act I ends after five rounds, and Act II begins...with the Villain entering the World Map. Intense and faster in gameplay, Act II consists only of the Action Phase and Combat Phase, until the Villain is defeated, or the Champions lie in ruin.
Below is an example of a World card. It is not found in the game itself and is unique to this magazine. In addition, the promo card that came in this magazine is one of four different Resource cards, that are usable in the game.