Did you ever spend a dream trying to achieve something but never quite getting there? Did it seem inexplicably urgent? Perhaps that was your Dreamquest. Consider what might have happened had you done it? It might have mattered more than you think..

As people drift off to sleep around the world they travel to the Dreamlands where their whims take solid form. The land of sleep is kept by the Dreamlords; each a patchwork of wishes and fancies. There is no evil in the Dreamlands except that which people bring with them, but some do. After all, one persons dream can be another persons nightmare. 

The Dreamlords strive tirelessly to eradicate nightmares but they cannot eradicate them all. Nor are they immune to them. Nightmares can corrupt a Dreamlord, darkening their heart. Such cases almost always lead to one outcome. The Dreamlord walls off a small part of the Dreamlands to make their own private playground, selecting Dreamers to occupy it. These unfortunates arrive there every night to find their nightmares awaiting them.

About the Game

Escaping the Dreamhouse is a semi co-operative survival horror board game in which 2-5 players explore a house built from the dreams and nightmares of their child protagonists. Your goal is to complete your Dreamquest while rescuing as many Dreamers as possible from their personal horrors.

You build the Dreamhouse as you play, laying tiles and moving your characters. But the night will not last forever. Nor will you, if you dally. The Dreamhouse is protected by Bogeys and traps.

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About my Crazy Project

My name is David and welcome to my crazy project! I am a solo designer from London in the UK and I had been toying with board game design for a few years before being struck by an idea while on holiday. That was unusual because I usually get all my best ideas in the shower. At that time it was a game. It was just a mechanic.

I was thinking about the Alpha Player problem in co-operative games. If you don’t know what that is, it is this. In a game where everybody is working toward the same goal, one player sometimes ends up dominating the game; often the loudest or most assertive player. Instead of players making their own moves, the moves become the subject of debate and players get browbeaten into taking actions. This is not a lot of fun.

My idea was to give control over the events in the game to the players. So, when you take an action in the game and you might draw a card to see what happens, you don’t do that. The other players play cards on you from their hands to determine what happens. Because they have insight into what is going to happen to you, depending on what you do, they cannot advise you without conspicuously ruining the game. Alpha play looks and feels like cheating.

Although I added a semi co-operative element to the game, Escaping the Dreamhouse has a strong co-operative flavor . There are no hidden traitors.

While I always knew this was going to be a horror game, the exact theme did not crystallize for some time. I initially tested with a science fiction theme, but it seemed rather bland. A friend reminded me of a one-off horror RPG I had written and run some years before and the rest just fell into place. Actually, that makes it sound easy. It wasn’t easy at all and I made about a thousand outright horrible, sometimes embarrassing and probably avoidable mistakes along the way. I will write those up some day and it read like a horror story in it’s own right. Anyway, we finally got here!

So now we have a Dreamhouse and you play children who are trying to escape. To do so they must complete a Dreamquest while navigating a landscape literally built from their fears. The theme is sometimes sinister and sometimes whimsical, with fears ranging from the frustrating to the terrifying. Just like real dreams. There is no explicit violence and adults do not feature at all.

How it Works

Each player controls a child protagonist. This is the character whose experiences you are channeling and it is their Dreamquest you are trying to complete. You can have more than one character in your group but only one protagonist. Characters are represented by unique cards and your group is represented by a standee.

You take actions to move your group around the Dreamhouse, building it from tiles as you go. In this way every Dreamhouse is different. It is a house insofar as it features rooms and passages, but those rooms have Dreamlike dimensions and characteristics. A bedroom might open onto a beach, a zoo or Christmas morning. The rooms reflect the experiences of your characters. It is the world as children experience it, with rooms reflecting school, home, occasions and the outside.

You can take up to 12 actions in a turn, but the more actions you take in a turn the more you disturb the Dreamhouse. Bogeys will wake and begin to hunt you down. You can fight back with memories you discover in the Dreamhouse, using helpful or comforting memories to aid you or using painful ones to terrify or harm the Bogeys.

Players who complete their Dreamquest can wake up and escape, but only if they have rescued enough Dreamers between them. As the night expires and day begins to creep into the sky, have you done enough? Maybe some have and some haven’t. Will you leave them behind?

Get Involved!

I am trying to make something that people will enjoy here. That’s it. That’s always been it, from the very first idea for a mechanic. So if you would like the get involved in helping to make a horror game that maybe you will enjoy and hopefully a lot of peope will enjoy and that does not have an Alpha Player problem, that would be truly helpful.,

I want to playtest the game more. Test test test! I have a physical prototype and I have recreated the prototype on Tabletop Simulator so now I really have no excuses for not getting it out there. Also, you know, I think it is a lot of fun and who doesn’t like playing games?

I want to make Escaping the Dreamhouse as good as it can be. So, if you have anything to add or you would like the play the game, please do send me an email at sargassogames@gmail.com. Or, you know, just to chat because I do enjoy chatting to other gamers!

You can also hunt me down on BoardGameGeek where I am DavidSargassoJones.

Art & Design

I made all of the tile art myself. While I also made a lot of science fiction card art for the initial variant of the game, I am going to commission an artist this Summer to begin making the card art. I no longer have time to so that myself. The prototype uses some Midjourney art to fill in the gaps.