What is Dreamblade?
Dreamblade is a CMG (which stands for collectable miniatures game) created by Wizards of the Coast in 1996. The premise is that two players compete to control the landscape of dreams using strange creatures they have summoned. Basically it's a bit like chess but instead of taking pieces you are rolling dice to win battles and fighting for position on the board which wins you points. Win six rounds and you've won the game. There's a fair bit more to it though, for instance there are four different aspects and sub-aspects to take into account, special abilities that allow you to break even the most basic core rules of the game and the possibility to set up a whole series of events using the special blade abilities. As a simple example you might have a piece that attacks anything that moves into its square automatically and another piece that pushes other pieces away from it. It doesn't take a genius to see there's some fun to be had with that pairing! One of the things you begin to realise about Dreamblade once you start playing is just how amazingly well balanced the game is. With all those possibilities you might expect there to be a lot of exploitable rules and opportunities to ruin the game for the other player but that isn't the case.
The miniatures are made out of plastic and come pre-painted though quite a few people touch them up with a bit of a repaint and they take paint well. The game uses special six sided dice with a special 'dreamblade' on one side of the dice. The dice are only available in the starter set so I would definitely get one of those as soon as you can, they are pretty cheap now but unlike most Dreamblade pieces I can see their price rising in the future.
There are four main aspects called Valour, Madness, Passion and Fear. Each turn you will randomly be able to bring a different value of pieces onto the board and most pieces have two costs, their basic cost and the number of other pieces of the same aspect you must have already used to bring them on. If you haven't met the aspect cost by spawning creatures of the same aspect you have to pay an extra cost, all of this information is clearly printed on the figures base in an easy to understand way. The strategy is in what pieces you pick, when you play them and how you use them. There's a lot to consider but two new players can happily sit down with 16 random miniatures each and enjoy the game, one of the best things about it is the way it scales to your experience.
Good games die, bad games live forever
Dreamblade was, and remains, a very unique looking game with high production quality and excellent gameplay. It's cheap to get into (even cheaper now!) and simple to pick up with an almost endless depth as you refine and expand your small warband of pieces. Unfortunately with so many good games on offer Dreamblade got cancelled but this isn't such a bad thing, there are so many pieces available that it really doesn't matter. Sadly though since the latest expansion (serrated dawn) got put on hold, probably forever, the game has taken a nosedive. This is great news for you though - it means the pieces are pretty cheap.
The Base Set - The base set came out in 2006 and features some very useful pieces. There are 96 in this set - 32 rares, 32 commons and 32 uncommons. I would definitely look to buying a couple of boosters of this set if you are new to the game just to get some good core pieces.
Baxars War - Baxars War also came out in 2006 and features my personal favourite Baxar himself. This set consisted of 60 pieces, 20 of each rarity. New abilities came into effect and a new lineage of fear and madness appeared called The Stitched.
Anvilborn - This expansion came out in 2007 and again it's 20 of each rarity and eight uncommon / rare neutrals called the Anvilborn who are used slightly differently. This set offered nothing too radical but there are some nice pieces including some pretty quirky pieces that offer new strategies.
Night Fusion - This set came out in 2007 following much the same pattern as the previous releases, there's some pretty nice pieces in this one too.
Serrated Dawn - As you've probably noticed, or knew anyway, the game has had a whole stack of expansions in a short period of time. Personally I loved that but here's no denying that gamers can have too much choice and Dreamblade's next expansion got put on hold, which is game manufacturer speak for binned. Fear not though, no pun intended, because WOTC rather generously provided all the bases for free download so you can make your own should you be an obsessive player with a bit of modelmaking experience. Many players have already taken up the challenge and made their own, more details in the expanding the game section at the end. It's unlikely the official sculpts will ever be released but I live in hope!
Getting into Dreamblade
Ok here's the really great news, Dreamblade is very cheap to start playing! It's also a game you might be able to persuade your wife or girlfriend to get into and there are a surprising amount of women players. Why? Well no offence to the fairer sex but it's simple and straightforward without great big rulebooks to plow through, what you get printed on the base tells you all the rules you need for a piece so you can just pick a warband and play without the kind of nerdy preparation male players are prepared to put into gaming. It's a game that's suitable for pretty much the whole family which is a bonus for most gamers who find getting games difficult.Dreamblade originally came out in sealed boxes of seven miniatures. This is a shocking scam peculiar to CMGs where you don't know what you are going to get. Naturally this means that you end up with loads of stuff you don't want and a few you do want. Great for the company, not so hot for your wallet. A lot of people just went ahead and picked what they wanted from Ebay and bypassed this annoying method of selling altogether and unless you want 16 rares this works out a lot cheaper. The key is knowing what you want and a bit of research on a site like Dreamcatcher (the official guide) can help out a lot. This stuff is so cheap now even a rare can be picked up for a couple of quid so buying 'boosters' (sealed boxes) isn't a great way to start unless you have no fixed idea of what you want, in which case it's probably worth doing.
You will need the special dice and the board. These come in the starter set along with a full warband of random miniatures from the base set. This is probably going to set you back about £12-16 and is a good investment. The board itself is only paper but is high quality and the flipside of the board is the same board with helpful tips printed on it to make playing the game even easier for new players. Many people myself included have made themselves a nice board but I'd recommend the starter set for new players not least because it comes with the rulebook! You can download the rules for free though from the official site.
Dreamblade on Ebay
Quite a few sellers purchased bulk amounts of boosters to open and sell the pieces individually, just like with other CMGs there's probably a profit to be made at first as people scamper around looking for the pieces they desperately want. With it being cancelled though the pieces are now extremely cheap and ex-players are unloading their unwanted stuff, often in sets of 8 or 10 of the same aspect. This is great for the new gamer or for the diehard fan. Prices vary but most pieces you will want are very affordable. I would recommend new players to get the starter then a couple of bulk sets of miniatures and then fill in the gaps with single pieces. This is the most cost-effective way of doing it.
Dreamblade is a great game that really captures the imagination and it's cheap and easy to play with lots of potential for developing cunning tactics. If you go to the official site you can also play a very nice flash tutorial, get the rulebook and listen to some podcasts about the game. The companion site Dreamcatcher lists all the pieces with pictures and information so putting together a warband is dead easy. CMGs are weird in that people lose interest because there isn't a new set coming out next week, but you're smarter than that I'm sure and know a good game when you see it. Dreamblade can provide many hours of gaming fun at a very low cost, if you are looking for something really different that you can get fully into then I would recommend having a look at the official site and if it excites your gaming nerve then dive in with a starter set. I hope you enjoy this fresh and exciting game as much as I do.
Expanding the GameWhat, more? Ok if a few hundred different miniatures and dozens of unique abilities aren't enough for you then how about trying your hand at making those Serrated Dawn pieces? Simply check what is on the TOP of the piece (ie it's cost, aspect etc) and buy the cheapest available figure with the same stats and chop off the miniature and replace it with whatever seems appropriate or go all out and make your own with a modeling clay like Fimo or Green Stuff. You've got yourself a tournament-legal piece that nobody else has for a quid and some time, bargain.
How about your own board? I've seen a lot of these and each one is a surreal work of art that is a joy to play on. The board is dead basic, just squares with portals and scoring cells. Anyone with a ruler and some paint brushes can make their own and decorate it to their taste. If you really like the game as I do you'll find it almost impossible to resist. A cheap piece of thick MDF will only set you back £2 or so and though unfashionable these days being creative has its own rewards.
Best of luck on the dreamscape, if you found this guide useful please consider giving it the thumbs up as this will make it more visible and hopefully help other new players get into the game. I have other guides available for absolutely classic games so if you like the sound of this have a look, you might find another undiscovered gem just waiting for your gaming pleasure! Thanks for reading and happy dreaming.
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