Unconscious Mind — A Dreamy Review

BoardGameNerd
7 min readOct 31, 2022
A close-up look at components for Unconscious Mind

It’s finally here! Many of you have been waiting for Fantasia Games’ next title — Unconscious Mind ever since it was teased during the Endless Winter crowdfunding campaign but the time has come! Review videos are popping up on Youtube and I thought it was time to give my thoughts.

*I reviewed an early prototype of Unconscious Mind and the game may have changed since then, but my review will be based on the copy that I played and taught with.

If you would like to read my earlier article on Unconscious Mind — before we knew too much about it — click here.

In terms of theme, followers of Freud delve into their clients’ minds through dream (and nightmare) analysis. Players will explore old Vienna, gaining a reputation with locals and becoming introduced to new clients. Players will learn new therapeutic techniques during meetings over coffee with their colleagues. Players will incorporate these techniques as they assist clients and even write research on their results!

I can hear you now. “This all sounds incredibly immersive but does it really play out like that or is this another dry Eurogame with a heavy theme pasted on?” You wouldn’t be faulted for your skepticism given how many games in the past have turned out to be mere shells of the theme they promised. Let me give you some insight into my own experiences with the game and let you decide for yourselves.

Endless Winter was already a potential Game of the Year but Unconscious Mind could be even better!

I love me some pink components!

Given that I only had a prototype rulebook and no videos yet to guide me, I initially had a tough time teaching myself the game. There is a bit of setup with the boards, cards, tiles, etc. as well but I expect that will be sped up quite a bit if the eventual storage solution is anything like Endless Winter’s insert.

I played Unconscious Mind at 2 players numerous times before I took it to our local game day where we were able to play at 3–4 player counts and I’m glad I took the time to play at 2 players first as it allowed me more time per player to make sure we were getting the rules right.

The thing my friends and I agreed about from the start was that the components and art have incredible production values! It’s in the Top 10 Best-Looking Games I’ve played and that’s not an exaggeration. Everything feels right for the time period and the color choices are bold and attractive. I love the details of the ink pots and the numerous dream cards! All of the gameboards give me a feeling similar to when I was back in my university days because of the professional and almost academic incorporation of the art.

The transparent client overlay components that sat atop client cards will remind players of the art overlays from Canvas, and more realistically, resemble the famous Rorschach inkblot test cards. The game mechanism that allows you to remove these projections while working with the client is rewarding — providing both victory points and other benefits.

But the most surprising aspect to me was the seamless incorporation of so many game mechanisms into Unconscious Mind. Let’s take a look at these!

The Vienna Board

Game Mechanisms

  1. Action Selection - One of the shared player boards represents the meetings between Freud and his followers. This is where players will select actions that will influence the strategies they undertake as the game moves on.
    Some actions allow players to acquire new techniques. These are represented by tiles that will be placed on a player board that serves as an engine-building tableau for the player to program and activate (more on that in the Rondel explanation). Other actions allow players to gain resources like Insights. Insights come in three different types and are used to help when working with clients. Other actions allow players to move their character meeple around the Vienna map — a rondel board where players can build up their reputation and also acquire resources and victory points. Players can also acquire newspapers and write research from the action selection board.
  2. Contracts - Working with clients operates as a kind of contract mechanism in which players acquire points and benefits from working with a particular client. Players can also claim from the achievements if they are the first player to reach certain milestones. Completing research is also a type of contract as you need to be mindful of the different symbols needed to finish a particular work.
  3. Set Collection - This goes part & parcel with contracts. As players select clients there will be Insight requirements printed on the card that they will need to acquire before moving on to the next clients. These Insights are stored on a nice-looking personal Insight Board that divides into the three types of Insights as well as the three levels of depth for each of them respectively. The newspapers will also provide symbols based on the different districts on the Vienna map that can be used in multiple ways including the aforementioned research articles that players may publish.
  4. Rondels - There are two major rondels in Unconscious Mind. The first involves moving a player’s character meeple around the Vienna map and the second involves moving a player’s inkpot around a rondel on the personal player board that ties in with both the row associated with the action the player selected this round and the associated technique tiles that have been acquired by the player.
  5. Engine/Tableau Building - The player board is where one places the technique tiles. These can be activated in both horizontal and vertical combinations depending on the position of the player’s inkpot as it revolves around its rondel. I think it’s easy to see that all of these mechanisms are tied together in a way that’s both intuitive and satisfying. The activation process of the player board reminds me of a more flexible version of Wingspan.

How is the play?

This game feels heavy when you first start learning it. It feels like there is so much going on but it’s very manageable and when in doubt players can focus on a particular strategy, for example, working with more clients, writing more research articles, or raising their reputation in Vienna.
I would rate the weight at a 3.6/5 on the BoardGameGeek scale. It’s a bit heavier than their previous hit — Endless Winter but as I taught it to players who gravitate more toward lighter games I found that they were willing to try a game like this because they were interested in the theme and the multiple strategies gave the players a feeling of personal agency.

In Unconscious Mind, it feels like the mechanisms are all well-designed & well-balanced. After 10 plays, I’m still trying new strategies & discovering unexplored nuances.

You can certainly put your head down and focus on one particular strategy in this game but I’ve found the winners tend to balance working with clients, building their reputation, and staying flexible to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves on the action selection board.

Questions are always present. When should I recall my action tokens? When should I take a reputation bonus instead of working with a client? Should I try to shorten the game by reaching the reputation endgame condition before my opponent can fully build their powerful engine? Should I play the long game and work toward the tougher contracts?

Client cards and the action board

What I Like About the Game

  • The art & components are second to none. Fantasia Games has done a great job of making this an attractive product. It’s not your granddaddy’s beige Euro!
  • It presents players with plenty of crunchy decision points that let them make choices based on how they want their game to play out. There isn’t a deterministic “best play” that one can see (at least not me) in the vast majority of situations.
  • It feels like I am accomplishing something as I finish working with clients, complete my research articles, & build up techniques on my personal player board.
  • I like the theme and think it is integrated deeply into the mechanisms and wasn’t just pasted on as a gimmick.
  • It’s not too hard but asks players to think. It’s inadvisable to sleepwalk through your turns thinking your strategy is set in stone. Things change on the board often, necessitating players to make tactical decisions that often will divert them from their preconceived plans.
  • You can approach it as a racing game that you are going to end before your opponents are ready to score big or you can try to get ahead early to force a longer game.
  • Each game plays out differently based on the starting options among the technique tiles, client cards, etc.

Why Others Might Have Reservations About This Game

If players aren’t mindful of moving up the Reputation track the game could run longer than what some players are used to. It’s easy to get caught up in building up your engine and completing the various goals that you forget that the game has a set end condition.

It is a bit heavy for some. If this is a concern, some may wish to watch some gameplay reviews to see for themselves if it’s something they are interested in.

Like many high-quality games these days, it will cost a pretty penny. We are always advised to keep our budgets in mind.

Coming to Kickstarter on November 8th

Unconscious Mind is one of the best games I’ve played over the last few years and I can certainly recommend it to players who like the type of games I tend to review.
Here is a link to the campaign page where you can follow along with all of the action!

I hope you all enjoyed this brief overview of Fantasia Games’ next hit!

-BoardGameNerd

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