Designers: Connor Reid | Players: 2-5 | Playtime: 5 minutes per Boss
In our upcoming podcast we will be talking about family games. Well, I’d like to add another to that list that I received in the mail shortly after recording. It has quickly risen to the top of the games I would rather play with my family. If you ever played Speed as a kid then prepare yourselves for the updated modern equivalent.
5 Minute dungeon is a cooperative, real-time card game where players have literally five minutes to defeat a horde of monsters guarding a dungeon.
One of my main criteria for a family game is that it’s quick to teach and easy to learn. 5 Minute Dungeon fits this criteria to a tee.
The game is based around collectively matching various combinations of colored symbols shown on each door card. Everyone must quickly work together to defeat the whatever is behind the door by playing the correct combination of blue scrolls, purple jumps, red swords, yellow shields, and green arrows. Additionally, there are special action cards that can immediately kill a specific type of door card (monster, obstacle, or person).
The challenging part comes from everyone trying to do all this at the same time. Since it’s a group effort, there will be times where two players will play the same card when only one was needed. Obviously, too many of these can leave you without answers later on. Communication is key here but quick decisions are essential.
A card laid is a card played.
Variable Player Powers
I think one of the things that brings 5 Minute Dungeon into the modern era of board games are the unique player boards. Not only do they provide a small role for each player they also provide ways to mitigate the chaotic nature of this game. Allowing players to discard dead cards perform special actions is critical in this game. It effectively eliminates the downside of drawing random threats. There’s no need to worry about getting locked with nothing to do. In my opinion these special powers are the smartest thing the designer could’ve done for a game like this.
But the designer didn’t stop there. Each colored board has a different character on either side that corresponds to a colored deck. Each of the five colored decks provide their own flavor by adding various specialized action cards. These can be anything from reusing discard piles to canceling bad events that might pop up in the dungeon. The only downside to this is that you will have to make sure that each player knows what their action cards do before starting because you won’t have time to explain during the game. The rules make this extremely easy, though, with each card graphically organized according to their respective character decks.
Another thing to mention here is that the rules say you must go back to boss #1 when you lose. I basically ignore this rule. No one wants to go back to the beginning. Even the old school Nintendo games got to save after defeating a boss. Just redo the last one. Reshuffle in new door cards if you like, but don’t go back to the beginning. That’s just silly.
Believe it or not, there is a little bit of theme in this game. It may be thin but it’s there. The key tie-in here are the different characters and their corresponding decks. Each one provides a little something additional to the game that the other does not. For instance, the Wizard can stop time and cancel events. This follows that magical narrative we want to see. The Paladin allows you to reuse your discard pile which is typical of their healing powers. The Thief steals other’s’ hands even! Which is more useful than you might think in a co-op. Hint: it allows the other player to draw cards.
Beyond that, the door cards also offer a little bit of flavor as well. Each threat that shows up when you flip it over adds to the theme and overall feel of the game. The names of the threats you may face reflect the fun nature of the game. Many, many puns and cleverly named things. You may also see some nostalgic homages too. I have to admit, seeing the Adorable Slime (see Dragon Warrior) almost all but sold me when deciding to back this on Kickstarter. Well, not entirely but it helped.
The artwork in this game is phenomenal. I love the playful theme without it going over-the-top cartoony. Alex Diochon did an excellent job. The color scheme is vibrant but not too distracting. My absolute favorite part is how the door hinge opens properly as you flip the card over to see what’s inside. Such minor details like this make me appreciate games so much more.
There are some good and bad to the graphic design. I think the resource icons are extremely well done. The colors pop next to each other and the symbols are very different from one another making them easily identifiable. While the color choices may not be good for those that are colorblind, the iconography is.
What I don’t like is how each of the card types look very similar to one another. In a game as quick as this one, there’s not a lot of time to be reading text. With monsters, obstacles, persons, and bosses all being small, black icons sometimes they get overlooked or confused. I think it would’ve been better to make these more pronounced like the resource icons.
First thing’s first. I’ve got to call out the elephant in the room. What on earth were they thinking with this box design. Disregard the fact that the limited edition is a bland black box. Let’s focus on the regular box. I have no problem with the design on the front of the box. It looks great. It’s colorful and plays on the “5” theme showing each character and the final boss but flip it over and we have a different story. I get what they were trying to do, mimic the player boards by having the characters on each side…but really? There is absolutely no description of the game. There’s no picture of the components or gameplay. Why? I hope this is just a Kickstarter thing and not a retail thing or they’ll sell very few copies. This is a big oversight. The insert is excellent, though.
Moving on…speaking of the player boards. The chipboard is nice and thick and they have a nice linen finish. Same for the bosses. They didn’t skimp on quality for the boards. Two thumbs up!
The cards are a different story. Yes, they’re linen finish but they are a bit thin for my liking. After only a few gameplays I’m already starting to see wear on the edges. I was hoping that these would hold up better for a game where cards will likely see some abuse. The good thing here is that no one has time to memorize markings on cards and, honestly, it doesn’t really matter. I’m still undecided if these will need sleeves or not.
Try this game if you like:
- Escape: Curse of the Temple
- Forbidden Island
- Space Cadets
- Time’s Up!
- Welcome to the Dungeon
I’ve played this game with my family several times now and it has gone over really well. It’s so fast paced that it keeps everyone engaged and so simple that it’s good for a broad range of ages. It’s reminiscent of those old card games we all used to play as kids like Speed or Go Fish and I think that makes it much more approachable.
Two Thumbs Up!
One thing that struck me as interesting was something my dad asked me after our first playthrough. He said, “I thought you didn’t like games that were this random.” Funny thing is it never occurred to me how random this game is because it’s so short. Who cares what’s behind the next door? It’s just fun! Plus there are ways to beat the chaos such as drawing cards. I think it’s extremely important that at least one player choose a character with a drawing ability so as not to get stuck without a play.
And that’s the selling point of this game. It’s fast and chaotic with just enough stress to make it interesting. Win or lose there’s always someone who says, “Again, again!” Everyone wants to get to that next boss.
That said, this game may not be for everyone. If you want a quiet, peaceful night without yelling you might want to pass on this one. It also goes without saying, but if you don’t like cooperative games you…well. I find co-ops to be great for family gatherings, actually. So I don’t know what to tell you there. Also, some of the artwork and references could be hindering for some parents who want to play with younger children. It’s not terrible–more on the same level as Shrek humor–but I can understand why parents might not want their children playing a game that has a baby with a bloody sword in it.
Overall I highly suggest this game to bring to family gatherings. It’s just too bad I received it the mail a few days after recording our third podcast because it would’ve been in there. Personally, this game has dethroned Dixit for me. So take that as you will.