I recently took fulfilment ftom a game I backed on Kickstarter in October last year; a game that came with a very bold statement in it’s title; 5-Minute Dungeon from first time designer Conor Reid.
Seriously, a game that will take only five minutes to play? It was this bold statement that encouraged me to back it, and along with 7965 other backers we helped raise over CA$388,000 to bring this project to life, with 14 stretch goals added along the way. With the game being fulfilled ahead of the planned May scheduled, I got hands on to see whether or not this game can back up it’s claim, and wether it is any good.
You see, many games around boast quick play times and many fall way short. In fact, another game I own by Ryan Laukat called Eight-Minute Empire most definitely doesn’t play in eight minutes – more 20. Yet it is a still a good game, if somewhat tarnished by an inaccurate boast. Other games come with unrealistic play times printed on the side, and to me at least, it always feels a little bit like mis-selling and is an automatic point off when you come to rate the game.
5-Minute Dungeon is a hand management, co-op dungeon crawler against a five minute timer where 2-5 players must combine to defeat the enemies thrown at them at random from the dungeon deck, using their own character decks to fend off each enemy they encounter.
Each player chooses a hero from a total of ten, made up of five double sided player boards, and takes the corresponding player deck. A boss board is then selected, scaling in difficulty levels depending on the challenge sought and the corresponding number of dungeon cards are set aside. Challenge cards are added, with the number of players dictating how many are added. They are shuffled with the dungeon deck, and placed face down on the space on the boss card. The first dungeon card is turned over and the timer countdown starts.
Ingeniously, there is no player turn order. The object is for any players to play cards from their hand to dispatch the various monsters and obstacles of the dungeon deck. There is both resource and action cards, with each dungeon card requiring a specific amount of resources to dispatch of them. Alternatively, action cards can quickly dispose of certain cards. When one enemy is defeated, the next card from the dungeon deck is turned over. The challenge is with players communicating against the pressure of the timer to fight their way through the dungeon to the boss before they deplete their decks.
The end result is a fun, frantic, clever, and engaging filler game that is very easy to learn and wonderful to look at. The sprinkling of humour in the cards adds to the over all appeal. It really is something pretty special.
But does it play in five minutes? Well yes – the timer is instrumental. For our first game, we played without the timer to get a hang of the mechanics, but ran out of cards before we defeated the boss. The second time around we timed our successful run at just over eight minutes. Our third game, we used the timer but played to completion in just under six minutes. So it most certainly pulls it off and can be completed in time. A few “off the clock” runs will have you more than ready to defeat the dungeon in the advertised five minutes.
Even without the timer, the game still works somewhat. However, the timer brings with it an overwhelming sense of urgency that really adds to the game play, creating a tension rarely seen on the tabletop. And there is enough variation in the box to keep the game fresh for a long time to come, especially with the additional stretch goals. The different bosses feel very unique and they provide a genuine difficulty scale.
Despite being such a simple concept, it feels very fresh. It screams of originality and with such a basic learning curve and play time this game has potentially huge general appeal. It brought many surprises thanks to the randomness of the cards, the quality and art of the components and even the fact in came in a much bigger box than I had anticipated.
Sure, the reseting between games is a pain and takes as long as the game itself, but thats just a downside of the pressure of everyone playing at once in wild panic that pushes tidy card laying etiquette out the window.
In my 2017 preview back in January I gave 5-Minute Dungeon a preview score of 2 out of 5 in the “Totally Infallible Tabletop Tales Indexed Excitement Score”, yet I will gladly hold my hands up and admit I got this one wrong. Not only that, I also listed it in the “games that come in a little box” category which seems completely baffling now given the very standard box size. This is a quite exceptional little game that merited much bigger TITTIES.
The one downside of reviewing 5-Minute Dungeon is that a retail version won’t appear until GenCon in August, and it will be minus all the Kickstarter exclusive and stretch goals. Still, this is worth a spot on your wish list. Not only is it a perfect filler, but it has a broad appeal that makes it suitable for all kinds of gamers, standing out as something very different.
NEXT WEEK: I’m going to look at latest version of a classic game that has veered enough away from the source to be deserving of much more mass appeal.