The Clock is Ticking: A Preview of 5-Minute Dungeon

5 Minute Dungeon

It is rare for me to binge on a board game, but that is exactly what happened after I got my hands on the new Kickstarter game, 5-Minute Dungeon. After sinking several hours into a game that usually only lasts 5 minutes I realized I was hooked, and I’m confident that anybody who loves cooperative card games with a fantasy theme will feel just as strongly.

5 Minute Dungeon cards

Gameplay

In 5-Minute Dungeon 2-5 players team up to try and conquer a variety of obstacles that stand between them, and defeating the boss in the final chamber. Players begin by selecting the character board and the associated deck of cards for the champion they wish to control. From there the Dungeon Deck is assembled based on the difficulty of the boss that the players have decided to encounter. Weaker bosses have smaller dungeons and fewer challenges before facing off with the big bad. Decks are shuffled, starting hands are drawn, and the timer begins to count down.

The entire game is played in real time with participants having to rely on fast communication in order to quickly get through the Dungeon Deck before the 5 minutes are up. Each obstacle that makes up the Dungeon Deck includes a series of symbols that must be matched by the party. Once the matching symbols are assembled the card is defeated and the group must quickly flip the next Door card. These symbols are referred to as resources and make up the majority of each hero’s deck of cards. There are five unique resources: Swords, Shields, Scrolls, Arrows, and Jumps. Different heroes specialize in specific resources, the Paladin/Valkyrie deck contains the most Shields, the Barbarian/Gladiator provides the most Swords, the Wizard/Sorceress draws the most Scrolls, etc. Besides resources each hero also wields powerful action cards which can assist the party by instantly defeating a specific type of obstacle, allowing group members to draw extra cards, or even temporarily freeze the timer. Each hero also has a unique special ability that can be triggered by discarding cards, and can be used continually since players are constantly playing, discarding, and drawing cards. But strategic use of the hero power is required in order to endure through longer, more challenging dungeons.

While there is only one way to win in a round of 5-Minute Dungeon, there are several ways to lose. The amount of cards in a given player’s deck essentially acts as their health. If the entire party runs out of cards to draw they are effectively dead which makes draw mechanics both useful, and dangerous. Players also lose if they have failed to defeat the final boss before the timer runs out. The final lose condition did not seem to manifest often in games with the max amount of players, but when only 2 or 3 players are present the group can sometimes run into situations where they are unable to surpass a particular obstacle in the dungeon — if that happens, the game immediately ends.

5 Minute Dungeon resources

Review

One of the most appealing aspects of 5-Minute Dungeon is that it is a cooperative game that is quick to set-up, learn, and play through. This may not seem like a big deal, but many cooperative games can be mechanically difficult to explain, or take a very long time to finish (I’m looking at you, Arkham Horror). 5-Minute Dungeon is unique in that you can play it for a long time, but it isn’t necessary to enjoy just one or even a handful of boss attempts. Coming up with strategies with the party to shave precious seconds off your time, and figuring out the best group composition has helped create some of the most epic play sessions of a tabletop game I’ve experienced recently. Make sure to check it out on Kickstarter — you can sign up to be notified of the campaign launch at the 5-Minute Dungeon website.

Pros: Cooperative gameplay, fast paced, perfect balance of fun and strategy
Cons: Larger play groups and certain team compositions make the game feel too easy

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.