5-Minute Dungeon – Review

Disclaimer: This prototype version of 5-Minute Dungeon was provided by Wiggles3D  in exchange for its product review. My personal opinions covered in this review are solely based on the quality of packaging, components and gameplay 5-Minute Dungeon provides. 

Completing dungeon levels requires a huge effort as a team to be able to communicate and coordinate with each other to take down a common enemy. An enemy so powerful; guarded by huge obstacles and aggressive mobs that make clearing the area difficult to achieve. Thus, preemptive planning and preparation is needed. But can your party of two to five players defeat all enemies and obstacles in the span of minutes? Cue in the fast paced chaos of 5-Minute Dungeon.

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This prototype of 5-Minute Dungeon includes:

  •  5 Colour Coded 50 Card Decks (Blue, Yellow, Red, Purple, Green)
  • 40 Door Cards
  • 10 Challenge Cards
  • 5 Reversible Character Cards
  • 5 Boss Cards
  • Rule Booklet

Designed by Connor Reid, alongside editor, executive producer and artwork creator(respectively), Peter Nesbitt, Don Reid and Alex Diochon, comes a beautifully crafted, simple board game that keeps you on the edge of your seats – literally. Slaying monsters by matching symbols while governed by a real-time approach of not having designated turns, 5-Minute Dungeon is a style of board game I haven’t experienced before. My initial thought for a purely cooperative board game to be successful is its ability to deliver a common goal that is fun and difficult to fight towards.  This is a concept that 5-Minute Dungeon delivers on; immersing players with favourite character archetypes, abilities and hard bosses found in most signature dungeon crawler games.

The stylised cartoon artwork on the box and card packaging reflects my previous thoughts by using colours, names  and symbols that are inherent of specific characters. The front cover illustrated specific colours in the background that depict each character’s traits; from protective yellow to aggressive red. The title printed on the front of the box suits a dungeon theme with a bold, dragon shaped text and a paint swipe treatment that symbolises the unplanned nature of dungeon battles. The back cover of the product shows a pre-release collectors edition which shows an expanded artwork of the Dungeon Master. This artwork is not finalised yet. Its colours and shading are done in a high quality. I can see why it’s not final as most collectors editions are grand in nature and this artwork would probably have other things added towards it.

Another aspect I appreciate most is the clever naming that goes into each and every door card which isn’t something a player notices when in the middle of battle. As examples, my favourite door cards are shown below:

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A ‘literal’ carpal tunnel and the cute cat knight gave me quite a chuckle!

 

 

Opening the box up, the character and boss cards are neatly wrapped in a paper ribbon ring along with tight plastic encasing the door cards. After opening it, the door cards are matte and embossed which is a big plus to the quality of the product. The  reversible character and boss cards themselves are neatly done on thin pieces of cardboard.  The slots provided in the box packaging are plentiful which is thoughtful to do alongside pieces of small cardboard to protect the cards from wear and tear. A concise, numbered booklet is contained within the box which illustrates the way to set up and play 5-Minute Dungeon. Now that we have covered the quality of the box and its game components, we’ll move on to the different card types, how they’re set up and what they mean for gameplay!


Card Types

colour-cards

In total, there are five decks of cards that match up with the colour of each playable character. Each deck contains a specific number of elements based on the colour associated with the deck. These elements include: Scroll, Jump, Sword, Shield and Arrow and are represented appropriately through the icons designed on the cards. As a side note, it is pointed out that the card art behind the deck forms a dragon which I thought was a really cool functional design choice!

These coloured decks contain different action cards and amounts of elemental types depending on the colour attached to the deck. To show one example, we have the characters Ninja and Thief which contain more Jump symbols in their decks than other heroes. They also have their own unique action cards that correspond with their element. For the Ninja and Thief, its all about evasion and stealth which is funny since their cards are about preservation and tempo swings with giving valued cards away for safe keeping whilst taking other peoples’ hands that they don’t want to discard. I’ve compiled a list of each character’s ability, elemental expertise and their unique action cards to condense the information down:

 

  • Ninja/Thief

Most Jump Cards

Abilities: Discard two to go over an Obstacle/ Discard Hand

Unique Action:

Donate – Give your hand to another player

Steal – Take another player’s hand

  • Hunter/Ranger

Most Arrow Cards

Abilities: Discard three cards to let another player draw 4/Discard three cards to defeat a Person

Unique Action:

Wild Cards – Can be played as any symbol of your choice

Healing Herb – Choose a player and they can recover four cards from their discard pile

  • Sorceress/Wizard

Most Scroll Cards

Abilities: Discard three cards to stop the timer until a card is played/discard three cards to defeat an Obstacle

Unique Action:

Cancel – stopping Events on Challenge Cards

Magic Bomb – provide one of each symbol

  • Barbarian/ Gladiator

Most Sword Cards

Abilities:Discard three cards to defeat a Monster/Discard three cards to defeat a Person

Unique Action:

Double Symbol Cards – Sword plus another symbol

Enrage – choose two other players to draw three cards

  • Paladin/Valkyrie

Most Shield Cards

Abilities:Discard three cards to make everyone else draw two/Discard three cards to defeat a monster

Unique Action:

DivineShield –  Pause time and each player draw one card

The Holy Hand Grenade- Instantly overcome any challenge including mini bosses and bosses

Heal – Allow a single player to place all cards from discard back into deck

Health Potion – All players recover three cards from discard pile to hand

Each Boss card has elemental requirements shown on the cards with the amount of door cards needed to fight through the Dungeon. There are five levels in total, each increasing with difficulty by the addition of more door cards. These door cards also contain elemental requirements except for event cards. Events and mini bosses are classified as challenge cards and contain the same card back. They include scenarios from making players discard their whole hand to facing a monster with large elemental requirements. I enjoy again how the game relates back to the abilities of the cards and drawing parallels to their best traits and the colours associated with those traits. Now that we’ve quickly covered the cards, we are going onto the gameplay!


Gameplay

The game board is set up with each player choosing a character they want to play as and drawing the cards depending on the amount of players; two players with a starting hand of five, three players with four cards, and four to five players with three cards each. Every time the hand size drops below the starting hand, players draw immediately back to what they had at the start. During my play testing, I played with two other people and I still felt satisfied which is weird for a game that relies on people to work together. The door cards are then shuffled together and placed on the appropriate boss card with two challenge cards added with each player. Once each player is ready, the first dungeon door gets flipped over and a phone timer or the custom Dungeon timer app is started. There is no pause unless indicated by a specific action or ability. The custom Dungeon timer worked brilliantly and I enjoyed the choice of narration between Connor Reid and Jess as it added variety and pressure to get through enemies and obstacles quickly.

Each enemy and obstacle can be dealt with in one of the three ways: matching symbols, using action cards or special abilities. The rules were self explanatory and the box contained a mini version of all the rules. I enjoyed not having to read through a lot of fluff and most of it was written in the cards. The only thing the rule book outlined was how to play down the cards and how certain cards worked to your favour.

I felt 5-Minute Dungeon was easy to pick up and our ability to play our cards anytime based simply around matching coloured symbols gives the game a controlled yet chaotic atmosphere. Most of the time during our first few rounds of play testing, I discovered that we were wasting quite a few resources since we weren’t inclined to use our abilities often. As the game progressed however, we realised certain characters combo from each other when cards are in the discard so we played to that strategy. Since we were on a five minute timer, we felt that sense of urgency to immediately play our cards down.

Under time, other players exhaust their hand too fast when some players had many cards in his hand, therefore players could not always draw more to help the team. However, once a card is played it stays there which means if other cards were used to deal with the door card, they would disappear regardless. Exhausting resources, I realised, emptied our decks much quicker and when having no cards in deck, its difficult to match the symbols with the bosses since they need a huge amount as well as a specific kind of element in higher boss levels.

The conditions for losing include not being able to deal with the current situation despite what is done, all players running out of cards or if the timer runs out before we face the final boss. This puts an emphasis on communication and teaches us how to plan ahead with defeating monsters and punishes people who want to play by themselves being the quote ‘hero’ of the team. The chaotic pace of the board game leads to a messy pile of swept to the side cards- a result of playing on a timer. The explanation of cards getting ‘swept away’ when played was ambiguous and it was not until we played a few rounds that we realised the cards were just set aside. The mess that gets left afterwards makes setting up the board game after a loss tedious and takes a bit of effort to sort out all the coloured cards. However, it’s not bad since it gives time for us as a party to reset and strategise. The dungeon bosses were actually pretty hard to take down, with my group of friends barely defeating the third boss on time.


Final Verdict

5-Minute Dungeon is a great game to play with friends and family members as its relatively easy to pick up despite not having example turns in the rule book. The only semblance of example turns is on the first few pages of the booklet, only illustrating the set up for 5-minute Dungeon. I can see why example turns would be left out since its quite intuitive with its smart colour design and fast easy play style. Rounding off this article will be a short pros and cons list and information on 5-Minute Dungeon’s release. If you readers enjoy a challenge and want to coordinate with friends and family as a team to take down a common enemy, 5-Minute-Dungeon is for you!

Pros

Easy to pick up and play

Beautiful and Clever Artwork

Fast Paced and Challenging

Cons

Lack of example turns and ambiguous explanation in rule book about cards being ‘swept away’

Some time to set up after a loss

5-Minute Dungeon is coming live to Kickstarter on November 1st and click this link for more information. To see a snippet of the game in action, check out this video here.

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