We would like to thank Wiggles 3D Incorporated for the review copy of 5-Minute Dungeon used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review.
One of my board game guilty pleasures has always been the speed game. While the genre usually has little strategy and generally relies on reflexes and luck, there is just something satisfying about speed games. While they are sometimes chaotic it is just fun trying to lay down cards/roll dice as fast as possible. So when we received a review copy of 5-Minute Dungeon from Wiggles 3D Incorporated I was intrigued because it was a cooperative speed game that looked like it had more strategy than most speed games. After having played quite a few rounds of 5-Minute Dungeon, I have to say that 5-Minute Dungeon is the best speed game that I have ever played.
How to Play
To start the game each player chooses their hero. The player takes the deck of cards that matches their hero, shuffles it and places it on the draw pile on their player board. Players will draw a number of cards for their starting hand based on how many players there are.
The players will then prepare the dungeon. Players will first face off against dungeon #1. Players randomly choose enough door cards to match the number indicated on the current dungeon card. Players add in two challenge cards per player. These cards are shuffled together and are placed on the top of the corresponding spot on the boss board.
Players find a five minute timer or download the corresponding free app. The players flip over the top card on the dungeon board and start the timer beginning the round.
Playing the Game
During the game players will flip over the door and challenge cards one at a time dealing with each card before they are able to flip over the next card.There are basically five different types of cards that you will encounter in the game: monster, obstacle, person, mini-boss and event. To defeat these cards the players will play cards. All of the players play together as a team and play cards at the same time (players don’t take turns). Players can deal with the cards that are flipped over in three different ways.
The most common way to deal with cards are to play the matching symbol cards. On each monster, obstacle, person and mini-boss card there will be some symbols printed along the bottom of the card. The players work together to play cards to the table which match all of the symbols on the card. All cards played to the table are removed from the game for the rest of the round.
The second way to deal with door and challenge cards are to play action cards. All action cards have a black border. When an action card is played it is removed from the game for the rest of the round. Some action cards give the players a special action and some action cards are used to defeat certain creatures.
The final way to get rid of door cards is to use your character’s special ability. To use a character’s special ability they must discard three cards from their hand face up onto the discard pile section of their character board. When cards are discarded they are not removed from the game and can be retrieved if an appropriate action card is played. If your character ability allows you to defeat a certain door card type (monster, person, obstacle) it can only be used when facing that type of enemy. All other abilities (that don’t eliminate a door card) can be used at any time.
If an event card is flipped over the players do what the card says unless a player plays an action card that nullifies the event.
When a player plays or discards cards they can immediately refill their hand up to their starting hand size which is based on the number of players playing the game. If a player ever runs out of cards, they can’t do anything until they get more cards.
If the players have finished with all of the door and challenge cards, they will face off against the final boss. The players will have to play cards matching all of the symbols on the dungeon board. If the players are able to match all of the symbols on the board before the timer runs out, the players have defeated the dungeon and move onto the next dungeon. Each player takes all of their cards back and everything is set up for the players to face the next boss.
The players can lose in three different ways:
- The players are unable to defeat the final boss before the timer runs out.
- All of the players run out of cards.
- If the players gets stuck in a situation where they are unable to match the symbols of a card or the final boss.
If the players lose they have to return to the first dungeon and try again.
I have played quite a few different speed games. A lot of speed games succeed because they are fun and quick to play. The mechanics aren’t particularly deep but they are fun to play because it is just fun trying to play cards, roll dice, etc. as quickly as possible. The problem with most speed games though is that they are kind of shallow since they have few actual mechanics in them. This all changes with 5-Minute Dungeon which is why I think it is the best speed game that I have ever played.
Basically 5-Minute Dungeon starts with your basic speed card game where you are trying to play cards as quickly as possible. A matching mechanic is added where players have to play cards that have symbols that match the current door/challenge card. This gets combined with a co-op mechanic where all of the players are playing together in order to try and defeat the dungeon. Finally each player gets their own character which has their own unique deck of cards and special abilities. All of these mechanics combine into a game that is simple to play and yet requires a lot of teamwork and strategy.
One of my favorite types of board games are cooperative games. While it is always fun to compete against the other players, I have found it more satisfying working together with the other players to beat the game. In this regard 5-Minute Dungeon does a fantastic job. There is really no way you are ever going to complete any dungeon without working with your teammates. Players need to work together to get the right cards out on the table. Players need to communicate about the cards in their hands so the players can quickly form a strategy to fight any roadblocks the group encounters. 5-Minute Dungeon supports 2-5 players. At this point I have only played the game with four players but I think it will work well in any setting. To compensate for less players the game gives players larger hands and has less challenge cards that the players have to overcome.
One of the things that I was actually surprised most by was that the different characters actually have an impact on the game. The characters aren’t in the game just for thematic purposes. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses. The base game includes ten characters with a male and female version of every type of hero. Each of the ten heroes have their own special ability that can help get the group out of a difficult situation. There are five different decks of cards that correspond to the five different sets of heroes. These decks share a lot of the same cards but the quantities of each type of card depends on the hero. Each deck has a different focus based on the color of the character. For example the two yellow heroes have more shield cards in their deck. Each deck also has a couple special action cards that make each deck play a little differently. Each character is unique so the team has to decide as a group what heroes they need to succeed.
I have already alluded to it but one of the things that I love most about 5-Minute Dungeon is that the game is so easy to play. My opinion is that if a game doesn’t have to be complex, it shouldn’t be. This applies perfectly to 5-Minute Dungeon. 5-Minute Dungeon is not a complicated game and yet it is a fantastic game because it is fun and not bogged down by a bunch of unnecessary rules. I see no problems playing the game with children (the game has a recommended age of 8+) or people who don’t play a lot of board games. While they might be a little overwhelmed by the speed at first, I think 5-Minute Dungeon is the type of game that you can play with children and non-gamers as an introduction to designer board games.
5-Minute Dungeon Is a great game but I will admit that is not going to be for everyone. The game relies heavily on speed so if you like to take time making decisions and don’t like to be rushed; you are going to have issues with 5-Minute Dungeon. You really don’t have much time to waste in the game since you have to make decisions really quickly or you will run out of time. Basically 5-Minute Dungeon is not the type of game that you want to play with people who suffer from analysis paralysis since you are guaranteed to lose.
Basically to succeed in 5-Minute Dungeon you need to make smart decisions without wasting a lot of time thinking about what to do next. Basically if you have a card that you can play, you usually are going to want to play it as quick as you can. If you get stuck in a situation where you don’t have the cards needed to defeat a door/challenge card you have to decide quickly as a team what you are going to do to try and get out of the situation. While you can’t waste your cards you can’t be afraid to discard cards since the biggest problem my group had early on was wasting too much time by not discarding when we should have.
When it comes to board game themes I wouldn’t consider myself among the people that insist on a strong theme. A good theme will always help a board game but if the gameplay is fun it doesn’t really matter how good the theme is. 5-Minute Dungeon doesn’t have to worry since the game’s theme is fantastic. For the most part the game is a humorous take on the dungeon crawler. Each player takes an adventurer to try and destroy wacky creatures and overcome strange obstacles. Most of the cards make fun of tropes in board and video games including the “Invisible Wall”, and “A Very Long Loading Screen”. 5-Minute Dungeon doesn’t take itself seriously and that is to the benefit of the game.
The game’s theme is improved by 5-Minute Dungeon’s components. The components for 5-Minute Dungeon are top notch. The cards, player boards, and dungeon boards are of a high quality. The cards are very well designed which is crucial for a speed game since you need to quickly be able to recognize what is important on every card. The game’s artwork is fantastic and the cards are quite humorous especially if you like making fun of dungeon crawling tropes. The only problem with the artwork is that you can’t really admire it while playing the game since you need to be focused on trying to play cards as fast as possible. I honestly would recommend taking the time to look at card artwork when you aren’t rushing to play cards. For a speed card game you couldn’t really ask for better components.
A feature that is becoming more popular in modern board games is the use of apps to supplement the game. 5-Minute Dungeon includes a free app that basically works as the game’s timer. While the app is not needed for the game (you could use any five minute timer that you can pause) I would recommend using it if you can. I wish the app did a little more as it mostly just works as a timer but it does a good job adding to the game’s theme. The app has two “narrators” that basically give you a funny introduction to the round, a warning when the round is about to end, and a funny saying at the end based on whether you were successful or unsuccessful. The narrators can be pretty funny which adds to the game’s non-serious take on a dungeon crawler.
5-Minute Dungeon gets its’ name from the fact that each dungeon takes five minutes to complete or fail (plus some time if you use an ability that pauses the timer). If you are looking for a quick game 5-Minute Dungeons will be perfect for you. Games will generally take between five to 40 minutes based on how well you do and how long you take for breaks between rounds. I would say most games will probably take around 15-20 minutes since you usually won’t be able to beat all of the dungeons. I really like that 5-Minute Dungeon works well as a quick filler and as a longer game. If you want to just play one game you can probably finish the game in around 15 minutes. You will likely want to play several games though in order to try and make it further.
While I loved 5-Minute Dungeon, it is not quite perfect.
The biggest “problem” with the game is that is is surprisingly difficult. The game is easy to play but hard to master. Be prepared to fail quite a bit. 5-Minute Dungeon is not the type of game that you will beat on the first night that you play it. The more you play the game the better you will get at it so you should make it further into the game. Even when you are familiar with the game it is still a difficult game when you get to the later dungeons. So far my group has only been able to make it to the third dungeon. Looking at the fourth and fifth dungeons I can tell that they will be quite the challenge. In order to beat the final boss I think you are going to have to play close to a perfect game, have a group that has experience with the game, and have some luck on your side. I would guess that most of your journeys will probably end around dungeon three or four. I see 5-Minute Dungeon as the type of game that will usually end in defeat.
While 5-Minute Dungeon is pretty hard, the positive is that the game is really rewarding when you succeed. If the game was really easy it would be kind of boring since you would just breeze through it each time. The game’s difficulty makes the game really tense as you will win or fail in the last couple of seconds. 5-Minute Dungeon is really thrilling when you throw down those last couple of cards to win a round just as time is expiring. While the earlier dungeons might not get that close after you have mastered the game, you are almost guaranteed to have a round come down to the last seconds at some point in every game.
The only other small issue I have with the game is the number of cards included in the base game. The number of cards in each player deck is fine but I wish there were more cards in the door and challenge decks. While it doesn’t really impact the game a lot, you will regularly be using the same door and challenge cards in every dungeon. While I wish there were more cards in the game, I think this is the perfect opportunity for future expansions for the game.
I had a blast with 5-Minute Dungeon and that is why it is the best speed game I have ever played. The game does a fantastic job taking a genre that usually relies more on speed than actual mechanics and creates a game that has a surprising amount of strategy. The game is easy to play and is a great co-op experience where the whole team has to work together. When a game ends you will want to immediately start another game. The game’s artwork and components are also fantastic. Honestly there are only two small issues with the game. 5-Minute Dungeon is a little on the difficult side since you will usually fail at around the third or fourth dungeon but the game is so satisfying when you complete a dungeon. 5-Minute Dungeon could also use some expansions as the cards are repeated a little too often.
I loved 5-Minute Dungeon and would recommend it to most people. If your group doesn’t really care for speed games it may not be for you since you need to play quickly and don’t have a lot of time to make decisions. Otherwise I would highly recommend 5-Minute Dungeon. If you like speed games in particular you will have a blast with 5-Minute Dungeon and you will have a hard time putting it down. I know this is a game that I will regularly come back to.
5-Minute Dungeon’s Kickstarter runs until December 1st, 2016. A $5 pledge will get you a print and play version of the game. A pledge of $26 or more will get you a physical copy of the game. For more information check out 5-Minute Dungeon’s Kickstarter page.