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Game Night Review: 5 Minute Dungeon

Fantasy has been ruined for me. And I’m very quick to let anyone know that…especially if you’re dumb enough to bring anything with dragons or dungeons to my gaming table.

You see, back when I was in my formative nerd years, yes, I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons, and yes, I enjoyed it…for a time. What killed it…and the entire fantasy genre…for me was that it became a game not so much about the stories or the adventures…but a game as to who could buy the most recent books or manuals and who could out-rule the other to get the story/adventure to go their way. Each session would usually devolve into a pissing contest: “This book says I can do this.” “Well I have a book here that says that rule is null and void.” “Yeah, but this NEWEST edition reinstitutes that rule.”

So on…so forth…ad nauseum.

Thus, when 5 Minute Dungeon landed on my table, I proptly told the fool that brought it that “I ain’t got time for your jibba jabba!”

Half an hour of shouting and chaos later, well, I’ll be honest, I have no idea if we were playing it right, but damn it was fun.

Objective: Players have to work cooperatively to rush through the rooms of a dungeon and beat that room’s boss in the span of 5 minutes. A series of door cards will present players with obstacles, monsters and people who have to be overcome in order to make it to said boss. Making matters worse are the Challenge Doors, presenting events and mini-bosses that make things even harder. [As the name “Challenge” would suggest. – Ed.] Will your group be able to get through not only one room and the boss attached to it…but through SEVEN? Only communication, mostly through shouting, and quick drawing can save you now.

Mechanics: So how do the players get through all this? Each one chooses their heroic avatar and takes the deck assigned to each character…consisting of cards labelled with arrows, scrolls, swords, shields and dashes. For example, the thief deck will lean more toward arrows and dashes, the gladiator more toward swords and shields and the wizard will have plenty of scrolls. Each class will also have their own tricks up their sleeve, killing monsters in one blow, dodging a trap or using one card in the place of many. They all also have a special power requiring three of their cards be discarded. Some of these are like abilities on the special cards, such as killing a monster instantly or avoiding a trap or event or they can actually affect the game itself, such as stopping the clock. A round starts when the new boss is introduced with each boss indicating how many rooms/doors players must pass through to complete the dungeon. Players collect themselves, make sure their decks are ready, draw three cards to start and then…GO! The first door is revealed and chaos ensues. Players must communicate, usually through shouting, so that everyone contributes cards or powers in order for the team to fly through the challenges before them as quickly as possible. Anytime a card is played and the amount of cards in your hand is less than three, then draw from your deck until you have three cards again. Any card you use to defeat a challenge, mini-boss or boss is lost to you until the end of the round…so, you know, if you have time for it (which you won’t)…strategy.

Thoughts: For the love of all that’s holy, make damn sure you have someone play as the wizard. That character’s ability to stop the clock was SUCH a lifesaver for my play group. Other than that, even though the game’s title is a slight misnomer (it’s 5 minutes per room…the dungeon itself will run you up to 35 minutes), the time really does fly. Sessions occasionally run into a hiccup when a challenge arises and no one has the cards to beat it. Now, again, given that I’m not entirely sure we were playing correctly, this might be strictly an error on my group’s part…as we were relying on someone who’d played it before and not the instructions…but at the same time, with a game like this, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if there were more than one mechanism in place to spell doom for any adventurers who dare to take on this particular Dungeon Master.

To swing back toward the positive…and there is a lot of positive here…from the quality of the components to the fact there’s even an app to download for the timer clock. Both the hero mats and the villain mats are made from a good, sturdy cardboard that should be able to put up with any abuse you can dish out. The card art and text perfectly display the game’s tongue-in-cheek attitude toward fantasy with nods to popular iterations…such as Game of Thrones. Of course, laughing at these in-jokes will cost you time…TIME YOU DON’T HAVE! But, ahem, yes, when you’re not on the clock, definitely take a moment to look over the cards…it’s worth it. Lastly, as has been a common theme here with these new Gamenight reviews, there’s the price. 5 Minute Dungeon is only going to run you $15 to $20 which is absolutely perfect. We’re still in all-ages territory here, so this bit is gonna sound familiar…but it also holds true: younger players will enjoy the game for what it is while older players will also enjoy the mechanics but get an added layer from the tongue-in-cheek references. Even if you have a hang-up over fantasy stuff, I’d still highly recommend this game.

But if you can’t push past that…DON’T PANIC! A 5 Minute Marvel is on the way! So, yeah, go out and get this one…and hey, maybe even read the rules. I know I will. Probably. At some point.

Another thanks to Jordan for supplying the game for play and review.

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