Be gentle on me fellow board game enthusiasts, this is my first review so I will try to be thorough and succinct. What follows is my review of the game after playing through it in a four player game at my game night and then playing it two player with a friend.
5 Minute Dungeon is a real time card game where you are trying to venture into and through a dungeon in a very short amount of time. You will be frantically playing cards overcoming obstacles, people, and monsters on your way to defeating the final boss. Defeat the boss and you get a reprieve before diving back in to take on the next level. Complete all five levels and you win, run out of cards, be unable to overcome an obstacle, or run out of time, and you lose.
Setting up the game is simple, shuffle up the door cards and deal out the required number for the boss. First boss has 20, second has 25, and so on. You will then add in two challenge cards which represent either events or mini-bosses that you have to deal with along the way. Shuffle up the deck and place it over the final boss and the dungeon is ready.
Player prep is even quicker, for games involving more then two people each player picks a class board, picks a side of that board (each side has a different class ability), and takes the matching deck. Each deck has a different specializations like the mage having more magic scrolls, the barbarian having more swords, rogue having more agility and so on. Also of note each deck has special ability cards that can be played that let you draw more cards, pause time, even heal cards from your discard, but not from the center pile. Now you shuffle up the deck and draw your starting hand and you are ready to go. The one caveat is the two player game, in this case each player takes two class decks, this is to make sure enough cards are in the game to be able to actually pass all the dungeons.
Playing the game is where the real-time aspect comes in. At the start you will activate the timer using the handy app and start turning over door cards in a bid to complete the dungeon in 5 minutes. If you flip anything but an event it will have icons that as a group you have to toss into the middle to be able to defeat. An example is the Simple Slime below, all you need is for a Agility card and an Arrow card to be discarded on him to defeat him and move on.
Other cards will have other symbols and the events will have text telling you how they affect you. You keep going until you either beat the dungeon or trigger one of the three loss conditions. One final note, every player has a special ability that they can use by discarding three cards, these are discarded to your personal pile and it's these cards that can be healed back, unlike those used to traverse the dungeon.
The mechanics for this game are smooth and work excellently. The time crunch forces quick choices and lots of interaction to make sure you are being efficient enough to get through the dungeon. There are no extra steps between playing and drawing and the ability to pause time with some cards allows for breathers and strategy time. Overall I don't think much could be done to improve how the game plays, except for raising the player count to 3-5 people. At two the game just seemed to bog down a bit because the cycling of cards between the two players is so high, plus the shear volume of cards you have to deal with can get unwieldy and the events could be devastating at the wrong times.
This is where I knock the game a little because there just aren't many cards in the box. The pre-production set only had the 40 door cards so on the last boss you will see every door card no matter what. However, there is variety in the challenge cards in that you pick only two out of 10 cards so the ones you pull will often be different. I think extra door cards in the form of less crippling events (discard one or two cards or having to face a beaten door card again) might spice up the deck a little and not make it feel like the same song and dance. However, lest you think I find it the same every time, I disagree. While you are guaranteed to see all the cards every time you play, the time crunch puts you in a bit of tunnel vision and so you don't notice this fact and so I don't think it is too much a burden. But at the same token, you can only defeat Steve so many times.
Art for this game is stellar and fits perfectly with the kind of game being presented here. The drawings are cartoony and play on the different geek tropes of the day, like invisible ninjas, a zone loading obstacle, and more. When i first opened the game I sat and looked through all the door cards because the illustrations just begged to be looked at, and trying to look during the game is impossible. Also of note are the the special ability cards are clear and easy to read, and the resource cards (agility, swords, shields, etc.) have the color and symbols full size on the card making it easy to tell in an instant what you have which is crucial for playing a game like this. Enemy cards also have the required symbols to beat well sized and clear on the card. Kudos on the art, I don't think they could have done better.
Also, I do want to give this game a shout out for having all characters in both male and female versions as well as giving the females proper clothing that makes them look awesome without being super revealing, A+.
While I got a pre-production copy with a glued on image for the box, the contents of the box where quality. The cards shuffled nice and didn't bend easily, although one player side shuffled the cards and within one game they looked pretty bad. The insert is pretty good and holds all the components snug enough to be stored vertical or horizontal, although one or two of the card wells proved a little more difficult to extract the cards from than others. The player and boss boards are good thick cardboard with art across the entire board with spots for the the draw piles. The player boards also included spots for the discard pile along with the special abilities of the characters easily seen in the center.
Ah, the bane for most players of Kickstarter games, the rulebook. Thankfully, this one is very good with everything laid out well and explained in enough detail to be able to play the game from the book without having to look things up. The order in which things are explained is very good with crucial gameplay items up front and then the deeper items of characters decks and abilities farther down. Also great is the inclusion of a one page crib sheet on the back of the booklet to get experienced players up and running quickly while also providing quick reference.
Since this game comes "boxed" with a companion app I felt it needed to be mentioned and reviewed as well. I ran the app on my android phone and it worked flawlessly and without any extraneous buttons, settings, and what not. You just load up the app, pick your narrator (I like Connor), and then hit play. You get a typical prep speech, which while sometimes can go a bit long, there is a fast forward button if you want to get right to it. Then the app starts counting and gives you minute warnings and then mourns when you run out of time. If you beat the dungeon you hit pause and the we won button to get some fan faire. Hit the reload icon to reset the clock and get ready to begin again. Not much could be improved hear except in maybe the choice of narrators and some more variety in the canned responses, but overall it does it's job excellently.
In the end I had a blast with this game. Playing it in the game group was so much fun that two people in the group wanted to go out and buy the game right away, but alas, they will have to wait for the Kickstarter to deliver. The real time nature with the simple and streamlined gameplay makes for an excellent game that doesn't feel like it's taking long at all to play. I would definitely bring this to any group of 3 or more people and it would be a sure bet that we would have a blast and be laughing it up while playing 5 Minute Dungeon.