Originally published on Board Game Geek.

In theory, 5-Minute Dungeon is a lightweight dungeon crawler that's completed in, you guessed it, five minutes. Similar to Munchkin, the basic gameplay loop is kicking down a series of doors with some challenge to be defeated with the cards in your hand. Unlike Munchkin, this game is fully cooperative. Each player has the chance to contribute cards and working together is the key to victory.

A game begins by selecting one of five increasingly difficulty bosses. Bosses add difficulty by adding more door cards. After the timer starts, you flip the first door and work to defeat whatever is behind it by discarding specific cards. For instance, a monster might require 2 swords and a shield to overcome. Any player can contribute one, some or all of these items. There are also cards and special abilities to instantly defeat certain types of door cards. If you fail open all the doors and defeat the final boss card in 5 minutes, your team has lost the game.

There's a free app, which is just a countdown timer with occasional encouragements in one of several voice options. Some cards and abilities allow the time to be stopped while you plan your next move. So the 5 minutes isn't strictly wall clock time. Any timing mechanism would do, but the app adds a degree of tension and humor to the proceedings.

The 5 minute gimmick hurts the experience in a few ways. Most of the door cards feature jokes and puns. But with no time to read the text, nobody can appreciate it. Each player picks out a character to play and each character has their own deck with appropriate theming. The wizard has more magic spells, for instance. However, the timer means people aren't role-playing, but just frantically calling out cards they intend to use. Special abilities often get forgotten in the chaos.

Our family has only defeated the easiest boss once. Generally we take 6 minutes or so. Obviously we could do better. There are simple strategies to speed up our play such as remembering to use special cards. But the bigger problem is we (meaning our younger children) get into fights about who gets to play their cards. Naturally, they want to be involved as much as possible, but sometimes more than one person has the needed cards.

If nobody has the right cards in hand, you can discard a card to draw another. You can also discard three cards to activate your character's special ability. The cost is when you run out of cards, your game is over. (There are cards and abilities to "heal" other players, which allow them to put cards from the discard pile back in their draw pile.) We rarely encounter this limit because we don't go after the harder bosses.

Younger kids love this game because it's frantic. I was bored the first time I played because it's random and repetitive. No doubt there are ways to play that allow a coordinated team to defeat the fifth boss in less than five minutes. It just doesn't seem worth the effort. Like going for 2nd, 3rd and 4th place in Pachisi, our kids don't want the game to end when the time runs out. We stopped using a count-down timer and started just using a count-up timer to see if we can beat our personal best.

We got the 5-Minute Dungeon: Curses! Foiled Again! expansion, which does improve the game by adding more variety and strategy. Still, I don't enjoy the simple time-pressure matching game. I'd much rather try FUSE, which requires more complicated choices. 5-Minute Dungeon works as a quick (but not really 5-minute) appetizer, but it's not my preferred taste.