5-Minute Dungeon

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5 Minute Dungeon

Today we’re taking a look at a board game my kids recently got for their birthday: 5-Minute Dungeon! This real-time card game tasks up to five players with working together to escape a dungeon in under five minutes. Each dungeon consists of a randomized deck of cards that features obstacles, monsters, people, and events to overcome. At the end of each dungeon is a powerful boss to defeat. To beat the game you’ll need to triumph over five separate dungeons.

This game is frantic, fast-paced, and more than a little chaotic! Communication and teamwork are essential to your success. Player’s win or lose as a team. 5-Minute Dungeon is intended for players ages eight and up. Although a single dungeon takes five minutes, playing through a whole game takes about thirty to forty-five minutes, depending how many times you fail to escape a dungeon.

Box Contents

Players take on the role of one of ten characters by selecting a character board. Each board is colour-coded and double-sided, with one male and one female character per board. Every character board makes use of one of five matching decks, and every character has their own unique ability which can be triggered by discarding three cards from your hand. That means that up to five people can play at a time.

Characters include the blue sorceress and wizard, green huntress and ranger, purple ninja and thief, red barbarian and gladiator, and yellow paladin and valkyrie. Most of the special abilities of these characters fall into two types: those that help get someone in your group extra cards and those that automatically defeat a certain category of card. There’s also the wizard’s unique ability to stop time. We found that it was very helpful to play with the wizard and a character who can help the group draw cards, with the rest of the players taking on abilities that can auto-defeat either monsters, obstacles, or people. Once you’ve got your character picked out you place the matching deck on their board.

Next you set up the dungeon. Start by selecting a boss. There are five to choose from and each is numbered 1 though 5. You simply start at Boss #1: Baby Barbarian and work your way up to Boss #5: Dungeon Master. Each boss also has a number of cards written on it. Baby Barbarian has 20, The Grime Reaper has 25, Zola the Gorgon has 30, and so on. This is the number of dungeon cards you’ll randomly select and place on the boss board. Then you’ll pick out two challenge cards per player and shuffle them into the deck of dungeon cards. This is the boss’s dungeon. You simply place the deck of cards into the space marked with the dotted line and you’re ready to begin.

Boss

Player’s begin by drawing a number of cards. This number is variable and determined by how many people are playing the game. Chances are you’ll start with three or four cards. Then you start the five minute timer, flip over the first card in the dungeon deck, and get adventuring!

Cactus wants a hug!
To reach ‘The Grime Reaper’ you’ll need to defeat the ‘A Cactus that wants a hug.’ Oh, no! I hope you’ve got some shields….

This game doesn’t come with a physical timer. Instead there’s a timer app you can download on your phone, tablet, and other handheld device. It’s a quick download and easy to use. You simply select a voice for the announcer (I love the ‘fearful’ voice, but my daughter’s a fan of ‘spiteful’) and click start. Sometimes you’ll need to pause the game (such as with the wizard’s ‘time stop’ ability) in which case you simply push pause. If you defeat the dungeon you click ‘We Won,’ if you lose you click ‘We Lost’ and if you run out of time you don’t need to click a thing. It’s an enjoyable, humorous little timer app and my kids really like it.

There are four major categories of dungeon cards: event, person, monster, and obstacle. Events are the simplest to resolve. They each have a sentence explaining what you need to do, you do it, then you move on to the next card. Examples of events are ‘Sudden Illness’ which forces every player to discard their hand, or ‘Trap Door’ which forces all players to discard three cards. The rest of the cards — monster, obstacle, and person — have circular symbols on them. These symbols match the cards that you must play to defeat them. These cards can be played in any order and by any player. There are no turns. As soon as all the needed cards are played you have defeated the card, it gets moved to the discard pile, and you flip over the next dungeon card. Once all of the dungeon cards are defeated you will see the symbols needed to defeat the Boss.

This makes gameplay fast and chaotic, with players slapping down cards, shouting out what they’re playing, and calling out what’s still needed to defeat the card. It’s the sort of game where everyone feels a sense of urgency and excitement, and get’s a thrill of triumph when a card is defeated.

Enemy Types
The four types of cards you’ll find in a dungeon.

So what the heck are all these symbols?

There are five major symbols in the game, which are colour coded. These same symbols are seen across all the boss cards and all character decks. Called ‘Resources’ they include the red sword, yellow shield, green arrow, blue scroll, and purple jumping person (which my family always calls ‘sprint’ or ‘dash’ but is probably called ‘leap’). Every deck will have cards of these five types, although they will have them in different combinations. The red barbarian/gladiator deck will have a lot of red swords, for example, while the blue sorceress/wizard deck will have a lot of blue scrolls. In addition to these single symbol cards there’s double symbol cards — cards that have two red swords, two blue scrolls, and so on. These are seen in much lower quantities than the single symbol cards, and not every deck will have them in every kind. While the sorceress/wizard deck may have a few double scroll cards, the huntress/ranger deck won’t. One of the decks — the red barbarian/gladiator has special double symbol cards which consist of a red sword and a second other symbol.

The rest of the cards found in the character decks are black bordered and have a special ability written on them. The most common are abilities that let you auto-defeat a certain category of dungeon card. ‘Fireball’ defeats a monster, ‘Backstab’ defeats a person, and ‘Mighty Leap’ defeats an obstacle. These are super useful cards which can be found throughout all of the different coloured decks in differing quantities. While the sorceress/wizard has a lot of ‘Fireballs’ the ninja/thief has more ‘Mighty Leap’ and ‘Backstab’ cards. Finally, every colour deck has some unique black bordered ability cards. ‘Enrage’ from the red barbarian/gladiator deck lets you choose two players who may draw three cards each. ‘Divine Shield’ from the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck pauses time until someone plays a card and lets every player draw one card. ‘Magic Bomb’ from the blue sorceress/wizard deck counts as one of each type of resource. My personal favourite card? ‘Heal’ which lets you select a player who can put their entire discard pile back on top of their draw pile. Awesome!

Card Types 2
The many card types found in 5-Minute Dungeon

As mentioned, every deck is different but equally useful. You’ll soon discover which play style you prefer and find a favourite, so I highly recommend trying each deck out. I love the yellow paladin/valkyrie deck best — particularly when played with the valkyrie character who can help her fellow players draw cards. The yellow deck has a lot of different healing cards, which I find can be incredibly helpful. My son, on the other hand, prefers the to play as the blue wizard. He’s a huge fan of the wizard’s ‘Time Stop’ ability — which is so helpful I’d go as far as to call it a necessity. He also loves the ‘Magic Bomb’ card which can only be found in the blue deck. Finally, my daughter prefers to play as the green huntress — solely because she loves the art. To each their own, I guess. Haha.

With all the decks in their places, cards in hand, and the timer started, play can begin. There’s a few other rules you need to know, but not many. Whenever you have less cards than your opening hand consisted of you can immediately draw cards to fill your hand back up to maximum. Discard piles do not get shuffled back into the draw pile once the draw pile is empty. This means that if your deck ever runs out you can no longer draw cards — unless someone plays a card that gives you cards from your discard pile or something similar.

Winning will take teamwork, speed, and luck. If you win you reshuffle your decks, select your character (you do not need to keep the same character throughout all the dungeons), set your boards back up, and build the dungeon for the next Boss. When everything’s ready you begin play again. If you defeat all five dungeons you win the game.

If you ever fail to defeat a dungeon you’re supposed to reset, going all the way back to the Baby Barbarian and his dungeon again, but my family didn’t like this rule. Instead we just replayed the dungeon we were on.

We’ve played this game quite a few times. Sometimes we finish it all the way through, and sometimes we only play a round or two. My kids and I really like it. They enjoy the teamwork aspect, and that they can always be playing. There’s no waiting for your turn or getting beat on by your friends. It’s fun and fast. It’s not a game for everyone, though. My husband doesn’t really like it. He’s a fan of strategic, complex games. Chances are whatever game we’re playing he’s going to be that player taking the longest turns. Unsurprisingly, the chaotic, real-time gameplay of 5-Minute Dungeon is not to his tastes. It’s also not the kind of game you can play anywhere. Players are going to get loud. Although you could bring to a party, family gathering, or friend’s house, it’s not the sort of thing you’re going to bring to play at the library, local coffee shop, laundromat, or airport. Finally, it’s not the sort of game you want to let the kids play late at night. Mine get antsy, excited, and leap and jump around. Not really a relaxing, winding-down sort of game.

All in all, we really liked 5-Minute Dungeon — especially my son. It’s fast paced, easy to learn, and enjoyable. My only complaints? I wish the boss cards were double sided so you could choose which of the two to face off against and I wish there were more dungeon and challenge cards included in the game so the dungeons felt more varied. But, I suppose wanting more of a game isn’t much of a complaint. More like a wish list. Haha. 5-Minute Dungeon is a pretty easy game to find that currently retails for around $30 Canadian. Our copy belongs to my eight-year old son, and made an excellent gift. He loves it.

Happy gaming!

Jessica

Many Happy Birthdays!

My kids have a birthday this month.

Both of them.

It’s on the same day (although they’re not the same age) but that doesn’t mean their birthday is over quick. My husband and I have a small house but a big family, so it’s not just one birthday party for the pair of them. It’s one birthday party for the pair of them at least four times. Add to that a convention, work dinner, and parties with their friends, and suddenly the whole month is gone. Plus there’s my brother, grandpa, niece, and nephew, who all ALSO have a birthday this month.

March is crazy around here.

But today I’m taking the time to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to the two goofiest, sweetest, most imaginative kids I know. Why on my blog? Because they wanted the world to know they are now the very dignified ages of seven and eight.

Milestones, I know. Haha.

While we’re at it, why not spread the cheer further? My birthday kids want to wish a Happy Birthday to all of you, no matter where you are or when it falls.

All the best!

Jessica
(and family)

Birthday Cake 1
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Alien Archive 2

For my birthday yesterday my family gifted me a wonderful book I’ve been itching to get my hands on: Starfinder Alien Archive 2! And what better way to celebrate than to share it with all of you? So today we’re taking a deep dive into the latest Alien Archive! Ready?

Let’s go!

Starfinder Alien Archive 2
Starfinder Alien Archive 2

Alien Archive 2 is an awesome supplement book for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. This book has a hardcover, and is 159 pages in length. It’s got an American cover price of $39.99, which means that if you’re Canadian (like myself), you’re looking at a cost of around forty-five to fifty dollars for the book online, or up to sixty in your local game store. It’s currently on sale for around $32 Canadian on that handy link I posted, so I highly recommend picking it up cheap while you can.

At it’s core, Alien Archive 2 is a book of monsters. You’ll find a ton of creatures to fight and ally with inside this book, as well as some new player races. The book is easy to use, adaptable, and well organized. It also has some new character options, like new spells, equipment, and feats, scattered amongst the monster entries.

The Alien Archive features lovely cover art by Remko Troost which depicts a glitch gremlin, a mi-go, and a trox. The inside front and back covers feature an image of the Pact Worlds. After that we come to the table of contents. Alien Archive 2 has sixty-five distinct monster entries inside it, many of which have more than one stat block or variation of that creature, making the actual number of foes inside larger than it seems (around one hundred and twenty-six by my count). Of these, sixteen are playable as character races. There are also three starships, and twenty-six template grafts.

Combatant
Combatant

After the table of contents we reach the introduction. This is where we learn how the races are oriented, and how to read a stat block. While most of this is basic information that only a player new to d20 games will need to read, some of the information is quite important. Of course, all of this will be business as usual for owners of the first Alien Archive.

Expert
Expert

Each of the stat blocks inside the Alien Archive is sorted into one of  three categories: combatants (which excels in physical combat), experts (who are most effective with skills), and spellcasters (who rely on spells or spell-like abilities). These categories are represented by an icon in the left margin. These images are easy to distinguish and provide a quick and easy way for GMs to realize the role each monster plays in combat, which makes it super easy to find the type of creatures your looking for, or to quickly discern a creature’s tactics.

Spellcaster
Spellcaster

There’s also a few interesting things to note about the stat blocks themselves. Very few of the creatures inside have Resolve Points and none have Stamina Points. A creatures ability scores aren’t listed, instead, their stats show their ability modifiers. This is a simple change that will make it easier for GMs — especially new GMs — to handle unexpected situations (like unlisted skill checks) in combat. Not all of a creatures feats are listed in their entry. Instead, only feats that grant new combat options will be shown. Feats that grant static bonuses (like improved initiative, or skill focus) are already factored into the stat block and will not be listed anywhere at all. This really streamlines the stat blocks, and makes it easier to find important information fast. Similarly, not all of a creature or NPCs spells will be listed in a stat block. Instead, it only features their most powerful spellcasting options.

PZO7105
Starfinder Alien Archive

Every one of the bestiary entries in this book is two side-by-side pages long. These entries include information on the creature, where they’re found, their use throughout the Pact Worlds, and their society — if they have one. Many of the entries include more than one stat block on a theme. For example, the Forman entry gives us stats for a CR 7 taskmaster, along with a CR 10 myrmarch. Similarly, the akata entry features the both the akata and the void zombie, which are controlled by its parasitic offspring. Some entries include many stat-blocks (such as the herd animals, predators, and dinosaurs) or include simple grafts that can be added to a featured creature to make it into other versions (such as metallic and outer dragons). Many of the archive entries introduce new gear, rules, or consumables. My personal favourites include the arquand horns found on the arquand gazelle’s entry, the glass skin of the glass serpent, and the apocalypse solarian weapon crystals from the living apocalypse.

Alien Archive 2 - Glass Serpent -Armor
Armour made from a Glass Serpent

After this we come to the meat of the book: the aliens archive itself. There are a ton of cool creatures in this book, and even some that I wasn’t sure I’d like on first perusal, I ended up really enjoying. Some of my favourites you should check out include the squox, a CR 1/3 or 1 creature which is utterly adorable and makes a fabulous pet. I also adored the adaptable entries on dinosaurs, herd animals, and predators, each of which comes with a sample stat block for a creature of each size, followed by simple rules for how to make an innumerable combination of custom creatures of those types. It’s simple, incredibly useful, and has awesome art. LOVE IT. Glitch gremlins were a fun low level challenge I also really enjoyed, as were the akatas, which I’m thrilled to see included. For a great high-level challenge check out the calecor and the living apocalypse.

PZO7403
Starfinder: Alien Archive Pawn Box

Mixed amongst the monster entries are sixteen playable races. Each entry features two different CR stat blocks representative of their race, a bunch of interesting information on their societies and home worlds, and a side bar which include the rules for playing them as a race. Although many of these were ‘humanoid shaped’, with arms and hands or some sort, there were some which were not, most notably the mollusk-like embri, and the  silicon-based quorlu. This was just awesome to see, and I really enjoyed it! Some of the races and monsters from old Golarion were up for selection, including aasimar, tieflings, ghorans, hobgoblins, orcs, and trox,  but many were brand new. I honestly loved a TON of these races, but my favourite new additions are damai, osharu, pahtra, and the wolf-like vlaka.

Curious about the playable races available in this book? Well, look no further! The Alien Archive includes:

  • Aasimar: celestial blooded humanoids you’ll find under ‘planar scion’
  • Bolida: armoured burrowing arthropods with a wide array of senses
  • Damai: pale, scrappy humanoids forced to hide underground from the colossi they share their world with
  • Embri: masked, mollusk like aberrations with a rigid social order secretly controlled by the forces of hell
  • Ghoran: delicious plant beings from Golarion who have terraformed their own planet-paradise and genetically split into two subraces: oaklings and saplings
  • Hobgoblin: tall, war-mongering, militaristic humanoids with faces similar in appearance to goblins
  • Kanabo: a red-skinned oni, which is a type of evil spirit given a physical form
  • Orc: strong humanoids conditioned as slave labour by the drow of Apostae
  • Osharu: slug-like creatures that view religion and science as intertwined
  • Pahtra: asexual cat-like humanoids that adore music and battle
  • Phentomite: agile humanoids acclimated to thin atmospheres and high altitudes that live on a broken planet
  • Quorlu: silicon based quadrupeds with tentacle arms and eyestalks capable of digging through earth and stone
  • Tiefling: fiendish blooded humanoids you’ll find under ‘planar scion’
  • Trox: large, chitinous, gentle humanoids that have been magically transformed since their time on Golarion
  • Uplifted Bear: intelligent, bipedal bears that you’ll find under ‘bear’
  • Vlaka: wolf-life humanoids from a dying world often born deaf or blind

Past the statistics for all those snazzy new aliens we come to the Appendixes, of which there are eleven. Appendix One contains two pages of creature subtype grafts and Appendix Two contains two and a half pages of environmental grafts. Appendix Three contains rules for the polymorphing creatures. This section is around seven pages long and frankly, feels quite complicated to me. Definitely not something my kids could use. Appendix Four contains all of the universal creature special abilities. Appendix Five, Six, and Seven are very short, sorting the creatures in the Alien Archive 2 by CR, type, and  terrain. Appendix Eight lists the template grafts and the pages they can be found on, while Appendix Nine lists the new character options and gear and the pages they can be found on.  Appendix Ten contains a chart of average vital statistics for all playable races from Alien Archive, Alien Archive 2, and for the Legacy Races from the Starfinder Core Rulebook. Finally, Appendix Eleven is a list of the playable races and their page numbers.

StarfinderCover
Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook

That’s it. We’ve come to the end of the Alien Archive 2.

And what did I think?

In short: I loved it. Alien Archive 2 is packed full of a wide array of monsters and cool races. Many of the stat blocks are highly adaptable, there’s plenty of new templates and grafts that help with monster creation, summon spells, and polymorph. There’s content in here for players and GMs. I’m supremely happy to own Alien Archive 2, and highly recommend it to fans of Starfinder!

Want a sneak peek at some of the playable races? Check out the image below! Got a favourite creature from Alien Archive 2? let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

Jessica