It’s impossible to understate the popularity of card games. For a medium that has been around for hundreds of years, it’s amazing to see the versatility a deck of cards can have; it proves the creativity that can be unleashed with the right combination of cards and imagination. Dungeon Time may be just another card game in a genre saturated with them, but there is more to this title than you think.
You play with a hand dealt from a mixed deck of mission and items cards. Each mission card requires particular items to be completed, and you work alone or co-op to four others to race through the deck to find the required items and complete as many missions as you can within a five-minute time frame. The caveat is that you have to fit all needed artifacts into a backpack with limited space, and that includes every item for each mission you attempt to complete.
You collect the items by searching through your mission cards and seeing what items you have in your hand to complete them. If you don’t have them, you can call out to your teammates for what you need. Required objects are placed in the backpack, and mission cards are thrown in once you believe you have all the prerequisites to complete it. In a sense, you are playing a frantic game of Go Fish, with everyone scrambling to find items, complete missions, and draw new cards to rush through the deck to finish more missions. So where’s the challenge?
It isn’t difficult to run through the deck to find the items you need, but the challenge comes in monitoring your backpack. Your group’s backpack has room for just eight different items. Once the backpack becomes overcrowded, it breaks, and you lose the game. Items are removed from the backpack as they are used to complete missions, but missions can add reward items that can take up a valuable space in your bag.
For example, completing a mission might earn you a sword as a reward. That sword can then be used to help you solve another mission. Efficiency is key in winning the game, and it is your memory that gets pushed to the limit as more missions get completed. This helps the game scale well between all numbers of players, even solo. Alone, you may start to second guess which items you have in your backpack, while in a group you’ll have to work together to remember the items you have and don’t have to survive.
Dungeon Time has immense replay ability. Ares has included several scenarios of various difficulty to find a level that tests your ability. There’s a five level campaign mode you can run through as well. Additionally, Dungeon Time has optional heroes you may use to give the game some character and each hero has a special ability to use throughout the game. There’s even a set of adventure cards that cannot be successfully completed unless specific items are in the backpack at game’s end. Even if you play the standard scenario repeatedly, the randomness of the missions that pop up as you cycle the deck will keep the game from feeling stale.
The game does come with an hourglass to time your five minutes, but it tends to run a few seconds short. It may be wise to set a digital timer with an alarm not just so you don’t lose those precious seconds, but the game can get frantic as you near the end of the deck. It would be easy to miss the last grains of time as they fall to the bottom.
The artwork is reminiscent of the classic video game Dragon’s Lair, cartoonish but well-detailed, and you can easily discriminate the items at a glance. I did have some flaking on the cards, but it was minimal. The backpack and reward tokens are thick. Overall, the production value is strong for a relatively inexpensive game.
Dungeon Time is a game that needs to be played to be appreciated. Its rules and initial game play may leave some to dismiss it as too easy or childish, but there’s a fun challenge once you dive a little deeper. There are endless replay options, and it sets up quickly so that it can hit the table often.
Designed by: Carlo A. Rossi
Published by: Ares Games
Players: 1 to 4
Ages: 8 and up
Time: 10 to 60 minutes
Mechanics: Co-operative play, hand management, memory
Dungeon Time is not unlike a movie that starts slowly. The farther you get into it, the more you appreciate what is going on. Dungeon Time is an excellent exercise for your memory, but the co-operation element will also test your communication skills. It is frantic and fun with immense replay ability.