5-Minute Marvel Review

Released 2018
Designer Connor Reid
Publisher Spin Master Ltd (Website)
Players 2-5
Playing Time 5 minutes per villain boss
Category Cooperative
Hand Management
Unique player powers
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

Can you take down Thanos?

I have mentioned 5-Minute Marvel being played by my group once or twice, and I thought I would give it a full review.

It’s also a retheme of 5-Minute Dungeon, so the review can almost be for both games. I am only going to be talking about the Marvel version though, as 5-Minute Dungeon does have a couple of small differences and expansions.

So what is it?

5-Minute Marvel is a cooperative deck builder game where you choose different heroes to defeat various villains. There is no deep backstory or prior knowledge required, making this an incredibly accessible game.

A mix of heroes included. Some well known, some not so much. All fun 🙂

What do you do?

The first thing you need to keep in mind is the promised five minutes. Yes, you can play a round in five minutes. To play the gauntlet of enemies means fighting six bosses, which takes longer with resets in between.

Setup is pretty quick, and you can have most of the game explained during setup, but there is a disconnect between playtime and the title.

The basics of gameplay are straightforward. Each player chooses a hero, and a villain boss with henchmen is set up at the top of the table. Each ‘bad guy’ has several symbols on it, and players throw down cards that match the symbols to beat it.

Like many cooperative games, you need to be playing with the right group to get the full benefit of the game. Play with people that only shout at others, and no one wants to play. On the flip side, people that don’t speak up to offer advice/cards/etc., and you aren’t playing anything.

The symbols you need to match. Play as many matching symbols as on the enemy, and repeat

The combination of players for 5-Minute Marvel has a lot more tolerance than other cooperative games though. A lot of people will probably be quite happy after the first five minutes – even if you do have to all but force them to play!

The timer is sassing you the whole time.

Using apps with board games can be divisive. I enjoy the integration when done well, like the Mansions of Madness or Chronicles of Crime type implementations. Just as a clock though, and I tend only to set the countdown on my phone.

However, like Klein Klenko’s fuse, the timer in this game gives you lip while you play. The timer is J.A.R.V.I.S., and while Paul Bettany isn’t the voice, the voice acting is fine. Different, but fine. The lack of the MCUs distinct J.A.R.V.I.S./Vision can cause you to stop for a second and lose thought!

The free app is available on iOS and Android and doesn’t take long to download.

It’s not for a whole night game though

Not by a longshot, unless you are playing for a half-hour only. 5-Minute Marvel comes into its own as a filler game, to be played as an opener or closer. Now a few more people in my group know it, I am even tempted to get them to play it as I set up a bigger game. You can get it done that quickly!

5-Minute Marvel is a great diversion, but nothing more really. While you get a good range of heroes (10 to be precise), the same six villains and couple of enemy types can get repetitive quickly. Even a gauntlet run may not be in your best interest after a couple of tries.

The enemies all look great, but when all you concentrate on is the little row of symbols that is lost during gameplay

Until next time,

JohnHQLD

Shadows: Amsterdam Review

Shadows Amsterdam Feature
Shadows Amsterdam Feature
Released 2018
Designer Mathieu Aubert
Publisher Libellud (Website)
Players 2 – 8 (Really want 4 – 6)
Playing Time 15 – 20 minutes
Category Deduction
Exploration
Real Time
Puzzle
Party Game
BoardGameGeek View on BGG

What happens when you mix Codenames with Dixit and make it a real time race?

**This isn’t one of mine – I borrowed Alpal’s copy of Shadows: Amsterdam for this review

Shadows: Amsterdam is one of those games that I wasn’t overly excited about for all the wrong reasons. Firstly, I kept trying to call it Shadows over Amsterdam. Not the games fault – Shadows over Camelot left a considerable impression on me.

Next, it was Codenamesesque. Not a bad thing on its own, but I have a few versions of Codenames that wasn’t hitting the table.

Finally, it’s a four player game at a minimum. Yes, I know the box says 2-8, but the two and three player counts are a variant. This isn’t a bad thing by itself, but it only captures the game mechanics. More on this later.

There was considerable hype building on Shadows: Amsterdam, but I wasn’t going to go out of my way to buy it.

So sitting down at Alpal’s one afternoon, when we had four players and the chance to play, I jumped at the chance. And I am glad I did. One play in, and I was an instant convert.

Shadows Amsterdam Components
A little more involved that the simple party games of late

So what is the game?

Two teams take the part of rival detective agencies, trying to solve a crime before the other side or the police. Yes, you have to avoid the police – they don’t like civilians doing their job better!

The city in Shadows: Amsterdam is a large place, made up of hexagonal tiles that change between games. It is large and colourful, and you will need to be on the ball to search for all the evidence required to solve the case.

There is one Intelligence Master per team. Their job is to help their operatives collect evidence and avoid the police. These players can see all the evidence locations and police the teams have to avoid.

From here, the aim is simple – be the first team to collect three pieces of evidence then head to the objective to win! But if you run into the police three times, you are out of the running and lose, so be careful!

Shadows Amsterdam Intelligence Cards
Unlike Codenames, both teams can't see everything - there is only a limited amount of shared information

Oh, I should also point out that there are no turns – Shadows: Amsterdam is a real-time game. This adds to the tension and flow beautifully, but again more on that later 🙂

Playing the Game

All other players work together to try and interpret the clues given to them. But the Intelligence Master must remain hidden, so they have to understand strange clues! Hints are provided in the form of picture cards intended to direct them to the next step in a path.

This was the first thing I had a little trouble getting my head around. You aren’t being handed the end location immediately, but the next step in a path. The Intelligence Master can only communicate with the cards, so you have to trust you are doing OK.

When you start the game, you receive one or two picture cards that hopefully direct you to the correct tile. If you are given one card, it represents a tile one move around you. Two cards and your location is two steps away. If you think of the ring around your piece, it lets you move one or two rings, so it’s not blind guessing amongst the noise.

Shadows Amsterdam Where To Go
One clue, move one tile - and the blanks are no go zones. Which of the three should orange move to?

This mechanic allows you to focus purely on what is before you, and you will need to. The real-time nature of Shadows: Amsterdam lends itself to an almost push your luck feeling. If you can make a decision quickly, you will travel more than your opponents. But if you rush decisions, you may walk straight into the police!

The feeling of urgency and tension also builds quickly as your opponents start collecting more evidence than you. Conversely, as your opponents find the police more often, this can help boost you as they have to start playing more cautiously. Shadows: Amsterdam is a game that manages to get inside your head.

So it sounds fun. What’s wrong with it?

Very little in my opinion – as long as you are playing with at least four people. At this player count, you have two Intelligence Masters and two team players. Everything I have described is how a game works at this count.

At two or three players, everyone plays one side only and has to race the clock. It’s a straight time limit. Yes, you will have a sense of dread as you watch the time run out, but it’s not the same. Watching a timer count down doesn’t affect you as much as watching a team on a hot streak.

At a lower player count, the mechanics are all there, but not the party game type atmosphere. Beating a clock is an accomplishment, but it is more fun to have a competitive rivalry with other people.

Shadows Amsterdam Tension Rising
Orange is one piece of evidence up, but if black makes one more mistake it's game over! One team just doesn't give you this feeling
JohnHQLD
Shadows: Amsterdam

Final Thoughts

Shadows: Amsterdam is very much in a place to become a Codenames: Pictures replacement for me. It plays faster, has more ‘game’ to it, and has just as much replayability.

It is also a game that I can see myself playing with younger players more than Codenames. While there is more to keep track of, the lack of downtime keeps player interest high. The simple goals are also easy to focus on.

If I am playing two players, Codenames: Duets still wins for me. If someone wants to play Codenames: Pictures, I will be reaching for Shadows: Amsterdam as an improvement on a great formula.

Overall
8.5/10
8.5/10

Pros

  •  Fast to Teach and Play
  •  Great for all ages
  •  Beautiful artwork and components
  •  Easy to get people into a game

Cons

  •  Really a four player game
  •  People may overlook it as being another Codenames
  •  Board pieces could be thicker