Michael: “English, Fitz or Percy? If we’re gonna pull this off, we need to take one of them out.”
Abruzzi: “And you want us to tell you which one?”
Michael: “I just want you to help me get to them. I’ll take it from there.”
Sucre: “You’re crazy, you know that?”
Michael: “All I need is 5 minutes.”
Prison Break, Season One, Episode 5: English, Fitz or Percy written by Paul Scheuring and Zack Estrin, FOX
Game: 5 Minute Chase
Publisher: Board & Dice
Artist: Paweł Niziołek
Runtime: 10 seconds – 5 minutes
Player Count: 2 – 4
5 Minute Chase is a tile-placement party game for two or more players. I’m just going to let that sink in for a second, but you read that right, Board & Dice have taken what is possibly the second most boring boardgame mechanic (behind roll and move obviously); tile placement and not only have they made it exciting, they’ve created a great party game for two.
This is a super simple game of chase, of cat and mouse, of cops and robbers. One player is on the run, the other has to chase them down all with simple, yet challenging, asymmetry. As a runner, you’ll shuffle all your tiles, create two stacks and you are ready to play. The chaser collects all their tokens and starts staring menacingly at the would–be runner and maybe does a little smack talking.
The aim for each player is simple, the runner must get from the prison to the hideaway without getting caught and along their route to freedom must collect a map, a key and of course the loot they hid before they went to sing-sing. Once you’ve collected, and by this, I mean used at least one of each of these tiles in your escape, you can place your hideaway tile and finally take a sigh of relief and sit down.
There are but a couple of rules governing the placement of tiles that can be summed up here easily (in the rulebook, not so much),:
- Roads and tiles must align.
- When placing a tile, it can only touch one other tile.
- When escaping along a road with a police roadblock, the roadblock must join up to a wood.
The chaser has a very different task. Each tile has a number of witnesses facing in different directions. What the chaser must do is very quickly count and work out which group of witnesses saw the runners go in the direction of the next tile, and place on that tile the corresponding token.
Should the chaser ever be able to place a token on the “current” tile, they have caught the runner. However, neither this nor the placement of the getaway ensures victory. In 5 Minute Chase, there is the necessity for a “check” before final scoring takes place, where all players review the route and tokens to make sure that all is correct. Although this isn’t strictly ‘in game’ it still has an air of anticipation, since so many choices and selections are made rapidly during the chase this evaluative step comes with a results-envelope-opening sense of trepidation…just a much more fun sense of this.
First the runner’s route is assessed to make sure they connected all the roads correctly and included a key, map and loot tile. For the Chaser the process is a little different, the tiles themselves are flipped – where the edge connecting to the next tile remains touching and on the reverse of the tile the correct token symbols are shown – it really is quite an efficient way of doing it.
Now, it could very easily, and in my opinion, be correctly argued that the chaser has the much easier task, the rudimentary pattern recognition is a much quicker mental process, whereas the runner has to first recognise, assess and then orientate tiles to match what is down but also plan what is coming. However, where the runner’s task does get easier with multiple plays the chaser’s doesn’t. In many instances the runner ‘always’ has a choice, often they may not be ideal choices but the runner can move the chase along, the chaser doesn’t get this option; they are always behind and the mercy of what the runner is putting down for them. In this regard there is actually very little one player can do to influence their opponent, each player is acting in response to time itself rather than one another.
Much like a child’s playground game of tig, the sole objective of the chaser is much simpler, whereas the runners must invent their escape on the fly. This pattern shifts somewhat in a 3 or 4 player game. I’ll admit, I was dubious as to how this game would work at the higher player count but I was pleasantly surprised. The runner gets a huge bonus here, communication, a moment, albeit a brief one, for consideration. Although the chaser also gains help in a 4 player game, the help gained isn’t quite enough to offset the runners, when this happens everyone knuckles down that little bit more.
Also, much like a game of tig, there can be a rising degree of frustration with this game, simply because some people will be naturally better at it, or one role within it, than others. 5 Minute Chase create a very level playing field for the game state, where neither player can bring inherited experience to bear. Again, like a game of tig, some people are just faster, more nimble and in this game that converts to some people being faster at recognising patterns, of being more mentally agile and can more deftly rotate and align the tiles to their need. My software engineer friend Mario is an expert runner whom I rarely manage to catch and I’m pretty flipping good at chasing people (obviously I mean in the game, I’m not like a bounty hunter or anything). For some, this frustration twinned with how lightning fast the game is could lead some players to…I don’t want to say sulk, but; well, sulk.
The game comes with a bunch of silver and gold star tokens, which you’re meant to use to work out who won and add up at the end of a game. To be honest, I’m not too sure how you win them or count them because for me 5 Minute Chase isn’t about collecting points, it’s about the sheer, unbridled joy of playing, of having that nervous-fun energy. It’s called 5 Minute Chase, but actually, I’ve found I don’t want to play this game for 5 minutes straight just because I fear I’d be a nervous wreck afterwards. A round can last literally seconds – seriously, I’ve caught someone within 3 tiles before, but even a full route with loot, key, map and all still comes in around the minute and a half mark at best.
If you hold with the definition of a game being the abstract simulation of an event, then one could argue that 5 Minute Chase is “The Perfect Game”. It splendidly captures the excitement, anxiety and rush of a chase. Playing this game you’ll find yourself trembling with anticipation, you’ll feel your pulse rushing as you frantically search for the right tile. You’ll get that feeling of being hunted, of the chaser being hot on your heels, the exultation when you spot all the right witnesses almost instantaneously and have the right token ready in your hand and for these moments 5 Minute Chase is not only a stand-up, it’s a standout game too.
This game does what a party game should, it gives you a shot of cardboard fun. You’re not going to be overladen with difficult weighty decisions, you won’t agonise over how you engineer your escape, it is a straightforward, fun, family-friendly game of cops and robbers. It’s a small box, with a small price tag (£13.55 currently on a pre-order special) and although you won’t get hours and hours of play out of it you will get a lot of laughs.