Published on June 15th, 2016 | by Nicole Jekich2
Game of Beakers
Our Review of Lab Wars Now on Kickstarter
Lab Wars is a competitive card game where 2-4 players pit their team of scientists against the other teams in the lab. The objective is to become the team with the most scientific Impact by the end of the game. Each turn players will use one special ability from one of their scientists, add equipment to their lab and conduct research which helps their team gain Impact points. Players can also interact with the other teams and sabotage their turns. Lab Wars is a fun, scientific card game where instead of managing mana players are managing Research.
Research Management Game
Each player starts the game with the same set up and starting cards. In their lab area, every player has Pipettes and a Thermal Cycler. Each player will also receive 5 scientist Role cards which include the PHD Student, Principal Investigator, Post Doc, Professor and Emeritus. Each of these roles have a special ability that will assist a player on their turn. For example the Post Doc helps generate more research and the Principal Investigator, changes the Specialisms generated by lab items in a turn. Each role card also has another named role written on their card and will sabotage the player that played that role card. The sabotage is a way to mess with your competitor’s plans and encourages players to be discreet with their strategy or try to predict which roles to play to avoid sabotage attempts. With only 5 roles to choose from in the game, players are sabotaged quite often as certain abilities are better utilized later on in a round.
Over the course of the game, players can buy more lab items with the Research they collect to add to their lab which are all based on real life scientific equipment and tools. There are Mass Spectrometers, Electron Microscopes and big DNA Sequencers which help build an efficient Research and Specialism machine.
The Pipettes produce orange, Viral specialisms and the Thermal Cycler produces purple, chemical specialisms. On their turn players can exhaust or tap their lab items to produce the specialism resource or use the collected resources to perform an ability on an item card that isn’t already exhausted. Typically the orange, Viral specialism generate more Research and the purple, Chemical specialism lets the player draw more lab items into their hand.
One thing that I didn’t understand until halfway through the game is that players should be building duplicate lab items. Having duplicates helps players produce a specific resource and still have a spare duplicate to exhaust in order to use the ability. I found myself struggling to use item abilities if I didn’t have multiple Pipettes for example because I would need to use a pipette to generate the resource needed for that item’s specific ability (Correction: Pipettes used to generate resources can also be used for its ability in the same turn). Having all different equipment means that your resource generation may be too varied to build an efficient system of resource production. I recommend building multiple Pipettes and/or Thermal Cyclers on your first play through in the early game. As you become more familiar with the lab items and how to use them effectively together then building more diverse labs will be easier.
We Love Science!
If you gain enough Research resource tokens on your turn, a player can also buy an Impact card. These Impact cards represent the scientific breakthrough and impact that your scientific team has developed in the lab. There are three tiers of Impact cards: Nuture Paper, Published Book and Nobel Prize. Each Impact pile has a limited number of the cards and as you go through the stack, the Impact cards cost more Research. The Novel Prizes are also special as a player can only have one copy of the Nobel Prize but can have multiple copies of the Published Books and Nuture Magazines.
You can tell that the designers are well-versed in the scientific world by the thought, care and scientific references scattered throughout the cards. We had the opportunity to play Lab Wars with Raj, a friend and former author of AtBG who also works as a staff scientist during the day. He chuckled when he saw the Pipettes and other lab items as these items are ‘things I used just this morning in the lab’. The items also had abilities that mirrored their actual purpose in a lab. And just in case you wanted to learn more about the equipment, the designers included a brief quote at the bottom of the card about the equipment’s history and purpose.
I really enjoyed the scientific humor with cards like Patent and Research Grant cards which have illustrations of printing money and money falling from a tree. These images evoked the feeling of how a scientist or team of scientists must feel when they receive a grant or patent–namely the more reliable access to funding for their research feels like a godsend of support.
I really enjoyed Lab Wars for how it simplified and improved upon the resource generation and card abilities that I’m used to with other, more complex card games like Magic the Gathering. Players are always producing at least 2 Research a turn and all the lab items have multiple uses which gives players a lot of options to set up their winning strategy. Even with the variety of items, actions and strategy, the overall goal is to have the most points in the Impact Cards which helps players keep their focus narrowed on the end goal. As someone who is used to playing a lot of fantasy and sci fi games with orcs, gold, swords, etc it was refreshing to play a card game with a completely different themed set of equipment and resources.
The images you see in this article are the prototype cards and game components. Lab Wars is currently on Kickstarter and their backers can expect custom Research tokens, high quality cards and many other upgrades depending on the Kickstarter campaign’s success. If you love science and card games, I definitely recommend backing Lab Wars! Backers have already unlocked 5 stretch goals and there are plenty of more additions to this game that you shouldn’t miss like the Legends of Science expansion pack.