Just one beaker or poorly placed bag of powder and a laboratory may be gone. Poof! Just like that. And yet, scientists are not bulit to work together. They must compete against each other, wherever they are. At least in the game Lab Wars it works like this. We got a chance to try it in the form of preprint version. A campaing runs on Kickstarter these days, with goal to fund release of this game. Designers are Caezar Al-Jassar and Kula Heer.
In final form, there will probably be a smaller card box waiting for us. It will be full of cards (and a set of tokens). Within the game, players each have team of five scientists under their control and also receive (and will be collecting more) laboratory items.
Each round, you choose one character in hand to use his services in a given round. The main element of the gameplay is usage of item cards, whether players use them from the hand or common stock in the middle of the table. They are activated after play, but some require also rotation by ninety degrees and thus deplete their forces. Rotation not only blocks this card for your remaining turn time, but also for other players, who will be using same kind of card. But whether it is a card played from the hand or on the table, it is necessary to pay for a certain amount of research points for such action.
Using the card, players receive additional research points or draw more items. Using the correct option (some offer more) is an important element of the gameplay. All cards and actions are a means to gain influence cards (and with them also points), which are provided by a special pile. It has a higher purchase price (raising as cards are bought) and they are not easy to acquire. Duel ends, when drawing deck is emptied. Player with the highest combined point score is the winner.
Lab Wars is not a game, that would like to surprise you with complexity. On the contrary, it relies on the simplicity of the gameplay, although icons on cards do not comply with that. Especially those on laboratory item cards do not seem very intuitive and uncluttered, but we have to note, that this is a development version of the game.
Game puts great emphasis on conflict. We did not accent this fact with our rule description, but its true. Individual role of scientists will have different interactions among themselves, that can reduce points of influence or allow players to gain special bonuses. Purchase cards in each round pushes Lab Wars towards deck-bulding, but these cards remain usually placed directly on the table, so no deck there.
But in the end, conflict is precisely reason, why we will remember Lab Wars. Everyone is piling cards in front of him. Surprisingly, players have plenty of opportunities to spoil efforts of their opponents. And that’s good, because there is never enough of these harmful games.
Already from this overall picture painted in our preview, it is clear, that Lab Wars are definitely not for everyone. The game is very simple and drawing of laboratory instruments is too luck dependent. But just the lightweight of conflicting fun is the field, in which Lab Wars excel. So if you are happy to play these relaxing and nasty card games, then you should grab this chance and support it.