Monster Lab card game

Game Overview:  Playing as a mad scientist, you will be gathering spare monster parts from the graveyard.  Looking for parts that have the same sizes and DNA, you will combine the parts to create crazy and humorous monsters.  By using the monsters you have created and by also storing monster parts in your storeroom, you are trying to have five monster samples to win the game.  Beware though as players can attack you and play cards directly attacking your lab.  In addition, you always have to watch out for Monster Hunter’s that may be found in the graveyard as you attempt to gather the parts needed to be victorious.

Box Contents: A card based game in which you will find 316 cards within the box along with the rules manual and 10 custom dice.  The cards are very well made and the art is simply outstanding.  The art alone really sets this game apart from others.  There is a lot of humor mixed in with the cards as well, if you take the time to appreciate them.

There is a plastic insert within the box which has a spot to store the dice and the cards.  However, the top few cards in each compartment over fill and they can just slide around within the box.  Having the rules manual on top of the cards and with the pressure of the box, it does somewhat keep the cards in place.

Clarity of Rules: The rules manual is in a brochure type of format that is folded up to fit into the box.  There are 9 sections when fully opened with the instructions on one side and the other side includes a quick reference section along with alternative rules that can be used.

While the manual includes everything that is needed, we feel it would have been better if things were a little better organized.  It describes actions in one part of the manual and then it provides a more detailed explanation later on.

This is a game that for us, we had to keep the rules manual handy for the first few rounds to remember and understand the terms that are used.  Remembering the differences between what is considered your workshop versus your storeroom were the most confusing for players when trying to learn the game.

Game Play:  Initially players are given two cards from both the graveyard deck and the lab deck.  In the graveyard, you will find different monster parts.  You will fine heads, torsos, and feet.  Each card will have a half-colored circle which represents the size of the monster (red=large and yellow=small).  They will also have a symbol that signifies one of the four DNA samples associated with the monster parts.

Within the lab card deck, you will find both experiment cards and equipment cards.  The experiment cards are a single use card that can be played on the other mad scientists to disrupt their plans or can be held onto to stop actions from being done to you.  The equipment cards are played onto monsters that you have built.  They may allow you to add or roll additional dice or take extra attack cards into your hand.

Each player is also given four lab defense cards.  These cards represent your life and once they are gone, you are eliminated from the game.

When it is a player’s turn, they will first take the top card from the graveyard.  If it is a spare monster part, they can take the card into their hand.  If they draw a monster hunter card, they must roll a single die.  Each die has block and attack symbols on it.  If you get a block for the die result, you stop the monster hunter and continue your turn.  If you fail to roll a block, your turn ends immediately and you are forced to lose a monster you have built or a lab defense card.

If you avoided a monster hunter, your turn continues with you taking two actions.
  • Build a Monster- Place a completed monster from your hand onto the table (workshop).  You must have the required top, middle, and bottom sections and the half circle colors must match up.  You will want to try and match up as many DNA symbols as possible as it gives you a better chance at winning any attack that you initiate.
  • Resupply- Draw from the face down lab cards or review the top 3 discarded cards from the graveyard and take one into your hand.
  • Reinforce- Discard a previously built monster from your workshop to gain another lab defense card (maximum of five) and draw a single lab card.
  • Conduct Research- Place any three spare part monster cards that have matching DNA (the body types do not matter) into your storeroom to start a research project.  On subsequent turns, after drawing from the graveyard you will roll 2 dice and if you have three of a kind for any symbol, you are successful and you gain a Monster Sample card which goes towards your victory points.
  • Battle- This requires both of your actions and allows you to attack a rival lab if you have previously built a monster in your workshop.

When a battle is initiated, the attacking player you will roll a die for each DNA sample that matches with a maximum of three dice being rolled.  For each hit symbol that is rolled, you will draw an attack card to play against the player you are attacking.  The defender will roll a die for each lab defense card they have remaining.  For each block symbol that is rolled, you will take a defense card.  An alternative option if you are low on defense cards is that you can take a defense card for each monster you have built into your workshop.

The attack and defense cards each have 18 cards in the deck.  Starting with the player that is attacking, each player will play a single card they drew.  This may result in nothing happening as the attack or defensive action failed, up to some very powerful actions where you destroy one of your opponent’s lab defense cards while earning a monster sample.

At the end of the turn, players must get down to seven cards by discarding any extra cards they have.

Play continues with each player taking a turn until someone has a total of 5 monster samples that they have earned.  Building a monster and with it still being in your workshop will count as a single monster sample as well.

Replay Ability: The bulk of the game play comes from the lab (108) and graveyard (120) cards and with the shear number of cards; it leads to a lot of replay ability.  With the number of monster cards that you can mix and match there is an amazing number of combinations that can be created and one that’s not likely to be seen from game to game.

In addition to the normal rules, the manual provides some different ways to play the game with having kids and the casual gamer in mind where the lab cards and the direct attacking with the dice not being used.

One option that adds to the replay ability is assigning one of the ten scientist cards to each player.  These provide special abilities for that player during the game.  In our opinion, these should be used each game.

Appropriate Audience: The game suggests 14+.  We feel that is appropriate for this game as there are a few risqué cards (art and language) that may not be appropriate for younger children.  However, a parent could take out any of the cards they deem questionable and it would not take away from the game and then someone younger could easily play.  Just be aware that reading is an important part of the game and if you are using the normal rules, you will likely be directly attacking other players and taking away their cards or monsters.

What We Liked/Didn't Like: If you are a fan of Munchkin, you will find some similarities here.  Instead of knocking at the door, you are exploring the graveyard.  Your turn ends if you can’t defeat the Monster Hunter (monster in Munchkin) that is found in the graveyard.  As the game progresses, it is more about everyone trying to gang up on the player that is in the lead.  I want to note that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Munchkin definitely has their fans and I don’t mind playing it from time to time.

The game mechanics do go further trying to set it self apart.  Creating the monsters is by far the most enjoyable part of the game.  There are so many combinations that you can create.  A very simple addition to the cards really brings the humor out with a short description and after creating the monster, reading the description on each card out loud gives a little back story to the monster you just created.

We like the attacking mechanic with being awarded attack cards based on the monster you created.  It is always a difficult decision when you have three cards with matching DNA.  Do you put them in your storeroom or maximize your attack power by building a monster, if you can.  Even though we really like this part of the game, sometimes the attack phase falls flat on its face as neither the attacker or defender comes away with anything it just ends up wasting your turn.

One thing that we noticed that may cause issues for players is that some of the cards have a very small font on them.  This is typically seen on some of the lab cards, the monster hunter cards, and the quick reference cards.

The biggest complaint we have concerning the game is that there can be a lot of downtime between turns.  It gets a little better as you become more familiar with the game.  However, it still occurs especially when players have to resolve the battles.

Add-ons/Other Releases:  n/a

          ** A review copy was provided to us.