In Monster Lab, you are a mad scientist trying to patch together enough of your monstrous creations to collect monster samples. Collect enough and you can create the Formula for World Domination. But be careful and pay attention because your rivals are trying to achieve the same thing. And there are Monster Hunters about trying to stop you all.

There have been a lot of games in the past few years that let you build monsters or robots as a mechanic. I have reviewed several of them and played a few others, so I was very excited to give this one a try. Let’s see how it turned out:

So what do we do here next n the Lab? Actually, there’s a lot going on. We have a research division where you combine DNA and try to complete your project. We build Monsters with parts that we get from the Graveyard. And, of course, we use our Monsters to attack other Labs.

The whole point here is to collect Monster Samples. You can do this in a number of ways:

   *Building a Monster in your Workshop (clearly the most fun way – I mean you’re  creating monsters so of course it’s the best). Each completed Monster counts as a Monster Sample.

   *Completing Research in your Lab (also pretty fun since your playing with DNA)

   *Collect a Monster Sample card (either by winning one in a Battle or by stealing one from an opponent)

Collect 5 Monster Samples (Monsters or Cards) and you win.

There is of course another way to win, eliminate all of your opponents. All players start with 4 Lab Defense cards. These are basically your hit points. Run out and you are eliminated.

Each player’s turn consists of 3 parts (in this order): Visit the Graveyard, Complete Research and Work in the Lab.

1. Visit the Graveyard: at the start of your turn you draw one Graveyard card. If it’s a Spare Part card add it to your hand and continue your turn. If you draw a Monster Hunter card, you must defend yourself.

To defend you roll 1 Die. If you roll any Blocks you succeed. If you don’t, you must sacrifice either one of your Monsters or one of your Lab Defense cards. If the Mobster Hunters Attack succeeds, your turn is immediately over.

2. Complete Research: if you have an active Research Project currently in your storeroom, you will attempt to complete it. Roll 2 dice. If you roll 3 of anything (3 hits or 3 blocks) your Project is complete. Turn in your Project for a Monster Sample card. If not, you’ll just have to wait til next turn.

3. Work in the Lab: lots of choices here. You can up to 2 actions.

Build a Monster. Use 3 Spare Parts cards from your hand to build a Monster in your Workshop. Each Monster must consist of a Top, Middle and Bottom part. And their size must match up. This is done by matching up the color dots on the left side of each Spare Part. Each complete Monster in your Workshop counts as a Monster Sample.

Resupply. Draw a Lab card or take the top 3 cards from the Graveyard discard pile and choose 1 to add to your hand.

Reinforce. Discard one of your Monsters in your Workshop to gain a Lab Defense card and 1 Lab card.

Conduct Research. Place 3 Spare Parts from your hand with matching DNA symbols into your Storeroom so that you can attempt to complete your Research next turn.

Battle. (Takes 2 Actions). Attack an opponent’s Lab with one of your Monsters. For each matching DNA symbol on your Monster you roll a Die (so a max of 3). For each Hit you roll draw an Attack card. The Defending player rolls a die for every Lab Defense card they have left. For each Block they roll, they draw one Defense card. Starting with the Attacker you then take turns playing these cards until the Battle is resolved.

That’s all the things you can do. Whew! That’s a lot of options.

So how does it play?

Really well. The game is a lot of fun. You do have a bunch of different options, which is good, and for the most part, they are relatively simple so turns go pretty quick. It never takes too long for it to get back around to your turn. In fact, the game is just about right as far as total time goes. The fact that Monsters and Monster Sample Cards both count towards your total helps a lot. You can also get Monster Sample cards in Battles and by Stealing them using Lab cards. So it’s possible to obtain a bunch of samples on one turn (the most I ever got was 2 but I saw 3 in one turn).

Combining Spare Parts into Monsters is by far the best part of the game. The illustrations on the Monsters are great and their flavor text is maybe even better. When we play, we are constantly reading the text out loud and giggling. Losing your favorite Monster actually feels bad, but hey, since you can only have 3 at a time, they gotta go sometime.

The Lab cards are, in my opinion some of the most fun you can have in the game. There are a bazillion of them, and each one adds some benefit to you or some problem for your opponent. Don’t sleep on the Lab cards.

The Battle system is probably the only thing about the game that I thought could be better. I wasn’t really a fan of rolling dice and then playing cards. I do like the fact that the luck of the dice rolls are mitigated somewhat by the ability to pick which cards you use, but sometimes the cards are duds, so I still failed. It isn’t bad, just could be better. Since Battling wasn’t my favorite, I spent most games building and researching. I also didn’t win very many games, so I do think the Battles are important. I have played Monster/Robot builders that don’t have enough going on with the actual creations and I was left wanting, and the Battles definitely prevents this game from falling into that category. I just never personally focused on Battling.

The game is also pretty well balanced. I never felt like I was so far behind that I couldn’t make a comeback. Until I was out that is. I don’t usually like games with straight up player elimination, but this one really didn’t bother me that much since the fewer players, the faster it goes, and I never sat out for very long.

There is a healthy bit of Luck built into the game, both with the Dice rolling and with the Attack and Defense cards (sometimes you draw a bunch that are just not very good). In addition the game adds the Take That element with the Battles and the Lab cards which make sure players are interacting with each other and fully engaged the whole time.

And just so you never get bored with the game, there are Mad Scientist role cards that add variable player powers. Huzzah!

Lab Results?

Overall the game has a very nice feel to it. The artwork is super fun, and the flavor text on the Spare Parts really brings the whole game together for me. Where else can you find “a Fun Loving Party Goblin That was badly stitched together and loves online gaming?”

This is definitely where this game shines.

I always felt like I had plenty of options, even if I had just been attacked. Our games usually came down to combos that cause one player to get 2 or 3 samples on their turn and push their total to 5, instead of the slow creep towards victory. Only one of the many games that we played ended in an elimination victory, although I seemed to be eliminated quite often. That just means I got to start plotting my revenge early, right?

If you like bringing monsters to life out of spare parts that you just stole from a graveyard you’re really going to enjoy this game. So put on your lab coat, work on your evil laugh and give Monster Lab a try.  (Lightning not included).

Ninja Approved!

Liam McIntyre sent us Monster Lab in exchange for an honest review (which took way too long for us to get completed – sorry Liam), and that’s exactly what we provided.