Updated: Nov 2, 2022
It's no secret I am a fan of micro games and pocket games. These are small, portable games that you can take with you and play almost anywhere with a fairly small surface. Button Shy is one company that has a subscription model for regularly releasing this type of game.
Recently, I was intrigued by an announcement by Weird Giraffe Games that they would be releasing a pocket game in the same vein. The name of the game is Explosion in the Laboratory and it is a small 18 card type game with a single rule sheet. It also fits into the company's Fire in the Library push your luck series. After all, why not burn the whole building down in some way?
Explosions in the Laboratory was designed by Corey Andalora with art by Jay Bell. The rules may still be in process, but I had to reach out to the designer for a couple small clarifications. Once we got that out of the way, we were able to enjoy a few games. I know my 10 year old enjoys a game when he immediately asks if we can play again, even when he loses. He did that with this game.
The principles of the game are simple. Each player has up to 3 flasks. These flasks are essentially virtual at first, but you will lay out the lab cards randomly and compare the numbers on the first last card to gain a chemical.
This chemical will be the number you got from the cards, found on the card that matches your current number of danger symbols. As the game progresses, you will gain access to different chemical cards as your chance for more points goes up. Concurrently, your chance to explode and make things go wrong goes up too. Thankfully, there is a small consolation prize in the form of gaining a Process Card.
Process cards aren't game breaking, but they are fun and add another layer of choice and randomness to the game. They can also be gained by making a double yellow or double blue concoction in one of your three flasks. I guess I forgot to mention the most chemicals you may have during your turn is six.
Once we cleared up the rules it was an intuitive game; we didn't have to keep referencing the rules. Although the randomness of gaining chemicals we wouldn't necessarily anticipate seemed daunting at first, we found that usually you were going to get something you wanted. Choosing to press your luck rewarded players with increasing points and led to the type of fun I expect in a game like this. Players can get points both through the chemicals they have made and also accessing Beaker Cards which reward additional points. These beakers rotate as they are used and add danger symbols to the game. The game ends when one of the Beaker Cards is turned so that an "X" is showing at the bottom of the card.
Pocket or micro games need to be good in order for me to actually make use of their size and take them with me. I currently have a couple of go to games in this category: Sprawlopolis probably being my primary. One of my personal criteria to stay near the top of what I want to play is a good solo mode. The solo mode in Explosions in the Library was fine the first time I played it. I played it again, and didn't feel as if I was making very meaningful choices. The game works, but isn't a stand out solo game.
Despite this, I look forward to seeing the game completed. This game would be one I would select to share with people at a restaurant or other crowded table. I could even see myself take this game along traveling if I wasn't alone. Just because it's not near the top of my solo choices, doesn't mean it isn't a good pocket game. It fits well into the category of games I want to play with other people.
Explosion in the Laboratory
Teaching 8/10 *(Future rules may improve)
Aesthetics ? (Pre-production copy)
Time 20 Minutes
Mechanics: Push your Luck, Competitive