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A frequent question I receive is: “What is a good game for kids?” While there are many games out there geared toward families and children, I recently came across a game that should definitely be on your list if you have kids. It is called Panic Lab, and it checks off all the right boxes. It features cutesy art, is easy to set up and teach, has almost zero down time, requires skill to win, and it enhances perception and pattern recognition.
In Panic Lab, something happened at the science laboratory and the amoebas have run amok. It is your job to catch them before they escape. The game is set up by shuffling, then arranging, all of tiles into a circle. That’s it for the set up; I told you it was easy. After this, the start player will roll all four of the custom dice. Now, the fun begins.
Each dice represents a quality that all players are simultaneously looking for. There is a lab die that tells the players which laboratory the amoeba escaped from and which direction it went. This is where you’ll start the hunt. The other dice make up the qualities of the specific amoeba you’re looking for this turn. There is one dice for the color, one for the shape, and one for the pattern of the amoeba in question. After the dice have been rolled, all of the players quickly hunt for the correct amoeba. The first player to touch the correct amoeba tile gains a victory point token. The game ends when one player earns five victory points. But watch out! If you select an incorrect amoeba you’ll turn in a victory point instead of gain one.
It might sound straightforward, and to a degree it is, but the dice roll unleashes some controlled chaos (and laughter). With everyone looking for the same amoeba at the same time, a mad dash, and almost panic is created as each player franticly searches for the correct tile. When adults are playing, it can get rather feisty with multiple people spotting the correct amoeba at almost the exact same time. Sometimes, it comes down to whose finger/hand is on the bottom of the pile. After the point is awarded, it becomes the next player’s turn to roll the dice and the process is repeated.
For younger children, those from about 5 – 7 years old, the above method of play is recommended. For older children and adults, the game also comes with tiles that represent air vents and mutation rooms, which add extra dynamics of gameplay. Amoebas can pass from one air vent to another, making them more difficult to find. There are three types of mutation room, each one changing a different aspect of the amoeba’s appearance when it passes through it. Both the air vents and mutation rooms really step up the difficulty of Panic Lab. Throw in a group of people (Panic Lab handles up to 10 players) and you’ve got a recipe for fun.
Panic Lab comes in a nice tin box with a notched lid, which means it stays closed when it is supposed to. The tiles, tokens, and custom dice are all high quality. The rulebook is short and sweet, but contains easy to understand images so there is almost no room for misinterpretation.
Panic Lab is a fun game that is suitable for almost anyone. If you are looking for a children’s game, Panic Lab is a great choice as it encourages pattern recognition. In order to win, children will have to quickly decipher the type of amoeba they are searching for and in which direction to start searching. For younger kids, Panic Lab makes a great teaching tool where each child takes a turn individually, as opposed to each turn being a free for all. This way the child can take their time to figure out what the dice results mean and can more easily learn from any mistakes they might make. Panic Lab is fun for adults too. My wife is fairly competitive and when we play together we end up basically slapping the tiles (very forcefully) in order to claim them. She’s usually pretty quick, and my finger/hand usually ends up on top of hers, undeniably meaning she touched the tile first. Overall, Panic Lab is a game worthy of your growing game collection.