Review: Dr. Eureka

Blue Orange has yet another smash hit in their line-up with the brand new Dr. Eureka, a fun and frantic game of logic and dexterity for kids and adults alike. Dr. Eureka challenges players (“scientists”) to mix up volatile “experiments” in particular combinations before their opponents can do the same. The scientist who can match his or her own experiments to the featured formula before anyone else will get to keep that recipe and earn the favor of the entire laboratory.

The game components for Dr. Eureka are rather unique, consisting of a set of three plastic test tubes for each player which are filled with two each of red, green, and purple balls, or “molecules”. There is also a deck of fifty-four challenge cards, with each card featuring a particular formula – a combination of molecules spread differently throughout the three test tubes. The object in each round of play is for the participating scientists to copy the face-up formula by manipulating their pattern of molecules to match what’s on the card.

Game play is fast and really easy to jump into. As soon as the challenge card is flipped up in view of all players, everyone immediately picks up their three test tubes and proceeds to “mix” up their molecules by pouring the colored balls back and forth between tubes. It takes a considerable amount of foresight and logic to determine the fastest way to stack certain molecules on top of or underneath other ones, and the fact that it’s a race between all players adds a level of frantic pressure to the undertaking. There are two basic restrictions to the formula-making process: one, players may not at any time touch the molecules with their fingers, and two, molecules are never allowed to touch the table or the floor (or any other surface upon which is being played). If either of these conditions are breached, that player is out for the rest of the round.

The first scientist to correctly match their experiment with what is on the challenge card places their test tubes down and shouts “Eureka!” to signal they’ve finished. If their pattern is correct, the card is retained for a point, and five points wins the game. As an added shortcut for sharp players, test tubes may be placed on the playing surface upside-down, thereby flipping the sequence of certain molecules, if it would help to match the correct pattern in the shortest amount of time.

Dr. Eureka is somewhat of a departure from most other board games in that it’s strongly focused on pattern-matching and fine motor skills, requiring equal parts logical thinking and manual dexterity. Some might consider it more of a puzzle than a traditional game, and it can in fact be played solo simply by trying to match the featured formula in the fewest number of moves (much like ThinkFun‘s fantastic line of puzzle games). Replay value is tremendous, as the challenge deck gets shuffled before each game and subsequent challenges are started from the last configuration of each player’s experiment in the previous round. Essentially, this assures that players can’t really memorize the formulae and that the game will be different each time it’s played. Because play is so fast, we’ve found that it’s sometimes fun to extend the gaming session by raising the points requirement needed for victory. The game also comes with a couple of optional rules like Expert Mode, which requires players to hold all three test tubes throughout the entire challenge, and Puzzle Mode, which grants points to the players who can solve each challenge using the fewest moves (similar to solo play).

For $19.99, we’re hard-pressed to think of a better value in the store for the amount of fun that players of all ages can have with Dr. Eureka. The box says it’s for ages 8+, but kids as young as 6 will likely have no problem learning the simple rules, and most should be able to compete with adults due to the strong visual component of the game. We’re planning on putting Dr. Eureka in our Best Of 2016 Holiday Gift Guide, and that should be a clear hint about how strong we think the game really is. Next time you’re in the store, come give our giant-sized demo version a try – in the name of science, of course!

– Darren

If you like: Mastermind, Tower of Hanoi, Castle Logix
You’d definitely enjoy: Dr. Eureka
MRP: $19.99
Designer: Roberto Fraga
Produced by: Blue Orange Games