Review: Dr. Microbe
Designers: Roberto Fraga, Delphine Lemonnier
Artist: Stéphane Escapa
Publisher: Blue Orange Games
Category: Dexterity, Logic, Kids, Family
Player Count: 2-4
2015 was an absolutely insane year for board gaming, so it’s easy to forget just how many amazing games came out alongside Pandemic Legacy, Codenames, and Blood Rage. Dr. Eureka was a highly successful family game from Blue Orange Games, combining dexterity and logic with some fun twists on the classic Towers of Hanoi puzzle. They even managed to package the game in a way that made STEM education look fun! The game was successful enough to warrant two spinoffs, Dr. Microbe and Dr. Beaker. Let’s find out how well Dr. Microbe compares to its predecessor!
I have only positive things to say about this game in terms of positive or negative influences. The game teaches logic and deduction—important math skills—while its theme promotes STEM education. Most importantly, it is one of the few board games out there prominently featuring women and people of color on the front. THANK YOU, Blue Orange Games!
The general concept of Dr. Microbe is the same as Dr. Eureka. A card is flipped over revealing a layout of game elements, and players race to be the first to reproduce that scenario. There are some major differences beyond that general principle, however. In Dr. Eureka, player interaction is little to none. In Dr. Microbe, however, players use tweezers to grab little plastic microbes from a common pool so it is very easy to get in someone’s way. In fact, the game includes an extra purple virus for its two variants providing advanced ways to mess with your opponents. While those are a bit extreme for our tastes, the simple collisions that happen while trying to grab the same piece gives the game a more proper feeling of playing with people instead of playing beside people.
In addition to the added interaction, Dr. Microbe adds a wonderful deduction element to the game. Overall, you are trying to do much less physically in Dr. Microbe—just trying to find four microbes instead of re-arranging six balls in three different test tubes. The game makes up for this by adding some complex rules about where microbes can go. Every microbe has to be a different shape, and the Superbug (the microbe alone on its side of the petri dish, opposite the other three) must be a unique color from the rest. With these rules in mind, you have to “fill in” the missing microbes from the cards, which only ever have 1-3 microbes on them out of 4. There is almost always more than one right answer, and it is an extremely fun way to give the game a different brain-teasing feel than its predecessor. Dr. Eureka was different in the sense that the challenge was in “programming” the movement of the balls as efficiently as possible.
The gameplay is quite fun and it stands on its own from Dr. Eureka. The other element that caused Dr. Eureka to stand out was its awesome, toy-like components at a very competitive price. Dr. Microbe keeps up that tradition with a sub-$20 MSRP and extremely colorful and fun components—and perhaps most importantly, women and people of color on the cover. My three-year-old daughter loved to mess around with the tubes from Dr. Eureka and she’s having considerably more fun with Dr. Microbe. For whatever reason, she began playing the components the minute she saw the game. I was amazed to watch her actually pick out the correct microbes with the tweezers and put them in her petri dish (of course, she has no idea that you are supposed to deduce the missing microbes). I can’t wait to teach her the full game when she’s old enough in a few years, and we’ll definitely be keeping this one on the shelf until then.
Thank you to Blue Orange Games for providing a review copy of Dr. Microbe.
The Bottom Line
This is easily the best in the "Dr." speed-logic trilogy from Blue Orange Games. It's affordable, educational, adrenaline-pumping fun—an excellent game for both kids and adults.