Lab Rats

Players 1
Length 20 minutes
Equipment Required single standard piecepack
Designer Mark A. Biggar
Version 1.1
Version Date 2004-07
License Copyright 2003, 2004 Mark A. Biggar under the GNU free doc license , dual-licensed CC BY-SA 4.0


Build a maze and then navigate your rat (pawn), from the start of the maze to its exit, using a limited number of moves. Warning, the layout for this solitaire can take up a lot of table space; this is not one you will be playing on an airplane seat tray.


Design Notes

  1. the hardest part of this game was figuring out a way to prevent the inward spiral of death when building the maze. Unfortunately, I never did come up with a good set of rules for that, so I punted, and just said that the player could back out tiles as he saw fit to fix things.
  2. It is still possible of construct a maze that no sequence of coins will navigate, but that empirically appears to only happen about 1 time in 50.
  3. the first version of this game used coins drawn from a bag for movement. The player started by drawing three coins, and then either using one for movement or permanently discarding one and then drawing a replacement. This turned out to be too hard, as it was too easy to be forced to discard coins you would need for later. So I tried discarding back into the bag. That was too easy, as a player could just recycle coins until he got the one he wanted. I tried several other methods, until I came up with the three stacks and the backing up rules, which made the game just about right.

Reviews & Comments

This was an entry in the SolitaryConfinement contest. -- Mark A. Biggar

Comments from the contest judge Phillip Lerche

Lab Rats: Another solid solitaire. I did get a bit bored eventually with the time taken setting out the maze each time - and once or twice it was a bit frustrating because I needed quite a bit of space to do so (I played mostly on a smallish table). I did wonder if it might not be quicker to roll all 4 dice at a time then build 4 pieces of the maze before rolling again. Gameplay was good, and I thought the rules for backing your rat up were good, too, giving the feeling of a rat running back and forth in the maze. The variant did indeed make it much harder, I think I preferred playing without it (compared to variants in some of the other games where I generally preferred the tougher versions).

I tried this game today a couple of times. As suggested by Phillip, I rolled all four dice simultaneously and used the suit order to set each of the 4 tiles each time, to set the board faster. What I also did was if a tile would have to be played illegally, I just chose the next legal angle. This also saved some setup time. The first game was very easy, the track had two long straights and I was able to use a couple of blank coins to traverse them very quickly. I think I was very lucky with the coin draw because the actual gameplay was much shorter than the setup :) The second game was more difficult, and I had to backtrack a bit. The beginning had two tight turns and at one point I thought it was going to be impossible to get past the second turn, but finally I was lucky and got a couple of low coins... My first impression is quite good, but I think the variant where you cannot back track might make the game too luck dependant. Maybe another variant to make the game more difficult would be to remove or limit the null coins... -JorgeArroyo

Solitaire game in which a rat (pawn) has to walk through a long tunnel (tiles arranged according to throws of one die) by means of coins (choose one out of the top coins of three available piles), which are placed under the rat before each move (or lack thereof, if the rat can't advance). The rat has got the option to walk back the tunnel in order to retrieve coins, one at a time.

The premise of building the tunnel by throwing the die makes the game stand out but, at the same time, it is the source of a big issue in the gameplay: the value of the coins needs to be used exactly to move in a straight line, meaning that short bends can only be taken with coins of value 3 or less. Thus, tracks with lots of bends can't be finished with the standard set of coins in a Piecepack. Often this can be perceived during the setup of the game, rendering the rest of the play futile.

If the game has enough long stretches, it can be entertaining to give it a go and watch the rat going back and forth until the right coins for the next boost or bend appear.

-- Antonio Recuenco Muñoz


BGG page:

CategoryGame SolitaireThemedGamesCategory RaceSimpleCategory MechanicRandomBoardCategory