In Scoville hot peppers, and even hotter pots of chili made from those peppers, are king. There's only room for one winner in Scoville, and it can be difficult to plant, cross-breed, and harvest the peppers you want and need with your pesky opponents constantly getting in your way, either by physically blocking your path to the plants you want to harvest, or planting an inferior pepper in the plot of land that you had planned to plant your own peppers in. The competition in Scoville is as hot as ever, so if you want to win, you'd better be prepared to start genetically modifying peppers in your Lab where your pesky opponents can't interfere with your plans.
Scoville Labs is essentially a more-stuff style expansion. It adds more recipes, more Market cards, more wooden and plastic peppers (no new pepper varieties, just more pepper components), and a set of new player aids that are both smaller and use a different visual to show the results of each pepper cross-breeding combination. Scoville Labs also gives each player another token that can be used to plant an extra pepper on their turn, which is a key addition thanks to this expansion's main addition: the Lab.
When using the Labs, each player begins the game with their very own Lab tile. Players can only access their own Lab, and it's entirely up to them what kinds of peppers they will plant there, and thus, what cross-breeds they can harvest from their Lab. The first pepper planted in the Lab doesn't provide any return, but each subsequent pepper planted will allow the player to cross breed it with any pepper it was planted adjacent to. The Lab can be a powerful tool and is a great way for players to access rare peppers, or it can simply be used to crank out as many peppers as possible.
There are only nine slots total in each player's 3x3 Lab, so it pays to plan your Lab layout carefully. If you plant in the corner of your Lab first, you can create a steady progression of peppers on your way to the rarer, more sought after peppers. If you start in the center of your Lab, you can harvest peppers more often. Equally important to how you plant your peppers in your Lab is when you plant them. Getting an early start can get you some much needed peppers early in the game, but waiting until you have the harder to get varieties can net you a good supply of rare peppers.
With the access to more peppers, especially more rare peppers, end-game scores using Scoville Labs tend to be higher, and more peppers tend to get sold directly for cash using Labs, because players add the peppers in their lab to the ones in the field when determining cash-value. The race to grab hard to make chili recipes is tighter with Labs as well, because players can't strategically block the other players from accessing the peppers that they grow in their Lab. The Labs do add a neat layer of strategy to the game that works in parallel to the core mechanics of the game rather than changing them significantly.
The Bottom Line:
All told, Scoville Labs is a good addition to the game, but it's only a must-buy for players who don't like it when their opponents block their path through the field or beat them to the punch when planting peppers in prime locations. Those things still happen when using Labs, but now players have a chance to make specific pepper combinations without interference. More recipe and Market variety is nice, especially the Market cards that can be used as an extra action, but there isn't really anything here that will "fix" the game for you if you didn't like it to begin with. If you do like Scoville, then this expansion is a solid purchase, especially because the Labs can be used or left out by simply including or excluding the Lab boards. It can be a nice change of pace to switch back and forth between Labs and no-Labs, which increases replayability without adding any needless complexity.
The copy of Scoville Labs used for this review was provided by Tasty Minstrel Games.
Scoville Labs is a good expansion to Scoville, but doesn't quite reach the must-have level. The Lab is a fun addition when you really want to be able to strategize without interference. The new recipe and Market cards add variety, and can be left shuffled in even if you decide to play without the Labs themselves.(Review Policy)