Board Game Review: The Manhattan Project

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Board Game Review: The Manhattan Project

Postby Rick » Sat Nov 02, 2013 7:12 am

Last night Tyson, Shawn and I played The Manhattan Project (by Minion Games) for the first time. It is a worker placement game with a decidedly non-Euro theme: building atomic bombs. The win condition is simple: the first player to reach a certain number of bomb points (based on number of players) wins. I won't get into too much detail here as there are plenty of in-depth reviews out there, hopefully this will be enough to get people interested in at least trying the game. The game was released in 2012, was nominated for several awards and is already in its third printing.


The mechanics are fairly simple: you must mine yellowcake, refine it into Uranium or Plutonium and then use those elements to construct bombs. Seems very simple but after a single play the complexity was apparent. Below is the game synopsis from the Minion Games web site:
The Manhattan Project is a low-luck, mostly open information efficiency game in which players compete to build and operate the most effective atomic bomb program. Players do not "nuke" each other, but conventional air strikes are allowed against facilities.

The game features worker placement with a twist: there are no rounds and no end-of-round administration. Players retrieve their workers when they choose to or are forced to (by running out).

An espionage action allows a player to activate and block an opponent's building, representing technology theft and sabotage.

Turn Phases
The turns are deceptively simple as there are only two choices: place workers or recall workers. Recalling workers really is simple, you just pull back all your workers from the main board and your personal board, you also pull back any Contractor workers (more about those in a moment) from the main board. That's it, your turn is done.

If you choose to place workers then there are two phases, both optional. Phase One is to place exactly one worker on the main board, Phase Two is to place as many workers as you want on your personal board. There's a twist here in that if you placed on the single Espionage space on the main board then you may place one (or more depending on how many times you have taken the Espionage space in the course of the game) workers on one or more other player mats.

The complexity here is that you can chain together your placements. For example there are three types of workers: faceless laborers (you start with four of these), engineers and scientists (neither of which you have at the start). Certain spaces on the main board require engineers or scientists as do the buildings you may place on your player board. You can however place a laborer on a Univeristy space on the main board in Phase One, then take the resulting engineer worker and place it on a building on your player board which might in turn give you a yellowcake. You can then take that yellowcake and some money and place a scientist worker on another building to produce Uranium.

Closing Thoughts
There are other twists that make this an interesting game to me. For example everyone has fighter planes and bombers. You can load a completed bomb into a bomber for five VP. You can also send bombers against other players' building to render them useless until the player takes the single Repair space on the main board. To me that might be the most un-Euro thing about this worker placement game: you can directly attack other players.

I think that anyone who enjoys Lords of Waterdeep should give this game a try. It's not as dry as your typical Euro where you might be farming or transporting goods via rail or waterway. It also has the direct player interaction that many Euro games lack. I have the small Nations expansion (which is just six nation cards that give you a unique action) but there is also a larger expansion "Second Stage" which I have not yet seen so there is also room for growth. I think there is a lot of replayability in the base game though so I won't be playing expansions in the near future.

BGG Page: ... an-project
Publisher Page: ... er-en.html



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