Review: The Manhattan Project (Board Game)

Accountancy in the Cold War

Designer: Brandon Tibbetts
Publisher: Minion games
Number of Player: 2-5
Playtime: 120 minutes
Release Date: Available Now


Let’s start this off with a qualifier. I like maths. I’m also (by profession) a project manager. These are two factors you should probably take into account when looking at the score above because to anyone else this game might feel more like admin than fun.

The Manhattan Project is a gorgeously art-worked worker placement game with a style similar to the more broadly appealing Power Grid. Like Power Grid this is a game that has little to no element of chance with only a few random elements in the form of shuffled decks of buildings and bomb types. This means that it is heavily skill-based and works best with a group of players who all have a similar level of experience with the game.

Players take it in turns to place one of their chunky cardboard workers onto a slot in the main board and spread any additional workers across the building cards they gradually collect in front of them. These workers then produce goods such as money, more educated workers, fighter planes and bombers (for a limited form of PVP) and the ingredients for their nuclear warheads. Areas on the main board also allow players to purchase additional buildings, prepare nuclear warheads, launch attacks on other players or even use espionage to place their own workers in their opponent’s factories.

The idea is to gradually build up an engine; a looping series of moves that results in the refinement of enough raw materials and the creation of enough educated workers that the player is able to build, test and load the bomb cards in their possession and earn precious Victory Points.

The mechanics are clear and the complexity escalates at a manageable pace but these actions are so abstract that it’s hard to really picture your own nuclear-capable nation beyond the pile of cubes, cards and coins that sit in front of you. In addition the sheer amount of housekeeping that builds up can make turns last a frustratingly long time and if you’re taking the game super seriously this can grow exponentially as every action must be carefully considered for fear of opening your strategy up for exploitation by an opponent.

But it’s the housekeeping that I find appealing, that gentle maintenance and optimisation of a clockwork system that I have built myself and is uniquely mine; like the nerdiest parts of Civilization, Sim City or a 60’s themed SpaceChem. At the end of a game a good engine is something you want to walk the table through as you demonstrate how you developed the tactics you had formerly kept so close to your chest.

The Manhattan Project is one of those titles that’s played in silence but its results are discussed for an hour.

Not one for the family dinner table then, but with the right group of people it’s an excellent two hour workout for the brain.

Great artwork and production
Intelligent game design
Extremely re-playable
Games last forever
A lot of waiting between turns
Not for everyone

The funnest way to find out who wins at spreadsheets.

Review copy provided byEsdevium Games.
Official Game Site

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