Review: The Manhattan Project – time to learn to love the bomb

The Manhattan Project - packaging

When Charles came to work, there was rush in the laboratories. He could hear the screams already from the parking lot. But only after he opened the door, he appreciated all the fuss to the fullest. Sabotage, word was coming from the mouth of the tens people in different poses at the same moment. And because he was the chief of security, he became the center of a buzzing hive in a while and people starting to turn towards him. What should he do?

All who participated in the development of the atomic bomb, had a hard job. From the main engineers behind glass walls, who were bombed by demands from the government and other superiors, to the last maid, who had to wade away the plutonium left. It’s time to try out their work.

On the table is waiting a game, that allows us to. It is called and its author is . Game was released by the company and in became probably their most successful game. Yet we have not a chance to play it in our newsroom until more than a year after the first edition, because it was immediately sold out. But in the end, we waited and reprint is here and with it, although a bit late, also this review.

The Manhattan Project - game is ready

Because it makes no sense to hide, that this is a successful and enjoyable game, the more expectations accompany opening of the box. Nothing prevents us from diggin through all the components. But be careful not to them play with them too much, you could build a real bomb! There is everything you need in there, including plutonium!

As a major component waiting for you inside is game board, having an unusual layout and graphic design in the form of clippings mounted on a wall. The lower half is used for placing your workers. Up above is offer of buildings available for construction. Their buying helps you in faster development of the bomb. At the bottom, there are places, where you will place your workers, but also raw materials to pay for actions. On both right and left side are short scales.

For each player-engineers is prepared a small board with ten places to put the buildings on. Above them is a runway that awaits arrival of fighters and bombers. Your airforce power runs from zero to ten. Now these scales need two cardboard tokens – in each of the five player colors is there just one bomber and one fighter. Its all suited well to a board, that has the same color lined across its bottom.

The Manhattan Project - game is ready

Worker pawns also belong among colored components. Each player gets set of twelve of them – four workers, four researchers and four engineers. You can recognize them easily and at first glance, as a scientist is holding a test tube, designer has a notepad and worker is just standing there, waiting for a task.

But also coins are made of cardboard, just like tokens of damage and bomb implosions. Only behind them in line is waiting a deck of cards with fifty buildings and thirty bomb cards. Buildings can be divided into three types – universities, factories and mines. I’m sure you can figure out, which of your employees should attend which building. In contrast, cards of bombs are containing not only the requirement of the workforce, but also two numbers at the bottom representing their point value and symbols corresponding to its financial and fuel costs.

Such a board game certainly can not be short in wooden components – namely yellow cubes (representing uranium) and color tokens. There are dealt at start of match preparation, in which the player choose their color. They will also get a player board and bomber/fighter counters.

The Manhattan Project - game is ready

Rules work as a newspaper copy published on Sunday, 12th September 1945 with the price of three cents. A picture of the mushroom cloud will welcome you as title picture. In front of it are people, who are responsible for it with tube, charts and container of plutonium. The style continues on and guides you simply through course of the game, including many nice graphic examples.

At the beginning of the game, players will receive four workers in their color, while engineers and scientists remain aside, still waiting to be trained. They must wait for their turn to come. By the beginning each of the researchers gets also coins worth $10. Each of the participants places their tokens also on the lowest notch of espionage, plutonium and enriched uranium scales. Few extra dollars are given to later participants as a compensation.

Number of players decides, which implosion chips should you use (only some of them) and placing them into common stock together with other tokens. Two piles of cards also start in the bank, but not all. You will find starting six buildings in the package and put them in the menu on the board. Next to it, you then put random bomb cards – one more, than the number of players in the game.

The Manhattan Project - game in progress

There are only two choices of activities, you can do at the moment, when it’s your turn. Either you send out laborers to work, which will immediately provide some action, or vice versa summon all of them back to your base. In the first case, you also earn opportunity to perform bomb actions.

But in addition to your own permanent staff, you can also hire external workers. They have a neutral gray color and always come from the common stock. You can send employees only on one place on the board per turn, while others can be employed in buildings, you have built. You do not have much choice at the beginning, because your own no properties.

With the help of laborers, you will earn money, buy uranium, increasing your fighting force (train new pilots?), but also can hire new workers and buy buildings (price depends on the position on the market). Everything happens on the board, where space is limited and each box has a slightly different cost. So you have to plan carefully, because you can block others by placing your character. Ingenious is, you will wait not only until the next round, but until the moment, when blocking player calls his pieces back home. In the meantime, the place on board is blocked.

The Manhattan Project - game in progress

There are also two special things. The first one is the pile of bribes. Each time you use action with the red dollar symbol, you place a dollar there. Money in this moneybox represent a reward for the player, who buys the cheapest building in the menu. This ensures, that even the less interesting constructions should find its owner in the end. The second idea, that is worth mentioning, is actions for others. When you activate an advantage for yourself, others can sometimes benefit from it too, if its that type of action.

All these activities are primarily for the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium. For these actions, you need scientists and cubes of natural uranium. But before you will be able to test your small bombs, you need to design them first. You must go with your two figures (scientist and engineer) to a special place on the board. For that, you get all cards from bomb offer and can keep one. But other players get that chance too! You will have the advantage of first choice, but others can take also a card from the remaining ones. All of that for your action. Meanwhile, you must keep it secret!

Which finally gets us to your first live test. You may recall, that the bomb action was complementary option, whenever you play new worker on the board. It is these activities, that will ultimately decide the winner and there are together three: construction, test and loading it in the plane.

The Manhattan Project - game in progress

While only a built bomb has some value, you can raise its value by placing it on the aircraft. This will bring another five points to your victory budget. To build it, you need sufficient staff, but also raw materials – plutonium and enriched uranium, based on type of the bomb.

Only by sacrificing this card, you can make a test and the bomb explodes. While you succeed, all other plutonium (not uranium!) bombs will bring their higher value. So you can really test only one bomb for the entire game! But you also get a reward in the form of a test token with the highest value available – the sooner you come, the better.

In addition to the board, you can send your characters on your own buildings and in unlimited numbers. Their actions are usually very profitable and it is good to have some buildings in front of you. Others cannot access them and central board can then be used (actions that you have „at home“) primarily as an opportunity to block the chances of your rivals.

The Manhattan Project - board detail

But surely you wonder, what is the role of fighters and bombers. You can truly harm your opponents with them! Fighters can commence an air strike, shoot down enemy aircraft, but only bombers are able to attack opponent’s building. They make damage, which makes buildings unusable until its owner fixes them! Therefore, the next action box is called repair and costs a big pile of money. And then, there are spies, who can even allow you to use opponent buildings!

Game ends, when one player reaches the target limit of victory points. The player becomes immediately the winner and others do not have a chance to respond to his success. There may be only one superpower in the world, and all losers now know well, who it is..

Manhattan Project is a pleasant addition to the board game worker-placement genre. At first glance, it might seem ordinary and flat, but it is far from true. The game contains not only balanced player advance, but also an unusual amount of direct rivalry and banter between opponents.

The Manhattan Project - cards

Possibility to bomb enemy structures opens up a whole new door into a interesting situations. Chances to make others pay and blow up their buildings is really appealing and leads to an arms race. And I believe this is exactly, what author had in mind. But you also have a chance to defend with the use of fighters and shoot down the bombers before adversary sends them to you.

Plenty of strategic options, although they gradually narrow to only one objective, guarantees quite a variability. In particular, buildings provide other ways to gain, what you need, with available peaceful way to victory by obtaining raw materials. Without interaction, its half the fun, really.

Buildings in the market are always replaced and offer is random, which keeps the game fresh. Interesting, however, is the usage of draft in distribution of bombs. Here, the player has a tough dilemma, because with his purchase of bomb design, he will help also others. This rule applies as well to some other places on the board, where you’ll find symbol with arrow going in circle. These are actions, everyone takes, when activated.

The Manhattan Project - tokens

The strategy is also important, when deciding, when should workers return from the battlefield. You have to sacrifice the whole turn, which provides only returning of all your sweaty workers, but also completely all gray hired workers from the center board. So you can use this return as a handy way to free up space for the next turn, if you are currently blocked by someone.

The great virtue of the game is its tempo. While the game does not have a chance to end in one hour of time even with fewer players, you are guaranteed to have fun during the whole course. You will not find any luck, besides the distribution of bomb cards. You always have control over what exactly is happening to you or could you at least expect it. But if you are unlucky in building selection, the game could get a little longer, that it should.

Its time-consuming nature is currently the largest obstacle for beginners. These may simultaneously hinder also consistent integration of all economic elements together, so players must wrap their minds around it. But its not that complex and they can do it with a little help. In the context of the time, problem is, that game is quite predictable and not as good with two.However, it still remains fun. So, if you want people to be excited about the game, you should try it in more. Five opponents seem to bee too much in terms of game time.

The Manhattan Project - cards

Manhattan Project is definitely one of the best games in the worker-placement category. It is exciting until the very end and contains a lot of interesting ideas. Yet is mainly sold by amazing theme, that creator has managed to pack into perfect entertainment. Some might think of the theme as inapropriate, but its a minority. Just be careful, if you are thinking of it as a two-player game. Its not well suited for this. But if you like thoughtful worker-placement games, and miss a chance to really bash the opponents, then this game might be just your cup of tea..

DesignerBrandon Tibbetts
ArtistViktor Csete, Clay Gardner, Sergi Marcet
PublisherMinion Games, Asmodee, Czacha Games, Do it games, kártyagyár, Magellan, Marabunta, Pensamento Coletivo
Year Published2012
# of Players2 - 5
User Suggested # of Players Best with 5 players
Recommended with 2, 3, 4, 5 players
(144 voters)
Playing Time120
Mfg Suggested Ages13 and up
User Suggested Ages10 and up
(27 voters)
Language DependenceNo necessary in-game text
(32 voters)
CategoryAviation / Flight, Economic, Industry / Manufacturing, World War II
MechanicAction Retrieval, Race, Take That, Worker Placement, Worker Placement, Different Worker Types
ExpansionThe Manhattan Project: Nations Expansion, The Manhattan Project: Second Stage
FamilyCrowdfunding: Kickstarter, Game: The Manhattan Project, Mechanism: Tableau Building, Theme: Retro
Primary NameThe Manhattan Project
Alternate NamesProjekt Manhattan, Проект Манхэттен

Infos courtesy of More Infos.

Review: The Manhattan Project – time to learn to love the bomb
Final word
Manhattan Project is a unique game, where you send three different workers to a common board. And you are not required to pull them back right away, so you can easily block options for your rivals. Besides the topis, there are also other unique ideas, which will draw you towards successful building of a nuclear bomb. There are actions, which bring profit not only to you, but also to your opponents, who can take it in your turn! Interaction is a really big thing in this game, because you can damage buildings of others, which are unable to repair until produced. But in the end, you want to take materials and people, build bomb and test it. Only then you get points. And before you get to the end of the match, two hours pass by, which can be an obstacle for some players. The game is not so fun with two players only, although its a little bit faster and can be finished in 90 minutes time. But if you will be playing Manhattan Project in more players, then it offers great fun with a bomb in the lead role..
Reader Rating0 Votes
original topic
excellent worker-placement with more types of workers
big emphasis on attacking neighbours
building market
various materials needed for testing the bomb
option to block important spots on the board
almost no luck
some actions are profitable even for your rivals
game time
random drawing of buildings might slow down game start
predictable and less fun with two
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