Latest Plays

Manhattan Project

Posted by admin On February - 17 - 2012


Length: 120 minutes
Actual Length: 60 -120 minutes
Age: 12+
Players: 2-5
Best with: 3 players

I guess I’m a bit of a hippie, because the whole topic of nuclear weapons scares the hell out of me! Just knowing they exist here in the US, and in the Soviet union… and the UK… and France… and China… and India… and Pakistan… and North Korea… and probably Israel is a pretty scary freakin’ thought.

I mean I totally understand why we need to have them and when Albert Einstein wrote to FDR and told him “dude, we need to get on this uranium stuff” (well in so many words), I’m glad we did and that put us in the race of nuclear warfare and protection. But I’m more of a “make love, not war” kinda girl so when I got introduced to “Manhattan Project” I was literally like “what the frak!?!? A game about making bombs? Really?? Like you are competing to make bombs for victory points?

In case you don’t know about the actual Manhattan Project, i’ll save you from wiki-ing it by giving you a brief synopsis. Basically it was a research program led by the US with collaboration from the UK and Canada that produced the first atomic bomb. “Manhattan” was the whole projects codename.

Beginning roughly around 1939 and continuing on throughout the 40′s. During this time, two types of bombs were developed. A ‘modest’ gun-type fission weapon made from uranium isotope as well as a more complex implosion-type of weapon using uranium irradiated into plutonium.

Now with a whopping 130k people employed and working on these bombs, and billions of dollars being spent, the question I always ponder is, who the hell is given the task of code naming these nuclear weaponry? Well, whoever it was decided on Little Boy, and Fat Man… yep. And near the end of WWII, on August of 1945,  the uranium gun-type device “Little Boy” was denoted over Hiroshima, Japan and the plutonium implosion device “Fat Man” was exploded over Nagasaki. Resulting in some 200k deaths.

That said, let’s go play some… er… Manhattan Project?…

So, yeah, the theme is a bit weird, but I have to admit, the game is freggin’ awesome! And granted, it is about bombs, you aren’t actually nuking each other, so at the end of the day, thats all that really matters :o)

The game started out as a kickstarter project and thankfully was successful because I know it will make the table oft enough. I personally only discovered kickstarter recently, so I didn’t pledge, but if I had seen it, I sure would have backed this one!

From the look to the gameplay, it’s all really good stuff! First let’s start with just how darn pretty this game is. I ::love:: the artwork, it has a Fallout video game 40′s advertising feel to it. The main board (below) looks like the top of a desk with notes and important files scattered about, it is the main worker placement portion of the game; with spots for your tokens on the various track markers, spots for your workers, and the area for the cards.

There are also additional thinner different colored boards used as personal player boards where you place cards as you accumulate them. The thinner boards are of decent quality cardstock that lay nice and flat making them aggravation-free.  The chits, cards, box, etc. are all pretty standard, made of good quality. The things I want to mention most regarding the components are the workers and the cards.

The workers aren’t your standard wooden upright pieces. Instead, they lay flat. Flat you say? Well, not flat, they are 3 layers of super duper heavyweight card stock that has been affixed together and cut into a rounded edged rectangular fashion. They are pretty cool and also very easy to pick up, handle, and look really nice on the board.

My main complaint about games sometimes are the symbols. If you have to constantly look at a bunch of symbols during a game, you don’t want it to feel as though you are trying to decrypt hieroglyphics! Especially if you have to see other players cards from across the table, like in this game when choosing the action ‘espionage.’ However, ‘Manhattan Project’ did a really stand up job with their symbols. The cards are smaller in size but that is not an issue at all, because not only are the symbols large but they are very easy to decipher. Take a look at some examples below, glancing at them across the table is a breeze.

Note: There was a misprint in the first print run of this game. In that version, the starting University cards had BLUE backs instead of RED backs. Simply make sure you randomly place the 6 cards in the above picture (bottom row) as your starting cards at the beginning of the game.

The gameplay is pretty unique for being a worker placement style of game. Instead of having rounds, placing workers, earning workers and so on, ‘Manhattan Project’ completely eliminates “rounds” and puts a twist on earning workers and placing workers. Everyone starts with 4 generic laborers, and you take actions to gain additional workers which include the more valuable engineers and scientists. Gaining workers is less of an effort like in most other games and placing workers can be carried out in multiple really neat paths and combos. Each round consists of the current player placing one worker on the main board and taking that corresponding action and then as many workers as they wish on their own available buildings on their personal player card (unless choosing espionage action which allows you to place on other players buildings). Since there are no official “rounds” when you begin running low on workers or have no workers at all you take a “pull back” action which allows you to retrieve all your workers back. You can do this at any time, unless you have no workers then it’s a forced action.

You use your workers during the game to acquire more of your laborers, engineers, and scientists as well as grey contractors which in turn allow you to do things like:
- build buildings
- earn cash
- acquire uranium/plutonium
- increase your bomber/fighters
- mine yellow cake
- air strike other players buildings
- acquire bomb designs
- espionage other players buildings
WIth the ultimate goal of  scoring the appropriate player based number of victory points by using the above actions to gain enough resources to eventually build, test, and load nuclear bombs. Building a bomb is not necessarily an easy task and requires you to build multiple bombs to reach victory. Each bomb has a worker requirement, plutonium or uranium cost, and the ability to load it with a bomber at a monetary cost. And, yes, they are each individually code named for your reading pleasure.The Plutonium based bombs have generally heftier requirements and result in not a very cost effective victory point yield.  However, if you implode your first bomb , then all following bombs for you yield the higher red colored victory point number! Like in “Special Delivery” to the left. If you have imploded a previous bomb, then this bomb would be worth 20 VP’s instead of 11, and if you load it at a cost of 3 dollars, then it jumps up to a whopping 25 VP’s!

The Uranium based bombs are a bit lower cost and generally result in higher victory points than non-imploded Plutonium bombs, but overall less than the respective imploded Plutonium bombs. I’ve tried both routes now a few times and can’t really determine if there is a better route, I really think it depends highly on the building cards that become available during the particular game you are playing.

There is a Nations Expansion deck that allows you to take on a real-world nation role allowing for an extra bit of fun and strategy.

Final Thoughts

It’s a keeper!

Final-Final Thoughts

Overall: 8.5

medium-hard not too hard to learn, more difficult to master



** Special thanks to Jesse Dean for sponsoring BOP with a copy!