The Manhattan Project – Minion Games – Review

"Building a Nuclear/Atomic bomb… how hard could that be right!?!?!"

Theme and What is it?

Building a Nuclear/Atomic bomb… how hard could that be right!?!?! Let’s give it a try in this worker placement engine builder by Minion Games. Time to join the power race as one of the dominant forces across the world and this really is a race… which nation can build the biggest and best bombs first?

Gameplay Mechanics

This is a fast paced game where your options per turn are fairly minimal but very tactical. On each turn you’ll either place one worker on the board, place multiple workers on your player board (depending on what buildings you’ve purchased) or you’ll pick all of your workers back up.

Each of the available spaces can perform a different action depending on the type of worker you use. Example: purchase buildings with an engineer reduces the buildings cost, unlock workers, or even build a bomb.

Each building you purchase adds to your engine and choosing the right buildings to maximise your worker placements per turn and this can be extremely tactical.

Deciding on the order you activate your buildings completely changes the way your turn will pan out and how productive your work force will be.  Remember, this is a race to make the biggest and best bombs, you need an efficient work force to make this happen.

Initial Impressions

Where to start… no, seriously… where to start!?!?! Do you start improving your factory, building your defence force (in case you have some seriously aggressive “friends”) or growing your staff count… and if you are going to get some more staff what staff type do you choose??? Scientists who specialise in the more technical jobs like designing bombs and building up your uranium/plutonium reserves or Engineers that can build up your factories for cheaper or be the key figures in building the bombs?

Your workers are the back bone of your engine and without a strong work force your engine will not be as productive as possible.

Game Build Quality

The quality of the game components are excellent in general, however, the choice to use thick stock card meeples was a strange one. I’ve found that even after only a few plays the meeples are starting to show wear marks around the edges. If this was produced again I would presume wooden meeples would be the way forward. Its not a deal breaker for me but I can imagine it could be for some.

Artistic Direction

The artists have pulled a lot of the theme from World War 1 and 2 propaganda style of designs but put a playful twist on everything so it doesn’t feel as grim as the setting could have been. The meeples themselves are an excellent depiction of workers fit fantastically with the overall theme.

Fun Factor

As worker placement games go, The Manhattan Project can give you some serious feeling of sweeping power and ability. Once you’ve built up your factory you can eventually place all of your meeples in a single turn and this makes huge bounds towards making that atomic bomb that is going to win you the game… however, You could also feel bitter anguish if your opponent has focused on bombers and fighters and decides to cripple your facility slowing down your progress and setting you back to a seemingly unrecoverable position.

These ups and downs make this game a rollercoaster of fun and every game seems to play out slightly differently. There is a win scenario for all play styles.

Age Range & Weight

13+ seems about right to me. The game has deep tactics and numerous options for each turn. There are lots of moving parts and components that could put younger players off and disengage them when focus is required.

Conclusions

The Manhattan Project is a very well put together worker placement game that allows you to build your factory empire in the way you see fit. The ways to win are numerous meaning you might find a new path to victory ever time this hits the table. There aren’t many games that could claim that.

There are some PVP mechanics that some players gravitate towards which bring the game to a screeching halt. This can annoy some players and I have even heard that the PVP tools have been house ruled out to make The Manhattan Project a purer engine builder… each to their own. I personally think having the chance of your facility being bombed forces you to think defensively as well as trying to build up resources to build bombs… I love to juggle mechanics but it isn’t for everyone.

Overall this is a great game and worth adding to your collection.