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The Manhattan Project

| Published: 2012

Global Power Struggle Begins!

Which nation will take the lead and become world's dominant superpower?

The Manhattan Project makes you the leader of a great nation's atomic weapons program in a deadly race to build bigger and better bombs. You must assign your workers to multiple projects: building your bomb-making infrastructure, expending your military to protect it, or sending your spies to steal your rival's hard work!

You alone control your nation's destiny. You choose when to send out your workers–and when to call them back. Careful management and superior strategy will determine the winner of this struggle. So take charge and secure your nation's future!

Manhattan Project game components
images © Minion Games

User Reviews (7)

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Comic Book Fan
142 of 149 gamers found this helpful
“Scientists, Engineers and Yellow Cake, Oh My!”

In Manhattan Project, you are building bombs. To do this you need to collect resources (Money, Yellow Cake, Plutonium and Uranium), hire workers (scientists, engineers and laborers), build your air force (fighters and bombers).

Essentially Manhattan Project is a worker placement, race game. The first player to reach the scoring goal (different depending on the number of players) is the winner.

The Basics:
Each round you will do 1 of 2 things. Either place workers or retrieve workers.
Placing workers mean that, you will choose one action on the main board to place a worker and then place any number of workers on your own buildings. If the action you chose on the main board was Espionage then you can place workers on another player’s buildings. Also, when choosing this option you can do any number of bomb actions. Building, loading or testing are the 3 bomb actions. Building is how you score the points for the bomb, loading increases a bomb’s point value by 5 (lowering your bombers by 1) and testing is a little more complicated but essentially after you test any one Uranium bombs, your future Uranium bombs are worth more.

Retrieving worker simply mean that will take your workers off of the main board, your buildings, your completed bombs and any opponent’s building, and you will also retrieve all Contract Workers from the main board and your buildings.

The Components:
The Artwork in the game is good and really helps bring the theme across. The components are top notch (however there back of one of the starting building cards was printed incorrectly but this does not affect game play in anyway). The worker tokens in this game are extremely cool!

The Fun:
This game is a lot of fun. You are collecting resourcing, building buildings, and developing bombs, but you can also, use your fighters to attack other player’s fighters and then use your bombers to bomb their building (making them unusable until repaired). Lots of good decisions to be made, but keep an eye on the other players score because whoever hits the goal first, is the winner!

My Opinion:
This is one of my favorite worker placement games, The theme is awesome and the game play has some Euro elements (resource and money management) and some Ameri elements (Bombing other players, using espionage).

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Advanced Reviewer
132 of 140 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“There was 2 to 5 little kids on the sandbox...”

…They all were digging up some Yellowcake. For all they wanted was a biggest blast of their lives. The End. Not really, I won’t let you off that easy. You’ll get to suffer me for another 10 minutes at least. I promise it will be explosive. Let’s get fulminating!

Here I shall build my fission temple (Summary of gameplay)
Manhattan Project, as name implies, is a worker placement game revolving around nuclear weapon arms race. You lead one (colorful) nation to victory by building best bombs, in other words reach the VP limit first.

Game consists of main board and each players personal board where they can build their own buildings and manage their fighter and bomber forces, which are there so you can be aggressive against other players and hinder their progress or protect yourself against aggressive players.

There are 3 different kind of workers, scientist, engineer and laborer. There are also freelancer versions (grey) of all of them, which are available for all players, some like to call them Mexicans, I explain later why. All of them have their special benefit on the board, so sorting them on proper assignments is important. For instance laborers are excellent way to get Yellowcake so you can free up your scientist to enrich some of it to Uranium, while your engineer trains new workforce. Which is one of the best aspects of this game, you need to think tactically and do the math in your head how to achieve as much as possible you can in one turn.

All players start with set of workers and money, which scales depending on how far you’re down from starting player to level up the playing field. Then you get to place one worker on main board and as many workers of any kind on your personal board as you can, which is difficult at beginning, in middle game it’s rather easy and late game you have to figure out how to max up your efficiency on one turn. After you others place their workers, then you rinse and repeat, until you can’t play anymore on board. When you can’t play workers anymore you have to spend your turn to remove all your workers from board, of course you can choose to do this anytime you wish, but it always ends your turn there. At this point your freelancers or Mexicans are returned to general supply while your personal workers return to your work pool to be used again. So people call them Mexicans because they’re used and then discarded back to their home, fairly fitting description and same time a justified statement on underpaid labor without union rights. In the game they’re a great asset though and they can get you through a tough pinch.

At some point when you have enough Uranium and/or Plutonium you get bomb designs and start building it. There involves some own mechanics, but essentially you score victory points from it. Also as an nice touch you can test your first Plutonium bomb to convert it to few VP’s, but later Plutonium bombs are worth more VP’s.

Let’s get you your suspender-jeans (Components)
Main board looks like a bulleting board from your work place, it’s full of notes and papers that seem completely useless, but in this case they have use. It is innovative and clever way of disguising the board. It has thematic feel to it, same cannot be said from personal player boards which are bland looking.

Workers are just basic cardboard cutouts, but they have good art on them which sort of remind me of minions from Despicable Me. So my personal army of minions. Minions are from thick cardboard so they’re durable and easy to pick up, which is very good considering you have to move them rather frequently.

Coin art is based on Manhattan Project (the real one) emblem, which is really nice touch. They’re your basic money tokens, not much to say about them, but can’t help but feel that there could have been few more of them in case, not that I ever ran out of them, since you spend them in fast pace. On a last note bomb schematic names are amusing and descriptive.

One wrong move and we’ll blow to kingdom come! So no pressure (Learning curve)
This game is really simple to learn, you can only place workers on your turn or remove them all from board. Symbols are clear and you really don’t need to consult the rulebook. However don’t be fooled by that, this game is difficult if you want to win. You need to be calculative, clever and ruthless to get there.

Learning the basics is easy, but winning and out thinking your opponents takes effort. And rightly so, that makes this a good game.

What a pretty mushroom… (Conclusion)
This is without a doubt my favorite worker placement game thus far. Proper chance to get all mathematical and enjoy the pleasure when I can place all of my workers in a single turn for maximum efficiency.

It is also a good chance to teach your kids some mathematical thinking and history as a side dish. If we forget our past we’re doomed to repeat it. Things in past won’t go away just because they might be a touch subject. Still I can see why some shun this game for the theme on it.

For people who find this topic morally questionable, you never actually use the bomb against anybody. You just build them. And it is really fun game and you get to use that calculative evil mind of your.

I really advice to get this game if you like worker placement games, because this is one from the challenging end of that genre.

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Book Lover
Novice Reviewer
Cooperative Game Explorer
140 of 149 gamers found this helpful

In The Manhattan Project each player takes on the roll of a industrial nation racing to have the largest atomic weapons stockpile. To accomplish this goal players assign their workers to multiple projects and sites: building your infrastructure, expanding your air force, or sending spies to infiltrate your opponent’s facilities. Careful management and superior strategy will determine the winner of the arms race.

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 part of the game. This 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).

• 1 Main Board
• 5 Player Boards
• 6 Starting Building Cards (Red)
• 44 Regular building Cards (Blue)
• 30 Bomb Cards
• 38 $1 Money Coins
• 10 $5 Money Coins
• 5 Fighter Counters
• 5 Bomber Counters
• 5 Implosion Test Counters
• 15 Wooden Player Disc
• 10 Loaded Markers
• 16 Double Sided Damage Markers
• 40 Wooden Yellowcake Cubes
• 72 Workers in six different colors. These workers are divided into thee different types: Laborers, Scientist & Engineers

Place one token from each player on the bottom of the Plutonium and Uranium fuel tracks, and the espionage track. Add Implosion Test counters to the supply based on the number of players. Place the 6 Red buildings randomly and fill the rest of the space with random blue buildings. Then shuffle the bomb cards and deal a supply equaling one greater than the # of players.

Each player takes 4 laborers of their color, $10, and places their fighter and bomber tokens on the “1” space on their player boards. Place all players’ scientists and engineers into the general supply to start. Players then get a bonus based on random start player positions.

This process takes about 10 minutes.

Play Time
I have found this game to last between 90 and 150 minutes depending on the player count and speed of play.

Instructions / Learning Curve
The instructions are well written with lots of illustrations and examples to help with understanding the concepts. It would have been better if player aids had come with the base game, but they were added in the Second Stage Expansion.

Because of the unique aspect of the worker placement in this game it takes a few turns, around 8 to 10, to really understand the importance of main board placement, player board buildings, espionage, contract workers and when to retrieve your workforce.

Be the first player to build their arsenal the proper size, based on player count. You score points only through building, testing and loading nuclear bombs.

Game Play
On your turn you have two options:

Place Workers
If you place workers you send one of your three types of workers to the main board. There he can build buildings, manage airstrikes, repair your compound, utilize factories, operate mines, hire new workers, design bombs or refine yellowcake into Plutonium or Uranium. Once your Main Board action is complete you can take as many Player Board actions as you want or have workers for. Finally, you can build load or test your bombs.

Retrieve Workers
If you retrieve your workers you collect all the workers in your color from all boards adding them to your pool, and you return all contract workers (temporary workers) from your board and the main board (regardless to who placed them) to the general supply.

Currently there are two expansions: 1) Nations, which introduces seven countries that each has a unique player power. This is a great mini expansion, which if you plan on getting the game is worth the few extra dollars. 2) Second Stage, which introduces more nations, hydrogen bombs, and scientist.

Final Thoughts
This is the only worker placement game I have played currently, so I cannot compare it to anything else. As my first game into the worker placement mechanic I have to say that The Manhattan Project really delivers. I enjoy the push & pull aspect of worker placement and recalling them. I love the bombing of opponent’s buildings causing them to stop functioning. I like the espionage, and being able to send spies into opponent’s compounds to use their facilities. This is a great game with a lot of different paths to victory. I really enjoy how the theme blends so well with the game play.

I would recommend this game to Strategy Gamers, Avid Gamers and Power Gamers. I would also highly recommend this to anyone that like worker placement.

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United Kingdom
Professional Reviewer
Crab Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
Book Lover
106 of 115 gamers found this helpful
“Your Manhattan Project”

The Manhattan Project’s main problem is its theme. Which as its name suggests, has to do with the design and building of the atom bomb. For some, this may be in poor taste. Which also means that any board game or indeed computer game, like say, Civilisation, in which nuclear weapons are deployed and detonated, is in equally poor taste—if not more so. That said, no nuclear weapons are detonated in The Manhattan Project and nobody dies, either through atomisation or radiation poisoning. Some workers may get sent to the mines though…

The Manhattan Project is a worker placement game for two to five players, aged thirteen and up. Each takes control of a country’s atom bomb project and attempts to build the most effective program. Starting with a few workers and a little money, they train engineers and scientists; construct buildings—universities, factories, mines, and reactors; build up their air forces—bombers and fighters; research bomb designs; and conduct espionage against each other, all in a race to see who can build the biggest bombs (and score the most Victory Points).

The game is built around a simple mechanic—worker placement. Each turn a player must either place his workers on the board or retrieve them. When placing them, a player must place one worker on the main board, but can place as many workers as he likes on his own buildings. When retrieving them, he must remove all of those previously placed.

The game revolves around the Main Board. This has spaces for the Building Cards—six initial cards followed by the regular buildings; spaces to place workers to gain money, engineers, scientists, workers, fighters, bombers, and yellow cake—which is turned into Uranium and Plutonium; conduct airstrikes and repair buildings; and fuel tracks to monitor each player’s Uranium and Plutonium, and how many spies he can assign to other players’ empty buildings.

Each player has a Player Board. Here he tracks the number of fighters and bombers he has and places any buildings purchased. A player also has four labourers, but gains up to four engineers and four scientists as play progresses. If these are not enough, he can hire contractors, but they will do only one task each.

Initially, each player has limited options. He can only place a single worker on the Main Board—and needs not only scientists and engineers, but also his own buildings if he wants to place more workers on subsequent turns. As play progresses, he will gain more workers and buildings, giving him more options for placing his workers—even more if he has invested in espionage and can send his workers to use other players’ buildings. A player is not obliged to place all of his workers on a turn, but he must place one on the Main Board at the very least.

When a player runs out of workers or because he wants to, he can retrieve all of his workers. He can start placing them again on later turns, but part of playing The Manhattan Project is knowing when to retrieve and when to place them. It is a matter of timing, more so when espionage is an option and other players’ buildings are available.

Each building gives its benefit as soon as its requirements are fulfilled. This might be as simple as one or two workers or specific worker types to get their output, which can be more workers (including contractors), money, fighters, bombers, or yellow cake. Alternatively, reactors require several engineers and scientists and several pieces of yellow cake in order to produce either Uranium or Plutonium. These have to be placed in one turn rather than added bit by bit.

Eventually a player will want to build a bomb. This works just like any other building, but requires Uranium or Plutonium plus engineers and scientists. Once built, a bomb adds to a player’s Victory Point total, but it can be loaded onto a bomber for more Victory Points. Or it can be imploded. This destroys the bomb, but any subsequent Plutonium device the player builds will be worth more Victory Points.

Apart from espionage, a player can interact with his rivals by attacking them using his air force. He does this by sending his fighters to attack his target’s fighters and then his bombers to target and damage his rival’s buildings. This stops his rival from using them until they are repaired.

Physically, The Manhattan Project is nicely and engagingly presented in a style that apes the look of government style art of the 1940s. The rulebook is also well written and easy to read and understand.

Unfortunately, The Manhattan Project is not perfect. Arguably, the use of espionage is too powerful—though it is a great way to win—and cannot be blocked or stopped, except by the targeted player placing and keeping his own workers on this buildings for as long as possible. The Air Raid mechanic is either too powerful or not powerful enough, as any attempt to destroy another player’s fighters leaves both sides vulnerable to bombing raids. Lastly, the appearance of the building cards is too random; beyond the first six, any card can appear in any order and this can affect the flow of the game. Less effective buildings will sit on the board because no one wants to buy them, whilst a slew of good buildings will force a flurry of activity to buy as quickly as possible. Perhaps a more structured draw could have been included, so that the buildings get progressively better and better as the game progresses?

Put these issues aside, for The Manhattan Project is an excellent game. The game play is very tight, with almost no luck involved and the play time is shorter with practice. It is a pleasing meld of theme with mechanics that reward efficiency.

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Amateur Grader
140 of 153 gamers found this helpful
“Excellent worker placement action. And no castles! ”

I almost bought this game sight unseen just in appreciation of the relatively modern theme. We’re building a castle? Ok, that sounds pretty good I guess. We’re building NUCLEAR BOMBS? YES. I am IN.

If you’ve played Caylus or Stone Age you’ll immediately catch on to the mechanics in this game. On your turn, you place one worker on the main board, then as many as you want on your player board. You collect resources, build buildings, and take other actions to get ahead of your competitors in the arms race.

Where this game diverges from the other worker-placement games I mentioned is it’s interactivity with other players. You can use your opponents’ buildings (preventing them from doing so), and can even attack them directly, damaging buildings and making them inoperable until repaired.

To clarify something in the “First Impressions from a Newbie” review. He mentions someone winning the game in one round. In case it’s not obvious, he means that in one round the winning player went from 0 victory points, to having enough to trigger the end of the game. The game certainly didn’t take one turn (the game doesn’t really have rounds) to play out in general. That player took several turns to get himself in position to end the game, and the other players likely missed opportunities to slow him down.

This is a great game. I think Caylus is bit better overall (the turn order and round mechanic Caylus uses adds a lot of strategy), but the theme and the interactivity make up the difference for me. The Manhattan Project will be a staple with my group for a long time.

The game plays in around 90 minutes, and I think is probably a more-the-merrier type game. It’s fine with two, but obviously the competition for spots on the board isn’t as interesting with less competitors. Each additional player adds more difficulty and more divergent tactics to the game, which increases the enjoyment factor immensely. Highly recommended, especially if you’re a fan of Stone Age or Caylus and want a change of scenery.

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I Am What I Am
140 of 158 gamers found this helpful
“First Impressions from a Newbie”

I just recently got the opportunity to play this game. I had seen it on Kickstarter but did not end up pledging. I had never played a worker placement game before, so this was all new to me.

Given that I had never played a worker-placement game, I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I was able to pick up the game. I was playing inside of five minutes. The competition for constructions, espionage, production of workers, and ultimately the race to build a bomb was extremely engaging.

However, according to the player running the game, the victory conditions are 45 victory points. Being as how a plutonium bomb with a bomb test and loaded into a bomber can be more than enough to satisfy these conditions. The same can happen with two low-cost uranium bombs played in the same round (which is how our game ended). Because the game can end in one round, it is tough to make much of a competition of it. Our five-player game ended up being 45pts, 8pts, 0pts, 0pts, and 0pts. Because of the all-or-nothing nature of the game, I give it a replay value of 3/5.

What initially drew me to the game was the combination of a serious topic (proliferation of nuclear arms) with components that lighten it up including cutesie-looking meeples. The artwork was impressive while not being too detailed as to detract from the gameplay. I give the components a solid 4/5.

As I mentioned above, we were sat at the table no more than five minutes before play began. It was fairly intuitive and I understood the goals of the game and how one might go about reaching them. However, the newer players did not have much strategy and ended up falling behind. I believe this means the game is easy to learn but difficult to master, so I ended up giving the learning curve a 3/5.

All in all, it is not a bad game. I would play the game again, but I would probably not buy it.

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Tasty Minstrel Games Fan
AEG fan
Mage Wars fan
46 of 55 gamers found this helpful
“not combat, not boring”

Although you might think that in a game about nuclear bombs there would be a fair amount of nuking, that is not true in the Manhattan Project. However, the game is far from boring. It is a great example of a worker placement game with more depth to its’ strategy than Lords of Waterdeep. There is more than one path to victory, but not so many that the game becomes inaccessible. It plays well with the full range of players, even just 2. The components are all quality, though I wish there were a few plastic minis (maybe the airplanes) instead of cardboard tokens. Although combat is not the main function of the game, it is possible to attack other players during the game, though it is not necessarily advantageous. The need to quickly amass victory points keeps players who are prone to combat from being able to afford to ruin others games.


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