This Manhattan Project Review digs into one of the first Worker Placement games I ever bought. I had no idea what to expect and bought the game purely because it looked awesome. Did I think it was it “the bomb”… or did it bomb?
Your country is locked in a bitter arms race with the other superpowers around the globe. Each nation is trying to achieve the greatest destructive power of all, an atomic bomb. As it turns out, mutually assured destruction can be a surprisingly intense motivation!
Scientists, engineers, and workers are scrambling to gather money, yellowcake, uranium, and plutonium in order to build bigger and better bombs before everyone else.
What is The Manhattan Project?
Manhattan Project at first blush seems to be your typical worker placement game. But let me tell you… strategically placing workers on the board is just the beginning.
As you dive deeper into the game you’ll discover very quickly that it is a heavy resource management endeavor.
This aspect of The Manhattan Project actually starts with the workers that you place. While many worker placement games just have one style of “worker” that you place, TMP actually has 3. You have “workers,” “engineers,” and “scientists”.
It is vital that players manage these units well in order to gain all the proper resources they need in order to make their bombs. Which brings us to two more levels of resource management in this game.
There are two primary elements that you need in order to build your “bombs.” The first is uranium, and the second is plutonium. It would be nice if you could just buy these elements… but then it wouldn’t be much of a game. Instead you have to build yellowcake mines, earn money, and hire more scientist and engineers, all so you can then spend those things to get your nuclear element of choice.
Oh… and other nations can bomb your buildings, spy on your technologies, and steal the space that you were just about to put your worker in!! This is all designed to lead to an intense arms build up until someone becomes the most powerful nation in the world.
A player wins once they become the strongest atomic power (based on a victory point scale for each bomb built.)
The Manhattan Project Game Specs:
Price Range: $35 -50 You can buy it HERE.
Style: Worker Placement/Resource Management – Mild player to player interaction
Estimated Game time: 120-180 Minutes
Geek Level: Intermediate
What I Liked About The Manhattan Project
- Brain Burning: The amount of mental effort that I need to put in to figuring out where to put my workers, when to pull them back, and what path I should focus on first, second, and third makes it very challenging.
- The Reactive Element: Manhattan Project doesn’t have a lot of direct player interaction. Yes, you can bomb other players buildings, and yes, you can occasionally “spy” on some of their buildings and steal their abilities, but it is not a combat game. There is no real “attacking” though. What I mean by reactive is that you can plan out your strategy but you are constantly having to be aware of how many workers the other players have available, changing your strategy when they take the space that you wanted, and trying to maximize the bang for your worker placing buck.While you would like to have your strategy planned out 3 turns in advance, it’s really not possible since the spaces you want to use may not be available even 1 turn from now.
- Artwork, Bits & Chit: This is the only game I have that uses super thick chit board for some of it’s pieces. In this case, all of the workers are chit. But really good quality chit. The yellowcake, and the trackers lack imagination as cubes and disks, but the artwork makes up for it in my opinion.
- Iconography: The Manhattan Project can be a little difficult to learn because of everything that you need to keep track of and manage. However, the iconography on the cards and boards is very clear. Once you know the rules, and understand the icons, you really don’t have to go back and reference the rules for much of anything.
What I Did Not Like About The Manhattan Project
- 2 Player Game: Personally, I recommend a minimum of 3 players for this game. 2 players just doesn’t seem to do it for me.
- Potential Downtime: If you have players in your group who struggle with AP (Analysis Paralysis) – add some time to your estimated game play. However, to be fair for most turns you will only take a couple of actions, and when you recall your workers, those turns go very quickly. It really depends on how bad your case of AP is. Also, TMP plays better with more people (see previous point), but every player you add is going to add more time to complete the game.
- Anti-climatic Endings: The scoring system for this game is the bomb cards. While this makes sense sometimes the end will take you by surprise, which can be great! I’ve had some tense finishes, but I have had more endings where everyone at the table pretty much knew who was going to win 2 or 3 rounds before the game finished. This could be because of poor game play, but I’m more inclined to think that the game doesn’t have a good catch up mechanic. If a player gets a good system going early, unless everyone gangs up on them (putting their own bomb making efforts on hold), it can be hard, or potentially impossible, to catch up.
- Game Length: This is probably my biggest criticism of The Manhattan Project. I’m not opposed to long games – in fact, some of them can provide really epic experiences, like Clash of Cultures and Scythe. My problem with this one is that it doesn’t provide the epic feel to match the time commitment.
What I Really Think of The Manhattan Project
I like this game. BUT it doesn’t make it to my table that often. In fact, I needed to put it on my 2017 Board Game Bucket List so that I made sure I get it out again.
What really holds this game back for me is my final point in the “What I don’t like…” section… the 120 minute minimum game length.
The mechanics are great, the strategy is on point, but the time to play is a touch on the long side. So while I personally enjoy the game, most of the people I play with aren’t going to be willing to commit 2 hours to play it.
But, if your group loves burning their gray matter for 120+ minutes – I encourage you to try this one out!
More About Manhattan Project from Around the Web
- Want to know How to Play? Check out the Official Rule Book (PDF)
- Find out What a Stay at Home Mom thinks about The Manhattan Project (Review)
- The Official Minion Games Website
Just One More Thing:
If you checked out this review hoping for explosions… You need to check out the Slow Mo Guys on Youtube. Here’s a quick sample of their stuff.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this Manhattan Project review are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. That aside, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.