Cardboard Addiction: The Manhattan Project

Nothing says “game night” quite like bombing the shit out of your best friends.

Manhattan Project box

Note: this is the first entry in our Cardboard Addiction series. For an explanation of how we plan to approach these reviews, click here.

The Manhattan Project is a worker placement game. That means that, on your turn, you place workers (I’m a college student). These workers do different things based on where you place them. For instance, if you place a worker on the “get money” space, guess what. You get money (there’s that education paying off again).

Sound simple? Well, in a sense, it is.

But this game isn’t just about getting money. It’s a game about building bombs. And launching air strikes at your opponents. And processing plutonium and uranium. And it’s also a race.

photo (4)

The only way to earn points in The Manhattan Project is to build bombs. At the start of the game, five bomb cards are revealed to everyone, as are their building requirements. The fact that the end game requirements are public knowledge means that everyone has the same goals. However, not everyone will take the same path to the goals.

Buying buildings allows players to put together their own personal economic engines. Much of the game depends on your ability to combo your buildings together. For example, using your university might produce a scientists, and using your mine will net you some yellow cake. Now, you might have enough scientists and yellow cake to make some uranium which, in turn, will finally allow you to build your 20 point bomb. That is just a minor example, but you get the idea.

photo (5)

And then there is the air raid option. Players who feel particularly dickish can perform an air raid on their opponents. Air raids can put buildings out of commission, forcing players to waste precious game turns to repair their buildings. Air raids can be absolutely brutal, and was the most polarizing aspect of the four-player game we played.


The Manhattan Project is the most thematically interesting game I have played in quite some time. The game is presented in the style of World War II era newspapers which goes a long way in selling the theme.

The game ends as soon as one player reaches a certain number of points. This mechanic essentially makes the game a race to build the most bombs. A race to see who can craft the most arms first. An…arms race, if you will. Thematically, it just makes sense that the first to build the most bombs win, and I absolutely love this aspect.

One of the players complained that the game ended to quickly. I disagreed (not just because I won (maybe a little)) because an arms race should instill a sense of haste. The game rewards clever usage of buildings, and the most efficient players are going to win.


This game can be mean. The air strikes can put a player out of commission for more than one turn, giving a huge advantage to the other players. Luckily, there are ways to defend against air strikes, so there is a balance. Our group actually prefers high conflict in games (because we hate each other), so this was not too much of a negative.

The Verdict

The Manhattan is an easy “keep” for me. I will not be trading this one away any time soon.

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