|The Manhattan Project:|
Designer: James Mathe
Publisher: Minion Games
1-5p | 20-30m | 8+
The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction is a standalone card game based on the very popular Manhattan Project by Minion Games. The Manhattan Project is one of the top rated games on Board Game Geek (7.5 and ranked #169) and last year's Manhattan Project: Energy Empire made a number of best games of 2016 lists. This year will also see the release of the highly anticipated Manhattan Project 2: Minutes to Midnight. Chain Reaction was released last year to much less fanfare, but it had huge shoes to fill, and as a quick card came was really in a totally different category. But is Chain Reaction worthy of the Manhattan Project title, or was it a did in this line of explosive games? Let's find out!
Component wise, Chain Reaction is a simple game. There are only 108 cards in the entire game. The card quality is decent, but no linen finish. The rules are on a single fold out sheet, and the box is just a tuck box. So there's nothing to wow about with the component quality. The tuck box can't fit sleeved cards, so you'll either need to upgrade to a larger box and lose the artwork, or keep the cards in the tuck box but run the risk of damage.
|The tuck box in the standard edition looks great, but isn't super sturdy.|
There is a deluxe version of the game for an additional $10 that adds a more durable two-piece, telescoping box as well as some wooden mushroom cloud and radioactive symbol tokens. To my knowledge, these don't change the game at all (in fact, I'm not sure what they'd be used for since they don't quite match any gameplay elements), but they do look pretty cool.
|The artwork and graphic design throughout the game is excellent, and fits right in with the other Manhattan Project games.|
Rules & Setup:
Chain Reaction is a very straightforward game. The rules are pretty clear, setup just takes a couple of minutes, and resetting for a second game is super quick.
|Yellowcake earned in one turn is saved for future turns, when it can be enriched into uranium, and then used to build bombs.|
|Every turn is an interesting puzzle of how to use the locations or labor on each card to |
maximize your production of yellowcake and uranium.
|I won here with 11 points, 8 points for my bombs, one loaded bomb, and one point for two remaining uranium cards. |
Second place was 10.5 points, so it was close!
The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction is a surprisingly deep game. The way cards work as both resource and production creates some very interesting decisions. Do you use that mine for the two laborers it generates? Or do you use it to produce three yellowcake? Do you want to be mean and cause an opponent to discard some cards, or do you want to see if you can get some useful cards for yourself?
Despite some occasionally tough decisions, the random cards you get from the deck each turn means the game can feel a bit luck based, but in my experience that luck tends to even out. All games I played were fairly close and no one ever ended up way behind, even if they felt like they were getting unlucky cards more often than others. Usually you can do something with the cards you draw, and only rarely does more than one card go unused from your hand.
|Sometimes the chains of cards can go on for quite a while, despite each turn starting with only five cards in your hand.|
|Over the course of a game I had Espionage three times, so I stole a card |
from each of the other players! It's great to share!
Chain Reaction also has some very interesting mechanics in how the cards can be chained together for some pretty cool effects. Given the right hand, it's possible to play the right combination to go from nothing to building a bomb, all in one turn. It's tough, but possible. But even without a perfect hand, it's often possible to make some pretty big strides toward building a bomb in one turn. Each hand you draw presents you with an intriguing puzzle that you work to solve to maximize your output of yellowcake and uranium. The way the cards chain together and have dual purposes gives you quite a bit to ponder, even with only five cards in your hand. It kind of gives the feel of a deckbuilder, late in the game when you draw cool card combinations, but without the overhead of having to build your deck. It's quite interesting and works very well.
|Can you figure out how to use these cards to generate two uranium?|
|First, I can use four scientists to run my mine, producing three yellowcake (one scientist is wasted, unfortunately).|
|Then I'll use those three yellowcake and another scientist (wasting an engineer) to get two uranium.|
|Flipping over the yellowcake gives me the uranium I'll need to build a bomb later.|
Score: 7/10 x3
The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction isn't a game that you'll make your sole focus of game night, but it is a pretty good filler game. Especially if you are a fan of the original The Manhattan Project, or Energy Empire (or the upcoming Minutes to Midnight). These are all bigger games that will pretty much fill up a game night, and will be games that you'll want to return to whenever you have the time to spend. But at the beginning of the night, before you delve into one of the meatier games, Chain Reaction is a great appetizer. It plays quickly, offers some interesting decisions and puzzles, and carries through the Manhattan Project theme pretty well.
Even if you're not using Chain Reaction as a prelude to other Manhattan Project games, it's still a fun little game to pull out whenever you need a quick filler. This is definitely a game that will be coming with me to game nights quite often. It'll also likely be a game that I break out with the kids in the evening when they want a game, but we don't have the time to play a long one. It's fast, fun, and accessible, and at up to five players it should hit the table pretty frequently.
Score: 7/10 x1
I found The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction to be quite enjoyable. The play length is just about right for the weight and style of game that it is, but it's quite easy to lengthen the game if you like. I recommend trying a game to 12 or 15 points. Chain Reaction is a game that I'd be happy to play just about any time, and it's one I'll be bringing with to play with others when we need a quick playing game. I really enjoyed the decisions and puzzles that arise from the cards you draw into your hand each turn. The theme is great, although it's not overly immersive, and the artwork matches the theme wonderfully. I had more fun playing Chain Reaction than I thought I would, and I'd gladly teach it to new players so they can have fun as well. Everyone I played with also really enjoyed the game.
|Solving each little puzzle each turn is quite fun, as is the opportunity to mess with your opponents (if you're into that).|
At only $15, The Manhattan Project: Chain reaction is a great deal. It plays smoothly, and brings quite a bit of fun to the table. It's also in line, price wise, with similar games when comparing components and gameplay (Star Realms, Epic, etc.). Chain Reaction is a game that you can easily take just about anywhere and play in about 20-30 minutes. It's perfect for a game night filler, restaurant game, or any time you want something fast and fun. It's a pretty good value for the money, and you can sometimes find it even cheaper. Definitely look for it at your FLGS, or favorite online game retailer. It'll be a worthwhile purchase.
|Great artwork, fun gameplay, and small form factor all make this a great game for only $15.|
The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction definitely gets my approval. No, it's not as weighty or deep a game as the others in the Manhattan Project family, but it keeps the theme alive in a lighter card game. I really enjoyed how each turn presented a new puzzle to solve. There's really only one path to victory, so each player will have the same general strategy, but to win you really need to figure out how to maximize each turn. There is a fair amount of luck, but the game is light enough and fast enough that there shouldn't be any hard feelings if someone gets a few bad hands. Also, the multiple uses of the cards provide lots of opportunities to mitigate the luck of the draw.
|In the example above, I could also have generated my three yellowcake with this combination. |
I'd still have wasted a scientist though, and would have had the same result.
Overall Score: 76/100
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