Friday, April 28, 2017

Quick Review - Ice and the Sky

Ice and the Sky
Designer: Florent Toscano
Publisher: Jeux Opla
2-4p | 20m | 10+
Quick Review - Ice and the Sky

A while ago I was contacted by a friend who works for a publisher that was considering publishing a North American version of Ice and the Sky, also known as La Glace et le Ciel, but he wanted to know if it was worth pursuing.  So he sent a copy of the game for me to both review and give my opinion on if it's worth publishing in North America.

Ice and the Sky is a two to four player cooperative card game for ages ten and up that plays in just about 20 minutes.  The game is loosely based on French glaciologist Claude Lorius's groundbreaking research in Antarctica that supported the theory that climate change is caused by humans.  Originally a book by Claude Lorius titled Voyage dans l'Anthropocène, it is now also a movie by Academy Award winning director Luc Jacquet (March of the Penguins).  In Ice and the Sky players cooperate to balance the environment over three rounds, by playing different valued cards in one of nine locations: a combination Water, Land, or Sky, and East, North, or West.  The combination of science and theme was instantly fascinating to me, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review the game.  So, does Ice and the Sky manage to mirror the experiences and science presented in the book and movie?  Let's find out!

Ice and the Sky came to me to review via the Everything Board Games Network!  Check the page out for more awesome reviews!

The Ice and the Sky is comprised of just a deck of 66 cards.  The box is decent quality, but not exceptional, as are the cards.  The artwork throughout is nice, but not overly impressive.  We liked most of it well enough, but it could have really brought out the theme with some incredible environmental artwork.  Thematically, some of the art also doesn't really make sense.  This is mostly the graphic design though, and not the actual artwork.  Some cards produce Carbon Dioxide in the game, which must be managed or points will be lost, however the art on the cards that produce Carbon Dioxide don't always make sense.  For example, why does an empty field produce CO2, but the airplane doesn't?
The artwork is nice, but why does the glacier produce CO2, but the polluted docks don't?
The rules are obviously a translation from French.  For the most part they are clear, but there are a few instances where they could be clearer.  There are also a few details that are missing, particularly about how much table-talk is allowed.

Setup of the game is pretty straight forward.  There are three sets of 12 generation cards that are shuffled, then an area for a three by three grid of cards is designated, with three starting cards placed diagonally across the grid.  The generation cards will be used in the game to fill up the grid.  Three cards are placed to the left of the grid to indicate rows for Sky, Land, and Water and three cards are placed below the grid to indicate columns for East, North, and West (thematically we're supposed to be at the South Pole, so there's no South - another thematic element that doesn't always come across in the artwork). There are also twelve target cards, six for the locations and directions, and six with values of 3, 4, 4, 5, and 6.  Finally, there are eight cards that are used for tracking score.
The starting layout.
Ice and the Sky plays over the course of three rounds, or generations.  In each generation the goal of the players is to balance the climate (represented by the generation cards) with a target value (the target cards).  Each player will be dealt an equal number of generation cards, which each have a location and value from 0-3 on them.  Some also have a CO2 icon as well.  Players will also receive two target cards, one with either a location or direction, and one with a value.  These two target cards indicate a target value that must be achieved in their designated row or column for that generation.

Players hold their generation cards in their hand so that only they can see them, and target cards face out so that only their teammates can see them.  So, without knowing what your own target values are, you'll be working with your teammates to place your generation cards in the appropriate rows and columns to match everyone's targets.  At the same time, players want to cover up any CO2 icons in the grid, else they will lose points, and possibly the game.
You can see your own generation cards, but not your target cards.  Only your teammates can see your targets.
Each generation, players take turns putting one of their generation cards into one of the three spaces of the row (Air, Land, or Water) indicated by the card.  Cards have a value ranging from 0-3, and will adjust the total value of both the row and column the card was placed in.  Once a card is played, players are allowed to tell the other players if placing the card made them reach their target, or caused them to not reach their target.  Through this process of achieving and then losing target values, players are able to deduce what their target row or column and value is.  But you only have 12 total turns each round to figure out everyone's target values, reach those values, and also cover up any CO2 icons in the grid.
As the game progresses cards will be covered with new values, adjusting the total values for each row or column.
Scoring is completed at the end of each generation and tracked with the included cards.  Once the generation is complete, players count how many of them reached their goal.  The score for the generation is the number of players that reached the goal, minus the number of players that didn't reach it.  So in a three player game, possible end of generation scores are 3, 1, -1, or -3.
The score cards used to track scores are pretty ingenious, if a bit fiddly...
At the end of three generations, the game the scores for each generation are added up and then multiplied by a CO2 multiplier.  At the beginning of the game the CO2 multiplier is three, but for each CO2 icon visible at the end of each round, that multiplier goes down by one (again, tracked with cards).  If you reach zero for the CO2 multiplier you lose the game.  Also, if your final score is negative, you lose the game.

If you are able to complete a game perfectly, meaning all players have reached their goals in all three generations, you can attempt a more difficult game.  In addition to CO2 icons, some cards have CH4 (methane) icons.  These behave the exact same way as CO2 icons; any displaying at the end of the round result in a reduction of the multiplier.  A perfect score varies depending on the number of players, 18, 27, or 36 for two, three, or four players.
We were far from perfect, but we did manage to barely win!
Final Thoughts:
I found Ice and the Sky to be just an OK game.  Nothing really great, but not bad either.  The people I played with (and me, too) had fun playing, but had no real urge to play again.

Mechanically it's solid, but it's one of those cooperative games that falls into the awkward area where there's too much randomization to make the game work without a significant amount of tabletalk, but if you do allow tabletalk then it gets too easy to solve the puzzle presented to you.  The rules don't specifically state how much table-talk is allowed, so we struggled with what we could tell each other and what we had to keep secret.  The combination of some cards being private and some being outward facing (but hidden from the owner) made it difficult to discern what we could and couldn't talk about, too.
What are you allowed to talk about and what do you have to keep secret?  Too much talking and the game is too easy,
but without any talking the game is too random and rounds are too short for any real deduction work.
Things I do like about it though: I really like the deduction and logic aspect of the game in trying to figure out what row/column and value combination you have in your hand.  There are interesting dilemmas about whether you should cover a Carbon Dioxide to keep your multiplier high, keep yours or a teammate's values intact, or invalidate someone's combination just to give the other players information.  I also really like the theme, even though it didn't really come across in the gameplay.  The artwork was also nice (but not amazing), even if it didn't always work thematically.
Those darn CO2 creating bats...  Guess I should chase them down in my CH4 producing jets...
Over my Antarctic desert canyon...
I think the game could be improved greatly if maybe one or two cards in each generation had two values (maybe one 0/3 and one 1/2 card) that you'd be able to choose which value it was.  This would give just a bit more flexibility to players while limiting tabletalk.

I feel that Ice and the Sky would be best played with only two players.  I played with three and felt that there were too few cards in each round for players to ave time to both make deductions and manipulate the values effectively.  I suspect a four player game would be almost impossible to have all four players reach their targets.  But with two players there's a bit more flexibility and time to make deductions, making the randomness of the dealt cards less of a factor.
With three or more players the generations don't give you enough control without being able to discuss strategies.
I had intended on doing a full review of Ice and the Sky since it is a retail game, although not readily available in the US.  However after playing once, I don't think it's a game that I'll be able to get to the table again.  I may be able to try it with two players, and I'll update this review if I do, but I wasn't all that impressed with it, and neither were the others that I played with.  So while it's not the worst game I've had to review, there was nothing about the game that really grabbed me.  That's a shame, because the concept behind the game is pretty interesting, and the movie looks spectacular.  

If the concept behind Ice and the Sky interests you it'll be difficult to track down in the US.  There is a copy in the BGG Marketplace, however you'll probably need to contact an overseas game store to get a copy from Europe.  

Preliminary Rating: 5.5/10

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends. Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games. Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play). I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game. Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing. Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

Eye on Kickstarter #19

Welcome to my Eye on Kickstarter series!  This series will highlight Kickstarter campaigns I am following that have recently launched (or I've recently discovered) because they have caught my interest.  Usually they'll catch my interest because they look like great games that I have either backed or would like to back (unfortunately budget doesn't allow me to back everything I'd like to).  But occasionally the campaigns caught my attention for other reasons.  Twice a month, on the 2nd and 4th Fridays, I'll make a new post in this series, highlighting the campaigns that have caught my attention since the last post.  In each post I'll highlight one campaign that has really grabbed my attention, followed by other campaigns I've backed or am interested in.  I'll also include links to any reviews I've done.  Comments are welcome, as are suggestions for new campaigns to check out!

You can also see my full Kickstarter Profile to see what I've backed or my old Eye on Kickstarter page that was too unwieldy to maintain.  Also, check out the 2017 Kickstarter Boardgame Projects geeklist over on Board Game Geek for a list of all the tabletop games of the year.

So, without further ado, here are the projects I'm currently watching as of the fourth Friday of April, 2017:

  • GJJ Games Review
  • GJJ Games Backed
  • Yes, you're right, Manaforge was my featured game in my last Eye on Kickstarter also. But I wanted to feature it again in this update because it only has a couple more days left and really needs the help to fund. This is a great game with incredible artwork and at an amazing price (only $40 including shipping for a game with dozens of custom dice and breathtaking artwork!), and I'm amazed that it is struggling to fund. Manaforge uses some very cool dice selection, resource management, and engine building mechanics with some really awesome artwork to create a very fun, and thinky experience. Manaforge is up there with the best games I've previewed for Kickstarter and it needs your help to fund! This is a game that definitely deserves to be made. Plus there are a number of really exciting expansions in the works, but the only way those will see the light is if the base game is successful. So be sure to take a look at Manaforge today!

Ever wonder where magical items come from? You're about to find out!

Manaforge is a dice-rolling, resource management game of crafting magical equipment. Players step into the role of wizards who specialize in creating magic items. Each wizard owns a magic shop in which they display the fruits of their labor for gold-laden adventurers to come in and purchase.

However, the adventurers' funds are finite, so wizards must compete to make their shops stand out from the rest. And what better way to impress adventurers then to have the most impressive selection of useful and powerful magical gear. At the end of the day, the wizard who accumulates the most Prestige (victory points) will attract the customers and make the sales. May the craftiest wizard win!

Ember Mage Nights
  • People Behind the Meeples Interview
  • The Ember games from District 31 have been fairly successful on Kickstarter over the last few years. This is a campaign for some updates, a mini expansion, and the opportunity to round out your Ember collection (or start one). This game line features some awesome artwork and some interesting gameplay.

Brass: Lancashire & Brass: Birmingham
  • Brass was one of the top ranked games on BGG for quite a while. OK, it still is... But now Roxley games is releasing an updated version of the Martin Wallace classic for it's 10th anniversary. This new version has absolutely stunning new artwork and components. Plus, they're also releasing an equally stunning standalone sequel to Brass, called Brass: Birmingham.

Tesla vs Edison: Duel
  • One of my gaming regrets is that I still haven't had a chance to play Tesla vs Edison, despite owning the Kickstarter edition of the game. I hope to rectify that this year though. In the meantime, there's a new, 2-player version of Tesla vs Edison on Kickstarter right now. This looks like it brings the historical battle to a quick, two player game that you can knock out over a lunch break.

Rayguns and Rocketships
  • Rayguns and Rocketships brings that classic pulp science fiction theme to your tabletop with fun, kitschy artwork and retro styled miniatures. This looks like it would be a blast to play, especially if you're a fan of old Buck Rodgers styled sci-fi shows.

The White Box
  • Again, this isn't actually a game. But if you've ever thought about making your own game, this is the kit for you. It contains a number of standard components, including some pre-printed tokens and other bits. It also contains a number of essays about game design to help you get your ideas out of your head and onto the table.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

GJJG Game Reviews - The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction - by Minion Games

The Manhattan Project:
Chain Reaction

Designer: James Mathe
Publisher: Minion Games
1-5p | 20-30m | 8+
GJJG Game Reviews - The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction - by Minion Games

Game Overview:
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!

The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction is a fast card game for one to five players age 12 and up that takes about 20 to 40 minutes to play.  Players take on the roles of different nations vying to be the first to build ten megatons worth of atomic warheads.  

Components & Packaging:
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.

About the only aspect of the components that stands out is the art and design.  The artwork is by the same artists as the original Manhattan Project, in fact much of it is lifted straight from the original game.  The games also share some iconography and other artwork elements, giving Chain Reaction a very familiar look if you are used to Manhattan Project.
The artwork and graphic design throughout the game is excellent, and fits right in with the other Manhattan Project games.
Score: 6/10 x1

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.

There are several types of cards, each of which should be separated into their own groups.  First, take the four landmark cards and place them face-up in a row.  Then take the bomb cards and place a number equal to the players, plus one, in a row below the locations, with the rest in a draw pile.  There are also bomb loaded cards, and three values of yellowcake cards (with uranium on the backs) that should all be placed in separate draw piles.  One card is a first player marker, and the rest should be shuffled to become the main draw pile.  Each player gets five of the main cards and the game is ready to begin.
Setup and ready to play!
On your turn you'll play the five cards in your hand then draw a new hand of five cards, simple as that.  Where things get more complex though, and where the strategy comes in, is in how the cards interact.

There are two main types of cards that you'll have in your hand, actions and locations.  Actions let you do various things at no cost (always a choice between something that will mostly help you, and something that will harm an opponent).  Locations let you generate something (workers, yellowcake, uranium, or more cards) for a cost (workers or yellowcake).  Using the cards you have you are trying to mine yellowcake to turn into refined uranium and then use the uranium to build bombs.  Yellowcake and uranium are the only resources you'll keep from turn to turn, until you spend the uranium to build bombs.  Bombs are worth varying amounts of points, and the first player to ten points triggers the end game (or play to more points for a longer game).  The winner is the player with the most points at the end of that round.
Yellowcake earned in one turn is saved for future turns, when it can be enriched into uranium, and then used to build bombs.
All the main play cards have two possible uses, either for workers, or for their location or ability.  To use a card for the workers it provides, play it horizontally.  Cards will provide one or two each of three types of workers: general laborers, scientists, and engineers.  Using the appropriate number and type of workers (and occasionally including some yellowcake) allows you to activate another card.  
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.
Activating a Factory let's you either draw two or three new cards or cause another player to discard that many cards.  Universities take a few workers and generate more or different types of workers.  Mines use workers to generate yellowcake.  Enrichment plants use some workers to turn the yellowcake into uranium.
A wide variety of cards ensures that each hand is a unique puzzle.
There are also four Landmarks, or permanent locations that are always available for everyone to use.  These are expensive, but can be used to produce one scientist, engineer, yellowcake, or uranium.  The cost is higher than using a standard card, but sometimes the cards you are dealt leave you needing just that little bit extra.
Landmarks like MIT, or Oak Ridge are expensive to use, but can give you that last boost you need.
A few cards just have actions that you can take immediately when the card is played.  Design Bomb let's you draw the top three Bomb cards (more about them in a bit), choose one, and discard the others to the bottom of the Bomb card pile.  The one you chose you keep face down until you are able to build it.  Double Agent is a pretty powerful card.  It lets you either use a Landmark without paying its cost or take one yellowcake from an opponent.  Espionage is the most take-that card of the game, allowing you to either look at an opponent's hand and steal a card, or steal a yellowcake from an opponent.
A few cards have some take-that actions available.
Ultimately you'll want to use the uranium you've refined and workers you can generate to build a bomb.  There are several bombs available to all players, ranging in points from three to seven.  Each bomb needs a combination of scientists, engineers, and uranium to construct.  Once built, you'll collect the bomb for its points.
Bomb cards earn you points and bring the game to an end.
There are also Load Bomb cards, which take two engineers and two scientists.  You can only load a bomb you've already built and can only load a bomb once, but loading a bomb increases the points it is worth by two.
Load Bomb cards give each loaded bomb a two point boost.
The game ends at the end of the round in which a player earns ten or more points in built and/or loaded bombs.  Then scores are tallied (unused uranium is worth 1/2 a point) and the winner is the player with the most points.  Ties are broken by the player with the most yellowcake remaining.

Overall, the rules are clear and quick to both learn and teach.  The game is simple and straightforward enough that even on just the single, oversize sheet, we found every question was answered.  Setup just takes a few minutes (and you can use the time spent laying out the different cards to teach what they are).  Cleanup is pretty quick as well.  For the most part each card type remains with just other cards of the same type, so there's not much sorting required for cleanup.
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!
Score: 9/10 x2

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.
A bigger issue, potentially, is the take-that aspect of the game.  It's not too overwhelming, but depending on who you are playing with and what cards get drawn, this can be a game where people gang up on one other player.  Granted, if those are the people you're playing with, maybe it's better to find others to play with, but the game does present the possibility to severely handicap one player.  It is possible to play without using the nasty effects since all of those cards, except for Espionage, have an option that doesn't hinder any other players, and, truthfully it's often better to take the benefit yourself than it is to hurt another player.  I didn't find the take-that nature of the game to be too vicious, but be aware that there is the potential for it.
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.
One thing to note is that Chain Reaction has rules for solo play, too.  Solo rules are pretty much the exact same as standard play, except the few take-that cards have some alternate actions.  You play through the entire deck once, without shuffling, and see how many points you can earn.  You'll try to beat your best score each time.  Gameplay is still interesting, since you have a new puzzle to solve each turn, but there are no options for increasing difficulty.  It's a fun way to spend 15-20 minutes though, and the game size means you can take it with you just about anywhere.

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

General Fun:
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).
Score: 8/10 x2

Overall Value:
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.
Score: 8/10 x1

Final Thoughts:
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.
Lots of different cards make for some interesting combinations.
Chain Reaction isn't a perfect game though.  Even though other games come in similar style tuck boxes, it still feels cheap.  If you think you'll play a lot, the tuck box won't fit sleeved cards.  And if you don't sleeve the cards, the tuck box won't protect them for long.  The game plays quickly, sometimes even too quick.  That can be easily remedied by playing to higher points though.  Chain Reaction also has the potential to get a bit more vicious than some will like, but the multiple actions and quick play help prevent most games from being too mean.

While I really did like how cards had multiple uses, I still sometimes felt my choices were a not lacking due to some bad luck.  However, I never felt like there was nothing to do.  I think it might be interesting to have a few more cards that add a bit more variety to the deck, though.  Maybe a few cards that have three laborers on them instead of just two or one.  There is a lot of balance in the cards that makes sure that even if you use a card that let's you draw more cards, the amount of cards you play is never less than what you gain.  So if you play a factory to let you draw three cards, you'll have to spend at least three cards.  It might be interesting if there were occasional card combos that could actually let you increase the number of cards you can work with.  

There could also potentially be more cards that have interesting actions to spice up the gameplay a bit.  Sometimes turns seemed to be repetitive, trying to solve the same types of puzzles turn after turn.  I could see some event cards mixed in the deck.  Maybe cards that affect everyone when drawn or played, like everyone draws a card, or discards a card.  Or the active player draws cards equal to the number of players, chooses one and passes the rest on, then the next player does the same, until all players have a new card.  Or everyone passes a card to the left or right.  There are a lot of fun ideas that could add just a bit more interest to the game.  But that could be for a mini expansion someday.
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, everyone I played The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction with had a great time.  The gameplay is fast, fun, and solid.  It's easy to teach, has an accessible theme, and looks great.  The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction would be a great addition to anyone's collection of lighter, filler style games.  If you are a fan of the Manhattan Project line, and are looking for a lighter game with the same theme, Chain Reaction is that game.

You can learn more about The Manhattan Project: Chain Reaction from the Minion Games website, or ask for it at your favorite online or local game store.

Overall Score: 76/100

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  A score of 1-10 (low-high) is given to each game in six categories: Components & Packaging, Rules & Setup, Gameplay, Replayability, Overall Value, and General Fun.  Rules & Setup and General Fun are weighted double and Gameplay is weighted triple.  Educational games have an extra category and Gameplay is only weighted double. Then the game is given a total score of x/100.