Posted by: gschloesser | August 6, 2011

Manhattan

Design by:  Andreas Seyfarth
Published by:  Hans im Glück / Mayfair Games
2 – 4 Players, 45 minutes – 1 hour
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

A game based on the construction of skyscrapers in Manhattan simply did not sound like my cup of tea.  Further, I’ve never been to New York and really don’t have a strong desire to travel there.  I’m a southern boy and would prefer the country life. 

However, the game Manhattan by designer Andreas Seyfarth and released by Mayfair Games kept popping up around the internet as a wonderful game and lots of fun to play.  Through my many internet ‘buddies’, this opinion was confirmed.  With no one local owning the game, I had no decision but to buy it before I tried it.  I have not been disappointed.

A description of the game is in order.  The game is played in four rounds, with players taking turns building skyscrapers throughout four Manhattan neighborhoods.  Players are restricted as to which of nine sectors in each neighborhood they can build in by cards which must be played in order to build.  A player only holds four cards in his hand at any one time, so his choices are limited.  Players can either build new buildings if no one occupies the space, or add to an existing building already located there.  However, there are restrictions.  If another player already has pieces in a building, you can only add to it if the number of stories you will have in that building by placing a new piece equals or exceeds that opponent’s controlled stories.  Further, a player must select six pieces from his initial total of 24 each of the four rounds.  The pieces come in 1, 2, 3 and 4 story sections.  There are more 1 story sections than 2, 3 or 4 stories, so as the game continues, there are usually less chances to add to existing buildings.  . 

Following each round, players total points as follows:

  • 1 point for each building controlled (having the top piece);
  • 2 points for each neighborhood controlled (having the most buildings in that neighborhood);
  • 3 points for controlling the tallest building on the board.

The player with the most cumulative points following round 4 is the victor.

There is also an interesting and zany variant wherein a monster (aka Godzilla) moves about the board destroying buildings as he goes.  Basically, each time a card is played and a building piece placed, the monster moves in the direction indicated on the card’s grid.  If he lands on a space containing the building, it is destroyed.  Alternatively, one can play the ‘Baby Monster’ variant, wherein only the top piece of the building is removed.  We have elected to use a miniature ‘Barney’ figure to represent the monster, and have loads of belly laughs watching the goofy Barney destroy Manhattan!  It does take a turn or two to get the hang of how to move the monster, as each neighborhood is not perfectly aligned on the board — but it is well worth the effort!

The game is deserving of the ‘German Game of the Year’ award it won several years back.  In spite of its short and simple rules, it forces many interesting and agonizing decisions upon the players.  These decisions start at the very beginning of the game and continue throughout::

  • What six pieces to select at the beginning of each round?
  • Weighing which strategy to approach concerning victory points:  quantity of buildings, control of neighborhoods, and/or tallest building.
  • Weighing which card to use in executing the above strategy, while keeping in mind the resulting movement of the monster
  • Deciding to forego an advantageous build in order to slow down or hurt an opponent – either by taking control of one of his buildings or moving the monster into his neighborhood.

I find the game, and the agonizing decisions it imposes, intriguing and loads of fun.  Get a hold of this game while you can.

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Responses

  1. Manhattan is delightfully easy to teach: plan on maybe 4 minutes. It seduces players by the second round, when the the battles for power beggin to bubble over. “You mean this is a strategy game?” Manhattan is a reliable guest pleaser in our house. (8/10)

  2. Good solid game. Since all players can attack (take over buildings) all other players, this has a meta-game problem. Sub-optimal play by a player can upset the balance of the game. 7/10


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