The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire is a strategy based game where players attempt to achieve total domination in the energy business. Players accomplish this by earning the most points through achievements, buying structures, obtaining resources, keeping their environment clean from pollution, and moving up on the United Nations track. I played the solo variation, which still means achieving points but you have to accomplish three goals in order to beat the game: reach the last space on the United Nations track, gain 20 points from achievements alone (you can have up to 5), and gain 100 or more points. For the record, I did not beat this game.
I wasn’t even close.
At the start of the game, players obtain a player mat with their environment, workers, energy, and achievement spaces. There are five of these, one for each player; then each player gathers their workers and energy tiles of the same color as their mat (red, blue, black, green, and yellow).
During this, the main board needs to be set up with structure cards, neutral workers (in solo and 2-player games only), and pollution on the Global Impact tract. Players draw achievements and United Nations cards; each player draws two each and discards one of them after choosing the one they prefer. Each nation has a different benefit. During solo play, achievements are drawn the same but you get to pick whichever nation you want. I went with Canada.
Once you select your nation and achievement, you start the official gameplay by first drawing six Global Impact cards and placing them face down. You will have three early impact cards and three late impact cards. These come into play once the pollution starts depleting from the Global Impact Track by moving to players’ environments or to the general supply.
During player turns, players can either work or generate. This comes with two restrictions: that if you have no workers available on your mat then you must choose generate, and if you generated energy on your previous turn, you must choose work. This makes you have to think carefully about how you’re going to strategize each turn because you need energy to complete tasks but you also need to work to gain more power plants, structures, and to move up on the United Nations track.
During work turns, players have the options to act on the Government, Industry, and Commerce locations of the board. Each of these have different resources associated with them and you have to be on one of their locations to activate and buy structures from those individual spaces. Once you’ve acted on a location on the board, you can then choose to activate your structures to obtain more resources or your nation card to move you up on the United Nations track.
Once you’ve used up all of or most of your energy and workers, you’ll want to do a generate turn next time around. For this, there are four steps that you have to take. The first thing that you’ll do is claim an achievement if and only if you have two or more workers on your mat. You’ll claim it from the achievement section on the board and the place a new one in its space. Then you must return all of your workers to your mat and discard all of your energy. You will literally have no usable energy, whatsoever, while you generate.
Now, you’re going to refine some oil and turn it into a temporary petroleum dice (which, you can only have up to four of). This is a very long-winded process to gain usable energy on your next turn, let me tell you. But, FINALLY, you roll your petroleum dice with whatever energy dice you’ve obtained from power plants (solar-wind, hydro-geo, coal, and nuclear) to determine how much energy you’ll have on your next turn. Here’s where you really want to be careful about pollution, if you don’t have any solar-wind or one hydro-geo dice, you will always gain pollution (or nuclear contamination from those nuclear dice). The only way to not gain any pollution during a generate turn is if the highest dice you roll is a solar-wind or hydro-geo die. In the event of a tie for highest roll, you pick the one you want to go with. Receiving no pollution causes a pollution tile to be removed from the Global Impact Track and put into the general supply.
There are a lot of ways to end up with pollution in your environment and Orbit gum will not help you clean it up. There are different ways to work through the gunk you’ve thrown on your board, but you’ll more often than not spend science on the Government location and remove them one at a time. Some cards will say that you gain pollution when you purchase the structure or the Global Impact cards will tell all players to pollute anywhere on their environment or you had a bad roll on your generate turn.
Gaining pollution is super easy to do in this game and it will mean that you gain less points for your environment spaces as time goes on if they remain polluted. Whenever a player gains pollution from a structure, action, or generate turn then they will take a tile from the Global Impact Track, which brings the game closer to an end. Whenever, a Global Impact Card says to pollute then you draw it from the general supply instead. Pollution is never a good thing in this game (much like real life) and you must be careful about when you risk taking it because it not only loses you points but it can also stop you from drilling for oil later in the game if you have no free spaces to do so (these spaces are marked with an oil droplet).
Now, I realize that this game seems to have a lot of rules and it seems rather daunting but it’s actually quite simple once you know what all the little pieces do. It moves rather quickly and it took me roughly an hour to lose the game. I’m sure with more people, it would take a little more time, but the strategy and brainpower that goes into it would make the victory incredibly satisfying. And someone actually wins in the end with more people.
I had fun playing my solo variation and should I ever own this game, I would definitely find myself playing it, trying to figure out the perfect strategy to win. Overall, I enjoyed the concept, art, and gameplay of The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire.
Have you played this game before? What do you think of it? And if you haven’t, does it sounds like something you would play? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured Image Credit: Minion Games.
Blog Image Credits: Blythe Wiedemann.