Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Thursday 23 August 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Manhattan

Game: Manhattan

Publisher: Foxmind

Designer: Andreas Seyfarth

Year: 1994

Manhattan is an older game that got a recent face-lift and reprint from Foxmind Games. It won the Spiel des Jahres Award in 1994, the year before The Settlers of Catan won the same award! 1994/1995 is really the tipping point between Spiel winners I've heard of and Spiel winners that I've not really heard of or that were only ever printed in German. That makes Manhattan a pretty old game by modern gaming standards and we were keen to see if these skyscrapers have stood the test of time.

The new reprint of Manhattan certainly looks amazing, with its colourful transparent towers that make it an Instagramer's dream. The aesthetics really do try and bring to life the theme in this 3-dimensional abstract game.

Manhattan is primarily a four player game (something which we'll touch on later) where each player sits on one of the four edges of the board, getting a different perspective on the six different districts on the board. Each round you select a number of different height skyscraper components - either 1, 2, 3 or 4 storeys high. You then take a hand of four cards that dictate which of the 9 squares of each district you can build in, and you select one of these and one building element to play each turn. You can either break new ground or build on top of your Skyscrapers or other people's skyscrapers that are already in progress. If you build on other people's you need to contribute at least the same number of storeys as the dominant player colour in the tower. At the end of each of four rounds, points are available for the person on top of the tallest tower, having the majority of towers in each district and for the quantity of towers you own in the city.
Aside from the aesthetics, which are great, my favourite gameplay aspect of Manhattan is the way that one deck of cards indicating the same positions can mean something different for the person sitting on each side of the table. This mitigates any clues you could get from the board that might tell you what chance there is of people having certain cards in hand. I like how simple and effective this mechanism is, although it does perhaps take away from some of the information I could use to feel in control of my own fate in the game.

Like most board games, we initially played Manhattan as a 2-player experience. Here there is a variant to use two colours each and the total of the scores of your two colours at the end of the game is your final score. With two players we just felt like the game was a game of cat and mouse and luck of the draw dictated whether you had a comeback to your opponent's move. It made for a very frustrating experience with very little opportunity for strategy or diversity in the game. After two bad games we chose to wait for a four player opportunity to try and give balance to our opinions of the game.

With four players, there was a little more chance to implement a strategy. For example, you can choose to spread yourself all over the board to gain points whilst two people are busy fighting over the tallest tower. However, it did seem like their was a natural split where each territory became a fight between two people and you were back to a situation of luck of the draw or kingmaking towards the end of the game depending who you choose to pick your battle with.  We played with two of our friends, Ellie and Kelvin, who didn't not enjoy it, but felt like the game didn't really reward them for thinking, which said a lot to me about how I feel during the game too.

I love that Manhattan is an abstract strategy game with a 3-dimensional aspect, but I really don't enjoy how it plays. With four players it's an OK experience, with two players I found it really quite annoying. I simply can't find a good way to play the game strategically without frustrating cat and mouse, take-that behavior that is only possible when you get lucky with your card draw. I feel like the game is playing itself and I'm not much more than a passive observer.

Sadly I'm not sure what people seem to see in this game and Manhattan is a 4/10 from the Yellow Meeple.

Manhattan was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK and Foxmind Games. It is available for an RRP of £46.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

No comments:

Post a Comment