original German edition
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There's a building boom going on in Manhattan, but it's not just there. All over the world, skyscrapers are springing up towards the sky. Players must build as many as possible, in Manhattan, Cairo, Sao Paulo, Frankfurt, Sydney and Hong Kong.
As players, you take turns constructing new buildings or adding levels to existing buildings. Your cards influence where you must build, but you can choose to build in any of six cities. You can also steal control of other players' buildings by playing your pieces on top of their buildings, taking away their hard-earned points.
So the question is, do players prefer to build their own buildings, or is it easier to take them over from their opponents? Each player must decide for themselves--but who is going to quietly stand by and watch while someone else takes over that skyscraper that you just spent so much time and effort building?
Once each player has built six pieces, the round is over and all players score points based on who has the world's tallest building, who has the most buildings in each city, and how many buildings each player controls. After four rounds of building and scoring, the player with the most points wins.
Whenever I travel across the world, and visit big cities, one of the first things I look for are the skyscrapers. I really like to see large, manmade structures jutting high above the skylines. I like to read about which buildings in the world are tallest, etc. So naturally, a game that has skyscrapers in it, is very attractive to me. Manhattan (Hans Im Gluck, 1994 Andreas Seyfarth) was a very easy purchase for me.
So was Manhattan worth my purchase? The answer is that I find Manhattan one of my favorite four-player games, and certainly my favorite building game. Now, for the longer answer, starting with a description of game play
A board is set in the middle of the table, with six cities on it. Each city is composed of a three by three grid of squares, for a total of nine squares. Next to each city is a space where cards can be played. Each player has twenty-five buildings in their color. These buildings range from one floor to four floors. Each player takes a one-story building and places it on the score track. They then take six buildings of whatever height they want, and prepare for the first round. The cards are shuffled, and four are dealt to each player face down. One player is given a yellow marker to show that they are the first player, and the round begins.
In a round, a player must play a card. Each card shows one building on a 3 by 3 grid marked in red. The player can play the card in any of the six cities in any orientation they choose. If a card has already been played to that city, all future cards must be played with the same orientation. The player then places one of the buildings they have in front of them and places that building in the space on the board. A player may place their tower on top of another players tower, taking control of that tower but only if the total amount of stories of their color are equal to or greater than the previous owners total stories. After a player places his building, he draws a card, and play passes to the next player.
After a round is over (each player has placed their six buildings), scoring occurs. Each player gets one point for every tower they control. Then, they score 2 points for each city in which they have the majority (control most buildings). Finally, the player who controls the tallest tower gets 3 points (no ties allowed). The score pieces are moved accordingly, the yellow piece is passed to the next player, each player chooses six more tower pieces, and another round begins. After four rounds, the player with the highest score is the winner!
Some comments on the game:
1). Components: Im very, very pleased with the components of Manhattan. The tower blocks, while very simple, are extremely functional. The orange, black, sky blue, and blue colors contrast each other nicely, and are very easy to see on the board. The tower pieces stack well (although you cannot stack all 100 pieces on top of each other - I tried). This is especially useful for the scoring track (why cant more games do this and make stackable scoring pieces?). The cards are fantastic looking and are of good quality. Its very easy to determine the orientation of a card, and they have some nice artwork on them. The same can be said for the board. The cities are laid out nicely, with nice skyscraper artwork around the board. Each city is named (New York, Hong Kong, etc.) Not a big deal, but it adds to the theme. The scoring track is very easy to read, and easy to use with the stackable pieces. The box is a nice sized box, with a good plastic insert that holds the pieces so well that I didnt bother bagging them (I bag almost all my games).
2). Rules: I bought the Hans Im Gluck version of the game, so I wasnt able to go by the German rules (which did look nice, by the way). But, it was very easy to download a translation of the rules at www.gamecabinest.com. The rules are extremely easy to teach and play, and I find that most people are able to pick up the strategies quite quickly.
3). Godzilla: This is a variant designed by Erik Moore and Brian Bankler. When we played the game with this variant, it was so much fun that I think well always play the game this way. A small monster piece, (or anything, really) is placed in the center of any city. All the cities are considered to be in a 2 x 3 rectangle with wrap-around edges. Whenever a player plays a card, not only do they place a building, but they move the monster in the direction that the card indicates (if the red square is at the top Godzilla moves up, etc.). If the red square is in the middle, the monster doesnt move. Whenever the monster runs into a building, it destroys the building entirely. This changes the game considerably, adding another layer into the game. Not only do you have to be careful as to where you put your buildings, but you have to be careful where you move Godzilla! We found that when playing with this variant, tall buildings rarely occurred, as the monster was quickly moved to the tallest buildings on the board to cause their destruction. A milder variant (little Godzilla) has the monster only destroy the top piece of a building. I find that this is even better, as it adds the fun of the monster, but doesnt destroy the entire board. With either variant, however, you may want to be careful with whom you play, as some people can really get angry when you destroy their 12 story tower. But everyone Ive played it with has had a blast (even though we all yelled at each other and called down doom on those who moved the monster onto our buildings.)
4). Fun Factor: As you can tell, the Godzilla variant adds a lot of fun. But theres a fair amount of fun already in the game. There are no brain burning decisions to be made here, but the decisions are there to be made. Should you cap somebody elses building, or put up a new building in a different city? Are you trying to go for the tallest building, or the most buildings? Since the decisions are important, but easy to make, the game becomes a lot of fun.
5). Strategy and luck: The only luck in the game is what cards you draw. And yes, sometimes youll be stuck with many of the same cards, and you wont get that single card you need to cap your opponents tower. But strategy plays a large role in this game. Its important how you place your pieces, regardless of the cards youre dealt. And I believe that the monster variant, especially the little Godzilla adds even another layer of strategy to the game.
6). Aesthetics: Sometimes how a game looks is very important, as it helps draw people into the hobby. Manhattan is one of those games. When people see the skyscrapers all over the board, they find it interesting and stop to see whats going on. Manhattan is easy to learn, and players will find that the game plays as well as it looks. For this reason alone, Manhattan deserves all the awards it has won.
And therefore I highly recommend the game. Its quick, taking about forty-five minutes, looks good, and is fun to play. Add a good layer of strategy and a small dose of luck, and you have a nice winner on your hands. Manhattan is the perfect game to show people, when you want to prove to them that games without dice can be fun. Try it out and teach it to your friends -- you won't be disappointed.
Though an older title, I just picked up a copy of the original German version and my fellow Game Night players and I love it. This is one of the few games where after its initial playing everyone said, 'Hey, let's try that again!' and we did. Though it really only works with 4, that's the only flaw I see in an otherwise fantastic game.
Love the tactile nature, and I like the use of 3D which literally opens up another new dimension compared to most games!
The 'kingmaker' aspect does often come into play; eventually it's likely that someone will be forced by the cards to attack someone else--but this is just like Risk! And I don't think it is a criticism, just part of the game that forces conflict! Who wants a group hug game? Equally it's frustrating when you want to attack someone but you don't have the cards for it! But happily this introduces a small bit of luck into the fun, which means anyone potentially can win. It's great when you fully expect to be attacked but the round goes on and you realise no-one has the cards to do so! Gambling on what cards the others have or have not adds a lot to the intrigue! Don't get me wrong; the game isn't force-led by the cards, they limit your options but contribute to the nail-biting!
The simplicity of the rules is also a bonus; it's an especially good game to drag out for occasional players where you don't want continual rulebook referrals, and where anyone can win even if you're the 'expert'.
The scoring system is very good and leadership ebbs and flows between rounds.
I'm looking forward to playing the baby-Godzilla variant!