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MANHATTAN

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Reviewed by Herb Levy

MANHATTAN (FoxMind, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 40 minutes; $39.99)

 

          Box cover art for the FoxMind edition

I first saw this game some years ago at the New York International Toy Fair. The inventor was looking for US distribution but, at that point, it didn’t seem likely. Fortunately, sometimes the unexpected  happens. Mayfair Games, long interested in the potential of European adult oriented games to be successful in the American market, has released US editions of some of the best European games (e.g. The Settlers of Catan and Modern Art, both featured in the Fall 1996 issue of Gamers Alliance Report). Mayfair (and now FoxMind) has also released Manhattan, winner of the 1994 Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year Award), for the pleasure of American gamers.

Manhattan is an Andreas Seyfarth creation. The box contains a deck of 45 Building cards, a mounted board (representing different neighborhoods in the city), 100 Building pieces (4 different colored sets of 25), a yellow maker (used to show who is going first) and concise, easy to understand rules,

Each player begins with 25 buildings in their color. The building comes in different sizes, from one story tall (and one of these is used as a marker on the scoring rack on the board to keep a running score) up to four levels high. The game is played in four rounds (six rounds in a two or three player game) and, each round, each player selects six of his unplayed pieces (only four when less than four are playing) to use in that round. The Building card deck is shuffled and each player is dealt a hand of four cards. 

Each Building card shows an identical pair of grids divided into nine squares, matched to the layout of the six neighborhood on the board. One of the squares in the grid is colored red. By playing the card, the player may place one of his buildings in a corresponding space on the board. Once played, a new card is drawn to replace it.

Control of a building is determined by the color of the top floor. The player who controls that color controls that building. If a space is unoccupied, any size piece from any player may be placed there to create a new building (and establish control). If already occupied by that player, additional pieces may be placed on top without limit. Should an opponent occupy the space however, the player may attempt to wrest control of the building from the opposition. However, certain restrictions apply. That player must have at least as many floors of his color on the building (including the new, played, piece) as there are floors of the current owner’s color. If that requirement is met, control of the building changes hands! Once all six pieces of a round are placed, that round is over and points are scored.

              Box art of the Mayfair edition

Points are earned based on building and neighborhood control. Each controlled building gets that player one point. Neighborhood control, determined by who controls the most buildings in a particular area, earns the controlling player 2 points per neighborhood. The owner of the tallest building (counting all floors regardless of color) gets three additional points. Scores are cumulative. Play continues until all 24 buildings of each player are placed. The player with the highest total of points at that time wins.

The New York skyline is world famous and skyscrapers are synonymous with New York. Watching those colorful buildings grow plays on that New York image and adds a fun aspect to play. The variability of the cards (the space where you can place your building actually changes based on your orientation to the board) adds a little to spice to play. And the decision-making choices can be tantalizing. Do you place another building in a neighborhood to try take control there? Or should you add to a building you already own to guard against a takeover? Maybe add a floor or two to get that 3 point bonus for the tallest building? We’re still looking for the “perfect” strategy!

For play value, three-dimensional graphic appeal and replayability, I follow the advice found in that classic Gershwin tun. “I’ll take Manhattan“. And you should too. – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy

© 1997, 2019, all rights reserved.

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