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Subject: Manifest delivers the goods rss

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Ziegreich
New Zealand
Auckland
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CAVEAT: I write this review based on a handful of plays of a final or near final prototype, including playing with the designers. Also, I lent a hand with the rulebook and my name appears as a playtester. So I have an interest in the game, albeit not a financial one. At the same time, I’m an experienced gamer and reviewer, and not entirely without integrity. Now you know!

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Manifest is a game of global shipping in the 1920s. Each player has two ships with which to pick up and deliver cargo to fulfill contracts, e.g. to deliver American motorcycles to Petrograd. This is the only source of victory points. Some contracts are owned by players and only they can get points for delivering the goods. Others are open and go to the first person to fulfill them.

Apart from motorcycles, the cargo includes items such as cocoa and British engineers, a somewhat eclectic mix. Pirates on some routes as well as special events spice up things further.

The play is card driven. In your turn, you can play up to your hand limit of four cards. Each card can be played for movement, money or its special event. Movement is point to point along sea routes. Money is used to buy cargo in its source port or to buy new contracts. The special events allow you to do things outside the normal rules, including directly harming other players’ ships and cargo.

The game ends when a player reaches a specific point threshold with his completed contracts. First one to reach this total wins.

WHAT’S INTERESTING

Randomness: There is an element of randomness not all gamers will enjoy, the possibility that your careful plans are ruined by an opponent playing a special event that sends your ship off course or steals your cargo. Pirate attacks are resolved by rolling dice. I happen to like the random element, as it adds unpredictability and light-hearted moments.

Play: It’s important not to put all your eggs into one basket, so to speak. Have a couple of potential contracts on the go, and carry more than you need in case of pirates, etc. It's a matter of maximising possibilities, while balancing that against the need for speed. There's definitely lots of scope for planning. Depending on the group, the game can become one of parallel solo play. It’s up to the players to stir things up with event cards and by racing to complete public contracts. Scores can diverge quickly, so that some leader bashing may ensue with the special cards. Is that a bad thing? No.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD

Teleporting cargo: Stolen cargo can appear instantly on the attacker’s ship on the other side of the world, even at its destination harbour! To my mind, this causes too much of a point swing and does not make sense thematically. On the other hand, it does add excitement and an enjoyable “take that” element. I guess the fact that it’s in the game tells you something about the designers’ intention that this must be a fun game.

WHAT’S GOOD

Versatility: Manifest is very versatile, almost a gaming system rather than a game. Players can select different game lengths and different levels of complexity. The base game can be played with a mix and match of three optional variant rules, and then there is the expert game which adds deck-building. The game comes with separate card decks for the two versions. This means that it scales well from a quick family game to a more serious gamer’s game.

Multi-purpose cards: This idea is hardly new, but in Manifest it really works well. You always feel you have meaningful decisions and things to do. Some of the cards can be put to very powerful effect.

Movement: Movement is point to point, to nodes in the sea routes. You need to pay the full cost to get to the next node, so there’s a lot of calculating (and rueful sighing!) involved. It's pretty simple, but for some reason strikes me as more fun than ships I've sailed in other games.

Artwork: I have only played a prototype, so cannot comment on the physical quality of the final components. However, I can say that it has been beautifully designed by Franz Vohwinkel. The artwork has a great period feel.

Fun: This comes from the theme with its slight quirkiness, the swings of fortune due to luck and from player interaction – which should really be encouraged.

Ease: You can explain the base game in minutes. The cards are pretty self-explanatory.

WHAT’S THE VERDICT

Manifest is a solid, smart euro game – light enough for family fun, interesting enough for more demanding gamers. The mechanics feel familiar, but combine into an elegant game with distinct charm. I, for one, would rather play Manifest than Ticket to Ride, for instance, and I can see people having a lot of fun with this one.

UPDATE: My understanding is that the game is currently on Kickstarter. If someone knows more and can update us, please do so!
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Amanda Milne
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The Kickstarter is planned to go live March 4th. We are just finalising the budget and the Game play video for the Expert game.
Amanda Milne (Co-Designer)
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Julia Schiller
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That's March 3rd for North Americans.
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Katherine Boag
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http://www.manifestgame.com/ It's up on Kickstarter now.
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Sam Freeman
United Kingdom
Exeter
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Love the look of this game... I've just upped my initial pledge to the Wanted level!
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Neil Horabin
United Kingdom
Hounslow
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Looks great doesn't it? Top artwork, the perfect theme for it!
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Amanda Milne
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The Kickstarter closes in 3 days and is very close to funding. Backers are saving $15NZ + compared to MSRP
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