Publisher: SchilMil Games
Player Count: 2-5 Players
Solo mode: No
Game Length: 45-90 Minutes
The time is the 1920’s and the world is becoming smaller. The shipping industry is booming and there is fortune to be made transporting passengers and cargo across the globe. It’s going to take a ship captain willing to brave the unknown while competing with other eager ships to earn the most lucrative contracts. Do you have what it takes to brave pirates, survive the elements and manage fluctuating contracts to become the richest ship captain in this blossoming new industry?
In this competitive deck-building and pick-up delivery game you’re seeking to fulfill contracts as you race a pair of ships across a global map in an effort to achieve a predetermined number of points. Cargo and passengers are limited, so you’ll need to be efficient and intentional about how you use your limited actions to target ports and plan your trip in hopes of achieving the most lucrative available contract.
ON YOUR TURN
Players will begin by drawing action cards from their hand. Each action card allows you to do one of a series of actions including moving your ship the value on the card, purchase contracts or pay to load cargo from a port or use the cards special ability. Choosing between their 2 available ships, players will sail across the board picking up supplies and passengers in an effort to fulfill their own contracts or one of the public contracts available.
Each cargo ship has a limited number of spots available creating additional challenges as you consider your position on the board, your proximity to resources and the contracts available.
Seeking the shortest route may mean passing through the Panama Canal or Mediterranean Sea might save you precious turns, but there is plenty of risk. When traveling through pirate-occupied waters, players will roll dice, potentially losing cargo or passengers. Is it a risk you’re willing to take?
Action cards provide plenty of opportunity to mess with your opponents with some thematic options. You may choose to manipulate the public contracts, choose an opponent ship to quarantine, inflict with the Spanish flu, battle a stock market crash or fight a raging storm among many other options. Playing these can keep an opponent down, but they also deny you the opportunity to purchase valuable contracts or use their movement value to send your ships along. It all requires a careful balance to maximize your actions.
The game also provides a variant that limits the number of cargo/passenger tokens as well as an expert mode that gives each person a limited deck and an opportunity to purchase additional cards from an available market.
COMPONENTS & ARTWORK
Manifest provides a beautiful presentation centered around a sprawling, colorfully illustrated map of the world. The artwork and typography pays homage to the distinctive deco/20s style travel art still popular today. The playing cards are printed on a nice linen card stock that is complemented with a series of wooden meeples, cubes and mini-ships. Overall the production is very well done and should please anyone drawn in by the theme.
PROS & CONS
+ As previously mentioned, the game’s visual presentation is going to initially grab players drawn to Manifest. It’s very well done and looks great on your table.
+ The theme is prevalent on the action card’s special abilities. Touching on the stock market, Spanish flu as well as pirates sends you back to a time when the old world began to collide with new industry.
+ The option to play the expert game mode delivers a more solid deck-building experience and one that creates more interesting choices.
– It can be slow going since the more lucrative contracts take you to the far reaches of the board. Being able to only move a limited number of spaces can feel like forever.
– While It’s not necessarily a negative, passing through quicker routes will require you to risk fighting off pirates. The painful part is when those pirates are successful and you’re left with a hopeless feeling having done so much work to gain the right cargo and so easily losing it.
Neutral – The game’s “take that” style of play with the action cards could potentially turn you off.
WHY WOULD YOU LIKE THIS GAME?
Players who love the roaring 20’s will get a kick out of the theme, the artwork and flavorful action card abilities. Additionally, players who prefer more straight-forward, pick-up-and-delivery games will appreciate the game’s small learning curve. Finally, the 2 different game modes allow you to tailor the game’s difficulty to the audience.
THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS GAME
The best thing about this game is the wonderfully crafted theme and artwork – it draws you right in.
I love the theme and presentation. Manifest was obviously crafted with care and attention to the theme. While it looks like a million dollar speed boat, it tends to play more like a tugboat. The potential to move your ships quicker around the board with card upgrades is there, but it can be a challenge to get to that point and in the meantime you’re left moving at a snail’s pace.
The game is an exercise in efficiency, always seeking to optimize your approach. If you’re willing to risk the pirates, quicker routes are available. While I loved the idea of pushing your luck, I (and the rest of my gaming group) found the risk a little too steep for the rewards.
The multi-purpose cards definitely help create more interesting decisions in a game that overall feel more like a traditional gaming experience.
Families are going to appreciate the game’s accessibility with an easy ruleset that provides some decent choices as well as familiar mechanics.
Ticket to Ride – This provides a more simple approach to the contract fulfillment
Trekking the World – While not as large in scale, Trekking the World may be slightly more family friendly and employees similar “spend or move” card choice.