Seth
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Sat down about a week ago to play a beta copy of Minutes to Midnight with the designer, Brandon Tibbetts (a very nice guy), at a local meetup. The game is a sort-of sequel to The Manhattan Project. Instead of playing as rival nations trying to develop nuclear missiles, you play as rival nations trying to build up the most impressive nuclear arsenals.

Minutes to Midnight is a heavy worker placement tableau builder with mild bluffing elements, some resource conversion, plenty of direct player interaction/aggression, and multiple paths to victory. If you can’t stand even the slightest element of random chance in your games, don’t worry: The central market mechanic in The Manhattan Project is gone, replaced with a central board with buildings that become more expensive to purchase as they are bought (think the Major Improvements in Agricola.)

Over the course of the game you’ll build factories, ICBM silos, ABM defense stations, research centers, test sites and reactors to produce nuclear warheads, subs and bombers. You can also station nukes off of specific players’ adjacent third world nations. All methods of deploying nukes increase your score, and if you threaten any player with more nukes than they have ABMs, they lose a bonus they would get (effectively giving them a penalty.) In many ways it plays like a heavier Keyflower without the auction element.

One very Keyflower reminiscent element of the strategy, for example, comes from the management of spies, which are specialized workers you can acquire through the game. Spies can’t work your own buildings, but they can work other players' buildings. I was able to get through the entire game without building a single research center, and instead sent my spies to other players’ research facilities in order to level up my ICBMs.

With 5 relatively new players it was a fairly tight finish. The top 3 players all came within 2 or 3 points of each other despite taking very different victory conditions. Th winning did so by pursuing a strategy of always having enough ABM stations to get all defense bonuses, detonating test sites for points, and stationing as many nukes as possible on other players’ third world nations. My chosen strategy, which was to go all-in on ICBM stations, was a very slightly underpowered. (Brandon said that he would be slightly increasing the points value of having the most ICBMs.) However, it felt like I could have won had I played the early game more efficiently.

Some observations about the game that aren't immediately apparent unless you've played it as opposed to reading the rules:
1. It's easy to enter a spy "arms race." Letting one player be the only one with spies is a recipe for disaster. Not having any spies yourself while everyone else does is also a bad idea.
2. The nuclear subs provide just a little bit of bluffing without that element taking over the game, which (I think) does a good job of preventing the game from becoming too political.
3. Blocking spaces by keeping your workers there is almost as important as actually using them.
4. Money is very, very tight in this game. Like, Caylus-level tight. If you don't have a game plan for how you're going to make money you're going to find yourself starving for actions.
5. Because the amount of turns each individual player gets changes between three and five players, the game speeds along. I never felt like I was waiting forever for my turn.

I’m super excited about the game. There are a couple of little neat touches in the design, like the fact that scoring happens in phases for each type of nuclear weapon in phases throughout the game, and then again at the end, which keeps players in direct competition for resources.

Should you buy this or support the kickstarter when it launches? That depends. Do you like the cold war, Keyflower, heavy games, or tight competitive euros? If you do, you'll love Minutes to Midnight.
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Max Jamelli
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Chambersburg
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can't wait -- really looking forward to this
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Tony Pimentel
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Read your notes here, and literally sat down to make a post-it about watching for when it goes to Kickstarter. Cannot wait for this, sounds pretty great. Thanks for the review.
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Peter Rohn
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I've had a chance to play TMP:MTM several times now. It's a lot of fun and involves a lot of strategic planning and tactical timing. People who enjoy worker placement or resource management games would find it a worthy purchase.

It uses similar mechanics to TMP (which I have also played several times), but has a completely different style of play. TMP was more of a race to the finish, while TMP:MTM is more like a turn-efficiency euro game.

Kudos to the development team.
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andrew fawcett
England
YEOVIL
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I will support on Kickstarter
 
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Brandon Tibbetts
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Hey folks, thanks for your interest. Minutes to Midnight has launched on Kickstarter today!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/miniongames/manhattan-p...
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Kenneth Petersen
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How is it different from Manhattan Project?
I see on the kickstarter, that I have the option to buy the first game as an add-on (I dont own it yet) but is it "enough" with just Minutes to Midnight if they are similar in theme and only slightly tweak gameplay? (I am making an assumption here, so hence the question )
 
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Brandon Tibbetts
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kendovich wrote:
How is it different from Manhattan Project?
I see on the kickstarter, that I have the option to buy the first game as an add-on (I dont own it yet) but is it "enough" with just Minutes to Midnight if they are similar in theme and only slightly tweak gameplay? (I am making an assumption here, so hence the question )
I'm not sure how much detail you'd be interested in hearing from the designer on this subject, but I can assure you that the gameplay in MtM is much more than a "slight tweak" of the gameplay from the original game.

The Manhattan Project is a sudden-death race game in which all players are racing to a singular finish line: get enough points from building bombs.

Minutes to Midnight is not a race game, and in some ways scores more like a traditional euro. It features a scoring track which the first game did not need, a fixed number of Worker Retrievals and variably timed Scoring Events which the first game did not have. It retains a few familiar elements from the first game, like the round-less "place or pull" turn structure, very simple resource management (money & yellowcake vs. money & nukes), and variable worker types (though all workers are distinctly different between the 2 games). But outside of this is in MtM there is a collection of 4 or 5 interrelated area majority based mini-games which are all entirely new. These mini-games and how they work together are what define the experience. So I'll be very surprised once the comments and reviews start flooding in if you find anyone complaining about the similarity between the two games.
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