Manhattan Project: Energy Empire is a worker placement Euro game that also serves as an interesting commentary on climate change. 3 out of 3 members who rated this game rated it as a good game.
In Energy Empire, each player takes the role of a country racing to develop it’s industries, claim achievements, and rise to the top of the United Nations. Turns consist of countries allocating workers to certain actions. While there are plenty of actions to choose from at first, if there are already workers on an action, it becomes more expensive. Most actions correspond to a certain sector: government, industry, or commercial. By taking these sector actions, a player can activate their buildings of the same sector by spending energy. Instead of taking a normal turn, a player can recall all of their workers from the board. Doing this allows a player to produce energy by rolling their energy dice. In addition, a player can choose to spend leftover workers or energy to gain an achievement worth 1-5 VP.
Each player chooses between 2 random countries to play at the start of the game. Each country has a profound impact on the game. Not only do they begin the game with different resources, but they have a different cost to rise on the United Nations track. Since the United Nations is worth such a large amount of victory points, it is one of the main ways to get ahead in the game. Energy Empire is the kind of game where you want to do everything, but have limited time to do so. Because of that, you often want to pollute your environment to get stronger buildings, produce more energy, or generally get ahead. In an interesting twist, as pollution occurs the game gets closer to ending. Also, players lose victory points for polluting their environment (though they can take the clean-up action to reduce this loss). This creates a tense, thematic pressure that feels unique and interesting.
Energy Empire was really easy to jump into and start playing, but quickly revealed a lot of strategic depth. I especially loved the energy generating mechanics. I often would have to choose between spending oil to gain energy, and saving oil for later. If I didn’t spend enough oil then I might find myself running out of energy later in the turn- yet, if I was too greedy, then my left over energy would go to waste. One thing that stuck out to me about Energy Empire was that there was less of a reliance on obtaining new workers. This is because energy can serve as a worker in many situations- and energy is often abundant. In addition, when you run out of workers you take a turn to reset and return all of your workers to your pool (rather than all players resetting at the same time). Resetting also lets you obtain an achievement worth up to 5 victory points. I found this refreshing- it meant that the action to gain a new worker wasn’t a no brainer decision. There were many other interesting mechanics as well- such as steadily increasing oil prices and secret events to push the game forward. Most interesting was a pollution mechanic that drove players to take advantage of the environment to make monetary gains early on in the game. However, as we entered the late game, players realized that their countries had been massively polluted to the point where there was little clean air, water, or land. Thus, players had to begin spending resources to clean up the environment and regain lost victory points. I found this a very interesting commentary on the nature of climate change.
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Have you ever played Energy Empire? Let us know in the comments! Thanks for reading!