Manifest

SchilMil's Manifest was originally published in 2014. It's a pick up & deliver game designed by Amanda Milne and Julia Schiller set in the 1920s: an era where steam-driven transport across the sea had a romance that's been lost in our world of dull shipping containers. The 2-5 players each control two ships, plying the oceans to deliver cargo and emigrants to fulfil contracts, and it's these contracts that will earn you victory points.



In fact, Manifest is actually two games in one. There's a basic game, where players draw and play action cards from a shared deck so that they start each turn with a hand of four cards. These can be used individually or in combination either for their movement value, for the money amount shown or to activate the card's text. The 'advanced' game puts this deck aside in favour of a deck builder mechanic. You each start off with a hand of three cards drawn from your identical individual deck of six cards, but there will also be three cards in a market display available for purchase at $3 each. Having stocked your deck with these generally more powerful cards, you can slim your deck by taking starting deck cards out of play at a cost of $1 apiece.


Players start off with two contracts but more can be bought unseen from the draw pile, tho' all you know of them in advance is the price - the points value in dollars, which will also give you an idea of the difficulty. There are some face-up contracts tho' that are awarded free to the first player to complete them. If two or more players are racing to complete the same contract - almost certain to occur at higher player counts - then it makes a sometimes otherwise multiplayer solitaire game a notch more competitive.



Your 'money' to buy upgraded action cards and new contracts comes only from the action cards you play; you don't actually receive income for delivering cargo. And, indeed, you usually have to pay for any cargo or passengers you pick up ($1 apiece). You even have to pay for unloading cargo that's not being delivered under contract. Some routes intersect with those of pirates, which can put you at risk of losing cargo, tho' you can avoid the risk by taking a longer route. There are cards tho' that allow other players to generate pirate attacks; so a 'take that' element, which is the other way in which players interact in Manifest.


We've always had a soft spot for Manifest. It works well as a family game and it's one of our go to 'gateway' games for introducing non-gamers to modern games that go beyond their prior experience of only roll & move mechanics. In particular, Manifest is a good choice for introducing players to the deck building mechanic, with its elements that can often in other games feel counterintuitive to those coming to it for the first time. The game also includes optional 'company advantage' cards that you can add in to either the basic or advanced game to give each player an asymmetric ability; again, a good way of introducing asymmetric powers to those coming new to modern board games.


And, of course, this isn't the first outing for Manifest. This new edition is similar to the 2014 version but there are some cosmetic changes - notably to the action cards. These dispense with the distracting anachronistic photo art which some found annoying in the earlier version.


If you missed the boat with the earlier version of Manifest, don't let this edition sail on by without checking it out.


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