If you've been following us through Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the Showdown between Lords of Waterdeep (LOW) and The Manhattan Project (TMP) you've gotten a very detailed look at what makes each game tick. We focused a lot on the various aspects of gameplay and how they tie into the overall package. We're going to wrap this up by taking a look at the components and finally picking a winner.
When you look at the LOW box you're greeted with a very unusal presentation. This is definitely not your average game box. In fact, it's a really different take on boxes in general. The lid comes off, but it doesn't close like a normal box as it only sits part-way down over the bottom. This is clearly designed to keep you from standing it up and that's good because this game has an awesome insert.
The board is nice and thick as expect and features a map of the city of Waterdeep. I really like the illustration on the board and find it to be functional as well as nice to look at. The layout of the board and the spaces for cards and buildings works perfectly. Everything is clearly labeled which makes it easy to play on.
Each person gets a player mat and several workers in their color. The workers are cut to look like an abstract human and are made of wood. They're actually pretty big which is nice as it makes them easy to pickup and move or to see on the board. There are also ownership tokens for each player and personalized victory point chits.
The coins are neat because they're not your usual coins. The 1-value coins are square and have a hole in the middle while the 5-value coins are crescent-shaped with the same hole. Both are made of a thick cardboard and look pretty cool. The choice to use odd shapes was a good one as it adds some personality to the game.
The "Adventurers" you hire are just wooden cubes in 4 colors. These are your standard wooden Eurogame cubes. Nothing special here.
Lastly, you've got 121 cards broken down to 11 Lords, 50 Intrigue cards, and 60 Quests. That's some pretty good variety as you'll likely not go through more than half of the Intrigue or Quest cards in any given game. The cards are a bit thinner than I'd like them to be, but they're not terrible. They've got a nice matte finish on them which makes for nice shuffling and ease of handling. The size is equivalent to Magic cards so you'll have no problem sleeving them if you choose to do so. The cards have nice illustrations on them and more importantly are laid out in a very user-friendly way.
TMP offers a lot of the same things as LOW. The coins are cardboard, but this time they're pretty standard.
There's a central board, but this one is different. Instead of map it's basically just a bunch of action spaces with cool artwork. Everything is very clear and easy to read on the board. It's also not nearly as big as the LOW board, but there's plenty of space. In addition to that, each player has their own player mat. This is basically a stiff paper with an eggshell finish. Nothing fancy, but definitely functional.
Unlike LOW, TMP's workers are not made of wood. Here they are made of really think cardboard and have a nice illustration to show which type of worker it is. These things are thick! They're not 3D like the wooden workers from LOW, but they're pretty awesome and definitely different.
You get a lot of cards, but not as may as LOW. TMP gives you 80, with 50 being buildings and 30 being bombs. The cards are small, but not quite as small as the original Ticket to Ride cards. Also, they're done in a semi-gloss finish with nice cardstock. The graphics on these cards are really awesome providing some really cool art and terrific iconography.
Both games offer a really nice presentation and deliver good component quality. Overall, I'd have to say that LOW is slightly nicer, but it's splitting hairs. The differences are minute, but I like the way everything is presented in LOW just a bit more. That's certainly not taking anything away from TMP which does a fine job of components. I actually like the cardboard workers in TMP better. I also prefer the cards due to the artwork and iconography. That said, I appreciate the overall presentation of LOW a bit more. I like how everything happens on the central board. I also love the board itself with the cool map. It's really about a 55/45 split, but LOW gets the edge.
Winner of Round 3 - Lords of Waterdeep
If you're still with us after all this time, you've probably already guessed the outcome of the Showdown. While both games offer something good, I still think you only need to own one of them and that game is.....
The Manhattan Project
While I like the components and presentation of LOW, TMP blows it away in terms of incorporating the theme and the actual gameplay. TMP is so much deeper and has many more interesting decisions than LOW. I like that the game is more of a race than just maximizing points across rounds. I enjoy the improved player interaction and the opportunity to really mess up someone else's plans. Both games are low on the luck scale, but TMP does an even better job of eliminating that luck, especially in terms of player interaction. Sure, you may occassionally get an awesome Intrigue card in LOW but TMP gives you the ability to know that you can devestate your opponents. I think the theme of LOW is great, but TMP does a much better job of actually incorporating it's theme into the gameplay. It feels better when you play it while LOW presents it better but fails to deliver.
I only own one of these titles and that's The Manhattan Project. Having played both I can firmly say that I made the right decision. That's not to say that Lords of Waterdeep is a bad game. It's definitely not. I have more fun and enjoy the experience of The Manhattan Project much more than with Lords of Waterdeep.
Minion Games has a real hit on their hands here. If you're a fan of worker placement games then you need to try this one out. It delivers in every way without being clunky or messy.