The Manhattan Project is, apparently, an excellent boardgame. I don't know for sure. It's not really my scene.

Everything I read online tells me that's the case, though.

What I do know is that this conversion isn't a particularly great iOS game.

Masters of war

This is what's know as a worker placement game. That means that you take it in turns with your fellow players to strategically place workers on a game board in order to obtain resources.

In this case your workers will gain you the knowledge and materials to build, test, and load atomic weapon. The one who reaches a certain points total will become the leading superpower on this little hunk of rock we call Earth.

As boardgame premises go, you have to give it to the creators - it's fresh, if a little morbid.

Arms race

Indeed, the mechanics of play seem to be fresh too, as well as balanced and open to varying strategies. Luck plays very little part.

For example, while everyone needs to invest in education for their workers (you need scientists and engineers to build a bomb), mines for raw materials, and factories for resources, it's up to you whether you opt to indulge in espionage - which lets you place workers in another player's buildings.

You can also launch air raids on your opponents to hamper their efforts.

The possibilities are considerable, once you've overcome the necessarily steep learning curve. The trouble is, this game conversion makes it very hard to scale the learning curve.

Not da bomb

For one thing, it never feels like you've got anything approaching a clear overview of the board(s). You can pan and zoom out, but even on a full-sized iPad it never feels like enough.

As a result, I found myself giving up and referring to the ugly text box to keep appraised of what my opponents were doing. It hardly makes for an immersive experience.

Then there's the tutorial. There isn't one. Whilst this might not be the most complicated boardgame out there, it will certainly feel like it to anyone but hardcore players when you're dumped into the middle of it all.

Rather, the game provides you with a scan of the boardgame's rules. That's the boardgame's rules, not the game's. This means that much of the terminology about setting up, sliding around, and generally interacting with a physical game is invalid. It only serves to hamper your comprehension.

Through a mixture of repeated reference back to this clunky rulebook, and a lot of trial and error practice with AI opponents, you might be ready to play a local multiplayer game or even stray online (a welcome feature).

But I suspect that most people's interest in The Manhattan Project will go up in smoke well before they're ready to join the virtual arms race.