Board Game Review – Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

Overview

Quick Facts

Designer: Jamey Stegmaier & Alan Stone
Genre: Worker Placement
Players: 2-6
Time: 60 minutes

Growing up, life in your society seemed so peaceful, so utopian, so… euphoric.  But little did you realize that actually underneath the surface, that society was actually quite dystopian, subjugating its citizens by keeping workers happy, dumb, and loyal.  Now that you know the truth, you’ve decided that you can make this world your own and become one of the ruling elite.  Now, armed with a couple of workers, recruits, and your own knowledge, you’re ready to make your mark on the world!  But it isn’t going to be easy…

Euphoria is a game all about achieving dominance in a dystopian society.  To do so, you’ll need to gain influence among the four factions who inhabit the world: the city-dwelling Euphorians, the Wastelanders who reside outside of the city walls, the hard-working underground Subterrans, and the mysterious Icarites who hold stock over the sky from their zeppelins.  Can you use your workers wisely to gain enough influence to wrest control over the euphoric dystopia?

Gameplay

Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia (henceforth referred to as Euphoria) is a medium-weight worker placement game by Stonemaier Games, with quite a few components and a bit of setup required.  First, each player should choose a color, and take all of their star-shaped authority tokens as well as two of their dice.  The remaining two dice go to the Worker Activation Tank where they may be earned later in the game.  The heart-shaped morale token and head-shaped authority token go to their respective tracks in the top left corner of the board, starting at 1 and +3, respectively.  Players also receive a multiplier marker (to keep track of commodities and resources if their wood tokens run out) and a random reference card, which also has an ethical dilemma on the back, which can come into play later in the game.  Finally, players receive 4 recruit cards, of which they choose to keep 2.  One of the recruits is active and its power can be used right away.  The other recruit is placed face down and will have to be activated during the game.

To set up the board, you can begin by dividing up the wooden tokens for the four different commodities (energy, water, food, and bliss) and three different resources (gold, stone, and clay) and placing them near the spot on the board where they can be gained.  IMG_1180Each of the four different areas generates a different commodity, and all but the Icarite territory in the sky generates a different resource.  Each of the four areas also has an associated territory star with six available spots where players can place their authority.  When playing with fewer than 6 players, some of these spots will be blocked off so that there are the same number of available spaces as the number of players.  Next, put a miner meeple at the start of each of the three tunnels and an unavailable action marker at the end — the action space at the end of each tunnel is only unlocked once the worker reaches the end.  Next, put the diamond-shaped progress tokens at the start of each of the four allegiance tracks (one for each faction).  Finally, shuffle up the market tiles and place 6 of them face down on the market spaces on the board — these are under construction and won’t be available until built.  You are now ready to begin seizing control of Euphoria!  Each player rolls their two starting dice and the player with the highest total goes first.

In Euphoria, there are two possible options on your turn.  You may place out one of your available workers (dice) or retrieve any or all of your workers from the board.  When placing out workers, there are three types of spaces you may encounter.  Temporary Use spaces are enclosed by a dashed line and have an arrow to the right.  When a worker is placed here, another player can also choose to occupy this space, bumping off the previous worker, who returns to its owner.  Multi-Use spaces are large rectangular spaces that can be occupied by any number of workers.  These spaces are found in the areas where commodities are gained and will be described in further detail later.  Finally, there are One-Time Use spaces, which are square spaces enclosed by a solid line and a picture of a resource inside.  To place a worker in one of these spaces, you must first pay the resource cost, and you can’t be bumped from these spaces.  One further tip about placing workers — if you ever have multiple available workers with the same value (doubles, triples, or four of a kind), you can place out all of those workers on one turn.  This bonus comes from your workers being able to share knowledge.

When retrieving workers, you can choose which of your workers you’d like to retrieve from the board — this can be anywhere from just one to all of your placed workers.  When retrieving workers, you can either pay one food or bliss, in which case you gain two morale, or pay nothing, in which case you lose one morale (morale affects how many Artifact cards you can hold in your hand.  IMG_1176Whenever you retrieve workers or otherwise get available workers back (e.g. by being bumped off of a Temporary Use space), you must immediately reroll all of the workers that were retrieved.  If the sum of your available workers plus the modifier from the Knowledge track (which starts at +3) is ever 16 or higher, your workers have gained enough knowledge to realize they’re in a dystopia, and the one with the highest knowledge (value) escapes and goes back to the worker activation tank, where it can be retrieved again later.

There are a number of different locations in Euphoria where you can place workers to gain benefits.  One important group of locations are the commodity areas, one per section of the board.  These are where players can gain much-needed commodities: Energy in Euphoria, Water in Subterra, Food in the Wasteland, and Bliss in Icarus.  The commodity areas are multi-use spaces, meaning that any number of workers can be placed on them, and when you add a worker to one of these spaces, you total up the value of all workers in that space and get a different benefit based on the total.  With 1-4 you gain one commodity and move the allegiance marker for that faction one space on its track, with 5-8 you gain one commodity and lose one knowledge, and with 9 or more you gain two commodities and one knowledge.  The allegiance tracks mentioned earlier are 11-space tracks for each faction showing how loyal they are to your cause.  They give benefits as their allegiance level increases, including gaining extra commodities from the respective areas and gaining extra benefits from the tunnels — tunnels and allegiance tracks will be described in further detail later on.

The second important location where you can place a worker is the Worker Activation Tank, which is the only spot on the board where you can gain more workers, to a maximum of four.  Here, you can choose to pay either 3 energy or 3 water to gain a worker and lose two knowledge or gain two morale, respectively.  You can also activate one of these spaces to lose the knowledge or gain the morale even if you have all four of your workers.

As mentioned earlier, the Tunnels are another possible place for workers.  All three of the land-based factions are trying to tunnel into their rivals’ territories to gain access to their commodities.  IMG_1177When placing a worker on a faction’s tunnel, you must pay that faction’s commodity, but then can gain a resource or an artifact card (or both if the allegiance marker for that faction is far enough along its track).  You also move the miner meeple one space along the tunnel — when it reaches the ninth space, it unlocks the exclusive action space for that faction.  As long as you have an active recruit card showing that faction, you can place a worker on the exclusive action space to gain three of the enemy’s commodity.  For example, when you activate the Wastelander’s tunnel, you pay one food, and in return can receive one clay or an artifact card.  When the exclusive action space is unlocked, you can place a worker there (provided you have a Wastelander recruit) to gain 3 energy.

IMG_1185This would be a good time to talk about recruits.  Remember that you start the game with one loyal recruit face up and another one face down.  Each of the recruits is associated with one of the factions, and there are a few ways to turn your face-down recruits up.  Whenever an allegiance marker reaches the eighth space of its track or a miner meeple reaches the sixth space in the tunnels, all recruits from that faction get turned face up.  When the allegiance marker reaches the 11th and final space of its track, you can place one of your star-shaped authority tokens on all recruits you have belonging to that faction.  In addition, each recruit has a special ability that you can choose to activate while they’re face up in front of you.

There are a few more possible locations where you can place your workers on your turn.  The construction sites show a face down market card next to several One-Time Use spaces featuring various resources.  You can pay the associated resource cost to place one of your workers on the space, and once enough workers are present at a given time (since they could possibly be recalled after being placed out), the market is build and gets flipped over.  The number of spaces required to build the market is two with 2-3 players, three with 4, and all four with 5-6 players.  When the market is flipped over, all players who had at least one worker contributing to its construction place one of their authority tokens on that market.  Players without tokens on an active market are subject to a penalty such as not being able to bump your own workers from an action space.  The opened market also contains an action space where you can pay the cost and advance the allegiance for that faction as well as place out one of your authority tokens on the territory star for that faction, if there are still spaces available.

In addition to the constructed markets, there are also artifact markets, which are available from the game’s onset.  These markets all require the payment of any three artifact cards, for which you advance that faction’s allegiance and can place an authority token in the territory star, or on a constructed market in that area where you don’t already have a star.  If you didn’t help constructing a market, this is the only way to free yourself from that market’s penalty.

There are only a few miscellaneous action spaces left.  In Icarus, instead of tunnels or markets, there are a few places where you can trade resources or commodities.  These include trading one bliss and one other commodity for Icarite allegiance and any two resources, one bliss and one other commodity for allegiance and two artifact cards, or any three resources for the opportunity to place an authority token in Icarus, along with increased Icarite allegiance.  And lastly, there is one thing you can do on your turn besides placing or retrieving workers.  Every player begins the game with an ethical dilemma card (which is actually on the back of their reference card).  Each dilemma requires a specific artifact, or two of any artifact, and can be activated once per game.  The ethical dilemma gives a choice: you can either draw two recruits and keep one, or just place one of your authority tokens on the dilemma card.  Note that recruits can gain authority tokens as well once the allegiance track for that faction reached its end, so you can gain the recruit’s ability but perhaps a delayed opportunity to place one of your tokens versus placing one of your tokens immediately.

IMG_1184With all the talk of placing authority tokens, you’ve probably guessed that they are important to the game, and you’d be correct.  The game ends when a player has placed all 10 of their authority tokens out.  Authority tokens can be placed on constructed markets, territory stars, recruit cards, and ethical dilemma cards.  The first player to place all ten of their tokens out wins the game and becomes the new leader of the dystopian society!

 

Amber’s Review

Gameplay/Mechanics: 7
Theme & Integration: 7
Components & Artwork: 7
Scalability: 8
Fun Factor: 7

Overall:7.2/10

This is one of the games that I got from a very magical Board Game Geek Secret Santa and was so excited to play and learn it. Looking at the board is very confusing and sometimes a bit of head spinning; the rules are deceiving because there are only two actions you can perform each turn, place a worker or take back a worker, but there are a ton of places to place said workers.  We’ve played this game with both 2 and 4 players and the game was enjoyable with both numbers; I’m not sure how well it would play with 6, but it may be decent and not too time consuming if the people understand the grip of the game.  One thing that is really nice about this game is that it really comes down to the end of the game to decide the winner.  I’ve not seen a game yet where there is a runaway winner and it’s always come down to either a tie and the tiebreaker rules take effect, or the winner only wins by one star.

The theme is the real reason why I liked this game.  I like the fact that you’re working to keep your workers dumb and happy, if they get too smart, they leave and find somewhere better to live  Resources are limited and spread out, you have to really work to get them.  This can be simultaneously frustrating and exciting, fighting to make sure you can get resources to build a market so that you can place your stars and not get a penalty.

Overall, I do like this game, but the set up and number of rules keeps it from coming to our table too often.

  • Pros:
    • Scale to multiple numbers of players
    • Great theme
  • Cons
    • Board can be overwhelming to look at
    • Takes a bit of time to explain to new players

Score: 7/10

Ethan’s Review

Gameplay/Mechanics: 8
Theme & Integration: 9
Components & Artwork: 9
Scalability: 7
Fun Factor: 7

Overall: 8/10

Euphoria is a pretty cool worker-placement game in terms of its theme and mechanic.  I’m actually most impressed with the four different factions and the bit of backstory we get on them and the dystopian society from the rulebook.  There’s a social deduction game, Leaders of Euphoria, slated to come out later this year that I’m interested in purely for the theme and the hopes of getting some more information about the world of Euphoria.  In this game, the theme really lends itself well to the dice-as-worker-placement mechanic.  I especially like that if your workers get too knowledgeable, they’ll run away as they know too much about your society behind the façade.  Mechanically, though, it makes it dangerous to recall all your workers at once after you have all four, because the average roll would be 14 plus your knowledge modifier, and a score of 16 or more leads to desertion.  Another thing I like about this game is that the component quality is amazing, which is par for the course with Stonemaier Games.  The dice are really cool, with all of the pips being parts of various configurations of gears, and there are seven different wooden pieces for commodities and resources, not to mention the authority, knowledge, and morale tokens in each player’s color.  Yes, most people would be impressed once they see the board fully set up and ready to play.  On the flip side of the coin, though, Euphoria does provide quite a bit to teach and learn (just check out the length of the Gameplay section above for an idea!).  As a person who’s not that fond of teaching games (though people tell me I’m alright at it), the prospects of teaching a game with so many different rules, locations, actions and nuances is a bit overwhelming, but once the gameplay actually starts things usually seem to go smoothly.  I don’t think there are as many mid-game questions or clarifications with Euphoria as there might be with some other games, so it’s just a heavier upfront commitment to learn what’s going on.  The other major issue I have with this game is that it feels like a slow build up to a really quick and sudden conclusion.  Each player starts with two workers, one recruit, and nothing else.  So for a while it seems like everyone is just gathering a couple of resources or commodities (before you can even get any bonuses from factions’ allegiance tracks) and recalling their workers.  It may be 15 minutes or so before anyone places out one of their ten authority tokens.  However, once things really start moving in the game, there’s almost a deluge of stars going out.  Markets will get built and you’ll be able to place stars on some of your recruits, and before you know it the game will be over.  I don’t know if there’s a good way around this, or if it’s just how the game was intended, but I don’t know if I really like that part of the game.  Although, we’ve only ever played it with 2 or 4 players, so I don’t know how different things would be with a full complement of 6.  Regardless, Euphoria is a fun worker/dice-placement game, and is recommended if you like that mechanic, or the dystopian theme, and aren’t phased by the prospect of a lot of rules teaching/learning.

  • Pros:
    • Neat dice-placement mechanic that works thematically
    • Great component quality and variety of different pieces
  • Cons
    • Teaching and comprehending the rules can be a bit daunting
    • Slow build up to an exciting race for the finish

Euphoria on BGG

Buy Euphoria on CoolStuffInc for $45.99

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