Review: Euphoria



Creator(s): Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Year: 2013
Players: 2-6
Game Type: Worker placement with dice rolling and hand management.

OVERVIEW

I love dystopian things. Movies and books. Maybe I’m just a depressing guy that loves watching or reading about a society that never got out of the rut of some major event that turned people against each other in some class, intellectual, or technological way. The board game Euphoria has entered the dystopian-themed universe with a bleak view of the future after the world as we know it ended.

A new world order is created so another apocalypse is avoided. So, the Euphorian elite build high walls around their precious city. Intellect is the most important factor in maintaining this society. To make it to the future, everything is taken away from the citizens. Even knowledge of the past.

But there are three other societies who want to make sure the Euphorians don’t keep rule over the world. There are other ways to the future, and they don’t involve oppression. The Wastelanders are farmers and historians to remember the past. Subterrans, an underground collection of miners and revolutionaries, maintain the tunnels and pipes that lead to each of the societies. The Icarites live in the clouds (literally and figuratively.) They move about in Zeppelins, trying to bring people to them with the promises of everlasting bliss.



GAMEPLAY

Let’s get this out there right now: there are a lot of options for victory in Euphoria. The board is overwhelming at first, as you figure out how you want to proceed. And a strategy for one game may not work with another game. That’s one of the reasons this game is worth owning.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the nitty gritty. Your goal is to place all 10 of your authority tokens. This is done by paying resources for the markets or advancing the allegiance track or resolving your ethical dilemma (if you chose the one that allows you an authority token.) The first person to get rid of your authority tokens wins. So how do you do that?

Except for Icarus, each of the factions have markets you can “open.” You’ll need to produce resources to obtain the materials to get those markets activated. Food, Energy, Water, and Bliss are the resources you can get, and Clay, Stone, and Gold are the materials you use to build the markets. And to collect all that stuff you have workers to use in the form of your dice. You start with two, but you have the opportunity to activate more workers (up to two more) if you wish.

When it’s your turn, you have one of three actions you can make. You can place a worker, retrieve your worker(s), or resolve your ethical dilemma. One of the clever mechanics involving the workers is the Knowledge Check. In this dystopia, you don’t want your workers becoming so intelligent they realize there’s more to their bleak surroundings. Basically, you want to keep them dumb. Anytime you activate a new worker or retrieve your workers or have a worker get bumped from the board, you roll them. Add them up and combine that with where you’re at on the Intelligence Track, and if the total is 16 or over, you lose a worker. That means you can do less on your next turn. That worker’s intelligence is sort of punishing you, isn’t it?

Recruits

Recruit cards. I’m torn on the impact these cards have on the game. These cards have special powers on them to use throughout the game. You start with one face-up (active) and one face-down (to be activated later). Chances to flip the inactive one come through tunneling or raising the allegiance track of the faction your recruit is allied with. Some powers on the cards are useful, but I found most went ignored or didn’t pertain to many of the actions during a game session. Through multiple gameplays, I rarely used a recruit’s power let alone both. And some of the recruits had powers that were so precise, I don’t know if the conditions to meet the powers would ever occur.

The Ethical Dilemma cards add a dimension to the game but aren’t so advantageous in my opinion they’ll drastically change the game. Each card – used once per game – allows you to choose between two dystopian-like choices that shows you are for or against the dystopia. For example, one card lets you choose between “Publish an Expose” or “Publish Propaganda.” The results for or against are the same on all the cards. You’ll either get to Draw 2 recruits to keep one or you will get to place an authority token on the card.

Mutual benefits are a key component in trying to retrieve resources and build markets. There’s a good way to do it and a sneaky way. Each area has a commodity box to obtain resources. They are cumulative, based on your worker’s knowledge score. More than one dice can go in the commodity box (even yours), but the person placing the die gets to resolve the conditions. So, you either want to keep the score low so the next person doesn’t get the best rewards, or you want to add to it so you get the best rewards on a subsequent turn. For the markets, you can build them yourself or more then one player can help build them. When the market is activated, each person who assisted in its construction gets to place an authority token on it. But here’s the kicker: for each person who didn’t help is affected by the penalty listed in the game from then on. However, those who incur the penalty can spend resources later to add their authority token and negate that effect.

Markets

SOLO PLAY/DIFFICULTY

As of right now, there is no official solo version of Euphoria. Although in March of this year, a form thread on BoardGameGeek had a response that an Automata was being developed (along with an expansion.) You can download a PDF document of a fan-made solitaire variant at the link at the end of this review.

When you’re first learning the game, it can be staggering when you look at the board and pore over the rules. But after a few play-throughs, you’ll realize that, while a lot of information is thrown at you visually, Euphoria is whittled down to a few basic actions that potentially garners you several strategies per game. I highly recommend viewing the Watch it Played instruction video (link below); it’s only 25 minutes, and Euphoria is explained superbly.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Euphoria is an expansive game that’s enjoyable to play. Because it makes sense. As I played, I realized – once I had gotten the rules down somewhat – that each action or worker placement or resource gathering or material collecting made sense with one another. You’re in a dystopia and using workers and materials and resources should be limited in what you can do with them. For example, water is a resource vial for the Subterrans. Why? Because they are underground and where do you find water? Underground. You don’t use with other factions. And to build the markets in Subterra you use lots of stone. See what I mean? Creating a better dystopia in Euphoria makes total sense in how you do it.

Really, the only negative I have for Euphoria is the Recruit Cards. Often, I found them useless, just sitting in front of me waiting for me to use them. Opportunities to take advantage of the powers on them didn’t come up very often.


Artifact cards

Using Knowledge Checks with your workers and advancing the allegiance tracks adds a great depth in maintaining your dystopia. Plus, your ability to cooperate or uncooperate with your opponents keeps you on your toes. In some cases, you want to work with others, but then again, you may not want to so their options are limited.

If you like dystopian universes or science fictions games, I recommend this game. It combines several board game mechanisms to journey to victory that rely more on strategy than luck. While there is some dice rolling, it’s minimal. And if the dice roll hurts you on one turn, you can always change that result (i.e. getting your workers back) later. Plus, if you’ve ever wanted to rule a dystopian society and keep the citizens dumb, Euphoria is perfect.

WE ROLL SOLO SCORE

4 out of 5 Solos

PROS
  • Deep, immersive gameplay
  • Multiple strategies to win
  • Great dystopian atmosphere
  • Great with 3-5 players
  • Worker bumping a solid mechanic


CONS
  • Board is somewhat busy in sections
  • Automata is forthcoming (as of March 2018)
  • Recruits’ powers can feel useless

Euphoria Official Site
Euphoria on BoardGameGeek

Watch it Played for Euphoria
Solitaire Variant (fan-made)
Play the digital version at Boardspace.net

Gregory Gregory Author