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Review of Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

Game: Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

Designer: Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone

Published: Stonemaier Games

Players: 2-6

Playtime: 60 Minutes

  Play Type: Worker Placement

Synopsis:

After an Earth shattering apocalypse has taken place, society has rebuilt itself into Euphoria. You are a societal elite in the vast dystopian city of Euphoria. Your goal is to make use of your oblivious workers, and develop a plan to take control of the city. In order to ensure your success among the clueless underlings, you will need to forge secret alliances, dig tunnels in search of resources, develop various markets around the city and collect artifacts from a time long forgotten. The person who is the most efficient at these tasks will be named victor, and take ownership of this developing soceity.

Game Play:

Euphoria is a worker placement game that uses dice as workers. Players are competing to be the first to place all 10 of their authority tokens (stars). During game play, players will have one of three actions that they can complete: place a worker, collect workers, and resolve an ethical dilemma. Before discussing those actions though, there are three important trackers to understand first.

Moral Tracker

This tracker determines the number of artifact cards a player may have. Players begin the game having one moral. Moral can be added or removed by completing actions, most notably by gaining workers or collecting dice. If players lose moral, they must discard down to the number of moral they have left.

Knowledge Tracker

This is the knowledge that each of your workers has. Anytime a player receives or retrieves a dice, they must roll the dice they gained. When players roll their dice, they will take the total sum of the active dice (which does not include dice on the board or in the reserve) and add it to the number shown on the knowledge tracker. If the sum is greater than or equal to sixteen, the players will lose their highest value worker. That worker will return to the reserve pool and can be purchased again.

When players are at the maximum or minimum of either of these trackers, they are still able to do actions that direct the player to add or subtract moral or knowledge. The one exception to this rule is recruit actions. Each player is given two recruit cards at the beginning of the game. One of these cards is faced up, and immediately gives the player a special ability that can be used when performing actions in the game. If a recruit action requires a player to gain knowledge or lose moral and the player is unable to, that player may not take that action. Players will have the opportunity to gain other recruit cards, and active the second card they have available to them throughout the game. That rule applies to all recruit abilities.

Allegiance Tracker

The third important tracker in Euphoria is the Allegiance Tracker. This tracker is a communal tracker that has an equal effect on all players. Actions that one player completes may benefit or harm all players. This tracker is broken down into the four factions present in Euphoria. Each section on the tracker has four bonuses that players are able to gain. Players will gain bonuses depending on which factions they have recruits showing for. Players may only gain each bonus once even if they have multiple recruits from one faction. The exception to this is the final bonus, which allows players to place an authority token on each of the recruits they have in that faction. There are a few actions that will allow players to move the Allegiance tracker, those actions will be detailed shortly.

The bonuses awarded for the Allegiance tracker are as follows. First, players will gain the ability to gain an extra commodity when they use that factions commodity area. Second, players will the opportunity to choose both actions available when mining at that faction’s tunnel space. Icarites are different, as they do not have tunnels. Icarites instead receive an artifact card when placing an authority token in the Icarite territory. Third, players will be able to activate all other recruits from the chosen faction, this is the only way additional Icarite recruits can be activated. Finally, players will be able to place authority tokens on each of their applicable recruits.

Turn Actions

Place a Worker

Players may spend their turn placing one of their dice on one of the variety of spaces available to them. Each die that the player has is considered a worker. In cases where multiple dice have the same face showing, a player may play those dice one after another on the same turn. There are many spaces available for players to place a worker:

  • Commodity Areas: These spaces allow players to gain Commodities (Bliss, Water, Energy and Food). Players will gain a benefit according to the total value of all dice in the multi-use area.
    • 1-4 Players Gain 1 Commodity and Advance Allegiance by 1
    • 5-8 Players Gain 1 Commodity and Lose One Knowledge
    • 9+ Players Gain 2 Commodities and 2 Knowledge
  • Tunnels: Each faction has a tunnel that may be used by any player regardless of their recruits’ factions.  Players pay the commodity cost, and then advance the miner by one space. In addition to moving the miner forward, the player can either receive a resource (gold, stone, or clay) or an artifact card. There is also a space on the tunnel that activates recruit cards. If a miner reaches the 6th space, any players with a recruit from that faction may activate them. Once the miner reaches the end of the tunnel, they open an exclusive space. The tunnel space is a temporary use space. If another player wants to use this space, they bump the prior player back to their owner’s active dice pool.
  • Exclusive Mine Space: This is a temporary use space only available to those who have recruits in this faction. Each faction has an exclusive mine space with the exception of Icarus. These spaces give three of the shown commodity when used. If another player chooses to use this space, they bump the other person’s worker back to their active dice pool.
  • Construction Sites: These are one time use spaces that cost a resource to use. Players may not bump one another from these spaces, though players may retrieve their workers from these spaces. However, once a worker is retrieved, players will have to repay the resource to replace their worker there and gain the benefit.  These spaces work to build market spaces. Depending on the number of players present, a number of workers must be present to build the market. Once that number is present, players must collect their workers, flip the market over and slide it to the left to uncover a new placement space. Then these players will place an authority token on the market space. Players who did not assist in building the market will gain a penalty that will be stated on the market space. This penalty will remain in play until those players are able to place an authority token on that market using the artifact market.
  • Constructed Market: After a market is built, it becomes a temporary use space. It allows players to place stars in that faction’s star shaped territory. Once those spaces are filled, no more authority tokens may be placed there. Players will also advance the Allegiance Tracker for that faction by one. Icarus begins the game with their markets built. Players may not place authority tokens on those spaces in Icarus.
  • Artifact Markets: Each faction has an artifact market. Here players may play any three artifact cards (or two identical artifact cards) to place an authority token on either the star shaped territory for that faction or a constructed market they do not yet have a star on. Once they have placed their star, they move the Allegiance tracker up by one.
  • Worker Activation Tank: This is how players gain additional workers. Players begin the game with two workers, and have two workers in the reserve pool. Players may gain a worker form their reserve pool by going to one of these two temporary use spaces. They may pay 3 energy to gain a worker and lose two knowledge, or pay three water to gain a worker and two moral. After gaining a worker, perform a knowledge roll.

Retrieve Workers

Players may retrieve any or all workers that they wish from the board. When doing this players may pay either one food or one bliss to gain two moral. If players are unable or unwilling to pay this cost, they will lose one moral when collecting workers. Players may collect workers even if they are at space one on the moral track. After retrieving workers, make a knowledge roll.

Resolve Ethical Dilemma

This is an action players may complete once per game. Players will flip up their Ethical Dilemma card and pay either the shown artifact or any two artifact cards. They then have the option to either place one authority token on the card, or draw two recruits and keep one. The recruit that is kept will be inactive until the faction recruits are activated by the Allegiance Track or the Tunnels.

Players will continue taking turns until someone has placed their final star. It is possible due to the Allegiance Tracks and Markets that multiple people may place their final star at the same time. Tie breakers are as follows. First, the player with the most moral. Second, the player with the least intelligence. Third, authority tokens in the most markets. Fourth, authority tokens in the most territories. Finally, players roll off and the player with the least value on their dice wins.

Components:

Euphoria is an extremely visually interesting worker placement game. The board and pieces are bright and bold. It is an art style not seen in many worker placement games, but fits well with the theme of Euphoria.  The recruit cards are easy to read and the artifact cards’ symbols are depicted clearly when shown on the ethical dilemma cards and markets. The components are high quality and hold up against wear and tear.

Overview:

Positives:

  • Beautiful Components
  • Great Table Presence
  • Themeatic
  • Depth of Strategy
  • Replay-ability with Variety of Cards
  • Fast Player Turns
  • Many Moving Pieces
  • Mentally Stimulating
  • Unique Mix of Mechanics
  • High Player Interaction

Negatives:

  • Slow Start
  • Very Difficult to Teach
  • Not Family/ New Player Friendly

Euphoria is a unique worker placement game that combines a variety of mechanics to create something that stands out among competition. As mentioned in the components, the game has a great table presence due to it having great quality components and a busy looking board. However, that is not what really stands out when learning Euphoria. Instead the fact that the game highlights worker placement in a way that has some elements of luck mixed with high player interaction that is not seen often in other worker placement games.

Euphoria’s biggest strength in my opinion is the player interaction that many Euro games seem to lack. Players are either directly or indirectly impacting one another’s game play with every move that they make. A competitive player in Euphoria should be paying attention to the other player’s goals and interactions because they can benefit or harm their long term goals. In addition to the player interaction, including knowledge rolls provides an aspect of luck that can have a sudden negative effect on players, but also provides a sort of catch up mechanism for other players. This also helps balance runaway leaders from getting all their workers and being many steps ahead of others.

There are multiple strategies players can explore based on their recruit cards, which helps add replayability to the game. Players may find that one strategy works well for victory with certain recruits, but with other recruits they focus on playing their authority tokens in a different way. Analyzing the different elements on the board can be very mentally stimulating because there are a lot of moving parts in the game. However, the player turns are quick overall and shouldn’t take more than a minute to complete.

While player turns are quick, I would not suggest this game for brand new gamers or gamers looking to play with families. Euphoria is can be difficult to teach, especially to those who are not familiar with modern games or worker placement. Each time I look to teach this game clearly, it takes at least 15-20 minutes to get started. There are so many moving parts that it can be difficult to keep track of the actions that should or should not be taken. This is especially true once players begin to unlock markets. Players need to be able to hold themselves and others accountable to various rules that may change from game to game. It is easy to forget rules when trying to keep track of all the information on the trackers and markets. Additionally I find that players may be confused by some of the terminology, mostly the difference between commodities and resources.

That being said I would suggest Euphoria to players who are looking for a witty, well designed medium weight euro. The theme provides some humor throughout the game, and the bright colors and bold design of the game could easily be a strong draw for players who are generally not fond of straight worker placement games. I would especially suggest this to players who enjoyed games like Rajas of the Ganges, Viticulture, Ex Libris or Above and Below. Euphoria has the same element of luck of the dice as games like Rajas of the Ganges or Above and Below. Ex Libris and Euphoria are similar in their different options for worker placement spaces depending on the game. Finally Viticulture is designed by the same team, but with a more serious theme.

If you are looking to purchase Euphoria, be aware that there is an upcoming expansion that will be made available this year. It will include new recruit cards, along with some new mechanics and commodities made in bulk. Look for more information about that expansion coming soon!

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