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Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

Reviewed by: Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

(Stonemaier Games, 2-6 players, ages 13 and up, 60 minutes; $70)

euphoriaboxAre more than 4500 backers and more than $300,000 pledged enough to say that Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia, designed by Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone, a good game? I got Jamey Stegmaier’s Viticulture and I was well impressed by its core mechanics but not satisfied about balancing so I was a little worried about Euphoria. The rules seemed good and solid but, of course, you can’t really judge a meal by the recipe, you need to test it. So, after several session, can I say Euphoria is “well cooked”? In this review, I’ll try to point out the strong points and weaknesses of this game.

You find yourself in a dystopian cityscape with a few workers at your disposal to make your mark on the world. Like most people in dystopian fiction, your workers are oblivious to their situation. This world is all they’ve ever known, and you may use them at your whim.

Euphoria is a Euro Game with a theme: players are leaders in the future trying to use their workers best, making the right alliance and contributing to the construction of new markets to get as much authority as possible in the society. There are four factions in the game: Euphorian (people living in Euphoria town), Westerlands (farming fields outside the town), Subterrean (working on water extracting machine in the underground) and Icarites (living in the clouds harvesting bliss). I don’t really know if the theme was pasted on or if it was there since the beginning but you really feel it and that was the first thumbs up! Euphoria is a resources management game with a worker placement core mechanic and the dice are the workers. What a worker can do is sometimes determined by how it is rolled. I don’t know if this is a really innovative idea but I really like it and it works. By using your workers, you get commodities that later you can convert into resources and/or artifacts and finally use to score points. To win the game you need to score 10 points placing your authority tokens on the map.

There are 4 different commodities: energy, water, food and bliss and 3 different resources: gold, stone and clay. There are artifacts of the old era (cards), recruit cards (leaders of the four factions) and Knowledge and Morale indicators
On the mapboard there are area when you can use your workers to get commodities. In other area you can use workers to convert commodities in resources and/or artifacts. Finally you can use resources and/or artifacts to place authority tokens on the map or to build new markets (and place an authority toke on it). You can also place an authority token on your Dilemma card (once in the game) or on your recruit cards.

You start the game with a face-up and a face-down recruit card chosen from 4. Every card depict a leader that belong to a faction. Which cards/factions you keep is important because you get, at the beginning, the special ability of your face-up card and you can reveal the other one if the corresponding faction reaches the 7th space on the alliance track. Finally, you will score 1 point if the corresponding factions reach the 10th. You can get 2 of the needed 10 points by factions and this is something you have to take care of.

euphoriaboardDuring you turn, you have to either place workers or retrieve workers from the map. If you retrieve one or more worker, you have to immediately roll it. The value on the worker represents his knowledge and if the total knowledge of your workers not on the map plus your general knowledge is more than or equal to 16, you lose one worker. If you have 5 in the knowledge scale and you have 4 workers on the map. On your turn you decide to let one on the map and retrieve the others 3. You have to roll them and get 4,4,3. The total now is 11 + 5 = 16 and so you lose one worker. You start with 2 workers and you can get as many as 4. You have to keep your general knowledge level as small as possible; sometimes, you have to choose to retrieve all workers, exposing them to the risk of a loss, or just one or two and play it safe. You can buy a new worker with 3 energy or with 3 water.

If you have more than one die with the same result, you can place all of them. This is a little concession to randomness that can break what otherwise would be a total programmable sequence of action. Is it good? I really don’t know. In my playings, it really doesn’t change the course of the game too much and, in a dice game, I like the possibility of unexpected luck.

According to where you place your die, you can take some action. You can get commodities in Aquifier, Generator, Farm and Cloud Mine. You can use commodities in the tunnels area or on Icarite’s markets to get artifact cards or a resources. All these spaces work in the same way and can host an unlimited number of workers. When you place your worker, you have to count the total knowledge in the area and you can get 1 or 2 resources, gain or lose one knowledge and sometimes advance the corresponding faction one step. This is a really well designed mechanic. You can get more commodities in a crowded area but you also get knowledge (workers will talk each other). You can push a faction on the track or just lower your knowledge.

All of the market areas can be occupied by a single worker. If you need to take an action on an already occupied space, the worker will go back to the owner. This is another important part of this game mechanic to take into account. You can really speed up your activity, getting workers back from the map without the retrieve action, just by placing them on spaces you think other players will occupy soon.

Finally there are the market construction spaces. You need one specific resource and your worker will stay there until enough space will be occupied. Then a new market tile will be revealed and all the players contributing to the construction with one or more workers will get 1 point (actually placing an authority token on the map). Joining the construction of markets is really important and you have pay attention to what other players are doing.

As soon as a new market tile is placed on the map, a new way to score 1 point (by placing an authority token on the map) will be accessible. (Of course, it will be something involving commodities, resources and artifacts.) Around this core mechanic, there are a lot of other interesting, simple and well designed rules to keep it moving like how the different commodities are used: energy and water to get new workers, food to retrieve workers from the map and bliss to make exchanges in the Icarite’s markets. The Tunnels area, where you can change commodities for resources and/or artifacts, have special rules: as soon as the tunnels are completed (that actually means that the actions have been used 10 times in the game), a special action area is activated.

There is a morale track that actually indicates how many artifacts cards you can keep in your hands. There are special actions available only to some factions and only when tunnels are ended. There is a special bonus for the single faction activated as long as the faction reaches the 2nd and the 5th space on the alliance track.

I really think Euphoria is a great resource management game with a nice die placement core mechanic and a lot of well designed ideas. It is an unmerciful game with few possibilities to win if you make mistakes and you have to fight point by point to be the leader and win the game. It is not easy at all (almost impossible) to recover if you are 3-4 authority tokens away from the leader.

Euphoria works really well with 4-5 players where interaction is really high but it is also a nice 2-player game. I don’t think there is a single winning strategy and after more than ten sessions, I’m still happy to play it.


 

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