When you're on top of the world it's important to remember the little people... you know the ones who are doing all of your grunt work.
Today we're looking at Stonemaier Games' sophomore offering Euphoria, the dystopian worker-placement game set in a future world where it's good to keep your workers dumb and happy, not educated and angry. You win by exercising your authority on the land and placing all of your tokens on the board to show that you can keep those little people under your thumb.
Sounds like a super happy fun time right? Read on to see what we think...
Title - Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia
Designer - Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone
Publisher - Stonemaier Games
Number of players - 2-6 (More is better)
Ages - 13 and up (This seems about right.)
Play time - 60 Minutes (This seems about right, though more players will increase this.)
Category/Genre - Area-control/Worker-placement
- Compelling and interesting subject matter.
- Beautiful components.
- Highly atmospheric.
- Mixes up your average worker-placement game with new ideas.
- Faction distribution means you can be at a huge disadvantage through no fault of your own.
- It's hard to fight back if you fall behind.
- There's a lot of luck, with the dice, cards, and markets.
Family? Maybe! I could see my family playing this in a couple of years.
Youth Group? No! It just doesn't feel like a game you'd bust out with teenagers.
Gamers? Yes! It fits squarely in the gamer's game niche.
Nongamers? No! I just think there's a bit too much going on.
* Firestone: 7
A good worker-placement game that has terrific art, over-the-top amazing components, and unique gameplay.
* Jeremiah: 8
Without the Factions problems, this is easily a 9+. Rich thematic concepts and deep strategic choices that intertwine beautifully put Euphoria on the verge of greatness.
Stonemaier once again delivers a TON of cool nicely designed custom components:
48 Recruit Cards--these cards tell you what faction you get influence in.
36 Artifact Cards - 6 of each kind - you'll use these throughout the game similar to commodities.
6 Ethical Dilemma Cards - These also have quick-reference guides on their backs.
4 custom dice in 6 colors for up to 6-players
Wooden Bits (Unless you get the sweet Kickstarter edition like Firestone did!):
6 Heart-Shaped Morale tokens
6 Face-Shaped Knowledge tokens
45 Resource tokens in 3 different colors
72 Commodity tokens - 18 in 4 different colors
4 Progress tokens
3 Miner Meeples
60 Star-Shaped Authority tokens -in 6 different colors
16 Unavailable territory markers
18 Unique square market tiles
6 Multiplier markers
8 Circular Allegiance bonus markers
3 Unavailable Action Space markers
The Board - Before we talk about the setup we just wanted to give a quick word about the board, so as we discuss setup and gameplay the terms and locations we use will make sense. Cool? Cool.
The board is broken up into 4 distinct locations called factions. Three of the factions are almost identical, while the fourth is a little different, but we'll get to that in a minute. Each of the three factions produces a Resource (Gold, Stone and Brick), they all four produce a Commodity (Energy, Water, Food, and Bliss). Factions also feature a market place that will give players who help construct it an added bonus and those who didn't help build it a penalty when they visit that faction. The fourth faction (Euphorian) has multiple markets that are always open and available.
- Place all of your Commodities and Resources where they belong.
- Place unavailable territory tokens so that there is only one open slot per player on each territory - the area that looks like a star.
- Place Market Tiles face down on the six spots of the board.
- Get your miners ready to dig and cover up the the action space at the end of the tunnel
- Place the progress tokens at the beginning of the Allegiance tracks/
- Deal each player four recruit cards; they'll keep two and discard the others. Players will then place one recruit face-up--showing which faction they are aligned with--and the other face down, which will possibly align them with another faction later in the game.
- Shuffle up the Artifact cards and Ethical Dilemma cards. Each player gets an Ethical Dilemma, and Artifacts are placed off the the side.
- Every player grabs all of their Authority, Morale and Knowledge tokens and dice--you only get to use two to start with.
- Then everyone puts their Morale token on the one spot, and their Knowledge token on the +three spot.
- Finally everyone rolls their two active dice and the highest roller goes first.
This is probably the easiest aspect of the game to explain, so we'll do this quickly and explain what a bunch of the spots on the board do, and how they help you win/hopefully.
On a player's turn they HAVE to take an action; they have three options:
- Place a Worker Die
- Retrieve any or all of your Workers
- Resolve an Ethical Dilemma card
You can place a die on any open spot, or a spot that is "bumpable"--has a dotted line around it. This is great because you can bump someone else's worker off of the spot you want, BUT you just gave them a worker back without them having to spend a turn or commodity doing so--did we say spend a commodity? plot twist!
To retrieve a worker YOU MUST PAY!!!!! It will cost you either a Fruit or a Bliss, but you get any/all of your workers back you want, AND you gain Morale. Yay! If you do NOT pay a Fruit or Bliss, then you LOST one Morale. Boo... Whenever you retrieve a worker you immediately roll it for a new value!
Lastly you have the option to resolve your Ethical Dilemma card. By doing so, you have to pay an artifact card that matches what is shown on the card, or any two artifacts. But you can either put an Authority token on the Ethical Dilemma, or you can choose to draw two more Recruit cards and keep one.
Here are the spots on the board:
Morale and Knowledge Track- There's a chart that tracks each player's Morale and Knowledge. Your Morale affects your hand limit. The Knowledge represents your workers' awareness of their plight. When you get your dice back, you immediately roll them. Depending on where your marker is on the Knowledge track, you'll add a number to your dice roll. If the total is equal to or more than 16, you lose one worker (die).
Worker Activation Tank--You start the game with two workers (dice), and can get up to four total workers by spending Energy or Water.
Commodity Areas--You can gain commodities by placing dice there. The total number of items you get is based on the value of all of the dice there when you place your worker. So the more worker knowledge, the more you get, but the more likely you are to increase your overall Knowledge.
Allegiance Track - Each of the four Factions is represented, and when a player gains an allegiance point, you move that Faciton's marker up. There are various tiers that give you bonuses when the marker passes it. (If you have active recruits in that Faction.)
Tunnels - All of the Factions except Icarites are tunneling to try to get more commodities. When the tunnel is completely excavated, people who have Recruits in that Faction can use that bonus spot.
Construction Sites - Before a Market is completed, it's a Construction Site. Depending on the number of players, each site needs a number of workers to complete the Market. Everyone who contributes to the construction gets to place an Authority token, and if you didn't contribute, there's a penalty. And some of them are severe!
Markets - So when the Construction Site is flipped over, it's now a Market, and has a space to do something or get you something.
There are Recruit cards that let you break the game in some way. They also tell you what Factions you're backing in the game. You start with one faceup Recruit, and one facedown. There are various things you can do in the game to flip up your facedown worker.
So you'll keep rolling, placing, gathering, and maneuvering until one player places down his or her 10th Authority token. That player wins.
Jeremiah--First, let me say, that I love the concept, and theme of this game. A dystopian society for worker-placement just seems right on so many levels, and the artwork and graphic design really lend themselves to a deep and rich experience that totally captures the feel of the setting and theme.
Firestone--Definitely love the theme. It makes a morbid sense that the workers we so cavalierly place on these spaces are just cogs in the machine. Euphoria is just up-front about it.
Jeremiah--The idea of your workers being dice and how that ties in thematically to the game, but also with the timing and placement of your worker is great. Worker placement games can be somewhat tense to begin with, but knowing that you may not get what you were looking for or you may have to take a penalty to get the resource you need when you place a worker adds another layer to that tension. And this game has many, many, many layers.
Firestone--Yeah, the dice deserve their own mention: They look great. It's not the first game to use dice in this way, but I like that they didn't just make another put-a-meeple-here worker placement game. I really like that there are clever ways to get your workers back. If you think another player will play on a bumpable spot, you can go there, get the goods, and then when someone bumps you, place again without having to spend a turn gaining workers back. I really like that sort of clever guessing game.
Jeremiah-- I literally had to stare at the board, and think about the steps that I would want/need to take to make a certain strategy actually work. The locations of a faction's area are amazingly interdependent, one of the biggest pitfall of this game is that you can easily get caught up in the busy work of trying to complete a task, or dig a tunnel etc. and forget to work towards putting your tokens down.
Firestone--The board is huge, and has so many things going on, it can definitely be overwhelming. There are so many spaces that this is another reason I think more players are necessary (more on that in a minute).
Jeremiah--Factions. Factions nearly break the game--in my opinion--because there are four different factions on the board, and players are randomly assigned a faction it becomes very easy -and probably- that in a game of three or four players two players could end up on the same faction leaving the other(s) to work on an area by themselves. By nature of the game the two players in the same faction will gain a huge advantage because their track is going to advance much more quickly than the lone player's will. The board needs to be crowded. Most worker-placement games scale pretty well, but because of the factions Euphoria doesn't. I highly recommend playing with no less than five players, but the full compliment of six is best.
Firestone--Yeah...Factions are the part that keep this from being a great game for me. My first game was three players, and the other two had the same Faction cards. That meant they were constantly moving up those tracks together. As the odd-man-out, I was left in the dust. And they weren't colluding against me; it was the mechanics of the game allowing this to happen. I had no chance to win that game from the beginning, and that's just bad. I think having more players can fix this, though there's no guarantee, since you're drawing cards.
The related problem is that the game is very harsh on you, and it's almost impossible to recover. In a three-player game each Construction Site only needs two people to complete it. If the two people in front of you decide to each help build it, then they're both 1/10th closer to winning that you are, and you have a penalty now. And there was really nothing you could do about it. And some of the penalties are very, very harsh. And you have no way of knowing which Market is underneath there.
The game is just too harsh. Someone falling behind because of their poor play is acceptable. Someone falling behind because the game mechanics set those situations up is bad.
Jeremiah-- I was really surprised at how quickly the game plays: One of the five-player games I played was done in about an hour and twenty minutes, including setup and teaching. There's a lot to take in and figure out about the game but the player turn is really quite simple and we were able to speed through turns without much delay. The only thing that held up the pace was a fair amount of bluffing as markets were being built, which turned out to be a nice little meta game thrown in the mix.
Firestone--I do love how quickly the game plays. A meaty Euro like this that can be played in an hour is a rare thing. There are a lot of things to remember and keep track of, but if people move along, it doesn't overstay it welcome.
Jeremiah's Final Verdict--Stonemaier Games has successfully, and impressively, navigated another Kickstarter campaign, delivering an amazing finished product to their backers. Euphoria is a deep and rich experience, the concept and theme are very thought-provoking. and tie in great with the mechanics of the game. I would warn against playing with fewer than five players, because of the "roominess" of the board and the way factions function.
Firestone's Final Verdict--Euphoria is a good game, but not a great game. I had high expectations, thanks to my love of Stonemaier's previous game Viticulture. And while the production is still top-notch, the gameplay lags a bit here. I like that they tried new things with the genre. It's just not my favorite worker-placement game.
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