Game Name: Euphoria
Publisher: Stonemaier Games
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone
Players: Two to Six
Playing Time: An hour to hour and a half
Genre: Euro-style Worker Placement/Area Control
Retail Price: $70.00
- One game board
- 24 Custom Gear Dice
- 48 Recruit cards
- 36 Artifact cards
- 18 Market tiles
- 6 Ethical dilemma cards
- 27 Custom resource tokens
- 48 Custom commodity tokens
- 3 Miner Meeples
- 4 Progress tokens
- 6 Morale tokens
- 6 Knowledge tokens
- 60 Authority tokens
- 6 Multiplier markers
- 6 Allegiance tokens
- 12 Page color rule book
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What’s in the Box?
Euphoria is the second title to be released by Stonemaier Games – hot on the heels of Viticulture – and gamers who enjoy a Euro-styled challenge, with a tad more interaction than the norm in that genre, should certainly take notice. The setting is that of an Orwellian future in which the populace is kept under control by a mere handful of the powerful and oppressive elite. Each player is placed at the head of soon to be rival groups in a bid to attain the most power by changing the civilization’s future (possibly for the better or even for the worse) and in doing so placing all ten of the Authority tokens to win the game.
What will strike anyone opening Euphoria’s box is the excellent quality of the components. You’ll find this is a top notch production in all respects, from the artwork and card stock to the Market Tiles and strange looking but interesting “Gear Dice” you’ll be pleased by what you find. Truthfully some gamers feel a bit gipped with some titles when they crack open a box of air, but buyers of Euphoria will surely avoid that pitfall.
The game board is divided into what are in essence four zones occupied by different factions: The Euphorians who are the privileged elite; The Subterrans who are the workers and revolutionaries; The Wastelanders are made up of farmers and historians; The Icarites who are high flying traders promising goods and wonders beyond belief. The players don’t represent any of these factions (their Recruits will though) as everyone looks to manipulate these various movers and shakers in order to advance their own personal goals. Rather than instigating a violent overthrown of the powers that be, players are actually subtly working behind the scenes to usurp control of society.
You’ll begin a game of Euphoria by shuffling the Market Tiles and randomly selecting six of these. While areas of the board already contain Markets (the aerial Icarus is a prime example) these tiles allow for additional areas which can be built. The trick here is the drawn tiles are placed face down so no one will know what these Markets may be until someone decides to build one. Any undrawn Market Tiles are removed from play. Progress markers for each player are then placed on the four Allegiance tracks as well as Miner meeples on the three Tunnel tracks. Commodity and Resource tokens are then placed in their respective areas of the board; there are four Commodities (Bliss, Energy, Food, and Water) and three Resources (Clay, Stone, and Gold) used in play.
Each player then receives an Ethical Dilemma card which they’ll hide from other players. In reality these cards are one shots to be used to either gain a Recruit Card and possibly place an Authority token (if they look to fight the establishment) or directly place an Authority token if you choose to contribute the dystopian status quo. These Dilemma cards also serve as reference cards as well. Speaking of Recruits, each player will begin by drawing four and discarding two. The player then chooses which of his two Recruits will be active from the start and which will be considered hidden, hopefully to be activated later in the game. Recruits belong to different factions and provide bonuses for the controlling player.
Players also receive Multiplier Markers in which to track their Commodities and Resources. There won’t be enough tokens in the game to display stockpiles so this allows players to keep tabs on the goodies available to spend. Everyone will also place their respective tokens on the Morale and Knowledge tracks accordingly while also marking each of the map’s four Territory Stars with Unavailable Territory tokens so the remaining spaces equal the number of players. Each of the three Tunnels are also marked with unavailable tokens to indicate the Action Space at the end of the Tunnel can’t be used until a Miner reaches it.
Finally, the Artifact deck is shuffled and placed to the side. These Artifacts can be gained throughout the game and act as another form of currency; Artifacts are especially valuable when you have a matching set of two.
The game begins with everyone rolling their two available Gear Dice wherein the highest roll becomes the first player. In the case of a tie, the older player goes first and play continues from their left. This turn order will never change. The total of this roll also counts as the starting Knowledge of that player’s Workers (those aforementioned Gear Dice). Knowledge is not always a good thing since the more your workers understand about society as a whole the more apt they are to flee. Your aim will be to keep Morale high and Knowledge moderately low; the proletariat is meant to be kept happy and relatively stupid…
Normally I don’t go into such detail about the setup for most games but the reason I’m doing so here is to drive home the point there will be a lot going on in Euphoria. By a lot I mean there are a multitude of areas for you to place workers and the results of the placement vary wildly. I wouldn’t say Euphoria is overly complex but, at first glance, most people will feel a touch overwhelmed by the game board and all the various icons, tracks, tiles, and so on. When you first sit down to play Euphoria it isn’t overly apparent just what someone should do in order to play or compete for a victory.
Each turn a player can perform one of three actions:
Place an available Worker – Simply place a Worker into an available space and reap the benefits of the location the Worker now resides. Everyone begins with two Workers and can eventually achieve four. If you have Workers whose dice faces match (two, three, or four of a kind) you can place all of those matching workers at the beginning of your turn.
Action Spaces can break down into three types: Temporary Use, One-Time Use, or Multi-Use.
Temporary Use can provide the player with Commodities, Resources, Allegiance points, and more. These spaces can only contain one Worker at a time so if another player later decides to claim that space the original Worker is bumped from the board, rerolled, and then returned to the owning player’s dice pool.
One-Time Use requires a cost to place the Worker but they’ll remain in the space and cannot be bumped.
Multi-Use are open areas which can hold multiple Workers from all the players.
Retrieve any or all Workers – Rather than placing a Worker you can recover as many Workers as you’d like from the board. There’s a cost involved in doing this as indicated on the board. Once you’ve retrieved the Workers you may reroll their dice and place them into your dice pool.
Reveal your Ethical Dilemma – You’ll only do this once during the game but it does count as that turn’s action.
Only having that one action to perform each turn could possibly lead you to believe Euphoria plays rather simply, you’d be way off base in that thinking though. There are so many options you can pursue with that one action you’ll find you spend your first few games wondering what exactly should you be doing. Should you build new Markets? Gain more Resources? Add more Recruits? Work toward Grab more Workers or replace one who has left the fold? This can lead to bouts of analysis paralysis for everyone involved during your first game or two.
While you would think a game involving a quest to take the reins of power of an Orwellian society would pit player against player, the truth is you’ll actually spend more time doing things which help you (and your opponents around the table) while others’ actions end up helping you as well as opposed to dropping the hammer on fellow players. You’ll also team up with your rivals to build new Markets while those who don’t aid in the construction normally receive a penalty. There are certainly ways to toss a wrench into the plans of others – bumping Workers or blocking other players from aiding in the construction of a Market are prime examples – but I certainly wouldn’t call gameplay cutthroat by any stretch.
Learning and teaching Euphoria will take a bit of time as the title surely isn’t one in which you crack open the box and jump right in. It will take a bit of effort for many players to wrap their heads around all the options available to them with their Worker placement. Euphoria is a game which will take a few playthroughs before all the moving parts fit together and various strategies for a win begin to present themselves.
I found I liked Euphoria the more I played. You surely won’t use the title as in introductory game for your non-gaming buddies but rather be breaking this out for friends who enjoy a meatier Euro-style game. The multitude of ways to go about placing your ten Authority tokens provide for plenty of strategies to pursue for a win and I like the fact how I may approach taking control of this future society will possibly be much different than yours; maybe I’ll try to focus on my Recruits and increasing Allegiance while you aim toward dominating the Markets. Granted there isn’t much “take that!” involved in game play, as the title steers away from real conflict, but I understand the design is aimed more toward Euro-gamers – a group normally not overly keen on in your face sort of titles.
Gamers who aren’t thrilled with luck coming into play might take issue with the dice rolls, cards, and other randomness involved while others may wish for a heavier tie down in the theming. Personally my main criteria when I play a game is how much fun did everyone have around the table. I like the bit of tongue in cheek humor injected into Euphoria (especially the oxymoronically titled Markets) as it isn’t as if we’re looking to game Orwell’s 1984 here folks; sure the classic novel is a must read but it certainly doesn’t leave one feeling warm and fuzzy at its conclusion. Euphoria is meant to be entertaining and, once my gaming gang got a grip on how pieces of the game fit together, we had a damn good time with the proceedings.
Messieurs Stegmaier and Stone have a good handle on game design and with Euphoria as their second extremely solid title, it’s obvious Stonemaier Games is a company to keep an eye on in the future …and I don’t mean in a dystopian future either.