After really enjoying the first game by Stonemaier Games, I was privileged to have an opportunity to check out their second title - Euphoria.
In Euphoria, you are attempting to build the best dystopia. In order to build and maintain your dystopia, you have to keep your workers dumb and happy as they mine for resources, build markets, and tunnel into neighboring cities. In game terms, each turn you will either place a worker (or multiple workers, if they show the same number of pips on the dice that represent workers), or you can pull any number of your workers back. When placing workers, they can collect resources, contribute to building markets, get you victory points, etc. When retrieving workers, you must either pay a resource and gain some morale, or sacrifice a morale. Additionally, when you retrieve your workers, you immediately re-roll all of them and add the total of all your available workers to your score on the knowledge track. If this total is too high, then one of your workers runs away. The game progresses in this fashion of placing and retrieving workers until one player has successfully scored their 10th victory point - at which point they are the king of the grumpy, unhappy land!
The first pro that I have for Euphoria is that I enjoy the strategy involved in attempting to get your workers "bumped" as much as possible. In the game, there are three different types of locations for your workers - one can hold any number of workers, one can hold a single worker that can't be displaced, and the final type of location holds a single worker which will be "bumped" if another worker accesses the location. When you get a worker "bumped," he immediately is re-rolled and returned to your active worker pool. This is a wonderful thing for the owner of that worker, as they suddenly have another worker that can be placed, and they didn't have to spend a turn pulling the worker back. Thus, determining where you think your opponents might want to place their workers and taking advantage of those locations first is a great strategy.
Another thing that I have found interesting in Euphoria is balancing your morale. Initially, I thought that you could basically neglect morale early in the game and wait until the game has started to blossom. After all, that way you don't have to waste resources early on in the game when pulling back your workers. But, if you do this, then you will have a hand size of one when holding artifacts. (I haven't mentioned artifacts. Essentially, they are cards that you can turn in to get victory points. You will need at least three of them or two that match. Plus, you'll have an artifact that is special to you each game.) Since you can turn in three artifacts for a victory point (or two matching ones), you really don't want to throw them away! And, the earlier you increase your morale, the earlier you can start trying to match these cards (and not grow angry as you have to throw away the second card of a pair because you neglected morale). I found the importance of morale in the early game to be interesting.
|Nice artwork for the board|
The second thing that I will point out is that there are a couple facets of the game that can make it a bit swingy. First, if you roll doubles on your workers, you get to place multiple workers on the same turn (which is a very good thing for you). Also, if you roll really high numbers on your workers when you pull them off the board, you might lose them, even if your knowledge is not very high. Both of these die rolling elements can turn the tide of a game - either towards you or away. In one of my games, I saw someone with a moderately high knowledge (4 on a track that goes from 1-6) lose two workers on almost back to back turns, because they rolled too high. This made them go from having three workers to place on the board to having a single worker. Needless to say, they did not come back. Some players will enjoy this element of the game, whereas it will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of others.
Now that you're feeling great about Euphoria, it's time to list some cons. After all - this is a game about dystopias, right? My first con is that there are four tracks relating to each specific allegiance. Each player has a couple of recruits, and as the tracks that correspond to his recruits advance, he will get bonuses - and, in fact, one of his recruits will not even be available until the corresponding track goes a certain distance. This sounds cool, right? It allows for some uneasy alliances, where you are helping other players because it is ultimately in your own best interests. However, in practice, it feels like these tracks basically just move as the game goes along. I don't know if the recruits have been too well distributed in all of my games, but in my experience, the tracks have all stayed very close together throughout the game, and players are too often forced to advance a track that they care nothing about in order to get a bonus that they do want. So, instead of this being a neat feature of the game, it turns out to be a really cool sounding non-factor.
|Another action shot - I was purple this time (and I won!)|
My final con for the game is that it felt. Disjointed? I'm not sure what term to use. It felt like I was placing workers for the sake of placing workers. There is strategy involved and there is a theme, but they didn't mesh together overly well for me. The flow of beginning, buildup, and climax also seemed a bit missing. It was hard (at least for me) to envision how what I was going to do this turn was going to help me in the long run. It felt more like, "well, I guess I can do this - I don't have any of this resource type." There were occasionally long pauses of people thinking - but it wasn't because they were overwhelmed with choices. It was more that they were trying to figure out how this turn would lead towards anything later in the game. I don't think that I captured this con well, but it just felt like each turn only leads to the next 1-2 turns instead of the game building upon itself throughout.
Overall, I give Euphoria a 7.0/10. There are some neat elements to the game, but overall the game left me a bit disappointed - though this is quite possibly because I expected a bit more based on how much I enjoyed Stonemaier's first game (Viticulture). I would play Euphoria in the future if my friends were interested in it, but it won't be something that I regularly seek out.
If Euphoria sounds interesting, you might also check out Android: Netrunner, Kingdom of Solomon, and Alien Frontiers.
I would like to thank Stonemaier Games for providing me with a review copy of Euphoria.
Edit: It has been pointed out to me that I got a rule slightly wrong. Originally, I had stated that when your workers are bumped, they did not have to make a knowledge check. That was incorrect - sorry. I still think that getting your workers bumped is far better than having to pull them back on your own, but I wanted to make sure to clarify this in case I had made anyone second guess themselves.