Euphoria Review

Euphoria board game

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.

Euphoria game in play
Nice artwork for the board
Now, before moving on to the cons, there are several things I just want to mention about Euphoria - not good or bad things, but things I want you to be aware of.  First, "60 minutes" is.... optimistic.  None of the games that I have played have really come close to that mark.  I think that it is possible, especially if playing with about 3 people, all of which are experienced.  However, I really don't recommend playing your first game with 6 people.  Start smaller.

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 picture of the Euphoria board game
Another action shot - I was purple this time (and I won!)
The next con that I have for Euphoria is that I thought that the tunnels should be scaled based on the number of players.  In the game, there are tunnels that lead from one part of the city to another - so that the Wastelanders can steal resources from the Euphorians, etc.  Realistically, players place workers on the tunnels to transform commodities into resources and/or artifacts.  As they do this, the miner moves along the track, and once he reaches certain places, recruits become flipped, and eventually a new place is opened up on the board.  However, the miner has to go the same distance no matter how many people are playing.  Thus, in a six player game, you have a new spot open up and more recruits available.  But in a smaller game (possibly even four player!), you have these same tunnels, but they might never be completed.  This is especially true since the resources that are provided from digging are scaled, as there are less resources needed to build each market in a smaller game.

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.


  1. Josh: Thanks so much for the review. I've been an avid reader of your site for a long time now, so it's an honor to have one of my games make an appearance here.

    If it's okay with you, I wanted to make a few strategic recommendations in case Euphoria makes it to your table again:

    1. For that player who lost multiple workers (and other players who push the knowledge threat), I would recommend not always retrieving all of their workers from the board. Sometimes it's a good strategy to plant a worker on a commodity area or construction site. On the same token, if that player places their third or fourth worker on an action space where it can be bumped, other players should try to target it in the hopes that player will lose the worker when he/she rolls it.

    2. For both the tunnels and the allegiance tracks, they tend to move at different speeds if players push certain tracks--and they should. One of my strategies is to really push the allegiance forward for my active recruit and then dig a lot. If some markets are built that require the commodity at the end of the tunnel, I'll complete the tunnel. Otherwise I might leave it alone--it's fine if tunnels aren't finished. It all depends on whether they fit into someone's strategy or not.

    What did you think about the semi-cooperative nature of the construction sites and the resulting penalties?

    1. The semi-cooperative nature of the construction sites was interesting, but I think I would have liked more incentive for a single player to build out multiple parts of a market. As it is, the only advantages are 1) making it get completed faster and 2) keeping more people boxed out of the points/avoiding penalties. However, that puts you in the spot of really hoping that someone else builds multiple spots on a construction site, instead of wanting to be the person to do it. I think that gaining an artifact, a commodity, or an advantage at the constructed market (for each additional spot you filled) would have encouraged players to fill several spots instead of waiting for other players to complete a market. As it stands, I'd rather fill one spot on multiple markets instead of multiple spots on the same one.

    2. I actually enjoyed the standoffs that would happen on markets. If you have more workers than them, you can take advantage of the fact that they can't afford to tie up a worker as long and will probably complete it for you. You can also hop on to markets that are being constructed by players who have abilities that help them construct markets, since they're more likely to fill out multiple spots.

      It's not ultra expensive to build out a spot at the market, so I think rewarding players who complete a market any more would be too much.

  2. That's interesting, Josh. I've found that penalizing other players can be reward enough for me to spend an extra resource to block them out. The ratio is still better than the artifact markets (2 resources for one authority token versus 3 artifact cards--or, at best, a pair of artifact cards), and you penalize another player, and you get your worker back right away when the market is built.

    1. That's true, but as the number of players increases, the reward of punishing a single player decreases - and placing an extra worker on the same market only punishes a single player. And, it's actually 2 resources and 2 actions, whereas the 3 artifact cards (or pair of them) is a single action.