Before I begin, I received a copy of the game at a significant discount in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would like to watch a video of this review you can check it out below. To get your own copy click here.
There is one publisher out there that is extremely popular that I have never LOVED one of their games. Now here is the thing, I have always been able to look at the games and say “Not my favorite, but I can see why this type of gamer would like it.” Clearly, I am talking about Stonemaier Games.
I do play Scythe with a friend of mine, decently regularly, and I appreciate it, I particularly appreciate the digital implementation while we are in shelter in place. I have the digital implementation of Charterstone, and I can see there is definitely some potential there, though I have not played it enough to really know one way or the other. I purchased Wingspan for a friends birthday recently, but then Shelter in Place happened and I have not tried it.
So why on Earth would I sign myself up to review another one? You see with all of those games, I can clearly see WHY people really like them. So perhaps it is just a matter of finding the one that jives with my personal sensibilities. So enter Euphoria (with expansion). I should note that though I have played with various portions of the IIB expansion, I have ALWAYS played with the Automna. In fact that was part of why I went with Euphoria because I could play it solo, and could play it multiplayer, but add in two AI opponents as well, in addition there is was the possibility of playing a co-op version of the game, at least that is what I had read. So considering shelter in place, my wife’s growing interest in worker placement, and her preference for co-op, I was pretty excited about this possibility. (I should also note that I read the co-op somewhere that was not the Stonemaier site…so that appears to be false!)
Ostensibly the story behind the game is that there in the dystopian future you are determined to rise to power. You have recruited one person with some power in one of the four factions that runs the city. Through your guile you plan to rise to power yourself. Whether that be to enforce your own iron fist, or to make things better is really up to you.
To do this you will be placing your workers out onto the board to collect resources. Eventually all your workers (dice) will be placed and you will have to pull them all back. Here is the catch. When you pull them back you have to roll them. If the total number is too high, then you will lose a worker. You see the number you roll represents the “knowledge” you workers has of the fact that they live in a dystopia. If they figure it out they will peace out. In addition, these numbers also can effect what resources you gain on certain areas of the board.
Like any good euro game, you use resources to create other resources, which let you get other things! This is nothing special, however, what does interest me is one of the things you do with your resources is you construct various dystopian market places. By building these, very tongue in cheek, markets you get to place your authority stars (be the first to place all your stars and you win). However, everyone who did not get to place a star now has a penalty that they have to deal with until they are able to place a star on that market, which is no easy task.
Earlier I mentioned, that you have recruits helping you. These recruits all give you certain powers, and as you progress in the game you may or may not gain more recruits to help you. I make a point now to call them out because these recruits are tied deeply to the “ethical dilemma” that each player receives. Each player gets a card at the beginning of the game which gives them a choice. “Burn a Book” or “Read a Book”, “Help a Friend Escape”, or “Turn Your Friend In.” Choose the more dystopian one, and get a star immediately. Choose the “nobler path” and gain another recruit, which means an ability now, and perhaps, a star later.
The first one to place all their stars wins.
So what do I think?
This game looks great on the table. The colors pop, the pieces are good and chunky, the cardboard nice and thick, and the art delightful. While on the topic of components, the expansion adds individual player boards that makes tracking your info significantly simpler, and the insert is fantastic, if easily fits the entire expansion, and looks as if it would hold sleeved cards.
I also really enjoy the core of this game. Yes, there are a LOT of options each turn for you to choose from. It is almost a dumbfounding amount of options. But here is the thing. None of them are difficult or fiddly feeling. I enjoy the slight variant from traditional worker placement, where the number on your die matters a little bit in some areas, and the fact that you can lose them if you roll too high very cool. It makes you think about what you are going to do, and it mitigates the usual move of always getting as many workers as you can in this type of game. However, since it is only on a few spaces that the numbers matter it does not bog down the game.
I am a fan of the way the recruits work and how it significantly changes your strategy in any given game, and I am an even bigger fan of the AI deck. It is LIGHTNING fast to place the two AI dice out, and you really do feel like you are playing against someone else. The rules that the AI is allowed to break makes perfect sense, and the ways the rules are shifted in order to keep you from losing benefits well done.
Finally, I will add that this expansion added an artifact market which is an excellent addition to the game. Being able to see what artifacts are coming, and having some choice there is wonderful.
The expansion comes with some mega huge resources. They are kind of cool, but in all the games I have played, I have seen them handed out a grand total of one time. I do not think they are really necessary.
The set up can feel a little bit fiddly, as there are a lot of tokens and bits to be put out all over the board, though it does look cool when it is done.
Finally, I think the theme is fairly well realized…if you look for it. If you take the time to read what the markets are, it is delightful. If you stop and look at the artifacts (wish there were a few more), then it is delightful and really can take you to the world. On the other hand, it is super simple to just pay no attention to it whatsoever and play a “dry euro”. What’s it about? I dunno moving crap around the board.
The game also comes with some resource multiplier boards. Perhaps these are useful in a 6 person game. But really, I do not think they are useful at all. While the game is certainly accessible, it can feel quite daunting to figure out how everything works the first few times you play. You have miners digging in all different directions, three of the factions functionally work the same, with one being significantly different, and there are icons all over the place. Finally, I mentioned earlier that if you did not assist with building a market you get a penalty, I wish there was a way to notate that you had a penalty and what market it was related to, it is VERY easy to forget those.
Bringing it all together
Euphoria is a fun worker placement game that does a good job of mixing it up from what you expect from a worker placement game. It does enough to stay interesting, without becoming “heavy”. It looks fantastic on the table and if you look for it you are absolutely transported to the dystopian world. The game place and board is truly elegant, though this comes at the cost of it being a lot to take in on first glance, and has a little bit of a learning curve. The AI decks are fantastically done. Is this my favorite euro game? No. But it is certainly up in my top echelon. I like this game and it will be staying on my shelf for sure. It is officially my favorite Stonemaier game.
People who talk a lot in Dystopias disappear
* Game is gorgeous. Wonderful tongue in cheek details.
* A couple less than useful components
* Does enough with the genre to feel fresh, but does not do so much it is heavy
* All the gameplay changes and additions in the expansion are good
* The AI implementation is wonderful
* Once you get the game down it cooks along, though I am not sure I would want to play a full six player game, that might drag
* A very good euro game, that I will certainly be playing again