Euphoria needs you to be VIGILANT! Happy neighbors bring destruction! Is your teacher spreading Wastelander propaganda? Is your coworker feeding information to the Subterrans? Is your child high on the gas? Report early. Report often!
Euphoria is a worker placement game set in a dystopian future. However, this is not the dark and gritty theme we have come to expect, but one of vibrant color. The best kind of facade, one where the inhabitants can be convinced that this is normal.
You are a new upstart, manipulating your workers for the resources you need to gain influence. You’ll use faction leaders loyal to you for their unique strengths. But make sure your workers don’t get too smart, or they’ll see through the curtain and flee.
Euphoria plays 2 to 6 players, and with the Ignorance is Bliss expansion will also play solo. The best count is 4, but the solo and two-player game of the expansion are both quite solid.
Euphoria is such a standard worker placement that there isn’t a whole lot to write about. The most interesting elements are its ties to theme and the semi-cooperative nature of certain actions. Outside these innovations, you’re still just placing workers to get resources to get points. So let’s talk about those thematic ties.
You start the game with one faction leader active, and one face down. There are two ways to make that face down leader active. Either you help make their faction more powerful, or you help that faction gain access to another faction’s resources through the use of a secret tunnel.
Your workers are dice, with their value matching their intelligence. You roll these dice every time you gain them back to your pool, and if their total value is too high, they see through the veil and you lose them. The only way to gain new workers is to spend resources: electricity to zap them into obedience, or a little water torture. When your workers return to you, you can raise your moral by feeding them food or euphoric gas. Happiness!
Buildings can be built through cooperative effort of resource spending. When the building is finally done, it provides influence to those that helped build it, and a penalty to those that didn’t. But you can remove that penalty should you bribe the right people.
So much of Euphoria’s mechanical workings are tied tightly to the dystopian theme. My only complaint is that the game doesn’t use its theme to try and say anything. When I read/watch a dystopian story, I’m usually filled with this great need to defend society from the crushing thumb of its oppressors. But Euphoria doesn’t give me the feeling of righteous fury, it doesn’t ask me to think deeply about the divides of society, nor does it ask me to cut the strings and overthrow the puppet master. It’s… just a game.
It’s a good game, a great and fun game, even. But just a game.
If you’re going to play Euphoria, play with the expansion. In fact, everything that Euphoria replaces with the expansion, just throw out. Those faction cards? Pitch ‘em. Those old buildings? Garbage. Don’t NOT play with the expansion.
Ignorance is Bliss adds a supply market for the antiques you find in the game. In the basic game, whenever you would draw one of these antiques, you’d just draw the top card of the deck. With the expansion you can draw from the top 4 cards, but you pay more the further you dig. So, the rightmost card of the market is free to draw, but the one to its left will cost you one resource for being picky. This expansion market makes this part of the game incredibly less random and much more fun. Don’t NOT play with the expansion.
It adds more resource tokens and player boards to remove clutter. There are also some tweaked rules for balance and factionless characters that are powerful but risky. Don’t NOT play with the expansion.
For those that like solo play, the Automa addition allows you to play a three-player game against a robot deck. The robots even have a difficulty scale, ranging from “Beginner” to “I Want to Cry”. It will take a couple of plays to fully understand how the robots work, but the beautiful minimalist design of the cards helps to iron out misunderstandings.
Oh, and you can use the Automa expansion in a two-player game to increase interaction. While the robots may not be able to trash-talk as much as a normal opponent, or be negotiated with in any way, it makes the experience more engaging. Not kidding here, don’t NOT play with the expansion.
As I already said, there isn’t a lot about Euphoria that makes it more or less better than your standard worker placement game. The intelligence mechanic is cool, and the semi-coop nature of the buildings does lead to some fun interaction. Others might like the fact that spaces don’t get “locked” when another player uses them (you can kick their dice back to them and use the spot yourself). Perhaps the main draw is that the goal involves an efficiency race, rather than a time-limit to score the most points.
Players of Scythe will easily see how Euphoria was the precursor to its design. The mostly non-confrontational interaction, the efficiency race structure, the multi-resource manipulation, the games are very familial.
Personally, I’m just highly attached to the theme and the way it is woven into gameplay. The rainbow of personality covering the dystopian reality keeps me engaged with the experience. There is a lot to like about Euphoria, but I’m a sucker for pretty.
Expansion copy provided by Publisher. Thank you Stonemaier Games!