Tabletop Game Review: Euphoria


Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia by Stonemaier Games
Players: 2 to 6
60 minutes
Perfect for:
Players who enjoy strategic resource allocation and intricate engine building mechanics

Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia is a game of strategy focused on worker placement and resource generation. Players must choose wisely where to focus their efforts, using their specific abilities and the constantly evolving board, to quickly amass victory points before their opponents. Before explaining the gameplay, here is a bit of thematic context from the publisher, Stonemaier Games:

You find yourself in a dystopian cityscape with a few workers at your disposal to make your mark on the world. Like most people in dystopian fiction, your workers are oblivious to their situation. This world is all they’ve ever known, and you may use them at your whim.

The world as we know it has ended, and in its place the city of Euphoria has risen. Believing that a new world order is needed to prevent another apocalypse, the Euphorian elite erect high walls around their golden city and promote intellectual equality above all else. Gone are personal freedoms; gone is knowledge of the past. All that matters is the future.

The Euphorians aren’t alone. Outside the city are those who experienced the apocalypse firsthand—they have the memories and scars to prove it. These Wastelanders have cobbled together a society of historians and farmers among the forgotten scrap yards of the past.

There is more to the world than the surface of the earth. Deep underground lies the hidden city of Subterra, occupied by miners, mechanics, and revolutionaries. By keeping their workers in the dark, they’ve patched together a network of pipes and sewers, of steam and gears, of hidden passages and secret stairways.

In Euphoria, players begin with the objective of meeting disparate goals. The first person to reach 10 goals, as indicated by stars, wins the game. The board is set up across four base factions, with a few other areas of exploration available and some hidden. To begin, players roll their worker dice. The numbers revealed will indicate power in many areas of placement, but also contribute to a knowledge check—in this dystopia less aware workers are more complacent workers. On a turn, a player distributes a worker die to one of the many options on the board, most of which either give the player resources or allow the player to trade a base resource for a more valuable commodity. As such, players must strategically decide their optimal avenues to achieve victory points.

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What works in Euphoria is the balance of resource allocation and the engaging components. First and foremost, the gameplay allows for a multitude of approaches to winning, all of which make for a truly dynamic experience. A person has the ability to win by exploiting several channels of constructing an engine of resource generation, as well as allocation. This makes for a unique gameplay experience with each playthrough. But perhaps more impressive is the leveling Euphoria does naturally—the actions players can take have both short-term and long-term gains and deciding (with a bit of fluidity) what to exploit keeps every turn exciting. The factoid nature of combinations that could contribute to the paths to victory are so numerous, that the replay value is incredibly high.

Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone are clearly master strategists but have employed their brilliance even further by overlaying their vision on top of the art Jacqui Davis, who brings an abstract vision to the entire engagement that is hard to ignore. Indeed, the board and individual components share a unique artistic confluence, bringing the universe alive. Additionally, the wooden pieces feel durable, weighty, and cut into fun corresponding shapes. Finally, while Euphoria has multiple components, the newly designed game trays make setup and cleanup incredibly efficient. A player would be hard pressed to find a game with this level of complexity that is this easy to pull off the shelf and play, and also be able to connect to given the geometric cues.

Conveyed with a jovial laugh, Euphoria is an analysis paralysis nightmare. For many, they will clap their hands together with glee, and rub them up and down excited for the challenge of ascertaining optimization. For others, the multitude of options to explore could feel daunting. It is a little too easy for the casual player to forget the bonuses afforded to them, or the secret objectives they could complete to randomly score those all important victory points. This is not a criticism, but rather a gauntlet—can you manage your resources and goals efficiently?

So why talk about Euphoria now? The game has been in existence for several years, so is it deserving of a current look? The answer is a resounding yes.

First, the mechanic of strategic resource allocation is not novel, but Euphoria has managed to further perfect the craft under the most scrupulous of tests, time. Many titles work in this space, but Euphoria stands proudly with a system that is both engaging and balanced, a difficult act to maintain in the face of numerous competitors. Second, it has the capacity to build and the expansion is coming. During this year Stonemaier games will release new components to compliment the base game, and this absolutely is a reason to be excited. Euphoria has room for new mechanics and resource allocation, so whether you are new to Euphoria, or a seasoned player, there is reason to be excited about how this game might be affected by new strategic elements.

Euphoria may perhaps be the new gold standard when it comes to resource allocation games. It combines strategic and artistic vision in a way that is captivating and speaks to mature modern gamers. No, this isn’t the title you introduce to new players, but those who understand and appreciate the intricacies of core mechanics are likely to love this new classic.

Recommended if you like: Lords of Waterdeep; Le Havre; Agricola

Final Grade: A rare A+

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