(2013 – Stonemaier Games)
While Caylus is known to many as the grandfather of the modern Worker Placement genre, games such as Kingsburg, Alien Frontiers, and Troyes were able to take the mechanic and introduce innovative ways of using dice as the workers themselves. Combining the rolling of dice with a strategic process of having to decide what actions to perform with the values rolled, has not only helped to limit the randomness that can come with the element of dice, but has also helped to advance the worker placement genre as a whole, in new and unique ways. With Euphoria, designers Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone (the team behind the popular Viticulture) built upon the foundations of this worker placement dice mechanic, while also including some new creative features, such as the “bumping” mechanic. This, all packaged into a game drenched in a dystopian theme; one not commonly found in the hobby today.
Euphoria is a worker placement game, centering around a totalitarian dystopia, in which various factions of people have been brainwashed into believing that a state controlled, new world order is the best solution for their survival and happiness. Players seek to recruit members of these societies for their bidding, in order to improve upon this futuristic dystopia and use their authority to claim power over the many factions found in and around the city of Euphoria. Players will send their workers to various areas in and around Euphoria, in order to complete jobs and collect goods, ultimately rooting their authority around the city. It is important for players to keep the morale of these workers up, while also not allowing them to gain too much knowledge of their surrounding dystopia, for fear that they may learn the truth and attempt to escape. The first player to successfully place 10 of his Authority markers onto the board, is considered the winner.
– Euphoria Game Board
– Construction Site tiles
– Recruit cards
– Artifact cards
– Ethic cards
– Worker Dice (1 set for each player color)</p
– Authority markers (1 set for each player color)
– Morale tokens (1 set for each player color)
– Knowledge tokens (1 set for each player color)
– Multiplier boards (1 for each player color)
– Commodity tokens (energy, water, food, and bliss)
– Resource tokens (gold, clay, and stone)
– Allegiance bonus markers
– Allegiance track & Miner markers
– Markers used to cover unavailable spaces
Board Layout & Setup:
At first glance, the board layout for Euphoria can look a little intimidating. However, once we break down the various locations and their corresponding areas, you’ll see that the board has a certain sense of symmetry to it, in which locating items will come quite easy. Taking a look at the board, the city of Euphoria is broken up into four factions (or the four areas in and around the city):
The citizens of Euphoria live in pure, ignorant oppression, happily operating and producing the energy that sustains their dystopia.
Starting on the left, the Incinerator of Historical Accuracy location is where players can send workers to burn valuable artifacts of the past that tempt to emotionally enlighten the oppressed, such as books, stuffed teddy bears, and of course, board games.
Below the incinerator is the Euphorian Tunnel. Since Euphorians can only produce energy, they have no real source of water. Workers can be placed at this location to start digging towards to lower Subterran territory (which I’ll cover next), in hopes to find a consistent water supply. While digging their way towards the lower Subterran area, they are likely to dig up Gold or various artifacts of a past area. The action space at the end of each tunnel in the game is covered until a player has successfully dug through to that point.
In the middle of the city are two locations that are currently under construction. Once built during the game, these two locations will provide marketplaces that workers can be placed at to perform various actions. These locations can also be used as a location for players to root their authority by placing one of their Authority tokens on it. At the beginning of the game, players will randomly select Construction Site tiles and place them in these areas, face down.
To the right of these construction sites is the Generator, the power source of the city, where every citizen spends time happily running in a wheel for hours a day, to help supply the energy needed to keep their wonderful paradise functional. Workers can be sent to the Generator to collect some of this energy for the players.
Finally, above the Generator is a location representing the different territories found in the city of Euphoria. As players burn artifacts in the incinerator and perform tasks at the Euphorian marketplaces, they will be able to claim authority over sections of the city itself by placing their Authority markers on the various sections of this location. The number of territories available during a game is equal to the number of players. So, at the beginning of the game, players will place the appropriate number of markers to cover up any unavailable territory spaces. In this review, we’ll take a look at a 4-player game, thus 2 of the spaces have been covered.
In the deep lairs beneath the city, lurk the Subterrans; a faction of engineers, revolutionaries, and scoundrels. Unlike the Euphorians, these people have escaped the dystopia, only to find themselves buried deep in a dark, unforgiving existence. As with the Euphorians, the Subterrans have almost identical location types, except that the Subterrans produce water rather than energy. Workers can be sent to the Free Press of Harsh Reality to drop off found artifacts for the Subterrans to pilfer through. The Subterrans also have two construction sites and instead of a Generator, have built an Aquifer that can produce Water.
While the Subterrans don’t necessarily require energy to survive, they do need food. Therefore, they have begun to attempt to dig a tunnel to the Wasteland area, where farming and crops grow freely. During the digging of this tunnel, workers may find bits of stone as well as various rare artifacts. As with all four factions, the Subterrans also have an area for players to claim the various Subterran territories.
Before there was Euphoria, there were wars and revolutions that ravaged the land and its inhabitants. The city of Euphoria was built upon the idea that disciplined and totalitarian order was needed to finally live a life of enlightenment and peace, walling off the city and closing itself in. The Wastelanders are those outside of the city wall, still coping with the aftereffects of a land demolished by decades of war. The Ark of Fractured Memories is a memorial museum of sorts, where workers can contribute rare artifacts to this historical collection of items. The Wastelander area contains two construction areas as well as a Farm where workers can be sent to collect Food.
After years of living on the land, the Wastelanders have learned how to grow crops based on the seasonal rains and have cultivated ways to store and retain a consistent water source. However, they yearn for the use of electricity. Therefore, the Wastelanders have begun to dig a tunnel under the Euphorian city wall, attempting to gather some of the Euphorians energy for themselves. During the digging of this tunnel, workers may find bricks of clay as well as some rare artifacts. The Wastelander area also has a territory space for players to place their authority on.
While the Euphorians, the Subterrans, and the Wastelanders are all vying to gain a certain commodity from another faction, the Icarites soar above the skies in their self-sustaining airships, freely puffing their way to eternal bliss, without a care for anyone else below. The Icarite area is unique in that it is the only faction of the four that does not contain any construction areas, nor does it contain a tunnel. Instead, it contains three already-constructed marketplace. Commodities, resources, and artifacts are all used as monetary trading items on the Icarite airships. Workers can trade in rare artifacts at the Wind Saloon and resources at the Nimbus Loft in order to gain territories. At the Breeze Bar, players can trade in various commodities (Energy, Water, or Food) and the drug, Bliss in order to gain rare artifacts of the past or could do so at the Sky Lounge in exchange for different resources (Gold, Stone, or Clay).
With self-sustaining airships, the Icarites have no need for water, food, or electricity. They are however, addicted to the drug, Bliss and run a Cloud Mine on their ships where workers can go to collect this chemically-enriched treat. The Icarites also have a territory location for players to try to place their authority throughout the game.
Morale & Knowledge Tracks:
At the beginning of the game, players will start with two Workers each. Workers are represented by dice of that players color. The number on each dice represents that knowledge of that particular Worker.
Players want to limit the intelligence of their Workers, lest they become too smart and realize the dystopian structure around them. Players also want to try and keep their Workers from interacting with each other too much, where they might begin to talk amongst themselves and get, well….ideas. Keeping morale high and a Worker’s knowledge low can be an integral balance in the game. Both of these elements are referenced by two tracks at the top left portion of the game board. Players can increase or decrease their Morale or Knowledge on these tracks by taking various actions with their Workers on the board.
At the beginning of the game, players will place tokens of their color on each of these tracks (the heart shaped token on the Morale track, and the head shaped token on the Knowledge track). All players start on the first space of the Morale track. The number on the Morale track is equal to the number of Artifact cards a player can have in their hand at any one time. So if the Blue player’s Morale was currently at 3, he would only be able to have 3 Artifact cards in his hand.
The Knowledge track keeps track of how smart your Workers have become. Each time a player retrieves his Workers from the various areas on the board, he will roll them to see how smart they are. This cumulative number is added to the dice number listed on the space of the Knowledge track. If this number is equal to or greater than 16, then one of the player’s Workers will become enlightened and flee, thus leaving him with one less Worker to use until he can recruit a new one. At the beginning of the game, all players start on the 3rd space of the Knowledge track.
At the beginning of the game, the deck of Recruit cards is shuffled, and each player receives two Recruits. These Recruits are made up of characters from each of the four factions in the game, and each character has a particular ongoing special ability that can be used during the game. Players must decide which recruit they want to start out with and play that Recruit face up. The other Recruit is left face down, but can eventually be turned over by taking certain actions on the board. Note however, that only the face up Recruits can use their special abilities. You have not yet convinced the face down Recruits to become totally servant and loyal to you, therefore their abilities won’t come into play until you can do so.
For instance, Josiah the Hacker is a Subterran recruit. His special ability is that when you (the owning player) places a Worker at the Generator, Farm, or Cloud Mine, all other players with Workers at that location gain +1 Knowledge on the Knowledge track, while you gain +1 Morale on the Morale track.
Each player will also receive a Ethical Card at the beginning of the game. These cards give a one-time use ability in the game when either discarding a specific Artifact as listed on the Ethical card, or by discarding any two Artifact cards. The player can then choose to either draw two Recruits (but keep only one of them), or he can choose to place an Authority token on the Ethical card itself.
Taking a look at the Ethical card above, the player can choose to discard a Teddy Bear artifact card or any two artifact cards. By doing so, he can “choose true love” by drawing two new Recruits and keeping one of them, or he can “accept an arranged marriage” by placing an Authority token on this Ethical card.
After the all Construction tiles, commodities/resources, and other various tokens have been placed on the board, and each player has received two Workers, their set of Authority tokens, their Recruit cards, their Ethical card, and their Multiplier board, players will place the Artifact deck, the Recruit deck, and remaining Worker dice next to the board. At the end of setup, the game should look something like this:
On his turn, a player is allowed to perform one of three available actions. Normally this action will consist of either placing a Worker on a location or retrieving Workers off of the board. However, players can choose once per game to reveal their Ethical card and resolve it as an action, as mentioned before. Players also may only place one Worker on his turn with one exception. If the player has rolled Worker dice with the same knowledge (number facing), that player can play all of those Workers on his turn.
For example, the Blue Player has rolled his 3 Worker dice. One Worker has a knowledge of 2, while the other two have a knowledge base of 5. First, the player would make sure that his Workers have not become too intelligent by checking where his marker is on the Knowledge track. It is currently on the 2nd space of the track, meaning that he will have to add a value of 2 to his knowledge total (2+5+5+2 = 14). Since this number is less than 16, he would be able to keep all of his Workers.
After determining this, the Blue Player realizes that he has rolled two Workers with the same knowledge value of 4. This means that on his turn, he can choose to place both of these Workers at locations on the board, instead of only placing one per turn. If all three of the Workers he rolled had been the same number, he could choose to place all three of them out at once.
1.) Place a Worker:
Each location on the board has a space where a Worker can be placed. After placing a Worker at a location, and paying any needed requirements, the action on that space is resolved. There are a few different types of locations in Euphoria, so let’s take a look at some of these and go over how they work.
Each of the four factions can produce a particular type of commodity. The Euphorians produce Energy using a Generator, the Subterrans extract Water using an Aquifer, the Wastlanders grow Food from their Farm, and the Icarite develop Bliss with the use of their Cloud Mine. While all of these locations produce different commodities, they all essentially work the same way. Each of these locations provide commodities based on the total knowledge of Workers at that location. There is no maximum limit to the number of Workers that can be placed on these locations.
– If the total knowledge at one of these locations is between 1-4, the player will receive one unit of that particular commodity, and that faction’s allegiance will increase by 1 on the Allegiance Track (I’ll explain the Allegiance Track later on).
– If the total cumulative knowledge is between 5-8, the player will receive one unit of the commodity and will also decrease their marker on the Knowledge track by 1.
– Finally, if the total knowledge is at 9 or higher, the player will receive 2 units of the commodity, but will also have to increase his marker on the Knowledge track by 1. Having too many Workers mingle amongst one another can cause emotional idealistic thought, making it more likely that a Worker may be enlightened to his surroundings and flee.
The White Player needs to get some Water from the Subterran’s Aquifer, so he sends one of his Workers with a base knowledge of 3 to that location. The Blue Player has previously placed a Worker with a base knowledge of 6 at the Aquifer. Because these two Workers combine for a total of 9, the White Player would have to resolve the action on the far right side of the Aquifer, allowing him to gain 2 units of Water, but also increasing his marker on the Knowledge track by 1.
As mentioned before, Tunnels are being dug by three of the factions, attempting to gain commodities that the other factions are able to generate. A Worker can be placed at these locations and must provide a particular commodity in order to gain access to the Tunnel. When this action is taken, the Miner marker on the Tunnel track is moved one space towards the end of the Tunnel, and the Worker can choose to take either a resource (Clay, Stone, and Gold) or may instead choose to draw an Artifact card from the Artifact deck. These are basically items that the Worker would come across during his dig of that section of the Tunnel.
– The Euphorian Tunnel leads to the Subterran lair. It costs a Worker 1 unit of Energy to dig there and will provide either a Gold or Artifact card for doing so. If the Miner reaches the 7th space on the Tunnel, any player that has an unrevealed Euphorian Recruit can flip this recruit up. If the Miner reaches the end of the Tunnel, any player with a Euphorian Recruit can send a Worker to this space in order to gain 3 units of Water.
– The Subterran Tunnel leads to the Wastelands. It costs a Worker 1 unit of Water to dig there and will provide either a Stone or Artifact card for doing so. If the Miner reaches the 7th space on the Tunnel, any player that has an unrevealed Subterran Recruit can flip this recruit up. If the Miner reaches the end of the Tunnel, any player with a Subterran Recruit can send a Worker to this space in order to gain 3 units of Food.
– The Wastelander Tunnel leads under and into the city of Euphoria. It costs a Worker 1 unit of Food to dig there and will provide a Clay or Artifact card for doing so. If the Miner reaches the 7th space on the Tunnel, any player that has an unrevealed Wastelander Recruit can flip this recruit up. If the Miner reaches the end of the Tunnel, any player with a Wastelander Recruit can send a Worker to this space in order to gain 3 units of Energy.
Construction Sites & Marketplaces
The Euphorian, Subterran, and Wasteland areas have two Marketplaces that are under construction at the beginning of the game. Each of these sites is referenced by a face down Construction tile. To the left of these locations are the types of resources that are needed in order to build these new Marketplaces. When a player sends a Worker to help construct the Marketplace, he must pay the resource referenced on the space on which he is placing the Worker. Once a number of spaces have been filled, the Marketplace is built and the tile is flipped over.
– In a 2-3 player game, only two resource spaces are required to fulfill the construction of the new marketplace.
– In a 4 player game, only three resource spaces are required to fulfill the construction of the new marketplace.
– In a 5-6 player game, all four resource spaces are required to fulfill the construction of the new marketplace.
When the new Marketplace is revealed, it will slide to the left, covering up the resource spaces and essentially bumping the Workers back to their respective players, where they will reroll them to create new Workers. As we will see with the “Retrieve” action (one of the three actions a player can take on his turn), players would normally have to waste a turn on retrieving their Workers from the board. By being on a construction space when a Marketplace is completed, this will basically give a player this action for free. Also, when a Marketplace is completed, any player that had a Worker on one of its construction spaces, is allowed to place one of their Authority markers on the new Marketplace. Marketplaces will provide new locations for players to place Workers and take various actions. Any player who did not provide any Workers towards the site’s construction is not allowed to place an Authority marker at this point, and will take a negative effect as listed on the Marketplace tile for the remainder of the game, until he is able to place an Authority marker there.
For instance, the Purple player sends a Worker to one of the Euphorian construction sites, by spending a Gold. The Blue Player already had two of his Workers at this site, therefore since it is a 4-player game, the Marketplace is considered complete. The construction tile is flipped over, revealing a new location entitled, Disassemble-A-Teddy-Bear Shop.
As the tile slides to the left to cover the resource spaces, it bumps the 3 Workers off of their spaces and back to the Purple and Blue players. Every time a Worker is sent to the Disassemble-A-Teddy-Bear Shop, they will need to bring 1 unit of any commodity (Energy, Water, Food, or Bliss) and a Teddy Bear artifact card. This will allow them to assist in destroying emotional ties to the old world, in the form of teddy bears, thus furthering their fabulous new world order. A player that is able to do so will be allowed to place an Authority marker on one of the Euphorian territory spaces where this marketplace is located, and will also increase the marker on the Euphorian Allegiance track by 1.
As seen on the bottom of the marketplace card, if a player did not take part in building the Disassemble-A-Teddy-Bear Shop, whenever that player rolls a 4, he will either lose one of his Commodities or one of his Resources. Therefore, since the Green and White players did not contribute to constructing this marketplace, they will have this effect placed on them until they are able to place an Authority marker on the tile.
Each faction area also contains an Artifact Market, where a number of Artifacts can be traded in (either 3 different Artifact cards or 2 Artifact cards of the same type), in order to raise allegiance with that faction as well as place a Authority marker on either one of the corresponding faction’s territory spaces, or on a constructed Marketplace in that faction’s area that doesn’t already contain an Authority marker from that player. This will allow players to rid themselves of a Marketplace’s negative effect, which was triggered when they were not part of building the new Marketplace earlier in the game.
Later in the game, the Green Player sends a Worker to the Euphorian Incinerator of Historical Accuracy. He discards a pair of Books (Artifact cards), allowing him to place an Authority marker on the previously constructed Disassemble-A-Teddy-Bear Shop, as well as increasing the Euphorian allegiance marker by 1 space along the Allegiance track. Now that he has done so, he no longer has to observe the negative effect from not having an Authority token on the Disassemble-A-Teddy-Bear Shop marketplace.
The Allegiance Track
As you’ve seen thus far, taking particular actions at locations such as the Tunnels and various Marketplaces will increase a faction’s allegiance on the Allegiance track. This track is located on the bottom-right portion of the game board and includes an individual track for each of the four factions in the game. As allegiance increases for a particular faction, bonuses are unlocked for players that have active Recruits of that faction.
– The 1st step of the track will allow players to gain an extra commodity from the Generator, Aquifer, Farm, or Cloud Mine locations.
– The 2nd step of the track will allow players to take both a Resource and an Artifact card when taking a dig action in that faction’s Tunnel (usually players will need to choose between the two items). Since the Icarite’s do not have a tunnel, their 2nd step of the track will allow a player with an Icarite Recruit to draw an extra Artifact card when placing an Authority marker on an Icarite territory space.
– The 3rd step of the track will allow a player to activate a face down Recruit of that faction, by flipping it over. The player will now be able to use that Recruit’s special abilities. This can also be done by reaching the 7th space of the Tunnel track.
– Finally, if the Allegiance marker reaches the very end of the track, any player that has a Recruit tied to that faction will be allowed to place an Authority marker on the actual Recruit cards of that faction.
For instance, in the previous example, the Green player had sent a Worker to the Euphorian Incinerator of Historical Accuracy, thus increasing the Euphorian Allegiance marker by 1 on the Allegiance track. This has now opened up the bonus for the Generator location. From now on, any player who has an active Euphorian Recruit will collect an extra Energy when sending a Worker to the Generator location.
Worker Activation Tank
Finally, players will have the opportunity to add new Workers to their workforce. Players can have a maximum of 4 Workers at any one time during the game, but remember that players must be careful when grouping so many Workers together, as it will become more difficult to limit their overall knowledge to less that 16, in hopes of not losing them. Players can send a Worker to the Worker Activation Tank, in order to gain a new Worker. There are two optional spaces to choose from:
– The left side of the Tank requires 3 units of energy, zapping them out of their vegetative state and under your control. The instant use of electric volts do not help their brain matter much however, thus players will be allowed to lower their Knowledge marker on the Knowledge track by 2.
– The right side of the Tank requires 3 units of water, being a gentler way to soothe the influence of the new Worker under your control. Because of this more nurturing way of gaining a Worker, the Morale marker on the player’s Morale track will increase by 2. Remember that the number of the Morale track directly corresponds with how many Artifact cards the player can have in his hand at one time.
2.) Retrieve Workers:
Instead of placing Workers, a player can choose to retrieve his Workers from the board so that he may be able to use them again. A player can choose to retrieve any number of his Workers in this way from the board. One reason a player may want to keep a Worker on the board would be for the purposes of keeping him at a Construction Site area. Because all Workers that are retrieved at this time are rerolled together, he may also want to keep a Worker on the board so that he won’t have to roll all of his Workers at the same time, thus decreasing the chance that one of them will become too smart and flee his workforce.
When Workers are retrieved, players must decide whether they want to provide them with Food, Bliss, or nothing at all. Paying a single unit of Food or Bliss when retrieving Workers will increase that player’s overall Morale by 2. Not providing anything for the Workers when they are retrieved will decrease the overall Morale by 1. This action only needs to be performed once when using the Retrieve action, no matter how many Workers are actually retrieved. Players do not need to pay for each individual Worker retrieved during that action.
A major element in the worker placement genre is the use of blocking locations from opposing players when placing workers. This has largely been a strategy to keep other players from being able to execute their goals and actions during the game. Euphoria however, for the most part, removes this blocking element, instead allowing a player access to almost every location on the board, while still giving the opposing an advantage for having a Worker on a location that another player wants to use. This is all done with a mechanic the designers of Euphoria call “bumping”.
Almost all locations, except for the Commodity production areas (remember that there is no maximum set on the amount of Workers that can be placed here), only have room for one Worker at a time. Instead of blocking other players from using these spaces however, Euphoria allows a player to bump another Worker from that location (with exception to the Construction Site spaces), thus being able to place his own Worker there and take that resolve that space’s action. This not only creates full access to the board for all players, but it also minimizes the importance of turn order, and largely cuts down on the play time of the game, as players will always be able to plan out what they want to do for their next turn, without much interference.
When a Worker gets bumped, it immediately returns to it’s master and is rerolled. This gives that player the advantage of not needing to take a Retrieve action to get this worker back. So while players are allowed access to almost every space on the board during the game without having to worry about them being blocked, they are also giving the opposing player an advantage of a free retrieve action. It’s a pretty clever way on the designer’s part in handling some of the trappings that have come with the blocking mechanic in the worker placement genre.
Players will continue to send Workers to the various locations in and around the city of Euphoria, until a players has positioned all 10 of his Authority markers amongst his recruits, the various territories, the constructed marketplaces, and on his ethical card. The first player to do so has taken control of the dystopia and won the game.
It’s always refreshing to see a game that can adopt an often-used mechanic, such as worker placement, and apply a new and unique twist. And Euphoria has done just that. With the addition of the bumping mechanic, Euphoria accomplishes something many worker placement games aren’t able to; smoothly handling a large number of players, while still allowing players the opportunity to strategically plan during turns. Usually with a large number of players, spaces on the board become unavailable as players take their turns, thus mitigating much of the planning that needs to be done from turn to turn. The bumping mechanic eliminates this frustration, allowing players to fully plan their actions, many turns in advance, without concern of being blocked. Interestingly enough, there is still a built in advantage for purposely getting in a player’s path, thus awarding yourself a free retrieve action.
Thematically, Euphoria feels like more than just a board game. There’s a story here. Maybe not one that will ever be told, but you are led to believe that it exists nonetheless. While many of the locations essentially contain the same functions, (such as gaining a commodity, or discarding artifact cards to place authority markers), the various factions have their own reasons for performing these tasks. Using the numbers on the dice to represent the worker’s knowledge value is an ingenious design, wherein a worker that has become too smart, flees your control. Burning books, destroying teddy bears, deciding whether or not to provide meals to your workforce when they return to you; all of these actions are used thematically to paint a picture of a surrounding dystopia.
It’s important to note, that while luck will always be an element found in games that include dice, Euphoria seems to issue some control in the form of a risk/reward element when it comes to rolling dice. Players can certainly get an unlucky roll, causing them to lose a dice because their cumulative values are more than the maximum of 16, but players do have control over their value on the Knowledge track as well as how many workers they wish to have in their workforce. Rolling doubles does allow you to go more than once per turn, however to maximize this reward, players will want to get more dice into their workforce. Of course, rolling more dice at once creates a higher risk of losing them.
Euphoria improves on a lot of the trappings that can be found in the worker placement genre. It accelerates play time by allowing players the ability to know exactly what they can and will do on the their next turn. Because of this, players are able to plan out a string of turns well in advance, gameplay is streamlined and most of the downtime is reduced. The dystopian theme is implemented extremely well and presented in such a way that really adds to the enjoyment of the game. For fans of worker placement, especially those that enjoy a higher player count and a strong theme, it would be tough to ignore this one.