Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia Review
Stats at a glance
Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia takes place in the distant future where a new society is established to prevent future wars and tragedies and nothing will prevent its rise, not even personal freedoms. You’re given a few workers to oversee and use to create commodities, monuments, and better Euphoria in its own, twisted ways.
Read the GameCows Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia board game review.
Brief Overview of Euphoria
Euphoria is a worker placement game with dice-rolling elements and limited resource fields. It’s one of the finest games made by Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone, even though it doesn’t rate as highly on Board Game Geek as you’d expect.
The key difference between Euphoria and other worker placement games is that it uses dice instead of meeples for workers. This adds a whole new layer to the game, in which both individual and total sum of dice values play an important role, which we’ll cover in the “How to Play” section.
It’s a perfect game to pull out when you’re not feeling like playing a lengthy campaign, as a session takes roughly an hour to finish. Euphoria is a moderately difficult game with diverse strategies that can easily be spoiled by other players.
If you’re looking for an interactive worker placement game with innovative gameplay elements, Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia is a great choice.
Versions & Expansions
Leaders of Euphoria: Choose a Better Oppressor
Leaders of Euphoria is a standalone social deduction game based on the Euphoria universe. Players get three identity cards each, and they’re tasked with figuring out who’s on their team, and who’s against them.
The game is similar to Good Cop Bad Cop, but instead of equipment cards, players will get to play artifacts. There’s also no elimination, and players that are identified and banished from the city of Euphoria get to carry on playing as Wastelanders.
Euphoria: Ignorance is Bliss
The only expansion for the game, Ignorance is Bliss is a near must-have if you want to play a lot of games of Euphoria. It brings more stuff, which substitutes original mechanics, but more importantly, it brings much-needed balancing patches that make the game more competitive.
The box contains the following components:
- 1 Game Board
- 1 Rulebook
- 48 Unique Recruit Cards
- 36 Artifact Cards, 6 copies of each
- 6 Ethical Dilemma Cards/Reference Cards
- 24 Worker Dice, 4 per player
- 6 Morale and 6 Knowledge Tokens
- 45 Resource Tokens
- 75 Commodity Tokens
- 4 Progress Tokens & 3 Miner Meeples
- 60 Authority Tokens
- 16 Unavailable Territory Markers
- 18 Unique Square Market Tiles
- 6 Multiplier and 3 Unavailable Action Space Markers
- 8 Allegiance Bonus Markers
When you lift up the lid, you’re greeted by a 12-page color rulebook that’s well illustrated and does a sufficient job of explaining the game. On the last page, you’ll find tips, links towards how-to-play videos, and a lengthy list of playtesters.
Instead of going with drab colors, Stonemaier went with a bright color palette and style reminiscent of the post WW2, in some ways reminding me of Fallout. The board maximizes usable space and at the expense of the artwork, a smart decision in the long term.
I really appreciate it when game designers include box organizers in the package. It helps preserve the condition of tokens from day one and provides easier access than dozens of plastic bags.
Euphoria comes with three box organizers that tightly fit in the box, and if you place the game board on top, you can even store the box vertically without everything falling out.
Meeples and resource trackers are of the standard quality, but the custom dice design is really nice. Card design is clear and readable, with different art styles for recruits, ethical dilemmas, and artifact cards.
Euphoria doesn’t stand out with its component design, neither in a good nor bad direction. It’s got that Stonemaier quality and practical approach that works nicely in a game that’s all about map awareness.
How to Play Euphoria
Euphoria is categorized as a worker placement game, but it doesn’t follow the same rules as other games from the genre. There’s a high dose of interactivity with other players, and the dice value has a large significance. I’ll break the gameplay down into sections and explain the core ideas.
Players start the game with one ethical dilemma card, two dice, and a resource tracker. Place the heart-shaped morale token on the leftmost spot on the tracker, and the knowledge token on the +3 dice value. Four recruit cards are handed out to each player, to choose two and discard the rest.
One recruit is placed face-up, and its benefits can be used from the first turn, while the other is placed face-down and needs to be activated through gameplay to gain access to their abilities.
Each player now rolls their 2 dice and the person that gets the highest value goes first. Throughout the game, you’ll roll your dice often, and once rolled, their value is fixed until you get to reroll. Never fiddle with your dice, even when they’re sitting next to the board!
Morale & Knowledge
During your turn, you may either place a worker or retrieve any/all workers from the board.
Morale affects the number of artifact cards you can hold in your hand, so you should try to keep it high. When retrieving your workers, you get to either spend a resource to gain morale or get your workers back at the expense of one morale point.
Whenever you retrieve workers, you will have to reroll them. If the sum of dice values, plus the knowledge value is equal to or higher than 16, you will lose a worker dice.
At the start of the game, knowledge is set at +3 and you only have two dice, so the maximum value is 15. If you get another die, the maximum value goes to 21, making a loss of workers highly likely. Keep knowledge as low as possible to reduce the chances of that happening.
Retrieving & Bumping Workers
One of the ways you can interact with other players is to bump their workers off a resource spot. They will get their worker back without having to waste a turn on retrieving it, but there’s also another side to bumping.
As the game progresses, players will have to get the third worker to keep up. Balancing the knowledge track will become quite difficult, and if bumped at the right moment, their worker will get eliminated, forcing them to recruit it once again.
Unless you roll the same number on multiple dice, you get to place one per turn. Workers will gather or trade resources, construct markets among many actions.
Temporary use spots can be used by only one worker, but they can get bumped by another, even your own. Multi-use resource spots are can accommodate any number of dice, but the reward changes with the sum value of dice. One-time use spots are present on marketplaces, and lock your worker in until a market is finished.
You can also visit the worker activation tank, where you can recruit an additional worker and increase morale or reduce knowledge, depending on the resource used.
There’s a lot to Euphoria I cannot cover all without making the review too long, so I’ll summarize the following as best as I can.
Allegiance track progresses through various actions on the board and provides faction-specific benefits, hidden recruit activation, and victory points. Tunnels let you trade basic resources for refined resources or artifact cards.
Construction sites award victory points to players who contribute to their construction. There are always fewer spots than there are players and those that don’t miss the opportunity to pitch in, suffer serious handicaps until they contribute in another way.
Your First Game of Euphoria
I’ve left the victory points (authority tokens) and winning conditions for the beginner section, to give you a better idea of what to do in your first game of Euphoria.
The most important way of gaining victory points is by building markets. Your early game should focus on gathering as many refined resources as possible and getting the third worker.
Once someone pulls the trigger and contributes to a marketplace, you need to follow up, and keep the momentum going until they’re all done. This will land you a few easy victory points towards victory. The game ends when the first player reaches 10 victory points, with ties broken down with morale or knowledge levels.
If you’re playing the base game, focus on Icarian (sky) faction as much as possible. It’s objectively the best route to take, and you’ll see that for yourself once you’ve played a few games.
Keep an eye out for bumping opportunities, and watch out for your workers as well. A common mistake is retrieving two out of three workers to keep the knowledge check under the limit, only to get the third worker bumped off and lost.
If a player has one worker with high value in reserve and uses another to recruit, the recruiting worker is a prime target for bumping off, as you’ll force them to have at least three workers in their reserve.
Pros & Cons
- Highly Interactive
- Engaging Gameplay
Euphoria is one of few games that manages to combine worker placement with a high dose of interactivity between players. Your every move is monitored by other players, and most of your actions can affect them in some way.
There’s no way to actively sabotage a particular player, as opportunities for worker eliminations are rare and you still need resources to achieve it. Marketplace construction causes a lot of mind games, where players can choose to actively avoid one marketplace, and trick each other to get an edge.
The number of choices you can make can be overwhelming in the beginning, but as you learn how to play, the game opens up and becomes very engaging from start to finish. The early game has a slow pace, but once you get into marketplace construction, artifact use, and victory point gathering, the pace rapidly increases.
- Underutilized Theme
- Balancing Issues
While Euphoria has an interesting theme, it doesn’t resonate in gameplay. It’s a nice placeholder and it can give you some sense of what you’re doing, beyond just gathering resources and victory points. Aside from that, it doesn’t really tie in with the gameplay all that much.
Now onto the biggest problem, Euphoria has – balancing issues. I’ve mentioned the lengthy list of playtesters because I couldn’t believe they missed this glaring issue with the game. The Icarius track is near-broken. If you get an Icarite recruit, you’re almost guaranteed a victory or a very high score by just focusing on the Icarius track.
Euphoria Review (TL;DR)
Euphoria is a unique worker-dice placement game, with highly interactive gameplay and balanced difficulty. You won’t have to memorize strategies or optimal moves, as other players will naturally spoil any long-term planning. Instead, you get to sit back and go with the flow in 1 hour-long session that is exciting to the very end!
Euphoria is one of my most played board games. On a busy work night, or when we’re too tired for more advanced games, Euphoria always manages to show up at our table, and give us an eventful and fun thing to do.
Throughout the review, I’ve intentionally shortened the name to Euphoria. Now, I’d ask you to look up the game board artwork, then come to the review.
A Dystopian Utopia
I’ve played several games of my friend’s copy and never paid any attention to the theme. Then he told me “You know it’s called Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia? Take a look at the board.” I only then realized that the workers are working in excruciating conditions and that the theme is not about utopia, but a grim dystopia.
This might not be as significant to you, but it blew me away when I first realized it. Beyond that point, the focus returned on resource and victory point collection, but I’ll always remember that moment.
The only real problem with the game is how we managed to break it with the Icarius track. Supposedly, the expansion fixes these problems, but I didn’t have a chance to play it. If you find yourself in the same situation, consider removing Icarite recruits from the game, or removing the Icarus progression from the Sky Lounge or Breeze Bar to slow it down.
I would still highly recommend Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia, as it’s one of the best games in its genre, and is definitely worth trying out!
We hope you enjoyed our Euphoria review. Let us know what you think of the game in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.