Brutus Rating: 3/10 daggers in the back
Pairs well with: A high dose of soma and a full complement of your water rations, you lucky worker, you!
Euphoria represents the misery farmers’ first expedition into the exciting world of Kickstarting board games, and it’s pretty clear why this board game was so successful at getting funded. Dystopian theme? Say no more, we’re sold. Fetch the people-zapper and the keys to The Courthouse of Hasty Judgment, it’s time to oppress some workers. Or ‘liberate’ them or something (we need to work on our spin, guys).
Before we dive in head-first to a review, allow us five minutes of just drooling over these gold bricks:
Having the beautiful Kickstarter edition of the game has definitely proved to be a good idea. It gets us these super-neat, extra-nice resources, amongst other things. The gold bricks are really shiny, and satisfyingly weighty! For a while when our friends came over we would literally just drag them over to the board game cupboard to show them how nice the pieces were. Our fellow board-gaming friends, that is, obviously not our normal friends. Board games? What? Us? Nah! Let’s all uh, grab a beer and watch a sport, woo!
In a move which makes you think “why didn’t I think of this first and make my millions this way?”, the game designers also sell these and a bunch of other neat-looking resources separately to spruce up some of your board game collection. They know their audience, and it’s people who are fascinated by weighty gold bricks. (Us!)
Right! Enough showing-off about the really nice game pieces. Wait …
…ok, now that’s enough guys.
Whatever level of the game you buy, Euphoria has some really alluring qualities. Mostly, of course, there’s the theme, which is both inspired and well-executed. Also let’s face it, when you’re trying to convince your novice game buddies that board games really are super-cool and that they should totally play with you then you’re more likely to have some luck with “this really cool dystopian-themed worker placement game, in which you oppress your workers and can’t let them get too smart or they’ll realise what you’re doing them and escape” than “this worker placement game in which you … run a farm! Yeah no really guys, farming board games are great fun, I have like six… hey, where are you going? Guys?”
I mean, it’s not that a lot of people aren’t going to love that kind of thing, it’s just that those aren’t really the people who you need to put effort in to lure into the board gaming world. Those are the kinds of friends who are already excited to queue for the latest Uwe Rosenberg game with you or the ones who keep trying to trick you into playing 1853 again. (EIGHT HOURS! EIGHT. SODDING. HOURS. We love an eight hour game in principle but waiting twenty minutes between turns is… aaaaah!)
So yeah, Euphoria’s theme will make it stand out from some of your other games. The afore-mentioned feature of worker intelligence being bad for you is a particularly good expression of it. Your workers are dice, and the number on the dice will have some limited effect on how you can use that worker. The general idea is that a six is pretty canny but a one is quite a few apples short of a wasteland farm. Your overall worker intelligence is tracked elsewhere on the board by numbers 1-6, and if you’re retrieving all your workers and roll their total (plus that number) to be higher than 16? Uh oh! Your workers have been colluding! THAT SMART ONE IS ESCAPING! THEY’VE LEARNED TO THINK FOR THEMSELVES! GET THE ZAPPER!
In real (game) terms this means you get one less worker and one unhappy Lizzy, who has only just saved up enough lightning bolts to zap that worker into activation in the first place! Who let all these workers at the books? Don’t they know that freedom lies in slavery?
Another way in which the game beautifully manifests its theme is the randomized set of buildings that you’ll be able to construct. It’s amazing how much more fun you can have building ‘The Center for Reduced Literacy’ or ‘The Free Press of Harsh Reality’ rather than just ‘another flipping corn farm’. The same goes for your recruits (different from your workers), with names such as Curtis the Propagandist, Julia the Thought Inspector and Jefferson the Shock Artist.
Victory in the game is earned by getting rid of all ten of your star tokens and spreading your delicious influence all across the metaphorical dystopian toast. (Dys…toastpia? Or is that spreading it a bit thin?) This can be done a number of ways including building these exciting buildings, playing your ‘ethical dilemma’ cards a certain way (“ ‘Help a friend escape or turn in a friend?’ I don’t think this game understands what an ethical dilemma is”) and just generally spurting your workers and resources at the sections of the board which have a nice handy star on them.
The different range of options for your workers can be a little overwhelming at first, particularly for newer players, and it can take a while to get the hang of what it is you’re supposed to be doing. There are four areas of the dystopia and most of them are fairly symmetrical but with different resources (except the bloody Icarites, they do whatever the shit they like. LET’S MINE A CLOUD FOR HAPPINESS!)
Basically you want to vacuum up some regular resources and then pump them up into being relics or bigger, shinier resources, both of which you can then end up splashing on some delicious victory star-spurting. It’s not a game with a lot of different paths to victory, so it doesn’t have that same rush of different possibilities opening up in front of you like other games can, but it’s still good.
It’s also mildly difficult at times to keep track of all of the things you’re supposed to be keeping track of:
“Oh, balls! Wasn’t I supposed to be paying some penalty every time I roll a one now because I didn’t contribute to building that diss-assemble a teddy bear factory?”
“Err, how long have I had four cards in my hand? My workers’ morale is far too low for this… you saw nothing, guys.”
“DAMMIT GUYS WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME WE REMEMBERED TO LOSE MORALE FOR RETRIEVING WORKERS?”
Although we’re not necessarily saying that this is a criticism of the game rather than just a criticism of our own competence.
One more neat and unusual point of the game is the aforementioned worker retrieval method, which differs from most other worker-placements. There’s no set ‘end of a round’ where everyone scoops back their dice at the same time. Instead, you can choose to lower your worker’s morale (morale, unlike intelligence, is something you actually want your workers to have) or pay a penalty to increase it, and then retrieve as many of your dice as you like on your turn. It makes the turns more fluid than a trip to the Subterran Aquifer.
The game earns a ‘brutus rating’ of 3/10, because there’s not too much in the way of screwing over of the other players, which can be refreshing, particularly if you’re playing with us. Having said that, there’s still a little space to gang up on someone *cough Lizzy cough* by all building a shiny building without her, meaning she has to suffer some penalties for a while until she fixes it.
In today’s adventure Dr Photographer won the game. About time too, probably. Lizzy was stunted pretty early on by some damn smart workers, and the other participants just couldn’t wrangle enough shiny things.
The real winner is oppression. DOWN WITH THE PEOPLE! Ahem.
Credit to our fellow oppressor Dr Photographer for the photos!