Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia Tabletop Review

Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia is a unique worker-placement board game from Stonemaeir Games about creating a functional Dystopia.

Published: April 21, 2015 11:00 AM /

Reviewed By:

Euphoria Box and Contents Spread Out on a Table

Stonemaier Games' Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia is a surprising and surprisingly fun game. Cast as a member of the Dystopian elite, each player will be racing to spread their authority throughout a dystopian city, the surrounding countryside, the tunnels beneath the streets, and even in the skies above. The game mechanics themselves are deceptively simple, while the gameplay is anything but. Euphoria certainly comes across as a game specifically geared towards experienced board gamers, but it is simple enough to learn and teach that it could easily hook new players.

What is Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia?

The core mechanics of the game are very simple and straightforward. On each player's turn, they either place a worker die on to the board or take any or all of their worker dice back off of the board and roll them. The depth and complexity (and maybe even a touch of intimidation) of the game come from the sheer volume of things that you can do with your workers when you place them. There are other games that successfully use limitations and constraints to add strategic depth, whereas Euphoria offers choice upon the choice and leaves it to the players to suss out a winning strategy.

In many worker placement games, the theme feels pasted on, as if it could be just about anything and still make sense. Euphoria's dystopian theme comes through in nearly every aspect of the game, especially the dice-as-workers mechanic, and feels not only unique and satisfying, but it feels as if the gameplay and the theme were developed together and are intertwined. The number that is rolled on each die represents that worker's knowledge.

Various spaces on the board change effect based on not only the knowledge of the worker that is placed there but the total knowledge of all workers that are currently in that space. This means that players need to maneuver around each other in an attempt to make the most of their work placement and also allows players to attempt to force the other players to take actions that may be less desirable based on the knowledge of workers in space.

"It's Worker Placement, Jim, But Not as We Know It"

In addition to granting strategic depth to the game, the workers' knowledge also has an effect on a player's total worker pool. Each player can have a maximum of four workers at any one time. When the player takes their workers off of the board, they roll them, totaling the numbers rolled on each dies and adding it to their overall knowledge, which is tracked on the board. If the total rolled ever meets or exceeds 16, then that player's smartest worker wises up to the situation and runs away.

This lends a neat risk vs. reward aspect to the game as players will not only need to balance their workers' total knowledge but also consider whether pulling all of their workers off the board at once is worth the risk of potentially losing one of them. In this dystopian world, it really pays to try to keep your workers as blissfully unaware as possible.

With so many options available from the very beginning of the game, Euphoria can feel overwhelming to first-time players, even more so to players who aren't already experienced board gamers. The sheer number of available choices is daunting and it can be difficult to decide where to even begin. Thankfully the pace of the game moves very quickly with very little downtime as players take only one action per turn, and while it is possible to force players into less desirable placement choices based on worker knowledge, there are very few ways to fully block other players. Euphoria is very friendly to players who learn by doing, which means that new players can place their dice around the board and get a feel for the game-play without really needing a plan and can learn how different spaces interact on the fly.

Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia - Blocking and Dodging

While players cannot block their opponents from most of the spaces on the board, there is one huge exception to this in the form of Markets. When the game begins, there are six random face-down Market tokens on the board that players can build over the course of the game. Building a Market not only allows players to place an authority star on it if they contributed to the construction but also imposes a penalty on any players that did not help build it. While the penalties are generally not insurmountable, and players can negate them, albeit expensively,  they can still cause problems for the players who are hit with them.

It is extremely satisfying to cut your opponents out when building a market, and it can be equally gut-wrenching to see other players build a Market and know that you will be hit with a penalty because you cannot contribute to its construction. Combined with the rapid speed of play and plethora of options available, Euphoria feels exciting and tense as players attempt to determine their opponents' strategies and outmaneuver them while accomplishing their own goals and managing their workforce to ensure that their workers don't gain too much knowledge.

A Few Notes on Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

A Note on Player Count

Euphoria plays 2-6 players with game-time increasing directly proportionally to player count. The game still plays rapidly as the player turns are short, but as the player count increases, so too does the game's tension, as well as the need to plan and maneuver strategically. I recommend new players play the game for the first time with a lower player count to get a feel for the game before wading in and competing against a full complement of players.

A Note on “Chrome”

Euphoria has absolutely incredible components. The card stock and cardboard are all good quality. Components that could easily have been made as cardboard chits are beautiful wooden tokens instead. The custom dice are really cool and the art is consistently excellent throughout the game. The top-notch components and beautiful art make Euphoria feel like a premium experience.

The bottom line

Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia is an absolute blast to play. The game uses simple, straightforward worker placement mechanics to facilitate interesting and complex gameplay while throwing in neat little tweaks to the standard worker placement formula. The theme comes through in nearly every aspect of the gameplay. Racing to be the first to place ten authority stars is fun and engaging thanks to the rapid speed of play, and the game remains tense and exciting from start to finish.

The copy of Euphoria used for review was provided by Stonemaier Games.

Review Summary

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