Euphoria: This board game might not be your first option, but it will always be a good option.
My appreciation for an under-appreciated game.
Euphoria is a board game by Stonemaier Games for 2-6 players. Euphoria first released in 2013 and is now on its 3rd printing, which highlights its continued support and following.
The theme of Euphoria is not a dystopia borne of apocalyptic nightmares. Instead, it’s propaganda, manipulation of the press, oligarchs, control of goods, and exploitation of workers. In other words, if you aren’t paying attention, things are pretty good in the fictional world of Euphoria.
With so many dystopian themes relying on zombie invasions and nuclear winters, it’s refreshing to have a game lean into the dystopian themes of a Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451. I really enjoy what’s going on with the theme of Euphoria. It wouldn’t be the first theme you’d think to ask for, but it’s a darned good one.
In terms of what is in the box, it’s packed. And each component is incredibly well-made, something that Stonemaier Games has become known for. Euphoria is the kind of game you are proud to have in your collection and you show off in order to illustrate the quality at which modern board games are made. These ain’t no cheap Connect Four chips, in other words.
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1 Worker Placement
Now let’s talk about gameplay. First and foremost, Euphoria is a worker placement game, although it adds a fun twist to that mechanic.
Players have dice (well made; chunky and colorful) that serve as their “workers.” Workers are placed in various areas around the board, allowing players to collect items, cards, etc. So far, so typical as far as worker placement games go.
But two things stand out. First, workers can get bumped, which is a fun thing. Most worker placement games use worker placement to “block” other players. Not so with Euphoria, as you can knock a worker off a space, forcing the other player to re-roll that die.
And rolling the worker dice is the second interesting thing with Euphoria. As said earlier, things aren’t what they seem in Euphoria. The workers are being manipulated and exploited but are, for now, blissfully unaware.
But players must carefully manage this level of awareness, which is measured by dice rolling. If workers stay fully unaware, they don’t gain in skill, which means players aren’t advancing as they should. But if the workers become wise to what is going on around them, the jig is up, and they recognize they are being played as suckers and revolt.
Euphoria has a lot of “levers” to manipulate and this is the greatest one. Managing and tracking the “awareness” of your workers is a good twist on worker placement. I like it a lot and it helps Euphoria stand out in the crowded worker placement genre.
Despite there being a robust and active support community around Euphoria and rumors that say an Euphoria expansion is on its way, it is under-appreciated for how great a game it is. Maybe it could be for as simple a reason as the board is a little messy. All the components and moving parts–despite how wonderfully made they are–can look a little chaotic and intimidating on the board, perhaps making it difficult for new players to ramp up on the game.
But the reality is that board gaming is so crowded, that great games can fly under the radar due to no fault of their own. Euphoria may be the kind of game that might not first come to mind, but I can assure you that it’s a good choice every time, whether you are looking for a game with strong strategy, something engagingly themed, an experience with a variety of options, or a game with a killer mechanic, like trying to keep your workers at just the right level blissful ignorance.
If you are waiting on me to use another hackneyed analogy to close this article, here it is: Euphoria is like the movie She’s All That. Among shelves and shelves of board games, Euphoria might not seem like the most dazzling option to take to gaming group. But once you inspect beyond your initial biases, you realize that Euphoria was the game you were looking for all along.
That’s right, Euphoria is Rachael Leigh Cook, and it’s all that.
Bonus: Below is a great Watch it Played video to help you learn to play Euphoria, which you can purchase here or at your FLGS.
[Disclosure: Stonemaier Games provided Nerds on Earth with a copy of Euphoria to review, and I’m really glad they did, as it helped me discover a great game.]