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Subject: Euphoria: An Ameritrasher’s Perspective rss

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Chris J Davis
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A friend of mine Kickstarted this game and received his copy a couple of weeks ago, giving me and some of my friends the chance to play it a couple of times over the past week. Now, I’m going to say upfront that I’m an Ameritrasher through and through, so I suspected that this game wouldn’t be my cup of tea from the beginning. However, I can still appreciate some Eurogames, and there are even some listed among my favourite games: I love Tigris and Euphrates and Le Havre (though Agricola leaves me cold); and Through the Ages is one of my favourite games of all time (along with anything else designed by Vlaada Chvatil, who is one of my top two designers, the other being Corey Konieczka).

So I went into the game expecting it to probably not be my sort of thing, yet still keeping my mind open to the possibility that it might be one of those few Euros that I actually enjoy. But after two games I have most definitely decided that this game is certainly not for me, and in fact is pretty much the epitomic representative example of everything I tend to dislike in Eurogames. Needless to say, I won’t be going back to the game again, and I will explain all my thoughts on why in the following paragraphs.

Touching briefly on the gameplay…

The gameplay is, in my opinion, nothing remarkable - just standard worker-placement fare, with resource acquisition/management, which you then eventually exchange for victory points. There are two tiers of resources: “commodities” in the lower tier (water, food, energy and “bliss”) which can be spent to acquire “artifacts” and/or “resources” (clay, stone and gold) in the upper tier. You then exchange these upper tier resources for victory points.

The two main things that are different in Euphoria compared to other worker-placement games are:

- Each of your workers is a die, which is rolled whenever you retrieve it from the board. If ever the total number of pips showing on your available workers, plus a modifier that can be adjusted from 1 to 6 based on in-game actions, is ever equal to or greater than 16, you lose a worker. Additionally, if ever any of your available workers show matching numbers, you can play all of these workers at once as a single action. So I imagine there is meant to be some risk/reward element involved in managing your number of available workers so that you have more chance of rolling doubles, but being careful not to lose any.

- The mainstay of most worker-placement games - action denial - has been wholly removed from this game. Instead, it has been replaced with: spaces that can accommodate more than one worker, with the benefit the space grants changing depending on the total number of pips showing on the workers in that space; spaces that allow you to “bump” any worker already on it back to its owner, essentially saving them an action to have to retrieve it themselves; and “collaborative” spaces, where a set number of workers (from any combination of players) are required in order to activate the space’s effect (which in the case of all spaces of this type, convert it into a bump-able VP-generating “market” space).

There are also a couple of gameplay elements that introduce special ability effects:

- The first is in the form of “recruits”, of which you start with one, and have the potential to acquire up to two more during the course of the game. However, the special ability text of most recruits have a relatively weak effect on the game, though there did seem to be one or two that were a lot more powerful than the others. Additionally, the colour(s) of the recruits that you control will give you a benefit in regard to dealing with particular types of resources (for example, controlling a yellow recruit will give you benefits when acquiring energy or gold).

- The second is in the form of the aforementioned VP-generating spaces (“markets”), which contain penalties for players who did not help collaborate in their construction. These penalties seemed to vary in their severity, though we found one that was particularly harsh (it prevented players from placing workers on markets that had already started construction, forcing them to always be the first person to start construction and for others to finish construction, which we found meant too much reliance on other players to advance their game). However, these penalties are easily nullified by use of another action space on the board, which also grant you a victory point in the process.

Why I didn’t like this game…

The reasons I didn’t like this game at all can be summarised in two main points, which seemed to me must have been primary design objectives during the design of the game. Going into more detail later, those two design principles must have been:

- Let’s see how little conflict we can put into a game and yet still have it remain a competitive game.

Everything in this game is designed with such a “gentle, softly-softly” philosophy, that it must be aimed at people who feel that even action-denial in regular worker-placement games contains too much in the way of conflict. Player interaction is practically non-existent, and even one of the main things you can do to try to interfere with your opponents - building a market before they are able to contribute, therefore burdening them with the market’s penalty - is relatively easy to nullify by doing something that you would be doing anyway: gaining a victory point. It seems like everything in this game is geared towards not upsetting the players, but in the process most of what I consider to be actual “gameplay” has been removed.

- Let’s see if we can make a game that is the epitome of shuffling different coloured cubes around.

As I said, I’ve played Euros before, some of which have been cube-pushers and some of which I have even enjoyed. But this game just seemed to want to take the concept to the extreme, with essentially 13 different colours of cube (6 of these being in the form of artifact cards that you draw randomly, but they could just as easily have been six more colours of cube that you draw from a bag), which - as you can’t really interfere with the other players’ progress very much - you exchange for each other in a pretty much completely procedural process. You start out with a recruit that gives you a bonus in regard to certain types of resources, so the most efficient way to start scoring VPs is to acquire resources of that type, upgrade them to the corresponding higher-tier resource, then finally exchange them for VPs.

Most players advance in VPs at pretty much the same rate, because there’s little you can do wrong and no one can interfere with you, and as the cost/reward of all the resources are (presumably) so well balanced with each other, the outcome of the game seems to depend more on factors that occur due to random chance during the game, namely:

- The strength of the recruits’ special abilities that you draw at the start of the game.
- The markets that are drawn and the order they appear in.
- How many doubles you are lucky enough to roll during the game (essentially, free actions).

The main factor that should, in my opinion, change the outcome of the game - the player actions - has an impact that is so minimal that it is barely discernable, and is dwarfed by the three factors listed above.

At some points during the game I found myself doing something different just in order to relieve the monotony of performing the same actions over and over again - really not a good sign. I was once asked by a BGG user (in response to an article I had written on the subject of game balance) whether there was any game that I considered to be too finely balanced, and at the time I mentioned Starship Catan, for a very similar reason, in that it seemed there was very little you could do wrong. I’d say that Euphoria now possibly occupies that top spot.

So those are two two main reasons I have been turned off of Euphoria; essentially, it occupies a space so far at the extreme Euro end of the Euro/AT spectrum that my poor Ameritrasher mind can’t even begin to comprehend it as a competitive game.

Now for some of the details I didn’t like about it…

- The theme is non-existent

Yes, I know this is a Eurogame, and so theme is secondary, but even Eurogames have differing qualities of thematical/mechanical integration, and this has none - it’s pretty much as dry as they come. It’s a big shame, because when my friend first told me about this game in theory the theme appealed to me greatly - overthrowing a totalitarian government and rebuilding in a dystopian future - but in reality the game could be about anything, as you really are just exchanging cubes for other types of cubes. There was one aspect that in the marketing blurb originally caught my attention that was something along the lines of:

“At some point during the game, players will be expected to make a difficult decision on a moral dilemma - to either overthrow their oppressive government or to join them and become one of the oppressors themselves!”

The idea of this excited me, as it’s these highly-evocative thematic aspects that I enjoy so much in AT games. Upon playing Euphoria, however, I was disappointed to learn that this “difficult decision” was simply a once-per-game action that allows you to exchange some artifacts for either a new recruit or a VP (which isn’t even a difficult decision, as new recruits tend to give you VPs anyway, so the other option would only be taken in relatively exceptional circumstances). The card you randomly get at the start of the game that contains this action is just called a “Moral Dilemma” card, and they are all the same except for the artwork and the type of artifact you need to activate it (though you can also activate any of them by discarding any two artifacts, further homogenising them). “Oh,” I thought, “is that it?”

Additionally: why does a number randomly rolled on a die represent your worker’s level of “knowledge”, and why does having more than one worker with the same knowledge allow you to send them all out to work at once? Why does having a higher level of morale allow you to hold more artifact cards? Why are we acquiring power in this place through trading teddy bears and baseball bats? Why are these things more valuable in pairs than as single items?

The theme didn’t come through at all - much less than in other Eurogames - which is a pity as the advertised theme is so cool.

- For a game that is so finely balanced and mostly deterministic, why stick this heavily luck-based element right in the middle of it?

I’m referring to the “roll doubles” rule, which effectively assigns free actions to players randomly.

Now, as an Ameritrasher, I’m certainly not averse to randomness being in my games, but it has to be implemented properly and have a reason for being there. Generally, AT games contain a lot of randomness, but due to there being so much, it should mostly average out between the players in a single game. Obviously you will still get luck skewed towards one player or another in some games, but this is just the nature of the beast if you are playing AT games, and will often just add to the fun of the game if it is done well.

But in this game it just feels completely out of place. If everything else is so well balanced, then arbitrarily handing out free actions to players who have done nothing to earn them is going to mess with that balance, especially as this is the single largest (almost the only) luck-based element in the game, and so skews towards one player or another will be common.

The designer has said that he introduced the “roll doubles” rule to reintroduce some excitement into the process of rolling the dice (which felt too procedural), to which my responses would be threefold:

1) How daring for a Eurogame design!
2) Why try to introduce excitement and reduce the feeling of just following a procedure in the one part of the game that the players have no control over, rather than in the places that they do?
3) If you want to introduce excitement into a Eurogame, using the tried-and-refuted Monopoly method of rolling doubles for an extra turn is probably not the best way to go about it.

I would rather they had just not included this aspect in the design, as it would have placed a greater emphasis on the only small form of player interaction the game contains - bumping players off action spaces - causing this to have a greater impact on the outcome of a game.

- If a multiplayer game is already flat, then the 2-player game must be 1-dimensional

My first game of this was a 2-player game, and I can’t really recommend it as such. I thought (wrongly) at the time that my initial bad experience might just be due to the fact that we were only two players, and that many multiplayer games don’t translate well down to two. Obviously later I would discover that I didn’t like it as a multiplayer game either, but I’d still say that it is particularly worse with two, for the following three reasons:

1) Any small amount of player interaction you get in the form of “bumping” players in the multiplayer game is practically reduced to zero in the 2-player game, as there is no increase in the number of workers each player controls, nor a reduction in the number of available action spaces, so you have just a handful of lonely workers moving around a mostly empty board.

2) The concept of collaboratively working with other players to build markets is removed, as you can easily build them alone.

3) Even though trading of resources between players plays only a minor role even in multiplayer games, it becomes completely redundant in a 2-player game.

- There’s just no tension, or anything exciting that happens during the game

With the removal of action-denial as a mechanic, there’s nothing really left to cause any tension during the game. All action spaces are always available to you, so you just go through the motions of what you need to do until someone wins. Great. Thrilling.

So, in conclusion…

Obviously, I’m not going to be going back to this game again any time soon. And to anyone out there who is of as much of an AT bent as I am, I would say stay away, as this game is pretty much as anti-AT as you can get.

However, I’m certainly not saying it’s a “bad game”; one in our group absolutely loved it. But he will be the first to admit that he likes games where:

- what you need to do is simple and straightforward.
- you can just build something and watch how it grows without too much interfering with it.
- there is little in the way of player conflict.

By way of reference, his favourite game is 7 Wonders. I don’t like that game either (though prefer it to Euphoria). In my opinion, if you want to play games like that, you might as well break out the Lego.*

The rest of our group had a middling opinion about the game; it was okay, might not suggest it but would play again if in the right mood.

So a disappointment for me all round. I actually surprisingly found myself thinking that I prefered the designer’s previous game - Viticulture - as at least that game felt a lot less procedural and there was more of a connect between the theme and the gameplay. Surprisingly, because the theme of that previous game is much less appealing than the theme of this one.

Oh well. A better dystopia was not built on this occasion. For this Ameritrasher, at least.

*I play with Lego. It is nothing to be ashamed of.
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Jamey Stegmaier
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Hi Chris, thank you for taking the time to write this review. I completely agree with you about how the "ethical dilemmas" don't feel like a personal, moral decision. Do you have any suggestions for how that could have been better handled?
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Chris J Davis
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jameystegmaier wrote:
Hi Chris, thank you for taking the time to write this review. I completely agree with you about how the "ethical dilemmas" don't feel like a personal, moral decision. Do you have any suggestions for how that could have been better handled?


The Ethical Dilemma cards are meant to essentially represent a choice between either performing something at great personal risk in order to weaken the status quo, or conforming with less risk but which will grant a personal advantage (and possibly strengthen the status quo). So each card should should try to emulate this in the game.

There is no need for each card to be the same, so the effect could be different depending on which card you get. You can also have some limiter - such as the cards not being playable before a certain VP threshold is reached - to prevent them from being played too early. Thus they remain an exciting end-game climax event.

These are just ideas off the top of my head - obviously they would need to be refined and balanced:

Let Workers Relax / Make Workers Toil

Discard a board game artifact and lose 2 workers to choose a Commodity Area; for the rest of the game, that area produces 1 fewer Commodity when a worker is placed on it (to a minimum of 1).

OR

You may make all players lose 2 morale; if you do, for the rest of the game, all Commodity Areas produce 1 additional Commodity whenever a worker is placed on them.

Help a Friend Escape / Turn in a Friend

You may discard a balloon artifact and any number of your recruits. For each recruit you discard you may remove one matching Allegiance Bonus marker from the board and gain 2 morale.

OR

You may make all players gain 2 morale to discard any 1 other player's recruit.

Publish an Expose / Publish Propaganda

You may discard a spectacles artifact and remove 1 of your authority tokens from a territory to choose any 1 market in that territory. That market is closed for the rest of the game.

OR

Lower all players' knowledge to 1. If the total knowledge of all players was reduced by at least 4, place 1 authority token on this card.

So those are just some examples off the top of my head. The idea is basically:

High cost to permanently weaken some aspect of gameplay.

OR

Low cost to gain smaller immediate personal advantage.

I believe this more accurately reflects the thematic element you were trying to achieve.
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Jack Francisco
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That's a pretty extensive review. I haven't played it yet, but I will jump in on the bit about "lack of theme". Being a big fan of Feld, I find myself chiming in on this topic a lot. ANY game can be boiled down to the point where it could be about anything. Theme is often how willing you are to suspend your disbelief. You have to let your imagination go and imagine this twisted dystopia where you and the other players are all trying to manipulate these different factions, while carefully balancing resources, commodities, and workers, hoping to advance your agenda while stifling that of the opponents. Anyone can sit back and say, "Hmm, looks like your just shuffling bits around a board." Heck, any non-gamer can look at the most "thematic" game and say that. The key to getting the most out of a game's theme is how much are you willing to let go - to pretend, as I often tell my kids.
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Rob Bell
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I completely agree, Jack, and often have to defend this position for games with a so-called "lack of theme".

The theme of a game is only as "pasted-on" as one chooses to see it. I've said this before but I will restate it here:

"All it takes is a dose of imagination for the theme from pretty much any board game to shine thru - no matter how "pasted on" someone may tell you the theme is. Some games, however, are designed/produced in such a way that the theme is more obvious and thus a smaller dose of imagination is necessary to immerse yourself in it."

So if a game has relatively low thematic integration? No biggie! I just crank up the volume to 11 on the most powerful tool I have - my imagination. Problem solved. cool

EDIT: Just to be clear, I don't feel that the thematic integration of Euphoria is all that low - I was just responding to the fact that the OP seemed to feel that it was.
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Adam Kazimierczak
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I think the reviewer's complaint about thematic disconnect is quite valid. If you're going to set your game in a dystopic future then people will expect to be playing that narrative to some extent. (Unless they've played Uchronia and enjoyed the dinosaur theme). Rolling dice to see how much knowledge they have and then having them synergize if you roll doubles but die off if the total is too high is very gamey. Try and wrap your head around that thematically....


Roll doubles: My dice meet in a secluded spot and have wild sex before working, optimizing their success.

Roll too high: My workers read to much and one of their brains exploded from the information overload. It was a very dystopic moment.


Ok, thematic balanced has been restored. Carry on.
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Jack Francisco
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Your ridiculous example aside, it's pretty easy for me.

Rolling doubles, triples, quads, allows you extra actions. Thematically, this is the workers working together rather than as individual cogs in the dystopian machine. Their knowledge is equal, therefore it is easier to synchronize their efforts.

Rolling too high is explained in the rulebook, if I recall correctly. The workers have learned too much about the system that works to hold them back and control them. Their heads don't explode. Instead of continuing on as mindless automatons, they have become self-aware. Kind of like Neo in The Matrix.

That's thematic balance in a nutshell.
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Jamey Stegmaier
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I won't go too much into this, because I think the game has tons of theme, but I'm the designer, so I'm super biased. Here are two quick examples I can share:

Rolling doubles: Yes, the decision to make this a mechanism was for the fun of the game. BUT it's also thematic. In most dystopias, the people who are able to work the most efficiently are those who are exactly the same as everyone else. Lack of differentiation is rewarded. Hence the bonus for having two workers of the same knowledge.

Building markets: Sometimes the key to theme is to evoke a feeling. The feeling of being penalized by markets--especially more than one--is that you feel more and more constrained. This is very connected to the feeling you might get if you're living in a dystopia and have nowhere to turn.

As I noted above, I think Chris is right that the mechanism involved with the ethical dilemmas does not feel like a thematic decision. It could certainly be better. But I think there's a lot of theme ingrained into other elements of Euphoria, especially with the markets, knowledge, and allegiance tracks. Heck, even with the tunnels, it isn't some abstract mechanism--there is a miner in the tunnel moving forward and digging up resources and/or artifacts as he progresses!
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doug woolley

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kaziam wrote:
I think the reviewer's complaint about thematic disconnect is quite valid. If you're going to set your game in a dystopic future then people will expect to be playing that narrative to some extent. (Unless they've played Uchronia and enjoyed the dinosaur theme). Rolling dice to see how much knowledge they have and then having them synergize if you roll doubles but die off if the total is too high is very gamey. Try and wrap your head around that thematically....


Roll doubles: My dice meet in a secluded spot and have wild sex before working, optimizing their success.

Roll too high: My workers read to much and one of their brains exploded from the information overload. It was a very dystopic moment.


Ok, thematic balanced has been restored. Carry on.


I actually imagined it as this.

Training two or more workers of the same intelligence and level of awareness can be done in one go. Otherwise you must run them through the training by themselves to place them.

The Roll too high remark is kind of a stretch on your part I think, and not as hard to imagine. The whole mechanic of getting workers that are too smart on things as a whole (therefore, exhausting your resources to keep them in the dark, and happy) will lead to defection.
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I see the theme oozing all over the place. In the first playthrough with my son, we got about halfway through and the pieces began to fall into place. Lots of "Aha" moments about why certains mechanisms made thematic sense. Perhaps it was our overactive imaginations... perhaps it was good game design. Perhaps both.

I was also a bit disappointed by the ethical dilemmas. The rules described the decision as "a game defining choice" and that felt a bit oversold. It can give you a nice edge when played correctly, but I felt that the decision should have more of an effect on the overall narrative by either plunging Euphoria into rebellion or having the ruling elite crush the sparks of independent thought.

I guess that is where the end of the game could use some help. The narrative ends with one player having exerted a bit more influence (Authority) over the different factions than the other. However, the ultimate state of Euphoria and the surroundings is left up in the air. The designer has put together the beginnings of an intriguing story and game mechnics that make the players feel as if they are pushing the narrative forward, but there is no big payoff in the storyline.

In a sense, I am complaining that the game is too thematic. I ended up caring more about the narrative arc than the actual winner. Sure, I won by a single Authority point when I played my ethical dilemma card, but what does that mean for the future of this world?
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Stephen Miller
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Theme wise, for me, the game could be a bit more thematic, but it's thematic enough for it's genre - All the recruits feel like they're from the right factions, the simple thing of making the markets give a penalty for those who didn't help build rather than a benefit to those who helped build, - While there's nothing in there that feel's as thematic as Agricola's sowing fields and then pulling off at harvest, there's also nothing in here that's as anti-theme as, well, Agricola's "Since I had sex this season it means you can't" implication of there only being one Family Growth space and workers blocking each other.

I'd have liked to see more representation of the conflict between the four factions in this, I think? And somehow make it so that I'm gaining allegiance with the factions separate from my opponents, since the way the game works at the moment makes it feel like the factions view all 2-6 of us as some sort of gestalt entity.

But overall the game works thematically for me... Ethical dilemmas aside (But, again, they're not anti-thematic so don't hurt the theme), with similar levels of theme to the stronger themed worker placement resource gathering and manipulation games, a category that this fits into.

jameystegmaier wrote:
As I noted above, I think Chris is right that the mechanism involved with the ethical dilemmas does not feel like a thematic decision. It could certainly be better. But I think there's a lot of theme ingrained into other elements of Euphoria, especially with the markets, knowledge, and allegiance tracks. Heck, even with the tunnels, it isn't some abstract mechanism--there is a miner in the tunnel moving forward and digging up resources and/or artifacts as he progresses!


The obvious thematic way of doing it, imo, would have been to make them asymmetric - The impact of fighting for the oppressors vs fighting against the oppressors with a baseball bat, thematically, should be different from grassing on a friend for trying to escape vs helping a friend escape with balloons. (Also it seems to me that, usually, going against authority on them is slightly more powerful while thematically it feels like that should be the other way round to me if there is an imbalance - Going with authority gets you a star, while going against gives you a [sometimes delayed] power and [sometimes delayed] star - the delay on the star is the bit that makes it sometimes useful to go the other way in the late game, but even then you're more likely to be able to automatically flip)
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Jack Francisco
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As far as the Ethical Dilemmas go, in order for them to be a game-defining choice, that infers that once you've done it, your game will change in some way - forcing you to commit in one direction or the other. If it had some long-lasting impact until the end of the game, then that would certainly be a defining choice. As it is, it's more of a personal decision. Still, it's just one element. Jamey has already established that Viticulture is a "living" game, with rules tweaks even after initial production, so it wouldn't surprise me if Euphoria followed a similar path.
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senorcoo wrote:
Jamey has already established that Viticulture is a "living" game, with rules tweaks even after initial production, so it wouldn't surprise me if Euphoria followed a similar path.


"Living" game? Is that the new euphemism for "inadequately play-tested and incompletely developed, but shiny enough to earn sufficient money to be kickstarted"? shake

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Qtinuum wrote:
senorcoo wrote:
Jamey has already established that Viticulture is a "living" game, with rules tweaks even after initial production, so it wouldn't surprise me if Euphoria followed a similar path.


"Living" game? Is that the new euphemism for "inadequately play-tested and incompletely developed, but shiny enough to earn sufficient money to be kickstarted"? shake



If it's a bad game, then it would be, no pun intended, "dead on arrival".

Only a decent to good game would be played, evolve, and live with the players.

Any games that garners lots of play from their player, and development variant, home-made or otherwise, can be called a "living" game.
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Chris J Davis
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eunoia wrote:
Qtinuum wrote:
senorcoo wrote:
Jamey has already established that Viticulture is a "living" game, with rules tweaks even after initial production, so it wouldn't surprise me if Euphoria followed a similar path.


"Living" game? Is that the new euphemism for "inadequately play-tested and incompletely developed, but shiny enough to earn sufficient money to be kickstarted"? shake



If it's a bad game, then it would be, no pun intended, "dead on arrival".

Only a decent to good game would be played, evolve, and live with the players.

Any games that garners lots of play from their player, and development variant, home-made or otherwise, can be called a "living" game.


LOL! I'll pitch that to the FFG fans and see what they think of it!
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Chris J Davis
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In regard to the issue of theme, I guess it depends on what you're used to. If you're used to only playing Euros, then you might view Euphoria as having an acceptable level of theme. If you're used to playing games like Mansions of Madness or Twilight Imperium, then Euphoria has almost no theme.

But saying that, even if you compare Euphoria to other worker-placement games - which are generally considered to be relatively weak theme-wise as a genre - then I'd say it's still towards the weaker end of the scale. Another of my favourite games is Dungeon Lords, which is W-P, but has massively better theme integration than Euphoria. Agricola was also mentioned which, although I'm not a fan of that game, still has much better thematic integration than Euphoria.

Someone made an important point earlier about symmetry, and I think this is one of the reasons why Euphoria feels so dry and unthematic - the game is too symmetrical. Three of the factions all do exactly the same thing, just in three different colours, and half of the fourth faction behaves exactly the same as well. The theme would have been a lot more evocative if the different factions had different specialties. For example:

Euphoria - the dystopia: going here can get you energy and gold, as well as reduce your knowledge at the cost of morale (due to all the propaganda).

Wastelands - the rebels: going here can get you food and clay, as well as increase your morale at the cost of increasing knowledge.

Subterra - the hidden civilisation: going here can get you water and stone. They are also advantaged in building tunnels and acquiring artifacts.

Icarus - above the clouds: these people deal in a little bit of everything, but at a higher cost.

And laying it out like that, another question arises: where exactly is this "dystopia"? What are we trying to overthrow? Is Euphoria the dystopia? Are all four regions combined the dystopia? Do they all have a single leader? Are they each individually a dystopia? Is one trying to overthrow another? Where is the character that is "you" from? How do the recruits and the different allegiance track tie into this? As another poster said, the game seems to treat the players as a gestalt entity - why?

Another one of the main reasons why the game feels so dry is that there's essentially only three actions you can perform in the game:

1) Acquire 1st tier resources
2) Convert 1st tier resources to 2nd tier resources
3) Convert resources to victory points

And that's it. There are so few different types of actions in the game, and so few special ability effects (and those that exist are either so weak or easily nullified that you rarely see them have an effect on the game), that with just the three actions available to you, and nothing else to affect or interfere with the resource transactions, the game is bordering on abstract. And if all you're doing throughout the whole game is exchanging some types of resources for other types of resources, how does this evoke the feeling of trying to overthrow a dystopia?

I'm not a Eurogamer, so obviously I'm not as familiar with W-P games as I'm sure many of you might be, but are there any others that are as "bare bones" as this one? Using Dungeon Lords as a counter-example again, in that game there are at least 8 different actions, most of which provide you with more than just a coloured cube (monsters, rooms, traps and spells all have their own stats and special abilities). Even Agricola has its Occupation and Upgrade cards (or whatever they're called). But in Euphoria you just exchange one cube for another, then exchange that cube for a victory point... YAY - I'M REBELLING AGAINST THE SYSTEM!!!

A couple of other things that could have been implemented to make the game feel more thematic:

If I'm trying to overthrow an all-seeing dystopian government, then the main feeling or theme that I get from that is trying to be sneaky - trying to achieve objectives without anyone noticing you. So one of the strongest ways to evoke the theme would be to include this feeling in the game. Again, these are just ideas off the top of my head, but this could have been done by:

- Rather than having the pips on the dice represent workers' knowledge, it represents how much that worker is being "noticed" or watched by the government. The dice all start on "1", and are never rolled (except maybe by some special effect). Performing certain actions increases the value on a die (and others can decrease it). What is currently the "Knowledge Track" instead becomes the "Surveillance Track", signifying how vigilant the government is becoming. If both a worker's value and Surveillance become too high, then the worker is "re-educated" (removed from play, or whatever).

- Including some form of hidden information that the other players could have some way to access (probably via an action space on the board), which they could then use to "dob you in" to the government (continuing the above example, this could then increase the value of all of your workers). Having some kind of secret information that you need to try to keep secret and that the other players can use against you if it comes out seems kinda core to the experience of overthrowing a dystopian government.

Another thing that could have helped with theme is some kind of emotional connect with your workers, which could have been done by linking them with the recruits. But they're not; you re-roll them every time, so presumably they're different workers every time (it would have helped even just a little bit if workers had not been re-rolled, reinforcing the idea that they are the same people every time and therefore these are your workers, but no, they're just... dice).

Anyway, I feel like I'm starting to rant - I think I've said enough about the disconnect between theme and gameplay in this game for now.

A friend and I have talked about it a little, and we might try house-ruling a few things to make the game more interesting, though I have a feeling that, for me at least, the problems might be too fundamental for any house rules to get around (bar creating new action spaces to stick all over the board, which I don't think my friend would be happy with and is edging towards just creating an entirely new game anyway).

A couple of ideas we're toying with are:

- Removing the ability to nullify the market penalties (so once you have a penalty, you're stuck with it). This will introduce more in the way of special ability effects and more asymmetry.

- Whenever you create a new worker, you draw a Recruit card, and whenever you lose a worker you lose a Recruit (so in this way, your workers *are* your recruits). Again, more interesting effects being introduced into the game, and more asymmetry.

I'd also like a way to eliminate the dice rolling, but I'll have to think about that a bit more.
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We'll just have to agree to disagree. And for the above poster who said inadequately play-tested and developed - FFG, producer of so many "highly thematic" games, at last check has a FORTY-THREE page FAQ for Arkham Horror. You can't tell me that they've adequately play-tested or developed all of those expansions. Even a simple game like Elder Sign had all sorts of rules questions, that even some of the designers on their boards were unsure of how to answer. Also, AH's theme is essentially reading text off of random cards, which you could boil down to Make a Luck roll. Yay, I made it. This just reiterates my point about theme is what you make it.

Additionally, some of FFG's rulebooks so poorly written/laid-out that they'd be unplayable without the help of some of the best game aid designers on BGG like Universal Head. I'm not bashing them as I've often enjoyed their productions - but they've got their warts too for all of their "heavy" themes.
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Chris--Just to save you some time, we playtested the game quite a bit (yes, Kevin, of course we playtested the heck out of this game) with two of your suggestions: For a long time the game did not allow players to get out of market penalties, and it really frustrated most players. Also, for a while the dice were used to simply track knowledge (every time you took an action, you added one to your die, and when that happened on a 6, you lost the die), and it just didn't work. That version felt like a dry, spreadsheet of a game.

As for workers correlating with recruits, it would have made getting a new worker way too powerful (and conversely, losing a worker way too devastating).

Also, as for the dice, in most games (especially Ameritrash games), the numbers on the dice have no correlation to the theme at all. I don't mind this, but I wanted the dice in Euphoria to mean something. Hence the direct connection to knowledge.

Patrick: That's a good point about the endgame.

Stephen: That's true, I probably could have taken the faction vs. faction idea beyond what I did. This was somewhat intentional, though, since any player could end up with three recruits from three different factions.
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senorcoo wrote:
We'll just have to agree to disagree. And for the above poster who said inadequately play-tested and developed - FFG, producer of so many "highly thematic" games, at last check has a FORTY-THREE page FAQ for Arkham Horror. You can't tell me that they've adequately play-tested or developed all of those expansions. Even a simple game like Elder Sign had all sorts of rules questions, that even some of the designers on their boards were unsure of how to answer.


I think maybe you misunderstood, and due to this we are actually agreeing. My point was that yes - FFG's games are often inadequately playtested, and I think many of their fans (including me) would take issue with the suggestion that they are actually just "living games".

Continuing to change rules after the game is on sale means that you hadn't finished designing the game at the point of release. It's as simple as that.

The amount of playtesting a game receives and how thematic it is are unrelated issues.
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jameystegmaier wrote:
Chris--Just to save you some time, we playtested the game quite a bit (yes, Kevin, of course we playtested the heck out of this game) with two of your suggestions: For a long time the game did not allow players to get out of market penalties, and it really frustrated most players.


That's operating on the assumption that all players will be carbon copies of your playtest groups. Maybe this is because you were playtesting the game with groups who were more in line with the target audience (i.e, more towards the Eurogamey side of things). AT players are more okay with conflict and bad things happening to them, so maybe this will suit us more.

Both myself and the game owner independently suggested that the ability to nullify market penalties should be removed, as the fact that it was so easy to overcome - causing the game to feel flat and boring - was something that was frustrating us.

Quote:
Also, for a while the dice were used to simply track knowledge (every time you took an action, you added one to your die, and when that happened on a 6, you lost the die), and it just didn't work. That version felt like a dry, spreadsheet of a game.


I'm not suggesting just increasing by 1 with every action. I'm suggesting increasing or decreasing based on specific actions. Therefore worker knowledge becomes something you have to actively manage.

But the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced it would take a complete rewrite of the game to implement properly. It can't just be done by giving a few icons different definitions.

Quote:
As for workers correlating with recruits, it would have made getting a new worker way too powerful (and conversely, losing a worker way too devastating).


"Would have"? Did you try? If the rest of the game is designed with this mechanic in mind, then the game can be balanced so that the level of loss or gain with workers is in the Goldilocks Zone.

There is another game - City of Remnants - that uses a very similar mechanic, so it can certainly exist in games without being unbalanced.

Quote:
Also, as for the dice, in most games (especially Ameritrash games), the numbers on the dice have no correlation to the theme at all. I don't mind this, but I wanted the dice in Euphoria to mean something. Hence the direct connection to knowledge.


Unfortunately, I don't get that feeling when I play. Yes, the number "means" the worker's knowledge, but your workers don't persist throughout the game in any way at all, and that "knowledge" is never manipulated in any clever way (or in any way, really) nor increased - you just have an endless stream of new random workers appearing, each with a random level of knowledge, that is completely transitory and is forgotten about as soon as the next worker arrives for duty.

So what's the point of the number "meaning" the worker's knowledge if I don't care about it from one second to the next? It's just a random number.
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Chris--Yes, we tried to connect the workers to the recruits. We also tried workers with persisting knowledge. Neither worked well, so we moved in directions that we and hundreds of playtesters enjoyed.

It's okay if you don't enjoy the game--I'm glad you gave it a try despite it being a Euro game! I'm going to bow out of this discussion so it can be an open debate between you and anyone else interested. If you have any specific questions for me, feel free to ask and I'll chime in.
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jameystegmaier wrote:
I'm going to bow out of this discussion so it can be an open debate between you and anyone else interested.


Ditto.
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Great review. I've played two games with my wife. We both felt kind of blah about it. Not bad but there's no "grab" and I think this review analyses well what was lacking for us.

I completely agree about the trading this color for that color vibe of the game. Before I read this review my own review would have been something to the extent that Euphoria is a simple game wrapped in a complex facade. Yeah, there are a lot of colored cubes but it could have just as easily been just four cubes and simplified the game for the better. If four colors were too boring, adding more colors and that extra level of commodity-to-resource conversion doesn't help.

I'm hoping to chalk it up to two players like Chris did after his first two-player game. Hopefully, multi-player will grab us more.
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Some observations regarding the original post:
- Cancelling a market penalty requires 3-7 actions: 1-4 to get the bliss+other commodity, 1-2 to get the 2-3 required artifacts, and 1 to use the artifact market. I believe Jamey said a typical game last ~30 actions per player. Spending 10-23% of your actions to cancel a penalty is going to put you behind the action curve. If you already have the commodities/artifacts, you're still spending them to cancel a penalty instead of grabbing one of the precious few authority spots in that faction's territory, or advancing your strategy elsewhere. Also, the other players likely only spent 1 action and 1 resource to get their star on that market, whereas you spent at least 3 actions and at least 2 commodities.

- While Euphoria doesn't exhibit the kind of direct player-to-player interaction that is front and center in many Ameritrash games, the actions that players take create an ever-shifting cost/benefit assessment of the various action spaces, which can greatly affect other players' strategies. Some examples:
1. If a player starts to build a market, do you try to get in on the build? If not, do you grab some artifacts instead, so you're prepared to cancel the penalty? How does each decision affect your action/star effeciency?
2. If you had planned to focus on advancing a faction's tunnel to flip your face-down recruit, but then you notice two other players actively advancing that faction's allegiance track, do you focus your actions on more efficient areas, hoping to flip your recruit via the allegiance track instead? What if that allegiance track stalls out for a few rounds? Again, how does this affect your effeciency in getting your stars on the board?
3. If you see that no one is helping advance your face-down recruit's allegiance track, do you go it alone, or use your moral dilemma card to dig for a recruit from a different faction?
4. If another player reveals a second recruit from the same faction as their first recruit, and you also have one matching recruit, do you still take actions that advance that faction's allegiance track, knowing it will ultimately help that other player more than you if the track reaches the star at the end?

So far in my limited exposure to the game, it seems this game is anything but a pre-determined exercise in multi-player solitaire. Not only can players make sub-optimal decisions, but they must assess the impact of other player's actions on the effectiveness of different areas of the board, and then determine how to adjust their strategy to take advantage of the ever-shifting landscape.

- I view the rolling of 'doubles' as an integral component of the "more workers vs. too much knowledge" decision. You can play it safe and only use two workers, but you're statistically less likely to roll doubles as often as a player with 3-4 workers. If you find yourself falling behind the curve, either because another player is rolling lots of doubles, or that player is simply playing more effeciently, you can activate more workers to improve your odds of rolling doubles. In this way the game afford you an option to make up for either poor play or bad luck. Rather than looking at the doubles rule as a dash of luck in an otherwise low-luck game, it's a catch-up mechanism with a risk.
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I'm afraid I have to agree with the OP.

If it wasn't for the amazing quality of components and how beautiful everything is, I would seriously consider returning the game for a full refund.

However, my husband seems to really enjoy it and wants to try it several more times with different people, to see if it will "grow" on me.

I must say, I'm a BIG eurogamer, but this just didn't grab me. I wasn't involved in the story, the theme. It felt way too repetitive for my liking.

Still, a very beautiful game with amazing components.




Some questions:
- If I have 1 knowledge/morale, and my recruit tells me to lose a knowledge/morale or gain a resource, can I still choose the former option?

- I can dig at any tunnel but it doesn't benefit me if I have no recruit of said tunnel?

- I can visit farm/aquafer/generator/cloud mine but if doesn't benefit me if I have no recruit of said tunnel?

- I don't gain anything from building a market, which takes me at least 2 turns, except for placing an authority token? Players who did not build that market can still use one turn to discard 2/3 artifact cards and place an authority token.
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