Sunday, January 26, 2014

Solo Quest: "Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game"

With all this talk about the Fortieth Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons (but not nearly enough talk, IMHO), I'm getting a real hankering for some olde-skool cavern crawling. But what to you do when the urge hits and you can't cast a Summoning Spell on your Fellowship for a spate of treasure-snatchin' and dragon- dodgery? 

Enter the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game.

Somethin' tells me that the only dragon the illustrator had ever seen before was named "Puff", ifyouknowwhatImsayin'.

Along with a slew of amazing D&D manuals and modules, Prudence Goodwyf also recovered this particular relic for me. Released in 1980, just six years after D&D's first appearance, its mere existence goes to show just how much of an all-encompassing phenomenon the game truly was at the time.

So what's the down-and-dirty on this potential chunk of landfill? Whelp, here's the excitable blurb right from the back of the weathered game box:

A GAME OF STRATEGY: Play alone or against a rival warrior and the dragon computer. Two skill levels.

A GAME OF SKILL: Find your way through the labyrinth on a touch-sensitive electronic board. Electronic sounds help you locate labyrinth walls. Walls shift with each new game.

A GAME OF ADVENTURE: Watch out! Electronic sounds tell you the dragon is after you. Find and steal the treasure before the dragon gets you, and you win!

  • 4 diecast metal playing pieces -- 2 warrior figures approx 1.5" (3.7 cm) tall, 1 dragon figure 2.3" (5.8 cm) tall, and 1 treasure piece 1.2" (3.1 cm) by .68" (1.7 cm) by .7" (1.8 cm).
  • 3 plastic markers -- 2 for secret rooms, 1 for treasure room.
  • 50 plastic wall pieces to mark walls.
  • Storage dungeon for game pieces and instructions.
  • Playing instructions.  
C'mon, you gotta love any game that includes a "storage dungeon"!

I decided to tackle the game at "Beginner" Level since it eschews the added complication of "Doors" which can randomly close off previously-clear hallways.

Here's how my adventures panned out:


The first thing I did was pick my Secret Room. In order to win the game I'd have to locate the Treasure and then make it all the way back to this particular square.

On my very first move I ran into a wall. Then I successfully moved north one space and tested my path to the right, which turned out to be blocked as well. Then I decided to loop all the way around, trying to map out every possible route back to my Secret Room. If I found the Treasure I certainly didn't want to plow into an unrevealed wall while I was sprinting back to my safe house, especially if the Dragon was right on my ass.

Then, while I was mapping out the south-west corner of the maze, I suddenly heard the ominous tones of the Dragon stirring! Even though I didn't know exactly where he was, I did know that he was only three spaces away from me and had the ability to fly over freakin' the walls. Not good.

I took a wild stab at where the Dragon might be and then marked this space with the appropriately-intimidating matching figure. Tentatively, I forged on.

Unfortunately, on my very next move, I bumped into another previously-unseen wall, which meant that ol' Smaug got to move one space closer to me!  Eeeeek!

Since I still had eight movement points compared to the Dragon's one, I decided to haul ass back to the other side of the catacombs. Needless to say, in order for this to work, you really need to have most of the  maze mapped out already. Unfortunately, I strayed into uncharted territory and came up against another wall, which allowed the beastie to wing one space closer. Cripes, this was getting tense!

This wasn't quite as bad as it looked. Indeed, by luring the Dragon closer to me, I had a pretty good shot at using all eight of my movement points to outflank him and locate the Treasure. 

Eventually I found myself in a completely unexplored section of the labyrinth and the odds of hitting a dead end started to escalate. And that's exactly what happened when I tried to move north on my very next turn. Frozen in place with the Dragon swooping closer, I could feel the evil serpent's breath down the back of my leather jerkin!

Along the eastern wall I managed to hit a long, uninterrupted corridor. I then had to make a tough choice: backtrack south along a semi-explored route or try to reveal the northwest corner of the maze. Both routes would take me uncomfortably close to the Dragon but only one offered a completely new path.

After concluding that "fortune favors the bold" I decided to keep trekking in a north-westerly direction. I ended up going a lot further then I thought I would!

Three moves later I came up against another wall. About around then I was totally convinced that the Dragon was literally right behind me. Where the hell was that freakin' Treasure?

Another three moves, another wall. Had the Dragon finally cornered me?

As I gingerly inched out from behind that alcove a sense of sweet relief started to come over me. That big, scaly, sumbitch wasn't standing right next to me after all! Even though I hadn't bounced off of his crotch, I knew that he was still somewhere very, very close! One more move down South and I finally heard that joyful tune I'd been waiting for: I'd finally found the Treasure Room!

Unfortunately not two seconds later I heard the Dragon move followed by the mournful dirge of defeat!

"What the frak happened?!" I raged.

At first I thought that the game had malfunctioned. But then I noticed this little chestnut in the rulebook:

"When you have the treasure, you are particularly vulnerable. If the Dragon attacks you now, you are immediately out of the game!"

Really?!?  Damn, that's cold, playa.

Determined to do better, I immediately racked things up for a re-match.


Since my first dude got devoured like a freshly-boiled lobster, I decided to go with "sword-wieldy guy" this time out. I then designated the north-west corner of the maze as my Secret Room.

Gingerly I began to map out my immediate surroundings, eventually exploring the entirety of  the south-western quadrant.

I then sussed out the whole north-east section of the dungeon, perturbed that I'd yet to locate either the Treasure or the Dragon. I was starting to get nervous.

For good reason. The very next turn, that fire-breathing fuck's alarm clock went off.

Undaunted, I boldly plunged right into the heart of the Dragon's lair. After a quick fake-out I doubled back and finally found the Treasure Room!

I had to get outta Dodge and quick! Now burdened by all the phat lootz, my movement would be halved for the rest of the game. Silently I prayed that my anal-retentive mapping thus far would pay off.

All I needed was for just one unchecked wall space to be clear. But nope, on my very next move I charged head-first into a barrier of brick masonry, knocking me out cold. Seconds later, the Dragon swooped in, toasted me to about a medium rare, broke out the can opener and then made a meal outta the rich, creamy filling.

In case you weren't keeping score, the rich, creamy filling was me. 



This time I thought I'd try the power of magic! In addition to using a wizard from my own personal pewter figurine collection, I chose to place my Secret Room off to the north-east:

After thoroughly exploring the 'hood, I inadvertently woke up the Dragon as I made my way out west.  

As soon as I caught sight of him I ran screaming in the opposite direction but after bouncing off several walls the scaly creep caught up to me. He inflicted a wound, sending me back to my Secret Room and limiting my movement to six!

I tried another shuck n' jive, heading as far west as I possibly could. But since this was unknown territory, I did a face-plant into a few unexpected walls, allowing the Dragon to creep closer and closer. Noting his proximity, I decided to head back to more familiar environs.

I got as far as the southwest corner of the board before the Dragon got a little too close for comfort again. I took a gamble and tried to venture into the unexplored center of the board but promptly sucked brick, giving that pewter prick a second chance to wound me!

Again I was sent packing back to my Secret Room. This time my movement was reduced to four points and I still had no friggin' clue where the damned Treasure was! Verily, it looked as if I might be completely and thoroughly boned.

Once again I boldly cut in towards the unknown dark heart of the board. This time my bravery was soundly rewarded and I stumbled across the Treasure chamber! But now I was faced with the nigh-impossible task of getting back to my Secret Room with my entrails intact. This would require a deft touch.

My dangerous path brought me perilously close to the Dragon's fangs!

But with the north half of the maze reasonably-well plotted, I confidently strode forward, finally reaching my destination and winning a game!  Huzzah!


  • They don't make' em like this anymore, kids! Be tween the blood-red wall segments, freaky-looking pewter figurines, and a Dark Tower-style game board riddled with weird etchings makes this thing looks like a Jack Chick wet dream.   
  • The maze changes every time it's reset, lending the game a surprising amount of re-playability.
  • Since the game features both a "dungeon" as well as a "dragon", it technically delivers on that promise at least.
  • Although finding your way through the maze is essentially an exercise in trial-and-error there are a few emergent strategies concerning Secret Room placement and the value of mapping your immediate surrounding thoroughly before you give the Dragon  a wet willy.
  • Adding a second player really amps up the strategy. It's fun to gank your opponent after they were so kind as to recover the Treasure for you. Good times
  • As if the Beginner game isn't challenging enough you can add "Doors" to the mix. With Doors, a previously-clear corridor can become temporarily blocked. This presents an interesting quandry, do you find another way around or keep hurling yourself at the Door until you break through? Needless to say this decision becomes pretty tense when the Dragon is flying right at your helm. And if that's not hard enough for ya, true masochists can play without using the red wall pieces! Cripes, that's some crazy Mensa shit right there...
  • For someone like me, who's first few "video games" involved a heavy reliance on LED lights for graphics, the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game is more fun then it should be. Having said that, the game's appeal for folks under the age of thirty will probably be very, very limited. 
  • Aside from a maze, a Treasure chest, some Doors and a Dragon, it's not very D&D. Both heroes are identical, there are no traps and only one monster. But, hey, whattaya expect for a thirty-four year old electronic game? 

Sorry, but this thing just amuses the crap right outta me. I'd love to see it turned into an analog board game featuring a Dragon player pitted against two or more Adventurers.  Hmmmm...let the record show that I thought of that first! 

Now, I can hear some of you saying that this museum piece bears about as much resemblance to D&D as "Bound 2" does to music, but I don't buy that. At least it has a sense of exploration, which is more then I can say about the first edition of Descent. Sorry, but battling wave after wave of monsters Gauntlet-style doesn't feel very much like D&D to me either.    

Besides, the Dragon still scares the poop outta me.

Imma gonna give the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game four pips outta six with a tilt up towards that giant bat-like behemoth screaming down at you and trying to melt yer face off!


Wanna get caught playing with yourself in a dungeon? Wow, that sounded bad.

Anyway, click on the following link to pick up a used copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game and throw a few copper pieces towards this brave l'il blog!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Wheaton Effect Part Seven: "Takenoko"

It's been awhile since anyone in our gaming group answered the siren call of one Richard Wilhelm "Wil" Wheaton. That is, until this particular episode of Tabletop aired back November 14'th 2013:

Tasked by his wife to pick up a new board game, Jeremy wisely went with Takenoko after watching this episode of Tabletop. I say "wisely" because I was quite smitten with the game myself and secretly delighted that someone in our inner circle had pulled the trigger on it. 

I don't know what it is, but I'm a real sucker for anything related to feudal Japan. So much so that it makes me think that reincarnation is an actual thing. Why else would a dweeby white kid from Newfoundland harbor an affinity and interest in such things? Was I a panda-loathing Japanese gardener in a past life?

Notwithstanding the game's exotic setting, I was also highly impressed by its considerable aesthetic appeal and potential strategic depth. The game's official sales pitch on Asmodee's website seemed to re-enforce my initial impressions:

"The players take the role of courtesans of the Nippon emperor and take on the role of caring for his Giant Panda by growing a bamboo plantation.

"Their mission: to farm parcels of land, irrigate them, and grow green, yellow or pink bamboo. In turn, they see what the weather brings and perform two actions from among those offered to them: get a new plot of land or irrigation channel, grow bamboo, feed the panda or draw an objective card.

"The game ends when a player has completed 7 to 9 objectives (depending on the number of players). The player who gets the best score by adding the total value of their completed objective wins the game."

Wanna read the full edition of How To Feed And Care For Your Tapeworm-Infested Pet Panda (I.E. the game's rules)? Click on the link right here!  


After our session of Euphoria was over, Jeremy was kind enough to lead Chad, Dean, Jonathan and I though a game of Takenoko.  Here's how the match played out...

Setup was simple enough; we just threw down the central Pond Tile as well as the poor, exasperated Gardener and that deceptively-cute but clearly evil Panda. Just look into those cold, dead eyes! *Shiver*

"I'll swallow your soul."

Note to self: take up a collection for Dean to get him a new tablecloth. Jesus, that's thing's hideous.

Anyway, we began the game by taking several Plot Actions. Within a few turns we had a pretty decent little garden springing up with a surplus of Pink Bamboo, three segments of Green and a little sprig o' Yellow. Subsequently I placed and then irrigated a third Pink tile, which allowed me to play the first Objective Card of the game for four points.

By the time five more Plots were added to the board (three Yellow plus another one each in Pink and Green), we'd already begun to explore some of the game's other Actions. After wrestling with the idiosyncrasies of Gardener and Panda movement, Jonathan fulfilled a pair of three-point Panda-Objective Cards by cramming four Green Bamboo shoots down the fat fuck's voracious maw. To add some Yin to this Yang, he then decided to branch out into landscaping, earning a lucrative four-point payment for orchestrating two Green and two Pink Plots side-by-side.

Dean claimed a highly-prized six-point Objective Card by strategically placing a Watershed Improvement on a Pink tile and then growing some matching Bamboo. I managed to respond in kind, dropping another six-pointer for spotting two, three segment Pink Bamboo shoots. Just moments later, Chad sent that ravenous, monochromatic troglodyte over to our side of the table where he immediately began what I can only characterize as a vicious campaign of criminal Bamboo deforestation.

When it became blatantly obvious that Chad was trying to complete his first Objective Card by spoon-feeding Yellow Bamboo to the Panda, the rest of us decided to initiate a scorched earth policy against him. Time and time again, the Panda was cattle-prodded back over to his side of the board, where it helped itself to the "All-You-Can-Keep-Down" Yellow Bamboo buffet. The Panda gobbled it as fast as Chad could grow it, leading him to fear that he might end up getting skunked.

Not only did this provide endless amusement value for everyone else at the table, the four segments of Yellow Bamboo that the Panda scarfed on my watch ended up fulfilling two of my four-point Objective cards. WOOT!!!

Eventually the novelty of kicking Chad in the knutz while he was down began to wear off and we all moved on to different pursuits. As a result, Chad finally got on the board, using the Panda to score four points for his two-piece Yellow Bamboo snak pak. On a subsequent turn he placed a third abutting Green Plot, rewarding him with a similar amount of points in the process.  

Meanwhile, Jonathan diligently kept plugging away, gorging the Panda with some haute cuisine Bamboo: two in Yellow and two in Red for another nine-point windfall. He probably would have scored even more if the rest of us weren't playing "Panda Keep Away" with him. Thanks to our inadvertently prickish efforts, Jonathan had a really tough time luring that rotund, beady-eyed little cretin in a straight line back towards his Objective hexes.

Dean continued to storm back, earning a two-point reward for spotting three Green Plots in a row. Sticking with the ebony theme, he began the slow, arduous task of growing some matching stalks, eventually scoring four more points for an equal amount of Fertilized Bamboo which he safely barricaded behind a Panda-proof Enclosure. Even more critically: Yellow Bamboo was starting to flourish now that the heat was finally off of Chad. With perfect timing, Dean played a seven-point Objective Card just as three stalks of three-segment Yellow Bamboo came to fruition prior to reaching its apex. This would prove to be a real game-changer.
With Dean nipping at my heels, I decided to move away from the easy-to-complete but low-reward Panda Objectives and start working on Blue Plot cards. Unfortunately many of the random cards I drew offered pitifully low rewards. Even though I was able to complete a two-pointer for three Green Plots and three-points for a similar count of Irrigated Yellow tiles, I feared that this wouldn't be enough to ward off Dean's advances. And trust me, you want to ward of Dean's advances. He gets a little "gropey".    

Fortunately I had some reasonably-good fortune right at the buzzer, drawing a couple of higher-value Plot Cards which came pre-completed thanks to a our prodigious garden growth. This included a four-point Objective which required two Red and two Green Plots together. In playing my seventh Objective Card (requiring four neighboring Yellow and Red tiles for five points), I won the two-point bonus Emperor card and triggered the final round.

And that's when Dean's pact with Satan kicked in.

And, no, that's not the plot for an awesome episode of Supernatural. I'm actually referring to Dean's uncanny ability to draw exactly the right card and then roll precisely what he needed on the Weather Die. Unable to get to his objective in a straight line, Dean willed a Lightning result into existence, scaring the fertilizer out of the Panda and granting Dean permission to put the chubby bastard anywhere he wanted. I certainly had a few choice ideas as to where he could cram it. Like his urethra for instance. 

He moved that glassy-eyed, gluttonous freak to a space where he ate a third Bamboo color, giving him six point for this Panda-friendly bento box. He then used the Gardener to grow some Green Bamboo up to four segments on a Fertilized Plot, completing the three-point goal card he drew last turn in the process.


After Dean's eleventh-hour dramatics, Chad had his final turn. In a last-gasp, "Hail Mariko"-style play, he drew and then completed a five-point Objective which required a four-segment Yellow Bamboo tower on a Watershed Improvement Plot.

With the game at an end, the only thing left to do was add up all the points and declare the final victor!



Chad...12 Points

Jonathan...19 Points

Me...34 Points

Dean...35 Points

You're reading that right, folks: because Dean was able to draw an easy-to-complete Objective and then roll exactly what he needed on the Weather Die, I lost by a single frakkin' point. Going back to the whole re-incarnation thing, I'm starting to believe that I was a Japanese Gardener who also in the habit of cheating people out of their hard-earned koku in rigged games of Go and Shogi. Lord knows I'm paying for it in this life.

Man, talk about frustrating!




  • Along with hips, the only other thing which is indisputable in its truthiness are pictures. Hopefully the photos in this entry convey just how beautiful the game really is. We've got practical and whimsically-illustrated Individual Boards. The Bamboo bitz, Weather Die and Action Chips are all made out of real wood. The Objective Cards are durable and charming. The Improvement tokens and Plot Tiles are colorful and sturdy. And finally you also get two highly-detailed figures. The stressed-out look on the Gardener's face is priceless. It's as if he's constantly thinking: "If that walking esophagus eats another furshlugginer piece of bamboo the Emperor's gonna throw me a seppuku party!"
  • Between the Weather Die, five different possible Actions and points which can come from Plot, Gardener and Panda Cards it all adds up to a respectable number of options. Indeed, there's a surprising amount of strategy for a game that includes a little plastic Panda.
  • Just as it is in real life, Irrigation is key to successful gardening. So I'm told.       
  • If you're lagging behind in the game, Keep Calm and Panda On. As Dean clearly illustrated, it's definitely possible to come back after an early deficit if you plan things right and catch a few lucky breaks. 
  • The game isn't particularly complicated and should be relatively easy to teach to folks who are experienced with light Euros. Bonus points as well for the colorful and amusing rulebook.
  • Between the fickle Weather Die and crap-shoot late game Objective Card draws, there's a lot of luck involved in this game. 
  • A few fiddly things RE: Gardener/Panda Movement, Plot placement, Objective fulfillment, Bamboo Growth and Irrigation result in more rulebook references then expected.

There's a very, very good chance that I'll add Takenoko to my collection at some point in time, not because its so awesome or revolutionary but because I just love the theme and the game's curb appeal. If Asmodee has a spare copy of the ginormo-edition sittin' around collectin' dust, I'd be more then happy to play Emperor of Japan to your Emperor of China, ifyouknowwhutImsayin'! *nudge, nudge*  *wink, wink*

Takenoko scores four pips out of six with a tilt up toward the tallest bamboo stalk in the Emperor's garden!


Looking to make panda foie gras?  Click on the box cover below to order a copy of Takenoko and help this blog's garden grow! 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sweet Relief: "Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia"

As a freelance writer, it's always a constant struggle to find work. One of the earliest gigs I encountered was a possible assignment writing movie reviews.

As soon as I saw this I jumped at the opportunity: 'Perfect!' I though to myself. 'I already host an entertainment-related blog where I do reviews, so this works out well!'

But then I took a closer look at the fine print. My potential employer actually had the cojones to set the following stipulation:

"Positive reviews only, please."

When I read this I just sat there and blinked for awhile. Sorry, but if the last movie I saw was Resident Evil there's no way in God's green earth I'm gonna give that piece of shit a good review. I'd rather starve to death.

So what does this preamble have to do with Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia? Welp, for the sake of full disclosure, Stonemaier Games sent me a free copy to review.

Well, in my mind, this sets me up for the same sort of Ethical Dilemma you face in the game itself. What if it sucks, bites and/or blows? I'll be forced to pan it and then I'll look like an asshole.

Mercifully, designers Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone have spared me from this awkward conundrum. Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia moves quickly, provides plenty of gregarious in-game choices and practically begs to be played again as soon as that tenth Authority Star drops.

Now, I don't often get a chance to play a game several times before I review it but this was a pleasant exception. I first gave it a whirl during the Christmas holidays with my considerably better half. Although I goofed up a few rules and the game seemed to suffer from "follow the leader" syndrome a little bit, we could both tell that there was considerable promise here.

I wanted to have another bash at Euphoria while it was still reasonably fresh in my mind but this time with more players. As such, I tabled the game again this past Wednesday for the usual gang of idiots.

When I first cracked open the shipping box I was immediately impressed. For a Kickstarter project, Euphoria looked pretty friggin' slick. Even though the colorful, Art Deco-inspired artwork seemed a tad incongruous I was really intrigued by the game's bleak premise:

"In Euphoria, you lead a team of workers (dice) and recruits (cards) to claim ownership of the dystopian world. You will generate commodities, dig tunnels to infiltrate opposing areas, construct markets, collect artifacts, strengthen allegiances, and fulfill secret agendas.

"Euphoria is a worker-placement game where dice are your workers. The number on each die represents a worker’s knowledge–that is, their level of awareness that they’re in a dystopia. Worker knowledge enables various bonuses and impacts player interaction. If the collective knowledge of all of your workers gets too high, one of them might desert you.

"You also have 2 elite recruit cards at your disposal. One has pledged allegiance to you, but the other needs some convincing. You can reveal and use the reticent recruit by reaching certain milestones in the game…or by letting other players unwittingly reach those milestones for you.

"Your path to victory is paved with the sweat of your workers, the strength of your allegiances, and the tunnels you dig to infiltrate other areas of the world, but the destination is a land grab in the form of area control. You accomplish this by constructing markets that impose harsh restrictions of personal freedoms upon other players, changing the face of the game and opening new paths to victory. You can also focus on gathering artifacts from the old world, objects of leisure that are extremely rare in this utilitarian society. The dystopian elite covet these artifacts—especially matching pairs—and are willing to give you tracts of land in exchange for them.

"Three distinct societies, each of them waiting for you to rewrite history. What are you willing to sacrifice to build a better dystopia?"

Looking to gobble the red pill of reality and reveal all that Matrix-y goodness underneath? To see just how deep the rabbit hole goes, click on the game's full rules right here.


After a several-week hiatus we were all pretty anxious to get back into our regular routine of Wednesday night gaming. While Andrew, Kris, Matt and Mike busied themselves with another diversion, I led four of my compatriots though the motions of building a better dystopia®.



After I did my best to impart some wisdom regarding Recruit selection, Chad began the game with an active Wastelander named Nick the Understudy. This gave him the option to increase Morale whenever he was forced to gain Knowledge, which allowed him to hold onto more Artifact Cards.

Chad wasn't the first player to activate a new Worker, but whenever it happened he had a nasty habit of rolling high and exceeding his Knowledge checks. It certainly didn't help that his Knowledge Chart standing always seemed to be over three. More then once his smartest peon had a sudden epiphany, stripped naked, started screaming "WOOP-WOOP-WOOP!" and then dashed off into the woods. In fact, he only had one active Worker remaining at the end of the game.

By the time Chad set his plebes to the task of procuring Artifact Cards, every available Territory Space in Icarus had already been snapped up by his rivals. Instead he used those cards to fuel several Worker excursions to the Ark of Fractured Memories, placing two of his Authority Tokens in Wastelander Territory.

About around the same time, the Aquifer's Allegiance Progress was nudged up into the third tier, giving Chad the authority to activate his secret Recruit Josiah the Hacker. By placing a Worker on either the Generator, the Farm or the Cloud Mine, Chad could use this dude to earn a Morale kickback while saddling others with explosive levels of Knowledge if they also had serfs in that same space.

Taking note of all the value that Dean, Jeremy and I were wringing out of building construction, Chad also invested in the the Cafeteria of Nameless Meat ("Nummie!") and the notably-grim "Disassemble-A-Teddy-Bear Shop". He was also the first player to confront his Ethical Dilemma Card, opting to rail against the dystopia. This allowed him to introduce Icarite Recruit Lee the Gossip for an eleventh-hour Authority Token play.

Having already played a two-player match-up, I decided to tackle the game with a three-pronged assault:
  1. Get a new Recruit as soon as possible. 
  2. Acquire Artifacts in order to drop Authority Tokens in highly-contested Territories before space runs out.
  3. Invest in as many new Market tiles as possible.
I started the game with Gary the Euphorian Electrician. This turned out to be a solid choice since I had plenty of opportunities to place matching Workers on the Generator and score bonus Energy. Within a few short turns the Progress Token broke into the the first tier on the Generator Allegiance Track, meaning that I could now collect three Energy per placement. As great as this was I wish I'd opted for the Morale increase a few times since I probably would have avoided a game-altering setback later on.

Armed with my quick surplus of Energy I quickly activated a new Worker die. Even though I struggled later on with chronic Knowledge creep I'm proud to say that I didn't lose a single worker all game! The first time I played Euphoria I fell prey to the instinctual habit of taking back all of my dice back from the board, even the ones that were working away on Market Tile constructions sites. This time I was a lot more strategic about my retrieval actions.

Given my hastily-acquired stockpile of Commodities and Resources, I set about acquiring as many Artifact Cards as possible. This allowed me to place the first Authority Star of the game in Icarite Territory. Those precious relics from a bygone era continued to pile up, especially when the Generator Progress Token cracked that second tier, giving me Gold and an Artifact Card every time I sent a worker down into the Euphorian Tunnel. Not long after I dropped another Star in the same Territory.

After an early spurt of Icarus-based activities I activated my second Recruit: Kaden the Infiltrator. In retrospect, this elitist snot wasn't a particularly wise selection since only the Euphorian Tunnel Exclusive Action Space was revealed during the game and it wasn't particularly useful to me. Still, he ended up carrying an Authority Token for me when the Icarite Progress Token hit the top tier of the Allegiance Track.

Just as I was about to place a second Star in Icarus, Jeremy and I both realized that our Morale wasn't high enough to support the number of Artifact Cards that we currently had in hand, which prompted a small flurry of discards. Thwarted my this critical oversight, I decided to side with my dystopia via my Ethical Dilemma Card, earning a super-cheap consolation prize Star as a result.

I then started to parley my ample resources into construction. By the end of the game, I had my finger in every single Market-based pie: the two aforementioned sites as well as the Apothecary of Productive Dreams and the Theater of Revelatory Propaganda. This left me with just one measly Authority Star left to place. I then joined Dean and Jeremy on our fourth Market collaboration, knowing that I'd be able to drop  my tenth and final Token there within a few turns.

Thanks to his starting Recruit, Maggie the Outlaw, Dean spent his first few turns wringing bonus Water and Stone out of the Aquifer. He then set about producing new Workers as quickly as possible. This approach paid off rather nicely for him since he kept his Knowledge tamped down to a manageable level and was also very selective about how many dice he retrieved from the board at a time. By the end of the game he was the only player who was rocking all four Workers.  

Dean then started to spend a lot of his hard-earned resources on the pre-constructed floating Markets of Icarus. This led to a hefty collection of Artifacts, which he then used to patronize the Wind Saloon. As one might expect, Dean quickly tagged the corresponding Territory with two Authority Tokens. Another benefit of this was the early introduction of his second Recruit, Amanda the Broker, who gave him an immediate Star placement as well as more Worker flexibility whenever his dice got Bumped.

Dean then put on his hard hat, rolled up his sleeves and joined Jeremy and I in a spate of Market construction. This also served him well in the long run, since, by the end of the game, he'd helped to build the Theater, the Apothecary, and the Teddy Bear Rip-A-Partery Barn. In fact, the only structure he didn't have a hand in building was the Cafeteria, mainly because Chad "Yoinked!" the last spot away from him right at the last second. The commissary's revealed penalty ("lose an extra Morale whenever you retrieved Workers for free") seemed to irritate him to no ends and he immediately set about earning another regional Star in order to nullify its effects.

For his first game, Jeremy turned in a bravura performance. His starting Recruit, Jefferson the Shock Artist ("Oh my God, where is he putting that banana?!?"), turned out to be a stellar starting selection. By paying Energy instead of Bliss or Food to retrieve his dice, Jeremy had the ability to prop up his Worker Morale whilst keeping them all blissfully ignorant. This was the perfect arrangement since it also allowed him to keep a mittful of Artifact Cards and not risk losing his nosier Workers.

Like Dean and I, Jeremy invested early and heavily in Artifact Cards, which gave him an opportunity to dump two Stars in Icarus whist driving up the Icarite Allegiance Track. Although he also got penalized for harboring one too many Artifact Cards, he managed to rebound by drawing two of a kind at least once, giving him a quicker and more efficient trade. As a result, he gained the initiative on me and sealed up the final Icarite Territory spot. Not long after he snagged some valuable Euphorian real estate by visiting the Incinerator of Historical Accuracy.

As it turned out, Jeremy was also harboring a green Recruit Card. So, when we collectively knocked the bell off of the Icarite Allegiance Track, Jeremy was quick to roll out Maxime the Ambassador who came complete with a shiny purple Star pre-pinned to his puffed-out chest. Although Maxime got him in Morale trouble a few times, Jeremy couldn't resist Bumping many of his rival's Workers off the board in order to drive up their Knowledge and snag some free Artifact Cards. Of all the Icarite Recruits revealed during the game, I'd wager that Maxime was probably the best.

Unlike Dean, Jeremy managed to eke out a piece of the action in every single completed Market. This alone earned him the right to place four Authority Tokens on the board. Towards the end of the game he got a tad sloppy in tamping down his Worker's collective Knowledge, which resulted in a few of his more willful peeps going AWOL. Nevertheless, he managed to re-acquire a total of three dice before the final whistle blew.

And then there's poor Jonathan. He started out promising enough with a Recruit that seemed to scream       "synchonicity": Jonathan the Gambler. Although this guy's power was sort of interesting it was also kinda crap-shooty. Here's exactly what his game text says:

"When you draw an Artifact Card you may draw three instead and gain one Knowledge. If you do, reveal those cards. Keep only matching cards from that draw and discard the rest. You may use this ability once per turn."  

While plumbing the depths of the Euphorian Tunnel, Jonathan had several opportunities to use this power. Unfortunately, every time he tried to use The Gambler's special ability it completely fizzled. In fact, I think it only worked once after five or more attempts and only right at the end of the game.

Which begs the question, if you patronize a spot where you can draw two Artifact Cards, say, at the Breeze Bar for instance, could the Gambler's ability be used to draw six cards in total? I assume this is legal but I'm not a hundred percent sure. Let's face it, folks, there's just enough different items in the Artifact Deck to make drawing two of a kind from three cards pretty improbable.

In addition: two other aspects of this power make it pretty harsh. Namely:
  1. You're forced to gain Knowledge.
  2. If nothing matches then you don't get to keep anything.      
By inflating his Knowledge almost immediately, Jonathan became the first player to have a worker tell him to "cram it with walnuts". Compounding his woes in the HR department, Jeremy got into the habit of bumping Jonathan's dice with Maxime the Ambassador. Every time this happened, Jonathan's Knowledge level went up and his Workers began to commiserate. More then anyone else, Jonathan suffered a brutal amount of dice-related turnover.

Mercifully, when the Progress token crossed into the third level of the Euphorian Allegiance Track, Jonathan was able to table (?) the marginally-less-useless Esme the Fireman. Notwithstanding the fact that she looks a tad young to be fighting backdrafts, Esme gave Jonathan a fighting chance to increase his Morale or decrease his Knowledge whenever his played a Star and had an Artifact to discard. Unfortunately this just didn't happen often enough, but at least Esme took on a Star for him when we reached the apex of the Euphorian Allegiance Track moments later.  

Between his single-minded gambling addiction and his staffing woes, Jonathan quickly fell to the back of the pack. This continued to snowball because he couldn't keep enough building materials on hand to assist the rest of us in Market construction. As you might expect, all of the negative modifiers that came from this completely hobbled his end game as well.

Above and beyond placing Stars on his two Recruits and in Euphorian Territory via the Incinerator of Historical Accuracy, Jonathan ended the game with only two Worker Dice and a hefty backlog of unplaced Authority Tokens.

Even though I only had one Star left to place, I started to get a sinking feeling. Between my Morale oversight and Jeremy's smart Recruit selections and penchant for drawing matching Artifact Cards, I knew that I was in trouble. Indeed, all Jeremy had to do on his next turn was "Serve The Oppressor" on his Ethical Dilemma Card, drop his tenth and final Authority Token and claim the win!


  • The game's production values are exemplary. The sheer number of die-cut wooden Commodities and Resources is just phenomenal. Just take one look at those Miner Meeples and you know they weren't easy to produce! Also the cards, the board, the chits, the Market Tiles, Multiplier Markers and the customized six-sided dice are all of the highest quality.  
  • I liked the game a lot more with five players. When one person claims one of the two Territory Spaces in a two-player game, the impulse is to drop everything you're doing and concentrate on snapping up the last remaining space. Even though there's still only one space per player, having five open slots just feels a lot less restrictive.    
  • The strategy here is ridiculously deep. I had no clue what I was doing in my first game, but after applying what I learned from Game One I actually acquitted myself rather well. In fact, if I maintained my Morale, held onto those Artifacts and captured that last Icarite Territory Space, I think I had a pretty good shot at winning.  
  • As per my example, anyone foolish enough to ignore the Morale and Knowledge charts will be doomed to failure. I love how these tracks contribute to the game's theme, subtly reenforcing all of those "Strength Through Joy" / "Joy Through Labor" World War II-era propaganda posters. 
  • Resources, Commodities, Artifact Cards, Knowledge, Morale and Authority Tokens can be lost or gained from so many different sources (Worker Activation Tanks, Commodity Areas, the Allegiance Tracks, Tunnels, Construction Sites, Artifact Markets and regular Markets) that the game practically begs for strategic experimentation. 
  • Placing just one Worker at a time keeps the game moving at a lively clip. By the time your turn comes back around, you've had more then enough time to ponder your next die placement. Ergo, the game barely suffers from analysis paralysis.    
  • Not only do the Ethical Dilemma Cards contribute to the theme, they also provide a very interesting decision point in the game. If you want to switch gears early, you can "Fight the Establishment" and table a new Recruit. If you want to do a Mortal Kombat-style finishing move, just "Contribute to the Dystopia" to drop your tenth and final Star for the win! 
  • You really need to select Recruits that will dove-tail with your strategy, otherwise they'll end up doing absolutely nothing for you while your opponent's more insightful picks continue to pay dividends. By specializing in a certain faction you can really create some synergy between your chosen Recruit and the Allegiance Track in order to maximize production and reel in even more lucrative rewards. Next time I'll try the Advanced "Recruit Draft" rules which grant players more flexibility and control over their available minions. 
  • The cumulative effect of stacking Workers in the Commodity Areas is nothing short of brilliant. As a side note: you may want to avoid leaving your Workers in these spaces during a Retrieve action otherwise you may inadvertently end up giving your opponents a free lunch!      
  • I love how the pace of the game continues to pick up and then races to a climax.  
  • Rolling dice to determine your Worker's level of awareness is also a pretty cool mechanic. Some people seem to think that the Knowledge Chart *slash* 16 point cut-off is bit too harsh but I don't agree. Remember: you don't have to take all of your dice back and Workers left pounding away at an  under-construction Market are still serving you well.
  • We all thought that the board's graphic design was a bit too busy. Even at the end of the game, people were still struggling to remember where to place Workers in order to score certain resources. Sorry, but I like my dystopias the way I like my women: dark and gritty. I wanted more 1984 and less 1930's Flash Gordon serial. Yes, I know the whole point of the game is to conceal the dark heart beating just underneath that motley facade, but if I'm gonna stare at a game board for several hours I want my dystopia to look like Brazil, not Buck freakin' Rogers. It's my understanding that some copies of the game come with a flip side to the board which is more monochromatic, but mine only has the "riot of color" side. I'd bitch about this but then I remember the old adage: "never look a gift board game in, board."  Yeah, whatever.   
  • While I was playing it didn't seem as if the "follow the leader" tendencies inherent in my first two player game carried over to this one but the session report I just wrote up would seem to indicate otherwise. In many ways, Dean, Jeremy and I ended up doing a lot of the same things. Frankly, if everyone takes a similar path and the winner is determined by a single oversight or whoever gets the luckier Artifact Card draws then this could be problematic. I'll try to pay close attention to this in future games and adjust my rating accordingly if need be. 
  • The game can be a bear to teach to new players and there are a few vagaries in the rulebook, particularly where it relates to exactly where you can place Authority Tokens. As if in response to this deficit, the wonderful denizens of Board Game Geek have stepped up and provided plenty of awesome printable resources, like this one for example.     

We had a lot of fun with Euphoria. Trashy table talk was rampant and people were practically chomping at the bit to whip their next Worker back into the salt mines. Like a good movie, the game started off slow but then built up to frantic crescendo. Over the course of an hour-and-a-half we were faced with plenty of interesting and agonizing decisions that made for a compulsively playable and engaging experience.

I give Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia five pips outta six, with a sniper-scope tilt up towards those Icarite zeppelins.

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