One of the beauties of the modern day board game renaissance is the ability to find a game for any aesthetic, theme, or style. Take, for instance, Euphoria, a game from Stonemaier Games that mixes complex gameplay with an aesthetic straight out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It was a huge success in 2015 when it launched, and won multiple awards including the coveted Mensa Select designation, marking it as “original in concept, challenging, and well designed.” And I can definitively say that Mensa didn’t get it wrong on that front. Euphoria is an incredibly deep game that has a lot of moving parts, but never gets too lost in its own complexity. It’s also a beautiful game filled with Art Deco aesthetics and little nods to dystopian fiction past and present.
So, I was incredibly excited to find out that Stonemaier would be releasing an expansion to the game this year: Ignorance Is Bliss. I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of the expansion by Stonemaier, so here are my thoughts on the brand new ways you can “Build A Better Dystopia.”
What’s In The Box?
Stonemaier describes Euphoria: Ignorance Is Bliss as an “alternate stuff” expansion to the base game. It is in no way meant to be a standalone, so don’t go out and buy it without having the original. As a note, now is a great time to pick up Euphoria in anticipation of the release of Ignorance Is Bliss, as they’ve partnered with GameTrayz to include some AMAZING plastic trays (pictured above) that neatly organize the many little fiddly bits that come with the base game and the expansion (which I’ll be spotlighting in an upcoming Let’s Unpack This).
As for the expansion itself, it adds a few new things—new recruits, new market tiles, the Automa cards—while adding some quality of life changes to the base game—player mats, giant commodity tokens for the resource hoarders. It also adds the Antiques Bazaar, a unique new way to approach artifacts that sits as a sideboard of sorts beside the base game. It’s very much an improvement on the base game, and the new components maintain the craftsmanship Stonemaier puts into their games. And no, I’m not just saying that because of the wooden pieces… though those are very nice. They also include an abundance of plastic baggies, just like the base game, and best of all: IT ALL FITS INTO THE BASE GAME’S BOX! You don’t have to lug out multiple game boxes for Euphoria when you get the new expansion, it all fits perfectly into one convenient container.
How’s It Play?
Since the game more adds to the base game than it does its own thing, I’ll be focusing on the new components and their effects on gameplay as well as the biggest rules addition to the game: Automa Mode. Automa mode, Stonemaier’s second implementation of such a mechanic after their success with Viticulture, lets you play the incredibly complex game of Euphoria with two or even one human player.
I played a couple games solo and I’ll be honest: I got my butt kicked. Which is not to say that the new Automa are hard or anything, they’re incredibly well balanced, you just have to play them a few times to really get a hang of how they “think.” They differ from human players in that they don’t have recruits or ethical dilemmas to resolve. They also rarely have to spend resources or pay penalties for certain things, nor do they track knowledge or morale, as robots don’t really learn or have emotions (at least in the Euphoria world).
What they do end up becoming are massive resource hogs as well as destroyers of artifacts in the market, making your job even harder as you battle for dwindling resources against opponents who can snowball a lot faster than you can. The nice thing, however, is that they don’t get any of the benefits you do from recruits and other factions, so you can make a lot more plays and outmaneuver them once you understand their logic. It’s actually really neat from a design perspective. Looking at how the Automa “think,” you can see how much work Stonemaier put into making them seem as real as possible. It is a lot less embarrassing to lose to the AI in Euphoria than in most games (I hope).
The Antiques Bazaar doesn’t just act as a mill for the Automa, but also allow a great deal of flexibility to players wanting to add artifacts to their hands. The first card is free, but players can pay resources to buy those in the other four slots, letting you plan for the different combos revealed by the market tiles. The new recruits are written to take into account some of the new things in the game, as well as taking advantage of the playstyles and strategies developed in the years since Euphoria first released. Ignorance Is Bliss adds in new recruits for all of the major factions—the high tech Euphorians forcing their way into the future, the hardscrabble Wastelanders forging a new life in the apocalyptic outside world, the easily-overlooked Subterrans who maintain the pipes and gears of the world, and the engimatic Icarites, pirates and merchants of the sky, who have almost entirely separated from the world below.
There is also a new fifth set of recruits that have no allegiance to any faction. Their abilities are more powerful than the faction recruits, but they don’t gain you the benefits of ranking up your faction reputation through tunneling and gathering resources. They’re probably best for more advanced players, as the benefits from high allegiance are quite powerful and being able to play without them takes practice.
Most of the new cards and rules are meant to exist as alternatives to the base game options, not as supplements. So if you want to play with the Antiques Bazaar, the Dilemma’s Prison, or new recruits like Christine the Anarchist, you would use them for the playing of Euphoria instead of what comes with the base game. The new market tiles, all beautifully illustrated by Jacqui Davis, are intended to work in tandem with the recruits and bazaar and are just as impactful as ever, and continue the Orwellian doublespeak naming convention from the first game.
Some things in the expansion are not exclusive, and are simple quality of life changes to make every game a little bit easier (sort of like a patch). These include the jumbo commodity tokens—giant sized water, food, electricity, and bliss that represent 10 small tokens—and player mats that let you track your knowledge, morale, and resources/commodities easily without having to fiddle around on the board or with a loose pile. There are also some minor rules changes, the most significant being the “minority” bonus that helps players who’s recruits are a little outnumbered by the other faction’s recruits.
Euphoria: Ignorance Is Bliss is an extremely worthwhile expansion to the base game and is almost certainly essential for fans of the original game. With five years of testing under their belt, Stonemaier has found ways to make the game run as smooth as ever as well as breathe new life into a classic title. The new Automa rules are the most significant additions, allowing for a great deal of flexibility for smaller groups as well as a brand new mode to challenge experienced players. The new recruits and markets double the replayability of an already incredibly versatile game, adding fresh new rules and mechanics to the game that might make even the most seasoned Euphorian look at the game in a new light.
For players new to both Euphoria and Ignorance Is Bliss, I’d recommend picking up the two in tandem if you can. Retailing at just $25 dollars, the expansion adds a lot of value to the base game and gets you ready from square one to take advantage or everything Euphoria has to offer. The Automa rules are great for learning the game before bringing it to your next game night, and the alternate game rules mean your group won’t get bored anytime soon. The expansion is also just as gorgeous as the base game, with new eye-popping art that fits right in with the aesthetic. Plus, the fact that it all fits into the base game’s box is just a fantastic feature. Plus, with the new Gametrayz and the tweaks of a few years of work, Euphoria is at its best right now to pick up.
You can get a head start on the Euphoria by snagging a copy of the game from the Stonemaier Games store or your local game shop, where it retails for $70.00. Ignorance Is Bliss is currently available for pre-order, and is set for worldwide release on May 3rd, when it will retail for $25.00. Be sure to keep an eye on the Fandomentals for all the latest from Stonemaier Games, including Euphoria, Wingspan, and more!