Leaders of Euphoria

Brian Henk, Clayton Skancke
4 - 8
12 - 199
InteractionComponents & Design

Do you remember Euphoria, the worker placement game about the absolutely happiest city of the future? We all knew things there were to good to be true and something would go horribly wrong sooner or later. Well, something has gone horribly wrong. The brain implants that guaranteed everyone’s continued happiness have failed. The city is in uproar. And behind the scenes people are scheming to take advantage of the situation and take control of the city. People like you.

Leaders of Euphoria: Choose a Better Oppressor is set in the same city as Jamey Stegmaier and Alan Stone’s Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia, but it was created by a different designer team. Clayton Skancke and Brian Henk of Overworld Games liked the Euphoria setting so much they created a new edition of their own game Good Cop Bad Cop in it.

The Path To Power – How to play

Leaders of Euphoria is a hidden identity deduction game. Unlike most games from that family, however, your identity is not a single piece of information. Every player has three recruits working for them, and only when you know all three can you be certain which team the player belongs to.

I wonder if they suspect anything
I wonder if they suspect anything

Most of the recruits are followers, either on the Subterranean or the Euphorian team. If you only have follower recruits then your team is decided by majority: two or three Subterraneans make you a Subterranean, same for Euphorians. But both teams also have a Leader. If you have a Leader card you’re always on the Leader’s team, even if both your other recruits belong to the other faction.

Which team you’re on is obviously important for winning the game: if the Subterranean leader gets shot the Euphorians win and vice versa. One player can win on their own if they manage to get both Leader cards for themselves.

How you get to the point where someone wins is pretty simple in terms of rules. When it’s your turn you taken one of five possible actions and that’s basically it. And each action is quick and easy, too. For instance, you might Interrogate a recruit: take one recruit card from another player, look under it to see who that recruit is, then return the card. Congratulations, you now know one third of that player’s identity.

The objective of the game is not only to identify the opposition, though. It’s to eliminate it. And so the second possible action is to arm yourself and take one of the Ray Guns from the center of the table. Having a gun is great, especially since there are fewer guns than players. But taking a gun comes with a pretty big downside: You must expose one of your recruits to do it. That’s exactly what it sounds like, you turn a recruit card face up for everyone to see. As soon as you take a gun you must aim it at another player. Those things are big and inflexible, meaning that you can only change who you aim at once per turn after your action.

Treasures of the Past
Treasures of the Past

Another good reason to expose your recruits is to Use an Artifact. There’s a whole pile of unique artifact cards with effects of varying usefulness. You might get to interrogate all of one player’s recruits at once. Or to steal a gun from another player. Or even to exchange a recruit with one from another player, the only way to get that elusive solo victory by collecting both leaders. Some artifacts are marked with the word Reaction and can be played outside of your turn if their condition is met. You still have to expose a recruit, though.

Good thing that possible action number four is to hide a Follower recruit again – and you can even hide another player’s recruit, a really useful option once you figured out who’s on your team.

Finally, you can take your action to shoot your Ray Gun. We kept that one for last because shooting people has consequences. First of all, remember that you can only change your target after your action, so no surprise shootings! Second, after you shoot someone you drop your gun. Those things are pretty temperamental. Third, being shot has a negative effect on your target. They get to draw an artifact – that’s not the negative effect yet. They drop their gun if they had one – which is a bit worse. And then things get really bad.

A Wastelander is not a Threat!
A Wastelander is not a Threat!

The victim has to reveal all their recruits. If they have a Leader card then that card stays exposed, the others are hidden again to give the player a chance at defending themselves. If a player with an exposed Leader is shot again the game ends and the other team wins.

It’s when the victim doesn’t have a leader recruit that things get interesting. That player is eliminated from their former faction, turns over their player board and is now a Wastelander. The Wastelanders are their own team that gains more members as the game progresses and more people are shot. And as a team, the Wastelanders can win the game, too. If they manage to shoot either of the two Leaders, then the Wastelanders win. If a Wastelander manages to take just one of the Leader cards for themselves, that Wastelander wins alone. And shooting Wastelanders is almost pointless, too: They drop their gun if they had one, but then they keep right on wastelandering. You can’t eliminate them. And the longer the game goes on the more of them there will be.

Was it worth it? The Verdict?

Leaders of Euphoria is different from typical hidden identity games like Werewolves, The Resistance or Secret Hitler, for better and for worse. Better in making a player’s identity more complex than those games. You get to play with your identity more by revealing the parts you want others to see, by reacting to what someone might have found out about you during an interrogation, sometimes even by exchanging one of your recruits with another player to change your team in the middle of the game.

No, Mr. Leader, I expect you to die
No, Mr. Leader, I expect you to die

But there is a downside to the idea: The teams aren’t always equal. We had games where a lonely Euphorian played against a table full of Subterraneans. (Both leaders had two Euphorian followers, giving all other players a Subterranean majority.) It is possible for the lonely player to win those games, but it’s an uphill battle and not as much fun as it could be. That scenario becomes less likely the more players you have, though, and it’s just one of the reasons to prefer larger groups.

You can play Leaders of Euphoria with four players, but we found that you really shouldn’t. In a small group you get too much reliable information. If you’re not a leader yourself then your chances to find a leader card on your first interrogation are better than one in five. You learn very quickly who is on your team and who is the enemy. Also, you really want to avoid making Wastelanders in a small game where even one Wastelander is a full-sized team. People tend to play carefully, slowly… boring.

That changes when playing with six or more. Finding out who is your leader potentially takes longer, it’s more likely someone will just say screw this and shoot someone to see all their recruits. What are the odds of accidentally exposing your own leader, after all? And what can one Wastelander do on his own, anyway? And then it turns out he can shoot someone else, and now there are two Wastelanders, everything spirals out of control and everyone is having fun. All it needs is the one person to say screw this.

That’s my summary of this review: Leaders of Euphoria needs at least six people (seven or eight are even better) and it needs someone to say screw this. Don’t play this in small groups, don’t play it with a group of people known for playing things safe. Avoid those two scenarios and have a lot of fun.

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