Worker placement is a mechanic that involves placing “workers” onto various locations on a shared or personal board in order to activate an action or ability that the location offers. Worker placement is currently one of the most popular mechanics in modern board gaming. But let’s dive a bit deeper, shall we?
Types of Worker Placement Games:
While the worker placement mechanic can very easily be distilled down to this basic generalization; “place worker, then take action,” there are a vast amount of unique ways to utilize this mechanic in a game. Here are some commonly used types of worker placement:
1. Restrictive Worker Placement (like Agricola)
This is arguably the most common style of worker placement game design, and it uses standard meeples or cubes (representing workers) and involves placing them onto a location with a limited number of spots.
This contention puts a tremendous emphasis on turn order because if you are not quick enough to get the spot you want, you will likely have completely missed out on that action for this round and be forced to settle for a lesser option.
2. Limitless Worker Placement (like Keyflower)
This could even go as far as being the polar opposite of restrictive placement, but typically limitless falls into some gray area in-between.
With limitless placement, locations are considered still available even if there are already workers there. This allows players to still utilize an action even if they were not the first to get there.
One way designers find a middle ground between restrictive and limitless placement is to give some penalty to players who do not get to a spot first. i.e. You must spend an additional worker, or you must spend 1 coin for each worker already present at that location, etc. Or alternatively, to give some reward to the person who goes there first.
3. Dice Placement (like My Village)
Dice placement involves using dice as workers, but with locations requiring a specific die roll, i.e. “you may place a die on this location only if it is a 5 or higher.” These spots are typically limitless to account for the increased randomness of the die rolls.
4. Variable Worker Placement (like Lorenzo il Magnifico)
Variable placement involves having workers of different strengths being placed on the board and typically the worker with the highest strength at a particular location will get to take the action or an enhanced form of the action.
This type of placement adds an element of area-control to the worker placement genre.
Some of the Best Worker Placement Games…
Worker placement is utilized games ranging from light-weight gateway and family games to brain-burning heavyweights and while, by nature, worker placement is extremely mechanical, there has been a recent push to utilize this mechanic in thematic games as well. Divided by different styles, here’s our list of worker placement games, let us know if there are any must-plays that we’re missing!