Mechanics Spotlight: Worker Placement Games

Owner

Happy Monday! To start off this week, let's talk about one of my favorite mechanics: worker placement.

  1. What do you like about this mechanic? What do you not like/hate about it?
  2. What is your favorite game with this mechanic and why? What part of this game would you love to change?
  3. Which game with this mechanic would you love to try the most, and why?

I'll post my answers in the comments.

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5 months ago

oo this is tough!

  • One thing I like about it is how straight-forward it can make the game, which makes teaching it easier. The "put a worker in a spot, get/do what the spot says" is really easy to grasp. Obviously the strategy doesn't come quite so easily in most games, but for simply learning the game, worker placement is pretty approachable.
  • I don't know that there's anything I actively dislike about worker placement. I guess it depends on the kind of mood I am in. One thing about worker placement games is that all of your options are laid out in front of you, so there's not a lot of room for "surprise" like there may be in a card game or some other type of game. It's all about executing your strategy more effectively than your opponents can. Again, this isn't a bad thing, but maybe sometimes I'm not in the mood for that type of game.
  • #Raiders of the North Sea has an interesting spin on worker placement I'd love to try out. Also, a spin on worker placement used by several games that I'd love to try is dice workers. #Alien Frontiers is just one example, but there are many.
  • My favorite worker placement games so far - for pure worker placement: #Viticulture: Essential Edition. For "non-pure" worker placement: #Everdell. I say "non-pure" because you have other actions you can take besides worker placement actions.

Owner5 months ago

Since you haven't gotten into Raiders yet, would you say #Raiders of Scythia will be a more likely pick for you?

Based on your and @sdirrane's responses so far, looks like we're in agreement that worker placements are typically a nice intro to new gamers. I can see what you mean by them being less of a surprise too. I feel like when it comes to games, there are different types of fun, and while worker placement games give me a really nice feeling of chess-like fun of planning out and anticipating your opponents' moves, I do find myself wanting to check out something more "thrilling" at times.

5 months ago

At this point, between the two, probably. But I don't see myself getting either for quite a while, as there are just higher priorities.

And yeah, worker placement is a very satisfying mechanism, but isn't the most thrilling, as you put it. Games like #Dune are high in terms of thrill and surprise, and games with dice rolling as a central mechanism can also provide that. Games with lots of cards and combos in them can do that as well, such as (incoming shameless plug) #Oceans, but also card dueling games, and I'm sure countless other types of games.

Owner5 months ago

Hmm I guess in general, thrill often comes from elements of luck, hidden information, and/or dueling? As much as I enjoy euros with indirect(?) conflict, I do experience more of that "pure" fun when it involves some of those. It's also the reason why Root is basically my favorite game and why I had fun with #Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated last night :D

5 months ago

Nice!! Yeah I think unknown information is the key to that thrill, whether that comes from chance (dice, deck of cards), or actual hidden information on the part of the players, such as a hand of cards to create a combo, or in the case of #Dune, a certain traitor card to swing a battle, etc.

Supporter5 months ago

I like a lot of table talk, a lot of combat, and if possible a lot of back stabbing.  I know those aren't favorites of everyone but they do add the thrill I love.

Worker Placement can have fun table talk if most of the players are familiar with the game, but it's usually just one negative comment "dangit, I was about to take that spot".

5 months ago

You should play #Dune, haha

Supporter5 months ago

There are so many reasons I want to play this game (it sounds fascinating but also Dune is one of my favorite books).

But alas, I don't have the player count, or players committed to the time needed.

5 months ago

Yeah, that makes it pretty tough.

Supporter5 months ago

Also, I love this idea.  Have you done it with other mechanics yet?

Owner5 months ago

Glad you like it! This is the first of them so I'll need to think of a mechanic for next week's. Which one should we go with?

5 months ago

Co-operative would be a cool one, if that counts as a "mechanic" of a game. 


I love games with Modular Boards and Variable Setup, could be good discussions too!

Owner5 months ago

Whether it's a mechanic or category, it's a great topic! Will get that in in the upcoming week.

I really like the idea of focusing on modular boards and variable setup though. Often a great way to boost the replay value. Also reminds me that variable player powers would be a cool topic too.

Supporter5 months ago

Yes, would like to see variable player powers as a topic.

5 months ago

Expansions that just add variable player powers are fantastic, and I think more games should have them (although I suppose they're difficult to balance well).


I know both #Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar and #Teotihuacan: City of Gods have expansions for this - are there other games?

5 months ago

Tableau building? Dice rolling? Auction? Deck building?

You could also eventually do a similar "theme spotlight" series.

Owner5 months ago

OHH I like it! That's a fun idea :D

Supporter5 months ago

I think these posts are going to be a lot of fun.

I wonder if you did Worker Placement purposefully as #1 because it's such a Foundational Mechanic or was that just a, well that worked.

If we are thinking of that we could go with something like Dice Rolling or Coop next.  I should say for the record I don't really care for Coop generally but still would love to see what others things and share my thoughts in more detail.

Owner5 months ago

It was somewhat intentional but not really haha. I was trying to start off with a mechanic that many gamers are exposed to. And also because it's a mechanic that introduced me to the hobby.

Based on the responses so far, I think I'll go with co-op and dice rolling for the next ones! I'll probably make these weekly posts with a mechanic of the week on Mondays and category/theme of the week on Wednesdays. Gotta decide what the first category/theme of the week will be now.

Supporter5 months ago

1. I like that it's a pretty easy mechanic to understand so it's a good Foundation mechanic.  Also, even if you lose your space often there are ways that you can readjust your strategy to fit into what's left on the table.

2. I enjoy that you have to almost race to the best spaces or come up with a strategy that's going to allow you to use spaces others may not pay attention to.  They often don't have a lot of direct player interaction, which is okay, but I need more interaction sometimes.

3. Right now I think it's #Architects of the West Kingdom since that's been on my radar for a while and it's really the only Worker Placement game I'm considering right now because I have plenty of games that scratch that itch already.

Owner5 months ago

I really like that Viticulture keeps it separated by seasons so that it keeps it tight especially in the beginning half of the game. It's both fun and frustrating working within that confined space.

Now, once next year arrives, you'll probably be keeping to 1-2 new games max right? So I'm guessing for now, #Empires of the Void II would be #1 candidate for next acquisition?

Supporter5 months ago

I like that too in Viticulture, and of course, like we spoken about before, the added turn order Worker Placement.  What is your strategy when picking a wake up spot?

That will definitely be high on my list, but 6 months is a long time away so something else may take its place.

Bearing in mind that if a game like #Fort or the upcoming rerelease of the Pokemon Card game look like they can be played with my daughter(s) then I may make an exception since that would be a family purchase and not just a personal purchase.

Owner5 months ago

Hmmm I'm not sure what my strategy is except that it really depends on a lot of different factors--starting hand and starting "goods" based on your Mama and Papa cards, and number of players.

The greater the number of players, I'll likely prioritize taking 2nd or 3rd spot in the first year (where 1st spot is the one you can't choose) so that I can get to an action space with a nice bonus for my first move.

If there aren't a lot of players to compete against then I'll likely choose based on my starting hand/goods and try to get a wake-up time with bonuses that will compensate for what I lack in. I usually opt for starting with a structure rather than more lira, so I probably wouldn't go for a wake up time that just gives you money. So unless I have a really good set of cards, I'd probably go for the 3rd spot (vine card and summer visitor card) or the 5th (summer and winter visitor cards, and the "star"). In general, I feel like the 5th row is a safe pick especially in the first year.

In the second or third year, unless I'm desperately needing something from the other wake-up times, I might go for the last row so that I can get a big year building up my engine using the guest worker and then hopefully fulfill an order in the following year by going first.

Supporter5 months ago

So I think the fewest I've played at is 3.  Usually it's 4 - 6. 

I almost without exception try to go as early as possible on the wake up chart.  I have another friend who also prefers that route (most of the time) so it often become a race for us.  I love when I get to like the #2 spot and he has no choice but to pick like #5.

Supporter5 months ago

1. I agree that one of the strong suits of worker placement is the simplicity and upfrontness. 

2. #Raiders of the North Sea, though I have the only other worker placement game I own is #Microbrew. I wouldn't  necessarily want to change much about it but I do want the hall of heroes expansion which has been somewhat hard to get lately.

3. On this point I'd like to say that for the longest time I gave priority to any other mechanics since in my mind worker placement games were way too similar and it would feel somewhat samey. I think I'm starting to think otherwise. That being said, I would like to play #Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar.

Owner5 months ago

I'm still considering getting in on the digital version for #Raiders of the North Sea. Not sure if it'll be worth it but at this point, I'm pretty sure it'll be a longgg while until I might get a physical copy so I might settle for that option.

I try to go for games that have very different mechanics or at least a really nice twist even if it's the same mechanic. I was avoiding just getting another worker placement game but likewise, #Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar has been on my wishlist too! But I think it's going to take some time until it gets close to the shortlist (#Too Many Bones, #Keyflower, #Brass: Birmingham, etc). I love the simple brilliance of the "time" element to Tzolk'in though, and I'm sure that my wife will also appreciate it

Supporter5 months ago

Not big on digital version but if its the only way to play rn, its a great game. 

Same situation here, and I was actually watching the SUSD review on #Too Many Bones for the second time, and I'm really considering. Just so expensive! And the "cheaper" version is only for 2 p (probably would play it at 2 most of the time though).

5 months ago

 - I like that you always want more...you almost always want to take multiple action spaces and I love that. I hate that you always want to take all of the action spaces....

- I will probably say #Agricola (Revised Edition) but I can see #Bus taking this over...I dont think I would change anything for either of these games. I would have said art for Bus but I love the new art!!

- I think right now the game I would love to experience is #Viticulture: Essential Edition with #Tuscany: Essential Edition. I just have not had an opportunity to hop on it!

Owner5 months ago

Does anyone in your group have Viticulture? I'm pretty sure you'd enjoy it quite a bit! Where does #Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar fall in the spectrum by the way? I thought I heard you've played it on Board Game Arena before but that might have been @Sliddell11 or someone else.

5 months ago

Nah, nobody has it yet. I think Scott wants it though? Not completely sure. One day!

I have played Tzolk'in, but on a smaller website. I can see it being a solid game in person, I think the digital implementation takes away some of the magic. I feel like the magic is the tactile nature of the game, turning the gears, high component quality, etc. It is a game that I would enjoy playing but I am not going to go out of my way to purchase it either though.