10 Top Worker Placement Board Games as of 2021

Here we will take a look at the 10 top worker placement board games based on popularity. This is a series to take a look at a specific board game mechanic and out of every game ever released in the space, what are the most popular as of right now, the middle of 2021. We will give some information on each title, as well as, some insight into why it might have landed at its particular spot on the list.

Worker placement is freeform drafting where players are fighting over spaces to try to get things or perform actions. Usually, you have a set number of "workers" and players take turns placing them one at a time on available spaces that do things. There is usually limited room, so you need to weigh what to prioritize and hope your opponent doesn't beat you to a space you are trying to get.

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Caverna The Cave Dwellers Worker Placement Board Game

#10 | Caverna: The Cave Dwellers

Uwe Rosenberg is one of the greatest living designers and a master in this space. You are going to see his name several times here. His seminal drop into this space that was beloved by critics and audiences alike was #Agricola originally released in 2007. This was the follow up to that game and many say that this is an even better worker placement game that built on that revolutionary title.

You are the bearded leader of a small dwarf family that lives in a cave in the mountains. You begin the game with a farmer and his spouse, and each member of the farming family represents an action to take each turn. Together, you cultivate the forest in front of your cave and dig deeper into the mountain. Create something amazing from nothing.

See More at the Caverna Game Page

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Stone Age Worker Placement Board Game

#09 | Stone Age

Stone Age has been around since 2008 so it is one of the oldest on the list. This is a staple on many of the best worker placement games and people often point to this as one of the best gateway games. This is a game that introduces a lot of people to the hobby and genre so it makes sense that it is popular. It is very easy and streamlined so certainly a very accessible one.

Players live in this time as historically accurate as possible. You collect wood, break stone and wash your gold from the river. Important tasks include trading freely, expanding your village and achieve new levels of civilization. With a balance of luck and planning, you compete for food in this pre-historic time.

See More at the Stone Age Game Page

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A Feast For Odin

#08 | A Feast For Odin

This is another game from Uwe Rosenberg that is one of the most complex on this list. You are managing a lot of things and building up a massive empire. There is a ton to do and the depth on this one blew people away when it dropped in 2016. Many content creators talk highly about this game which has translated into lots of interest.

You are reliving the cultural achievements, mercantile expeditions, and pillages of those tribes we know as Viking today. In this game, you will raid and explore new territories. Along the way, there is plenty to do from collecting goods to achieving a financially secure position in society. In the end, the player whose possessions bear the greatest value will be declared the winner.

See More at the A Feast For Odin Game Page

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Raiders of the North Shore Worker Placement Board Game

#07 | Raiders of the North Sea

Publisher Garphill Games has gone from unknown to one of the most popular names out there very specifically because of their North Sea and West Kingdom Series. Each of these games blends this great style from Icelandic artist The Mico with fantastic play mechanisms that are unlike anything ever seen. Best yet, they are all unique experiences that stand on their own. This is the gem of the North Sea series originally released in 2015.

Raiders of the North Sea is set in the central years of the Viking Age. As a Viking warrior, you seek to impress the Chieftain by raiding unsuspecting settlements. You will need to assemble a crew, collect provisions and journey north to plunder gold, iron and livestock. There is glory to be found in battle, even at the hands of the Valkyrie.

See More at the Raiders of the North Sea Game Page

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Tzolk'in The Mayan Calendar Worker Placement Board Game

#06 | Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar

This is a worker placement game that excellently blends in the very synergistic rotating gear mechanism. The flow of gameplay and exciting moving has long impressed gamers since it released in 2012. This one is a bit of a surprise because you do not hear about it very much anymore, but it is striking, unique and a great game.

Players can either (a) place one or more workers on the lowest visible spot of the gears or (b) pick up one or more workers. When placing workers, they must pay corn, which is used as a currency in the game. When they pick up a worker, they perform certain actions depending on the position of the worker.

See the Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar Game Page

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Orléans Worker Placement Board Game

#05 | Orléans

This is the one on the list that is kind of open to interpretation of how much of a worker placement game it is. This is more about pool building and resource management that fighting over spaces, but you have a lot of paths to take and there are tough decisions to make. This is much more complex than your typical game in the genre, instead of managing one type of citizen, here there are many.

You must assemble a following of farmers, merchants, knights, monks, etc. to gain supremacy through trade, construction and science in medieval France. Grow your influence and attract as many people as possible so you can perform the maximum amount of actions and get far ahead.

See the Orléans Game Page

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Architects of the West Kingdom Worker Placement Game

#04 | Architects of the West Kingdom

The second worker placement game from Garphill Games is the most popular in their second trilogy of games, the West Kingdom series. People are blown away by how much care are put into these games and again this is a brilliant melding of theme and gameplay. This is still fairly hot off the presses, releasing not too long ago in 2018.

Set at the end of the Carolingian Empire, circa 850 AD, you are a royal architect who must compete to impress your King. You will need to collect raw materials, hire apprentices, and keep a watchful eye on their workforce. These are treacherous times, points are gained by constructing various buildings and advancing work on the Archbishop's cathedral, but look out, rival architects will stop at nothing to slow your progress.

See the Architects of the West Kingdom Game Page

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Lords of Waterdeep Worker Placement Board Game

#03 | Lords of Waterdeep

Not only does the dungeon and dragons theme bring people in but this is a really good worker placement game. This is that title that no matter what comes and goes it tends to stick around all the best of lists because it was the pioneer in the fantasy adventure space where everything else is more growth and management. People say #Champions of Midgard could replace it, but this still has the name recognition.

You are one of the secret leaders of the city, ruling from the shadows. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city. During the course of play, you may gain points or resources through completing quests, constructing buildings, playing intrigue cards or having other players utilize the buildings you have constructed.

See the Lords of Waterdeep Game Page

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Everdell Worker Placement Board Game

#02 | Everdell

Besides #Root, no other game satisfyingly submerges you deep in the forest with all its magical creatures like Everdell. People just love this card game. There is tons of flavor and games are really fun. There is nothing new or interesting to this one but it's solid and you get to make interesting decisions. Having just released in 2018, it is still benefitting from its freshness.

Beneath the boughs of towering trees, among meandering streams and mossy hollows, a civilization of forest critters is thriving and expanding. The time has come for new territories to be settled and new cities established. You will be the leader of a group of critters intent on just such a task. There are buildings to construct, lively characters to meet and events to host.

See the Everdell Game Page

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Viticulture Worker Placement Board Game

#01 | Viticulture

It makes sense that Viticulture lands at the #1 spot on the list of the top worker placement board games. The gorgeous and fantastic game is the title that put Stonemaier Games on the map. Its only been out since 2015 so it is still relatively fresh and cutting edge. This is one of those titles that makes all the lists and content creators, regardless of who you go to, will gush about this game.

You are in the roles of people in rustic, pre-modern Tuscany who have inherited meager vineyards. You start with a few plots of land, an old crushpad, a tiny cellar, and three workers. Play through seasons and choose where to put your workers to build up the resources to create a wine empire.

See More at Viticulture Game Page

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What do you think are the best worker placement board games?



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Premium User2 months ago

It's a good list!  I don't know if I would have included Orleans or Everdell on a work placement list but there are arguments to be made for it.

I would put #Russian Railroads in the top 10 for sure. 

Serious consideration also for #Underwater Cities and #The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire.  

53 days ago

Add a vote for Underwater Cities and The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire

55 days ago

How is Orleans not worker placement, though?  It may not be 1-1 worker-to-action, but you are still placing workers to do actions.  

Premium User54 days ago

It's certainly debateable.

Depends how detailed a definition you go with.  If it's simply place things down to do things then pretty much every game has that element.  If it's put things down in designated spots to do things then it would include Orleans.  And perhaps that's the one you are going with.

I think for me the lack of a shared area to place workers makes me tend to think of Orleans as something else but that's just my way of thinking.

BGG classifies Orleans as a worker placement and that's the closest thing to a governing body the hobby has so in the end you are likely correct.

Partner2 months ago

Yea, I felt a little dirty adding Orleans more than Everdell but figured they were on the list so why not talk about them.

I am a huge fan of #Russian Railroads and think it is terribly underrated. 

Premium User2 months ago

It definitely isn't talked about as much as it should be.  My friends and I all love it and we have a diverse set of interests.

The game is perfectly balanced.  Every path or set of paths is viable.  The enjoyment vs time/effort spent is spot on.  Going first all the time is great if you take advantage of it but you can also do really well going last all the time if you plan for it.  I could go on.

 

2 months ago

Mine: Are:

  1. Beyond the Sun
  2. Yokohama
  3. Caylus 1303
  4. Dune Imperium
  5. Architects of the West Kingdom
  6. Agricola
  7. Tokaido
  8. Everdell
  9. Stone Age
  10. Harbour
  11. Lord's of Waterdeep

But some of these are dirty with other mechanics too.

2 months ago

#Yokohama is one of the best games that almost no one talks about. Definitely in my Top 10.

Partner2 months ago

Great list!

2 months ago

Popularity is a very interesting way to sort. If measured correctly, it becomes a very objective measure method. That being said, popularity and quality are very thinly related, if at all.

I haven't played all of the games on the list so I will only say this one thing: I strongly believe that #Agricola is a much much much better game than both #Caverna: The Cave Farmers and #A Feast for Odin.

Partner2 months ago

Couldn't agree with you more about the relation of popularity and quality, especially in board games. It should not be taken as the end all be all measure, but it is interesting to look at. It is fun to compare versus my own tastes.

2 months ago

My favorites are Stone Age and Agricola.  I want to try Everdell and Feast for Odin though!

Partner2 months ago

Those are two great ones for the todo list, you will not be disappointed!

2 months ago

Would Robinson Crusoe be considered worker placement? If so, that'd get my vote.

Partner2 months ago

I would not but I gues it does have some. And it is a fantastic game so why not...

2 months ago

My favorites on this list are Viticulture, Tzolkin, and Orleans. 

Partner2 months ago

Great mix there!

2 months ago

I think #Champions of Midgard is one of the best in the genre and is one of my top games ever. Love that game!

Also, #Dune: Imperium is outstanding, and I love #Tidal Blades: Heroes of the Reef. I'd definitely add those to the list, and ranked near the top as well.

I think #Stone Age is a fine game, but there are others that do it better (in my opinion).

Partner2 months ago

I think the issue with #Stone Age is that it is so simple that any worker placement player who has been around the block is looking for more gameplay.

Agree with you on #Champions of Midgard , it is just the right amount of everything jam packed into one experience. And I could definitely see Dune and Tidal Blades blowing up more as people experience them.

Partner2 months ago

I do like #Champions of Midgard though it hasn't hit the table in a while. I think the reason for it is we mostly play with two and it is terrrible at that player count. One of the reasons for that is the board is too wide open (even more so with expansions). The novel thing about worker placements is the tension that is created when another player takes the spot that you really need. In champions, there are so many more options availble that it doesn't even matter.

2 months ago

I feel like the popularity world is so buzz driven. If something doesn't make a splash right when it debuts, its gets lost forever. And then Content Creators jump on the most popular of the titles, perpetuating the circle.

I will give credit out there that a lot of reviewers or content creators do have standards and will report when they fins a legitamite diamond in the rough.

Partner2 months ago

Very true, it is hard for little guys to make a splash amongst more hyped titles.

Premium User2 months ago

I agree with some of these and remain unsure on the one's I have not played ( #Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar , #A Feast for Odin , #Lords of Waterdeep , #Caverna: The Cave Farmers

#Anachrony and #Paladins of the West Kingdom are missing from this list and I would put #Raiders of Scythia in as well and remove Stone Age, Tzolkin, and Perhaps Everdell (partly because Everdell is more Tableau building than worker placement). 

I think there may be room to argue for #Agricola and #Teotihuacan: City of Gods as well.  

This is of course, all very subjective :)   Given more time, thought, and game play I might have a more honed list.

Partner2 months ago

You are really showing how many great Worker Placement games there are out there. Lots of good insights here. The next five on the list by popularity are

11. #Agricola 12. #Champions of Midgard 13. #Keyflower 14. #Teotihuacan: City of Gods 15. #Paladins of the West Kingdom. So your instincts are right. Anachrony is at #21 and Raiders of Scythia has not cracked the top 50 yet.

I think #Anachrony and #Raiders of Scythia are going to move up the list but I fear the others like Agricola are only going to fade over time with more interest from other, newer titles.

I would be interested to hear what you think of #Agricola after playing #Caverna: The Cave Farmers

Premium User2 months ago

I need to find a friend with #Caverna: The Cave Farmers.  I remember watching a playthrough one time and thinking it looked good.  I liked #Agricola ok but I was borrowing it and while I thought it was fun I would not purchase it myself.  I have a hunch that Agricola is a little like #Stone Age; 

It's a great game but there are better ones out there.  I owner Stone Age for a while and we just stopped playing it in lieu of some of the other games I listed previously.  

Worker placement is one of my favorite mechanics.  I suspect I just like meeples.

 

Premium User2 months ago

You have at least one friend who owns#Caverna: The Cave Farmers. Trouble is you need to make your way to NY to play it lol

Partner2 months ago

If you like Meeples, I did not love #Wayfinders, but the game does have these beautifully cut, plastic finished meeples. That is a game that claims to have worker placement elements but I disagree because you are not fighting over different and limited spaces.

Wayfinders Meeples