Board Game Mechanics 101: Worker Placement
Welcome class, take your seats and get ready to delve into what could be the base mechanic for your future million dollar award winning board game.
Today we will be focusing on what is arguably the most popular mechanic in the board gaming world today, worker placement.
It is the board game mechanic of taking a marker and placing it on a spot on the board and doing what the space allows a player to do. For example, movement, collecting resources, buying new items, etc. And with some small tweaks to worker placement can come a plethora of game types.
We will be using 3 modern designer board games to show you some of the more popular ways worker placement is being used in today's modern game designs.
To give a sense of urgency, give each action on the board a limit. Such as the number of players who can use the spot. A good example of this is Stone Age, where there are only 7 spots to be used per round in each of the resource collection actions. This gives the players the decision on whether to go for the short-term gain or risk losing the chance to use the action completely.
Related: Local Designer Series: Christina Ng and Yeo Keng Leong, Designers of Three Kingdom Redux
Manhatten Project: Energy Empire
If not, how about encouraging a calmer but more brain-burning game, that focuses more on resource collection. You can do this by allowing others to use the same spot as a previous player but it will cost them more resources in the game to use the spot again.
Manhatten Project: Energy Empire is a good example of this as you have to pay one more worker than the previous player to use the same action on the board.
Another way to do worker placement is to incorporate it with another mechanic. In Kingsburg, you first roll your dice, which are your "workers" and then place them on spots that match the numerical value of the characters you wish to influence. This mix of luck and strategy keeps the game unpredictable yet tactical.
Kingsburg also shows that the worker can be anything in the game, not just a meeple or token.
Worker placement is so popular as it allows players to keep track of actions used during the game, while easily relaying information at a glance. If you are designing your first game, this is definitely a good first mechanic to look at. Give it a go towards designing your dream game. I am happy to be of service and if you have any questions feel free to send them to me in the comments or at email@example.com.