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Top 10 Worker Placement Games
Robert Carroll
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Below is my Top 10 list of worker placement games. Per BGG, the Worker Placement "mechanic requires players to draft individual actions from a set that is available to all players. Drafting is done one-at-a-time and in turn order. Once drafted, an action can no longer be taken until a subsequent turn or until the action space is no longer occupied by a worker." These are games that substantially meet all of the following criteria: (1) uses worker placement as the primary mechanic; (2) adresses the mechanic and/or "theme" in an interesting or compelling manner; and (3) fun to play. This is a list of the BEST! Please note that these are not selected based on their overall quality; but how each game meets the criteria and more importantly how each game address the worker placement mechanic. As a result, a game like Agricola, which is normally ranked very high, may not be ranked as high on this list (or at all) as compared to other games solely based on use of the worker placement mechanic. As always, your mileage may vary and some entries may be "controversial." As such, please feel free to comment, debate, or just express your own point of view. Feel free to thumbsup this list (to draw attention and more comments) or any pleasing, interesting or thought provoking entries. If I missed one that you feel is essential or I am "insane for not listing" (trust me, it has been said before), then by all means let the comments fly . . . just be civil. FYI - I am a sucker for comments and discussion and usually thumbsup most if not all of them.


I find that these lists sometimes are helpful for others seeking similar games and the more rich the discussion for more useful the list.

For a complete listing of my Top 10 lists, see--MetaList: Nap's Top 10 Lists.

As always, thanks for reading and participating!
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1. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:20]
Robert Carroll
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Lawrence
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The gold standard for worker placement games. Great depth to it, with enough of a "screw you" factor (in the form of the Provost) to prevent the multiplayer solitaire aspect of most other cubepushers. Scales amazingly well as well, as each different player number actually makes the game feel different.

--Norman S. (Spiff)
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2. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:48]
Robert Carroll
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Lawrence
Kansas
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Stone Age is highly intuitive to play and develops naturally.

A fun placement game that's shorter than Caylus and Pillars, but enjoyably strategic with multiple ways to win. The board is beautiful and the components are great. Other placement games force you to collect things in a certain order, but not in Stone Age, you're free to collect things in the order that you want. You're also free to choose the amount of luck in the game because you choose the number of dice.

Stone Age is a smooth game, stripped of excess, and highly replayable. Plays great with 2.

--Doobermite (dbmite)
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3. Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:176]
Robert Carroll
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Lawrence
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The ultimate worker placement game! I absolutely adore P.O.T.E. The board is beautiful, the components are top notch, the gameplay is uniquely original. The only issue I have with the game now is that no-one will play it with me anymore! My number 2 ranked game.

--Patrick McNamara (bigmac33070)
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4. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:6]
Robert Carroll
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Yes, yes, YES! The sadists weep because the masochists have all gone off to play Agricola, and who can blame them - being punched in the face never felt so good. Simply freaking exhilarating. You will know that your own special moment in history has arrived the first time you feed your family clay for dinner, because your Farm-Fu is so powerful. Agricola is the bee's knees and the D's Bs (or perhaps the Wildschwein's Bs?).

Why does Agricola excite me while outwardly similar games like Caylus, The Pillars of the Earth and Leonardo da Vinci do not? Two reasons. First and most importantly, Agricola has drama. It hurls you into a burning house and locks the doors from the outside. You're doomed, but the prettiest corpse wins. There is simply not enough time to do what you need to do, so you merely do what you can. Through its sheer brutality, it creates the tension and urgency that I didn't find in other games from its genre. Agricola makes me feel like I'm walking a knife's edge, and what might be a small tactical decision in other games could lead to ruin here. How thematically appropriate, as well!

Secondly, Agricola manages to create a different game experience every time you play, on a level far beyond almost any other so-called Euro. Every game offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities because of your hand of 14 cards, chosen from a set of hundreds. The designer Uwe Rosenberg has taken a page from the Anglo-American school of game design here, adopting the variety, chaos, and rule-breaking powers of games like Cosmic Encounter and Magic: The Gathering. It's a welcome breath of fresh air in a German game market that has been growing a little stale in recent years.

--Joshua Miller (Glamorous Mucus)
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5. Board Game: Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:77]
Robert Carroll
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Lawrence
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My favorite of the worker placement games primarily because of a theme that I love. It's the first game since Conquistador to capture discovery of the New World effectively. It plays fast, but has lots of variety and a little luck thrown in.

--Tom Decker (TheRook)
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6. Board Game: The Manhattan Project [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:142]
Robert Carroll
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I've come to the conclusion that one of the best strategies in this game is to have a lot of mediocre buildings. Pretty much the only board actions I try to take are espionage and construction (for free). Having mediocre buildings means you are rarely the primary target for espionage - which can be deadly - and having a lot of them means it's expensive to try and bomb you; and when they do, it's less effective.
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Stylistically, I feel that TMP most closely compares to Caylus, in that it is a low-luck, somewhat vicious worker placement game. TMP arguably has more variability, fresher and tighter theme, and more viciousness. Whereas 2-player Caylus can be very chess-like, TMP is closer to Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization, in that optimal play will vary based on the available cards.

Mechanically, it shares a lot with Homesteaders, in that you have a set of buildings that is for your exclusive use, and you have multi-stage conversion workers into resources into victory points. TMP dispenses with the land plot auctions (which is Homesteaders only point of interactivity) and adds in a main board for common actions, with airstrikes and espionage to make it more interactive.

I feel it is superior to Stone Age, Carson City, and The Pillars of the Earth because in those games, a string of bad luck can put you behind. Apart from the variability of the card draft, there is no luck in TMP.
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The game is unique in that you spend all game building up this potential energy, which gets suddenly released in a paroxysm of frenzied bomb building. For most of the game scores are at 0. It's only in the last few turns where there is any scoring at all.

--Tim Seitz (out4blood)
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7. Board Game: Carson City [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:231]
 
Robert Carroll
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Lawrence
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Carson City is one of my absolute favorite worker placement games. It shares the "road" of action spaces with Caylus, but adds a city building grid, and dice tossing (!!) for showdowns over spaces if players duel at the location.

So why do I like this game so much? First, the worker placement game in general is a favorite of mine, as it keeps everyone involved and adds that tension of choices of wanting to do three things and having to pick one. But what separates Carson City specifically from the increasing number of worker placement games is that it is incredibly thematic. Players work together on building a town on the board, and you get to plan on how much that ranch or bank will earn you as other buildings emerge on the board around it. The game requires a lot of planning regarding the synergy between buildings that are placed adjacent.

All this is done in a mere four turns--that's it. You need to plan to accomplish a lot in a little time. And I don't care what some people say, I love rolling dice to settle a duel. The theme is fantastic.

I haven't even scratched the surface of trying some of the different variants in the box (the side of the board with the river, the gun tiles instead of dice, etc.). I do know, though, that I always want to play this game, and I need to give it more love.

--Greg H. (cichlidhead)
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8. Board Game: Lords of Waterdeep [Average Rating:7.83 Overall Rank:28]
Robert Carroll
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Lawrence
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This is the the new Stone Age for me. This is a good entry level worker placement game with a ton of theme. There is more player interaction in this game than most worker placement games through intrigue cards and a pretty tight building array. Plays well with any number of players and each quantity of players makes a different game.

--Bob Hansen (kixdsky)
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9. Board Game: Cuba [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:265]
Robert Carroll
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Lawrence
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One of the best worker placement games! Has elements of Pillars of the Earth, Caylus, and Puerto Rico; but a whole lot of just good old Cuba. Light up a cigar and enjoy! Okay, if you want to keep your game in a smoke free home, then don't light up.

--Sam Corwin (SamwiseGamgeeBan)
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10. Board Game: Alien Frontiers [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:92]
Robert Carroll
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Fantastic worker placement game. Components are great and the theme is pretty good. Art design is top-notch. Easy to learn and play. Combolicious. Excellent 2 player.

--the scrub (scrub)
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