Tableau-Builders: My favorite unrecognized mechanic, and the games that make it great
Cilantro V
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Columbus
Ohio
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As a relative newcomer to serious boardgaming, I've quickly found myself drawn to a mechanic that I've discovered is un-named at the Geek:
Tableau Building.

I love building things. I like watching the empire grow, and reaping the bounties of continuing expansion. I love putting down developments and carefully sculpting how my game unfolds. Basically, I like games with cards that:

a- must be played to a tableau (a designated space on the table or a board) to be activated

b- have a lasting effect as long as they are in the tableau
updated to reflect discussion below:
b- have a lasting effect on game mechanics as long as they are in the tableau.

Not all games with a player board are tableau builders.
What makes a tableau a tableau? Well, the most important is that it is at least semi-permanent. A tableau will do more than just score you points, though; it allows you access to new gameplay options or tech-tree advancements you would otherwise be unable to use. When you play something to a tableau, it modifies how you play. Some examples:

Build a Smithy to get a discount on future Production buildings. thumbsup
Launch a Shrimp boat to enable you to collect fish cubes. thumbsup
Build a monument to get VP thumbsdown - Simply scoring points doesn't change any future gameplay after you build, so this is not an example of Tableau Building.

That's a pretty loose definition, so check out the list for some better examples.

meeple

This geeklist will hopefully help explain what I mean by Tableau-building, and provide a place to suggest games myself or other fans of this sort of thing might enjoy. (That includes games that "have a tableau-building elements" rather than being all about it, as well as games that might be Tableau-builders- everything is up for debate.) Feel free to contribute!
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51. Board Game: Roma [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:1201] [Average Rating:6.76 Unranked]
Board Game: Roma
Greg H.
United States
Beachwood
Ohio
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For me, a good example of a two-player-only card tableau game.

Each player has a display of cards. Those cards are activated by dice. The position of the cards matters. Different combination of cards opens up all sorts of fun playing possibilities.
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52. Board Game: Groo: The Game [Average Rating:6.30 Overall Rank:4227]
Board Game: Groo: The Game
Steffan O'Sullivan
United States
Plymouth
NH
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This may qualify, though as Groo wanders he can destroy certain buildings in your tableau.
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53. Board Game: Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:766]
Board Game: Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy
M.J.E. Hendriks
Netherlands
Arnhem
Gelderland
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This game is definitely a tableau builder. You are the patriarch or matriarch of a family that you still need to create. You get married first, then have children and over three generations your children and their children too will get married. The marriages are connections to other families that give you fame, wealth and more connections.

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54. Board Game: Homesteaders [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:718]
Board Game: Homesteaders
Ben Holle
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Minnesota
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Great game and surely fits the definition of a tableau-builder.
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55. Board Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:420] [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
Board Game: Sentinels of the Multiverse
TS S. Fulk
Sweden
Örebro
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If Munchkin is here, then this should be here.

You gain powers and equipment throughout the game that interact with each other, the others tableau and the villain's tableau. Sometimes in very surprising ways.
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56. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.13 Overall Rank:15]
Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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So what about this one then? Here each player owns a individual player board where tiles are placed. Most tiles give the player some type of action at once when they are played, but the yellow ones (and there are many of those) give the owner permanent abilities.

I´d be interested to hear if other players think this one fits in this category, which is a category I have hard time disentangling from engine building games in general.

Excellent list though, includes many of my favorite games.
 
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57. Board Game: Helvetia [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:1411]
Board Game: Helvetia
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Board Game: Helvetia
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58. Board Game: Walnut Grove [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:1312]
Board Game: Walnut Grove
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Board Game: Walnut Grove
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59. Board Game: Eclipse [Average Rating:7.89 Overall Rank:53]
Board Game: Eclipse
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Board Game: Eclipse
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60. Board Game: The Manhattan Project [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:333]
Board Game: The Manhattan Project
Evil Bob
Canada
Montreal
Quebec
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You construct buildings and put them in your tableau. Then you place your workers on the buildings to trigger the effects. The interesting twist is that you can "chain" your buildings (ie. placing workers on one building can build more workers, which you can immediately place on another building to gain it's effect, ....).

Very fun game
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61. Board Game: Belfort [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:532]
Board Game: Belfort
Kevin Garnica
United States
West Covina
California
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Tableau-building cards are played in order to make combos on your future turn possible. Sometimes this element is described as Agricolish, Belfort should definitely be on this list.
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62. Board Game: The Ares Project [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:3608]
Board Game: The Ares Project
Geoffrey Engelstein
United States
Bridgewater
New Jersey
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At the risk of being self-serving, The Ares Project is tableau-building in spades - You play cards secretly into your 'base' and they let you build fighting forces as well as gain special abilities.
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63. Board Game: Caylus Magna Carta [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:942]
Board Game: Caylus Magna Carta
Phil Fleischmann
United States
Fountain Valley
CA
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And you could almost count regular Caylus too, since each building beyond the starting ones is owned by someone. It's a tableau-builder, but everyone's tableau is merged onto the same board.
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64. Board Game: PAX [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:2854]
Board Game: PAX
Blake Morris
United States
Henrico
Virginia
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In Pax you pick or buy cards that work together in your tableau. You try to beat Rome (or not, if you have the "Primus Conspiratusor" card) in various categories of symbols on the cards. The mechanism is fairly tight, and the game is not too long for a filler. It also plays 5-8 players with two sets of cards. It has been a hit every time I have brought it out.
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65. Board Game: Antiquity [Average Rating:7.88 Overall Rank:255]
Board Game: Antiquity
Mike Cathcart
United States
West Conshohocken
US
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Played this for the first time recently and really enjoyed building up the cities. I love that you have separate maps for the city and the countryside and how the stuff you build in the city/tableau really changes how you approach things on the bigger map.
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66. Board Game: Last Will [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:461] [Average Rating:7.19 Unranked]
Board Game: Last Will
Christina Crouch
United Kingdom
Tadley
Hampshire
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Hopefully this game fits into the tableau builder genre. Lay out cards on your turn that help you do your actions better.
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67. Board Game: Constantinopolis [Average Rating:6.88 Overall Rank:1883]
Board Game: Constantinopolis
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I just got this one for Christmas and it's got different buildings you build onto your own player mat that give you varying powers. Pretty cool. Can't wait to play it as it looks really good.
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68. Board Game: Pax Porfiriana [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:485]
Board Game: Pax Porfiriana
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This game is amazing. It's all just a small card game in a little box and looks innocent enough. Then the damn game just explodes into play and you are thrust right into it. It's ALL about the tableau's players are building but there's so much going on that it's also about your timing on when to drop cards into play. Brilliant game that has a learning curve...a big one at that.
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69. Board Game: Louis XIV [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:742]
Board Game: Louis XIV
Bradley Shadrix
United States
Colbert
Georgia
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This is an awesome game from Rudiger Dorn, the same designer as Goa and Jambo. Louis XIV combines tableau building with area control and secret missions-all in the court of the Sun King.

 


Board Game: Louis XIV


It won the Deutscher Spiele Preis in 2005. CHECK IT OUT!!!
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70. Board Game: Seasons [Average Rating:7.40 Overall Rank:218]
Board Game: Seasons
Mark M
United States
Florida
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Surprised this wasn't on here already. Includes both cards that have a lasting effect throughout the game as seasons change or other things happen, as well as cards that can be activated upon the players choice. A lot of fun to play as well.
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71. Board Game: Citadels [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:414]
Board Game: Citadels
Citadels definitely belongs here. It has a lot of similar features to San Juan, which was chosen as the initial example of a tableau-builder for this list.

In both games, players spend resources (cards in hand in San Juan, gold coins in Citadels) to place buildings in their tableau, and the games ends whenever any player reaches a designated number of buildings (12 in San Juan, 8 in Citadels).

Additionally, in both games, each building awards a certain amount of victory points at the end of the game.

They both feature "production" buildings (e.g. Indigo Plant, Sugar Mill, etc in San Juan, and the Red/Blue/Green/Yellow buildings in Citadels) which generate more resources for their owner when certain roles are selected.

They also both include "special" buildings that grant bonus abilities/effects to their owner (incidentally, both games use violet/purple to designate these buildings).

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72. Board Game: Bruges [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:268]
Board Game: Bruges
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Brilliant and a current favorite tableau builder of mine. I don't think it's been listed yet, I looked but AGAIN this list would be easier to add to if it was listed by title to check for games.
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73. Board Game: Mundus Novus [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:2035]
Board Game: Mundus Novus
I think this one qualifies for this list. While tableaux-building isn't the main focus of the game per se, it's certainly an important aspect of it. Set collection, hand management, and card-drafting are probably the more prominent aspects, but the development cards you can acquire and place in your tableaux provide different effects that definitely impact the way you play.
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74. Board Game: Quarantine [Average Rating:6.08 Overall Rank:4824]
Board Game: Quarantine
Paul Wilson
United States
Maple Grove
MN
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This is not empire building, but each player is building their own personal hospital. They add tiles that adds efficiency or other special effects.
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75. Board Game: Uchronia [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:2857]
Board Game: Uchronia
Andy Anderlini
United States
Daly City
California
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This one is supposed to be a streamlined relative of Glory to Rome.
 
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