Last week, I wrote about another excellent worker placement game, Architects of the West Kingdom. It could definitely be considered for this list, but I wanted to talk about games I had a few more plays of under my belt. Worker placement is one of my favourite mechanics in games and this a collection of five that I think are just great!
This was my introduction to worker placement games (as I’m sure it was for a lot of people). Caylus actually sat on my friend’s shelf for a long time before we had the time to learn and play it. Once we did, it became part of our regular rotation and we really feel in love. You work to construct new buildings and add the the castle under the watchful eye of an unhappy king. Caylus is one of the most loved games of podcaster and game designer Ryan Sturm. He often sings its praises and even spends the month of May dedicated to playing it as much as he can. It’s been a while since I got it to the table, and admittedly it has aged a bit. There are new games that take the mechanic to a different level, but I will always be happy to play this classic any time I get the chance.
Lords of Waterdeep
Set in the Dungeons & Dragons world, Lords of Waterdeep is a streamlined, fun, and highly repayable. You have a team of Agents that you send to the various locations of the town to earn money, recruit adventurers, construct buildings, and complete quests. The locations you can send out your Agents is pretty limited at the start of the game, but as new buildings start appearing, a wealth of options becomes available. Each player gets a secret Lord card which earns you points for completing certain kinds of quests, like Skullduggery, Piety, and Warfare. I find this to be a really swingy game, with the lead changing hands a lot over the course of eight rounds, but that’s all part of the fun. I haven’t had much experience with the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion, but I love the base so much, I’m not too bothered by that.
The Godfather: Corleone’s Empire
This is one of my favourite Eric Lang games and it’s criminal it doesn’t get more love. You take control of your family looking to put yourself in a position to take over the city if anything should happen to Don Corleone. You’ll acquire goods like Alcohol, Blood Money, and Guns by sending out Thugs and Family Members to shakedown different businesses around New York City. The Godfather successfully marries worker placement with area control, as you gain dominance over the various turfs, gaining spoils if anyone dares to enter your area. The ultimate goal is to have the most money squirrelled away in your suitcase by the end of the game, but you’re going to have to be willing to gun down the competition and throw the bodies in the Hudson if you want to win the favour of the Don.
This has such a unique approach to the worker placement mechanic. Your workers are dice, and technically space ships. You roll them at the start of you turn and then use them at the various space stations around the newly discovered planet to gain resources, acquire new ships, get tech cards, and create new colonies on the surface. The game is a race to get your colonies out on the board before anyone, else, but I love the fact that there are so many paths to victory. At the end of the game the person with the most points wins, so it’s not just colonizing, but where you set up there new communities that’s important. Alien Frontiers has an incredibly high replay value for me. It’s definitely one of my favourite games of all time, and certainly worthy of making this list.
This is one of those games that I am terrible at, yet I still love it. Well, maybe terrible isn’t the right word, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever won it. In Energy Empire, you represent a nation looking to develop your own engine for creating power. You can focus on Government, Industry, or Commerce to accomplish your goals. There is a main board where you can send workers to perform tasks, but throughout the game you’ll all get new cards and they will then become places you can send workers to. While you’re building up your nation’s energy program, you do have to consider the environment. If you make decisions too recklessly, you’ll pollute your skies, forests, and lakes, costing you crucial points…and the health of your citizens. I’m going to use a cliched word here, but the design of Energy Empire is truly elegant. It comes together beautifully and is one I love coming back to whenever I have the chance.