A worker placement game is any game in which players place one or more pawns on a play surface to claim the right to do a specific action.
Typically, this means that no other player can do the same action that turn — though many games include exceptions to that rule. In Lords of Waterdeep, for example, players take turns placing “agents” on locations within the city of Waterdeep. Each location grants a specific action. In general, Waterdeep locations can accommodate just one agent. “Waterdeep Harbor,” however, includes spaces for up to three agents. Other in-game effects allow players to remove their agents from locations (freeing it up for a second use that turn) or allow players to place agents on an already-occupied location.
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Russian Railroads departs from the traditional worker placement formula by sometimes requiring players to place more than one worker on a space to use it. This game also allows players to use in-game money to replace workers they don’t have available or don’t want to use on that action.
Worker placement games are often blended with other game genres and mechanics. Lords of Waterdeep includes elements of card drafting and set collection. Un-blended worker placement games tend to be among the most mentally challenging games on the market today.
Examples of pure worker placement games:
- Russian Railroads
- Pillars of the Earth
- Le Havre
Examples of hybrid worker placement games:
- Lords of Waterdeep
- Alien Frontiers
- Stone Age