I never specifically sought out worker placement games myself, but I found that it was a prominent mechanic in a lot of the other games I played. I’ve always loved games where the moves you make in one turn pay off down the road, and it didn’t take me long to realize that worker placement board games were the genre those games had in common.
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If you’re looking for some fun, strategic games that can make you feel like a genius (even on accident), feel free to read on for our recommendations of the best worker placement board games!
What are Worker Placement Games?
Worker placement games are basically exactly what they sound like. Players use specific pieces on the board (“workers”) to perform specific actions on their turn. This mechanic is also known as “action drafting,” and is key in games that only allow you to perform one action per turn. Assigning workers strategically lets you make the most of your turn, earning additional resources and/or rewards to put you in the lead.
Worker placement games generally make use of one or more of the following mechanics:
- Drafting: pulling items (cards, tiles, dice, etc.) from a shared pool
- End Game Bonuses: earning/losing additional points at the end of the game
- Hand Management: earning rewards for playing cards in a particular order
- Income: gaining resources at set times during the game
- Set Collection: valuing items as a set, rather than individually
- Tile Placement: placing physical components or resources on the board
- Worker Placement: choosing from a specific set of actions to complete on a given turn
Worker placement games tend to go hand-in-hand with resource management games. If you end up being a fan of this genre, consider checking out our roundup of best resource management games for more recommendations!
Best Worker Placement Games
Without further ado, here are our picks for the top 10 worker placement games!
The best worker placement game overall
Designer: Uwe Roseburg | Players: 1–5 | Duration: 30-150min | Difficulty: 5/5
Agricola takes you back to a simpler time when the daily grind had a more literal meaning — literally grinding grain to make flour. In this charming little game, you and your fellow players become 15th-century peasants doing their best to survive and care for their growing family in rural Europe.
A larger family comes with benefits, namely more workers for your little homestead. Your farm requires maintenance, and you’re only one person. Expanding your family gives you more workers to help with building fences, growing crops, raising animals, and more. You’ll want to be strategic about where you place your workers and how you use your Action Cards, as it only takes one bad season to fall behind your opponents.
Agricola was featured on our list of the best board games like Catan — if you like this game, check out the other titles in our roundup!
2. Stone Age
The best worker placement game for beginners
Designer: Bernd Brunnhofer| Players: 2–4 | Duration: 60–90min | Difficulty: 2/5
If you like Agricola or A Feast for Odin for their immersive settings, you might consider checking out Stone Age. This game takes you even further back in time, all the way to (you guessed it) the Stone Age. Back in the time of primitive but innovative tools, community-minded people had to work together, trade, and expand to improve their chances of survival in a harsh world.
You and your fellow players will compete for food, delegating members of your tribe to certain tasks to help your people. You’ll hunt for food, obviously, but you’ll also search and trade for new resources. It sounds simple enough, but careful strategy is required — come up short on food during the third phase, and you risk losing valuable points.
3. Le Havre
The best worker placement game for advanced players
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg | Players: 1–5 | Duration: 30–150min | Difficulty: 4/5
Le Havre is a game about building a fortune through trade. Players are supplied with goods that you can choose to either distribute, upgrade, or use for the sake of greater returns in the future. Throughout the game, you’ll feed their workers and slowly begin to see more dividends. At the end, you’ll add up the value of your various assets, and the player with the greatest fortune wins!
Le Havre is a simple game with a complicated execution. The premise is simple enough, but you’ll have to be careful about your strategy to ensure you always have the resources available to take care of your workers. You’ll never be able to get ahead if you’re always trying to make up ground, so budget your goods wisely!
4. Viticulture Essential Edition
The best worker placement game for solo players
Designer: Jamey Stegmaier, Alan Stone | Players: 1–6 | Duration: 45-90min | Difficulty: 3/5
Viticulture lets you flex your business management skills (and your love of wine) by building a flourishing winery up from scratch. Assign your workers to various roles in your vineyard — they’ll be in charge of planting and harvesting grapes, creating new types of wine, and expanding the winery for better production. Earn victory points by, like the best worker placement board games with friends, fulfilling increasingly complicated wine orders. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points wins!
This game leans heavily into its worker placement elements. Not only do you have to keep up with the regular production demands of your business, you also have to set aside time and resources to expand your winery. A bigger winery means more efficiency and improved storage, allowing you to churn out more rewarding orders even faster. Keep an eye on which actions will bring you the greatest rewards, and assign your workers accordingly.
We also talked about Viticulture on our list of the best board games like Catan, so keep in mind that the Essential Edition looks a bit different. This version includes modified rules, a solo mode, and a few other additions from the Tuscany expansion!
5. A Feast for Odin
The best worker placement game for small groups
Designer: Uwe Rosenburg | Players: 1–4 | Duration: 30–120min | Difficulty: 4/5
A Feast for Odin provides players with a challenge befitting of its premise. In this game, you’ll live the life of a fierce and noble Viking — an explorer and conqueror, founding new civilizations for the glory of their gods.
It’s not all about raiding and rioting, either. The goods you plunder during your conquests are valuable trading resources, and you’ll be in charge of trading them out and claiming your rewards (in the form of victory points). At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points is declared the winner.
A Feast for Odin was featured on our roundup of the best resource management games. If you like the part of the game that involves earning and trading your spoils, consider checking that list out for more recommendations!
6. Alien Frontiers
The best worker placement game for midsize groups
Designer: Tory Niemann | Players: 2–4 | Duration: 90min | Difficulty: 3/5
As an extraterrestrial colonizer, you want nothing more than to explore and develop the greater reaches of space. Your latest target is the planet Maxwell, once home to an advanced alien race, now left desolate and unoccupied. Throughout the game, you’ll develop new technology and terraform the planet, setting up colonies in strategic locations that help you gain an edge over your fellow players. With the help of a mysterious but powerful artifact left behind by the planet’s previous occupants, you’ll be able to go beyond simple colonization. There are fleets to build, alien life forms to study, and even more to love in Alien Frontiers.
Each turn, you’ll assign your fleet (represented by dice) to different tasks across the planet. You’ll collect resources, colonize, and expand your reach and influence, sometimes even resorting to dirty tactics to undercut your opponents like the best worker placement board games. Watch out that they don’t do the same to you, though — Earth laws don’t apply out here in space.
If you like this title, also consider checking out Terraforming Mars! It’s one of our favorites, ranking high on our lists of best games like Catan, best resource management games, and best engine-building games.
7. Caverna: The Cave Farmers
The best worker placement game for large groups
Designer: Uwe Rosenberg | Players: 1–7 | Duration: 90–120min | Difficulty: 4/5
Made by the same designer behind Agricola, Caverna is another worker placement game centered around farming and growing a family. This time, you play as a family of dwarves living in a little mountain cave, and your goal is to expand by digging deeper into the mountain and cultivating the land outside of your rocky home.
Caverna is a great pick for fans of Agricola who are looking for something new. While Caverna is a redesign of Agricola in many ways, it also introduces new mechanics and elements to keep even veteran players happy. It also features room for two more players, making it one of the best board games for large groups.
8. Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar
The most replayable worker placement game
Designer: Simone Luciani, Daniele Tascini | Players: 2–4 | Duration: 90min | Difficulty: 4/5
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar introduces a unique and interesting mechanic in the form of dynamic worker placement. There are a lot of moving pieces to Tzolk’in — namely, a massive gear in the center of the game board that rotates throughout the game. On your turn, you can choose to either place a worker on the wheel or pick them up, performing the action indicated on the space they were removed from to earn points. The game ends when the gear makes one full rotation, and the player with the most points wins.
Tzolk’in has special rules surrounding the placement of workers on the gear. You’re not allowed to pass, for example — when it’s your turn, you must either place or pick up a worker from the gear. Depending on the resources you have available, this could mean that you have to remove workers before you’re ready. You have to be ready to adjust your strategy on the fly. Fear not, however — the game offers several paths to victory, so you’re never going to be left out to dry!
9. Lords of Waterdeep
The best worker placement RPG
Designer: Peter Lee, Rodney Thompson| Players: 2-5 | Duration: 60–120min | Difficulty: 2/5
Fans of D&D may recognize Waterdeep as the wealthy city-state along the Sword Coast, run by the mysterious and infamous council of Lords. In Lords of Waterdeep, you and your fellow players are cast as these Lords and tasked with maintaining your hold on the town and increasing your wealth and influence through strategic gameplay.
The game lasts for eight rounds, during which you’ll place your agents at one of several points around the game board. On your turn, you can choose to visit special locations that give you various bonuses, complete quests for rewards, or construct buildings to earn victory points. Your identity is hidden from other players, and each Lord has a secret objective that earns them bonus victory points at the end of the game. The player with the most victory points wins!
10. Caylus 1303
The best medieval worker placement game
Designer: William Attia | Players: 2–5 | Duration: 60–90min | Difficulty: 3/5
In Caylus 1303, you and your fellow players are tasked with building a town and castle from the ground up. Each round consists of four phases (Planning, Activation, Delivery, and Stewardship) in which you’ll assign your workers to build lots, spend resources on constructing new buildings or the castle itself, and activate special effects that net you additional rewards. You’ll earn prestige points as you go, and the player with the most prestige points at the end of the game wins.
It sounds straightforward enough for worker placement board games, but the competitive twist can make things a bit harder. Caylus 1303 employs a randomized setup and variable turn order, making it more difficult to plan your moves out in advance. The variable turn order also allows your opponents to move a piece called the Provost, which can halt your forward progress and make it impossible to construct new buildings. Gameplay is all about making the most of your turns and tricking other players to maintain your lead.
High Ground View
That’s it for our list of the ten best worker placement board games — thanks for reading! If you have any suggestions for games or genres you’d like us to cover in the future, please let us know in the comments. Don’t forget to subscribe to our email list for more tabletop recommendations!