Best Worker Placement Board Games (with Reviews)

If you have been playing board games for any time, you have probably found yourself trying out a few different genres. Today we will explore one of the more popular genres (or mechanics), and have a look at the best Worker Placement board games.

These games play quite differently than Deck Building board games or Card Drafting board games, but are quite fun in their own regard.

If you haven’t ventured down this path, or want a quick refresher, let’s start with a quick explanation of what a worker (or people) placing game is.

A worker placement game is a board game in which players have a number of workers/people/Meeples that they will place on ‘action spaces’ in order for them to do some sort of ‘work’ or gain some sort of benefit for the player.

An action space can be an assortment of things. It could be a space to help you collect a resource, or a space to allow you to build something, or gain another Meeple, or even gain the first player token, etc. Some games have the same action space the entire time, while others add new action spaces as the game progresses.

This may sound a little abstract, but it is intentionally general, as it covers the most basic form of the action. Most games in this genre have their own special set of rules such as number of Meeples, number of spaces, or order of play.

In many of these games once an action space is occupied, no other players can use the same space until the next round, though not always the case. This creates the interaction element of possibly blocking your fellow players.

Now what would make for the top worker placement board games?

That answer is similar to a lot of the different board games we talk about. We look for a game with a good theme, a good set of rules, and is fairly balanced. We also look for games that are fairly quick to understand, have good replay-ability, and are enjoyable by different demographics. Obviously, these games must be overall fun to play, and have you wanting to play again.

There are a bunch of different worker placement board games out there, so narrowing it down to the best one was fairly tricky. Have a look, and let us know what you think in the comment section below. Maybe there is one that you think we missed that may help out our readers!

Best Worker Placement Board Games Comparison Table

(Click on the thumbnail to jump down to the review)

Image

Game 

Players

Time

Price

Our Rating

2-5

60 - 120 min

$$$

2-5

60 - 150 min

$$$

Agricola

1-5

30 - 150 min

$$$

Caverna

1-7

30 - 210 min

$$$$

2-4

90 min

$$$

2-4

90 min

$$$$

2-5

120 min

$$$

2-4

60 - 90 min

$$$$

2-6

90 min

$$$$

1-5

30 - 150 min

$$$$

Best Worker Placement Board Games

Hexagamers

Lords of Waterdeep makes it to the top of our worker placement board game list for a few reasons. First off it is a fairly simple game, which makes it very accessible to almost everyone. The rules may seem overwhelming at first, but once the basics are understood, it becomes very easy to play. We even included this one in our Best Gateway Board Games.

Some say there is nothing crazy unique about this game in terms of mechanics/game play, however, we found that the way it incorporates the game style with the areas of concentration almost flawless.

Which brings us to the second reason it is at the top of our list.

The rules are very well done. In Lords, there is a great combination of randomness (no, not dice rolling), and strategic focus in deciding where/how to place your workers/Meeples.

At the start of the game you get a random “Lord of Waterdeep” which will somewhat guide your direction of play. These Lords have special abilities in terms of helping you gather Victory Points at the end of the game.

That said, there are a huge number of ways to get to victory. There are intrigue cards (also randomized) that can help you attack other players, or act as a utility for you, or even slow down others. There are building you can buy/build (again, randomized), which get you a few VPs, as well as some ‘rent’ down the road if someone else places their Meeples on your space.

There are also quests, which, as you guessed, are randomized. The quests are the main driver of how you get VPs, with all other spaces helping you along the way to fulfill the quests. You will collect money and cubes along the way in order to pay for the quests. Which, once done, you will collect a reward and earn VPs at the end of the game.

The versatility of this game is the third reason it is one of the best worker placement games. This game can lend itself to beginners all the way through experts. As you get more skilled in this game you can really try to hone in your strategy. Or, if you like variety, you can try one of the many paths available in this game. You could go for lots of buildings, or lots of intrigue cards, or maybe get some quests right off the bat.

Also, the number of Meeples changes depending on the number of players involved, but the number of rounds stays the same!

Not that you need it, but the topper to all the awesomeness mentioned above is that the game components are very well done, and it comes in an awesome box, with a great organizer built in!

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Caylus is considered by some as the granddaddy of all these type of games. We thought about having it as overall best worker placement game, but decided that because of its complexity, it might not be the game for everyone.

Caylus is a game with very little randomness to it in terms of set up, yet doesn’t feel stale, even after many plays.

In this game you are tasked with helping build the castle as well as the other buildings surrounding the castle. Your reward is obviously those tasty Victory Points!

You will do so by placing your Meeples in the castle or in one of the other buildings that are on the road. As the game progresses, you will use the resources and/or money you have collected to help build more buildings (thus allowing more spaces for Meeples). Much like Lords Of Waterdeep, some buildings will allow you to collect rent when other players use that space.

The rules for this game are very dense. That said though, they are very easy to understand, and the flow of the game can be picked up on very easily.

What makes this game very interesting is the amount of strategy you can use throughout it. Not only can you place your Meeples all over to help you get resources, build buildings, or have rewards down the road, but you can also choose to ‘pass’ making things more expensive for other players.

There are also 2 tokens, specifically the Provost and the Bailiff, which can have a dramatic effect on the game. The Bailiff moves along systematically, and at certain points can trigger the end of the Phase (of which there are 3 in the game). Whereas the Provost affects the buildings. Any buildings beyond the Provost (i.e. down the road) will not get ‘activated’ or used at the end of the round. Players can place Meeples strategically in order for the ability to control the Provost and thusly changing the game more in their favor (or out of favor for foes).

It is a very well thought out mechanic that creates great amounts of balance, interaction, and frustration for everyone involved. So, when we say this is a strategic game, you can see the added level you need to focus on. It makes it more of a fluid style of strategy you must have, which is perfect if you have people that play the same boring strategy in every game they play!

It is an older game, but don’t let that deter you, since this one is fundamentally very strong in so many aspects. If you are a hard core board gamer (who doesn’t get analysis paralysis), this is probably the one for you. There is a reason this is such a highly rated worker placement board game.

Our Rating:

Agricola

Agricola (and Caverna which is next) came in high on our top rated worker placement games. We thought about combining them into one spot on the list, but ultimately decided they each deserve their own spot. If you haven’t played these games before, they are from the same designer and play somewhat similar, check out our Agricola Vs Caverna Post to help you decide which one is best for you.

In this one you will set out to grow and expand your farm yard. You will acquire animals (Animeeples), harvest crops, and improve your farm house, while feeding your family and working your way to the most Victory Points as possible.

Agricola, like a lot of the games on this list, is very strategic. The game plays very tight. What do we mean by that? Well, you can find yourself scrambling for a lot of the game. Making decisions based on what do I need ‘right now’ as opposed to ‘what do I need in the future’. For some, this can be frustrating, but for others, it’s exactly the challenge they are looking for.

This game is a good Meeple placing game in the rules are complex since there is a lot of stuff going on (in fact, it might be intimidating for beginner players, see our Simplified Rules here) but once you have played a round or two, everything seems to be very easy to understand.

There are a set number of rounds in this game, with more people placing spots opening up every round. While at select intervals, you must feed your people/Meeples or lose points. If you are smart/lucky, you can set up a food engine so you don’t have to worry too much about this area. It’s worth mentioning here that you can gain more Meeples throughout the game, but yep, you have to feed them as well.

Though this is a heavily strategic game, there is some randomness in the game. You will be given random ‘occupation’ and ‘improvement’ cards at the start of the game, which will ultimately affect your direction of play.

It also plays great with anywhere from 1-5 people.

Our Rating:

Caverna

Caverna, like Agricola, is made by Uwe Rosenberg, and plays somewhat similar. In this game, you still have a farmyard which you must develop, but you also have the option to go and explore some caves!

As mentioned, game play mechanics work very comparable to Agricola in that you start with a set number of Meeples and options for placing them. As the game progresses, more spaces become available and you have more the option of getting more Meeples or workers. The difference in this one is that you also have the option to ‘level up’ (in a matter of speaking) your Meeple so they can do more actions in one turn. A pretty cool little twist.

Caverna is not nearly as tight of a game, in fact, that is what most people like about the game. You have a lot of paths to victory in this one, depending if you want to be an adventurer or a farmer. All routes have their own nuances and fun.

This game is able to be played by a good number of people (6), so that can add to enticement for many. Though, with a bigger game comes more components and a need for more space! Don’t worry though, all that extra stuff doesn’t mean they skimped on the rules and game play mechanics of this game. It is very balanced and well thought out.

The shear volume of rules/actions you can take with this game is one of the reasons it has made it one as one of the best worker placement board games. It would be overwhelming to those who haven’t played strategy board games before, so keep that in mind.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar is a good worker placement game for those that like to plan ahead. Its theme, as you guessed, is set during the Mayan times, and you are trying to win the favor of the gods.

You do this by collecting resources, building buildings, erecting monuments, and more via placing your Meeples on this very creative board.

What is so creative about it?

Well, the board is covered in gears! These gears not only make the game stand out from a uniqueness perspective, but they are also the driving force behind the mechanics of the game.

You will place your workers/Meeples on different spaces around the board (some of these spaces are not attached to the gears). As mentioned these spaces will help you collect resources, food, buildings, Victory Points, etc. (each gear having its own theme). The differentiating factor here is that you will leave your Meeples in place until you decide you want to collect its reward.

As players complete their turns, and you work your way through the ‘phases’ of the game, the central gear will turn. This, then turns the 4 other gears, moving your Meeples along to a better resource/reward. You must pay attention though, because if they move too far you won’t be able to collect anything. It adds a very cool spacial planning concept.

Like most of these Meeple placing games, you must feed your Meeples at the end of certain rounds.

There is some randomness to this game in your starting tiles (pick the best 2 of 4), the building tiles, and the monuments. However, if you are able to think in advance you can really plan out your game plan well in advance.

Beware of analysis paralysis with this one as there are many paths to victory. The variety in options is something we Hexagamers love about the game. It makes it easy to try new things, but a difficult game to master.

Tzolk’in can be an unforgiving game with a lot of tension in it, but it is still a great worker placement game… Just don’t lose favor with the gods!

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

If you and your group like yatzee, space themes, and good worker placement board games, then this is the one for you!

Alien Frontiers is a board game set in space, where your objective is to colonize another planet. You will do so by collecting solar energy and ore in order to be able to afford things when you place your workers (aka ships aka dice) on them.

This game takes the worker placement mechanism and puts a bit of a spin on it. Like the other games, there are spots all over where you can place your workers, helping you get resources, colonies, cards, etc. However, in this game, you can only place your workers/dice in a spot depending on what you actually roll with your dice (3 to start). For example, if you roll a pair, you can place those 2 dice and get another ship for the rest of the game. There is also, straights, 3-of-a-kind, etc.

Besides the die randomness, there is also randomness with the artifact/alien technology cards that come up in the game. Also, you can steal from other players too, which is fun (but can result in a stalemate if you have a couple of vengeful Whitneys people at your table.

The other mechanic that sets this game apart from some of the other best worker placement games on the list is the way the workers stay on the board. What we mean is that, your die stay where you played them, potentially blocking others, until it is your next turn and you pick them up. That is to say, there are no ‘rounds’ like with other games in this genre.

The board itself adjusts depending on the number of people playing which is nice, and ends once someone has placed all their colonies on the board.

This one has a great theme, some interesting mechanics, a bit of luck, and some good replay-ability. Some of us Hexagamers aren’t normally fans of dice rolling type of games, but we still decided this should be on the list!

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

The Manhattan Project is another highly rated Euro style worker or people placement board game. The theme of this one is pretty different compared to many of the other games that come across our tables.

In this game, you must train workers, collect resources, construct buildings, all with the end goal of building the most bombs and thus getting to a certain amount of points in order to win the game. Oh, but we forgot to mention that you can attack and espionage on other players in the game, making it very interactive.

There is a lot going on in this game, with upgrading workers to engineers or scientists, with bombers and fighter jets, with bribes and mining. But, with all that, you have one mission. Build the most and biggest bombs.

We won’t go into the extra complexities of loading bombs onto bombers and some of the other subtleties of the game, but just know that this one is heavier than something like Lords of Waterdeep. It is still very balanced, and generally has fairly quick turns.

The mechanics in this one are somewhat similar to Alien Frontiers, in that your workers stay on the board for a while, with no set ‘phases’ of the game where you have to feed your people or anything like that. It is unique, however, in that you can only play one worker on the main board, but you also have your own personal board which is being built out along the way as well. After playing on the main board, you can play as many of your workers on your own personal board as you want. This results in some pretty big and fun plays later in the game.

The theme of this one is well done, even if building bombs isn’t your thing. There is a lot going on with this one, but don’t let that intimidate you as the board helps you understand your actions, making it very easy to pick up on.

If you are looking for more of a “Take That” style of game, The Manhattan Project comes in as one of the best worker placement games for that.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Stone Age is another really good worker placement games. This one is a little lighter than some of the others, on par with a game like Lords of Waterdeep, but that doesn’t mean it is any less fun than the other games listed here. One of the reasons it is further down on the list is due to how hard it can be to find since (at the time of writing) they aren't printing any more of these.

In this game you are making your way through the Stone Age by collecting resources, developing tools, erecting buildings, collecting artifacts, and of course, feeding your people.

Stone Age has a lot of similarities to some of our other favorite worker placement games, but also has some unique differences that set it apart as well.

There is a first player token in this game, that moves after every round, there are resources that help you pay for things, and you can get more Meeples on the board as well, among other things. However, in this one, you can place more than one Meeple in many of the spots (resources and food), you will roll dice to determine how many resources you get, and also you can get points during the game and also after based on what you collected.

Stone Age plays well, and slightly different depending on how many people are playing the game. All are equally as fun.

As mentioned you will roll the number of dice equal to the number of Meeples in a given resource. You get the number of resources based on a multiple of what you roll. For some that don’t like dice rolling games, like Wes, it can be a bit frustrating. However, the fact that you can change your outcome a bit by putting more Meeples, or by developing ‘tools’, can help lower the luck factor of the game. In general, however, it all seems to balance out by the end of the game… Unless you have someone with amazing luck or loaded dice.

There are a number of paths to victory in this game with the tools, artifacts, buildings, etc. so it makes for different strategies whenever you play it. There is also randomness in turning over of cards and buildings, so replayability is high with this one.

If you want a game that is quick to understand and get playing, this one is a good choice. It also doesn’t take long to set up and has good replay-ability. Which is why it is one of the top people placing board games

Hexagamers

Feel like drinking some wine while playing a board game about making wine in Tuscany?! Gotcha covered! Viticulture does just that in this Stonemaier Game.

You must go through all the steps of growing the grapes, harvesting them, crushing them, etc. in order to be able to eventually sell them and to gain victory points. In terms of theme of a game, this one is deep. It really makes you feel like you are owning a vineyard.

This game progresses through a number of ‘years’, which are broken down by the different ‘seasons’. With different actions available during each phase. You can grow grapes, build buildings, and even take people on a tour of the winery. You will collect coins, accomplish tasks, and entertain visitors along your path to create the finest of wines. Ultimately fulfilling orders to be the best known wine maker in the land.

The game starts with a random player going first, but that changes every ‘year’. The first player gets the advantage of deciding how early their workers get up and get to work. The fun mechanic here is that the earlier you are up the more options for choices you have in the next ‘season’, yet the later you get up, the more of a bonus you can get (i.e. cards or money or even an extra temporary worker next ‘year’).

This game has a 2 sided game board, though they are the same board but one has less writing on it. It also has individual player boards which you will keep track of your wine on (yes you can have red, white, blush, and sparkling). It comes with some of the coolest Meeple/Animeeple figures out there. The production value of this game is awesome!

There are a few mechanics here that are different from other games. Most notably is the Grande Worker. The Grande Worker can do any action he wants, even if the space is already occupied. As mentioned, there are different ‘seasons’, mainly summer and winter, that you can do different actions in, yet you only have limited Meeples. The cool thing here is that you can skip your turn to hold onto a Meeple.

The game plays well with any number of people. In fact, the number of available spaces per action changes accordingly. You’ll feel like you have a lot of options, yet want to do so much more every time, which is the makings of a good worker placement game. You don’t have to drink wine to enjoy this game, but we’ll let you make that decision.

Our Rating:

Hexagamers

Le Havre is one of the best worker placement board games around. We were going to put this one higher on the list, but we already had two games by Uwe Rosenberg on the list (Agricola and Caverna). This one follows some of same principles and mechanics that the other two have, yet is unique enough to be on the list and to be on our shelves as well. Plus, at the time of writing this article, this game is in short supply and can be a bit hard to find.

In this game you are running a shipping company in the port of Le Havre, trying to become the biggest and best company there. You will collect resources, build buildings, and buy/build ships in order to get your goods out for purchase.

This game is different from the others in that you only have one worker the entire game. That may sound a little boring, but trust us, it’s not. You will have to decide between collecting resources or food, or trying to expand your empire with buying a building or using a building to help further your cause. Eventually you will buy ships so that you can get goods out to see.

This game has a lot of great features going for it. First, it scales very balanced as you add more players. Second, even though there is lots going on, it is easy to understand. Third, it seems to have a bunch of great options for your worker on every turn you have. Not that the list ends here, but turns in this game seem to go by fairly quickly, so it should hold even the shortest of attention spans like Titos.

It is similar to other games in that you have to feed your workers (every 7 turns), and that almost all information is readily available for all players. You can get paid a ‘rent’ for buildings you own, and collect VPs, or rather money, to try to win the game.

It has an interesting dynamic in that you can take out loans (which accumulate interest), and can convert money to food for your people. You won’t feel as stuck in this one as many other games in this genre.

You won’t always move your worker every turn, since you might be spending that turn simply collecting resources. Thus leaving your worker where they are can really block other players.

Lastly, this game has some good replay-ability because the buildings, ships, and order of goods is randomized every game, so you will have to shift your strategy accordingly. Not to mention it has a very strong theme! All reasons why this game has made it in as one of the top worker placement board games.

Conclusion

The genre of worker placement games is one that gained popularity very quickly, and rightfully so. The idea of sending out your Meeples to do some work for you in order to accomplish your goals is a pretty fun concept to get behind. There are some similarities amongst the games, but we tried to find some that we loved that were a slightly different take on the same thing in order to find something for everyone. We like that these games have a good interactive quality to them in that it really matters what your neighbor decides they want to do. They have good themes which is important to us, and usually have an element or two that helps in randomness and replay-ability.

There were a couple games that were close to making the list that may eventually come in as honorable mentions or may even knock someone out of the top ten. Check back often to see if there are any updates. Also, as per usual, let us know in the comments which worker placement games are your favorite. This helps us find new games, and also lets your fellow readers know of a game they might be missing out on!

About the author

HexaGamers

We are the HexaGamers. Six good friends that love all things game related that gets us together to enjoy each other's company.

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