Sandwiches taste better in triangles. And sandwich bread tastes better without the crust (though not non-sandwich bread). Tacos are also sandwiches. I couldn’t tell you what my favorite sandwich is, but I have opinions that cut across the spectrum on other things about sandwiches. My feelings on board games aren’t dissimilar.
At times, I won’t remember if I’ve played a game before if it was years ago, and other times, I may remember the experience or the feelings, but little of the game play. But there was one game from years ago where most of the game and experience is lost to time, but there was a very specific part that was rattling around in my head for some reason in the last few weeks, and it was a location from a worker placement game.
Anyway, so I thought it would be interesting to look at worker placement games – not from the standpoint of our favorite games, but what are our favorite (whatever that word may mean to you) locations to go to.
Here’s what we think:
James Nathan: My favorite is “Commune System” from OWACON/Code of Nine, designed by BakaFire. This space and another space in OWACON do something I haven’t found it other worker placement games (though certainly I haven’t played them all): they take two people to trigger. Most locations are limited to one person and are triggered when a player initially goes there, but the dual spaces trigger at the end of a round. If only one player has gone there, something fairly dull happens that certainly wasn’t the best use of an action. However, if two players go there, both benefit greatly.
The locations in general are for fairly mundane resource gathering, and really only one of these can even be spent in the game. The rub is that scoring will be determined by 8 randomly dealt out scoring cards, of which you know 2. The others will need to be deduced by how the other player’s are playing, and certain actions that let you peek at their cards. For each player, one of the scoring cards is fairly easy to view, and the other is not. “Commune System” is a way to view the deeply hidden scoring card. I love the tension with regards to the turn order and the perceived standing of if the location is worth it for the first player, and if the location is worth it for the second player.
Runner-up: The 0-1 cm tail length location in Fauna. Sometimes you just have to gamble that an animal doesn’t have a tail.
Matt Carlson: Surely the boring default is the space to get more workers…. Who doesn’t like that? In some games this is a no-brainer move, but I do like to try for the “more workers” space even in games where it isn’t already a given. For a more festive choice, I am partial to the dial in T’zolkin where you can trade grain for goods and vice versa. Since you can do it as much as you like I like the ability to rearrange my goods into as much wood and/or grain as I wish. Oh, and does chucking cubes into the Castillo in El Grande count? (Could always use a few more in there….)
Mark Jackson: No one (least of all my fellow writers here on the OG) will be surprised that my worker placement game choices are a little less mainstream:
- In Dungeon Lords (with the Festival Season expansion), I particularly enjoy sending my minions to buy monster pets. In a similar fashion, getting a troll to go hang out with his imp buddies (since I have the cute troll miniatures) is great fun.
- In 51st State, taking advantage of my opponent’s public buildings (even if it’s just to get another member of my tribe/gang) is very satisfying.
- In Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy, I’m almost certain to go hunting for titles. (Of course I am – it’s a game about nobility, right?!)
- In The Pursuit of Happiness, I love the Group Projects – where all of the players have the opportunity to join in. (Want to be in band? How about starting a game group?)
- In Fresco, the initial placement to determine when you make your apprentices get out of bed (which determines player priority and cost of items) is a great mechanism, both thematically and strategically.
Nathan Beeler: Probably the agriculture space in Stone Age (or “ag-bump” as we call it). I know there are ways to play the game well and to completely ignore feeding. I get that, and have tried that strategy a few times, but I much prefer to play the game the way I think it was/should have been intended (and could easily be forced if the penalty for starvation was more severe) by having to deal with keeping your cavepeople fed. So the way I play, when I get an opportunity to take agriculture advances, especially early in the game, I find them immensely satisfying. There is usually a magical chord hummed while the level indicator is moved upward.
Shout out to the Hump Hut in the same game, if only for the colloquial name and the fact that it takes two workers the entire turn to bring one new worker into play. That’s a lot of work!
(Note courtesy of Mark Jackson – in Dungeon Lords, it’s called “The Magic Room”… and you have to give the two imps food as well.)
Jonathan Franklin – Many worker placement games can feel incremental, so I tend to like the spaces that are strategy defining, whether taking cards in Lewis & Clark or Stone Age, getting buildings in Manhattan Project: Energy Empire or Viticulture, or getting the special engineers in Russian Railroads. But I think my favorite spot might be the Major Improvements space in Agricola. There is tension about when to take it, but from there, it defines your path substantially more than before you took it. I feel the same way about Guilds in Key Market, but there is more flexibility about Guilds than there is about Major Improvements.
Tery – This might not be my favorite of all time, but this is the first thing that came to mind – the player order chart in Viticulture; trying to decide which space balances what you get and where you need to be in player order in certain seasons.
Luke Hedgren – In Russian Railroads, there is a space where you can get two coins for one worker. Guess what coins can stand in for? You got it, workers. And you can hold them from turn to turn. If the implication is not clear, yes, you can turn 1 worker into something worth more than 2 workers. 1 into 2. I don’t know about you, but any time I can have effectively infinite value, I am taking it. “But Luke”, I hear you saying, “there is another space that gives you 2 temporary workers for one worker.” Temporary? These coins last FOREVER! Also, I’m not sure I made myself clear. TWO ACTIONS for the price of ONE ACTION. And what can you do with those coins? Anything! You can even use them to later get two MORE COINS. “But, there are several actions in Russian Railroads that are just as efficient, like 1 worker for 2 rail movements. If you just use your coins on movements then you are not being effi-” TWO. COINS. FOR. ONE. WORKER. I’m going to take it every turn! Soon, I’ll have ALL the actions! All of them! Then, at the end of the game, I’ll be able to do ALL OF THE THINGS! All the good spots will be taken, but that is ok, because I can do SO MANY ACTIONS!
Fraser – Thanks to Luke I want to play Russian Railroads again :-) Also in Stone Age in this part of the world it is called the Love Shack and the refrain from the B-52 song may be sung out aloud when placing your workers. Some of my favourites would be the double action spots that become available in the last few rounds of Agricola, so long as you have positioned yourself a) in turn order and b) to ensure that you can take advantage of both the actions.