Tile placement games are a prominent part of the hobby, even if the mechanic is a bit difficult to define. Perhaps because of that vaguess, it isn’t really a mechanic that, at least in my experience, inspires a lot of love or collectors. But nonetheless many incredibly popular games — everything from Alhambra to Zooloretto — have tile placement mechanics.
Today’s article is part of our “10 Great” series that features 10 great games in a given subcategory. I pick a mechanic, theme, publisher, etc. In this case, I picked a mechanic. We here at the Opinionated Gamers then all vote behind the scenes to create a list of 10 great games that meet the criteria. We’re aiming for an article a month, and I’d love your suggestions about future lists.
For purposes of this project, I simply asked everybody to vote for 10 games that featured tile placement. That is an intentionally vague description, allowing players to judge for themselves how much of a game had to contain this mechanic.
Anybody could add to the list assuming they were going to vote for it. Each member of the OG was offered the chance to vote for up to 10 games, and they could give one game 15 points, one game 14 points, all the way down to giving one 6 points. We all put our votes into a spreadsheet. We then added up the points for each game and picked the top 10.
We had 13 OG-ers vote, and 40 different games received votes.
To get on the list took a minimum of four writers rating the game decently well. That wasn’t a rule, but rather how the breakdown naturally worked out. There’s actually great consensus towards the top of our list.
Below you’ll see designations for gold, silver, and bronze. Those represent the number of voters that put a given game in the #1, #2, and #3 spot, respectively.
Without further ado, here are 10 Great Tile Placement Games
Honorable Mention (Games That Barely Missed the List):
15. Age of Steam (1 Silver)
13. Ginkgopolis (1 Gold, 1 Bronze)
11 (Tie). Gunkimono / Heartland (1 Silver)
11 (Tie). A Feast for Odin (1 Silver)
#10 – Patchwork
Designed by Uwe Rosenberg
#9 – Castles of Mad King Ludwig
Designed by Ted Alspach
#8 – Heaven & Ale
53 Points, 1 Bronze
Designed by Michael Kiesling & Andreas Schmidt
#7 – Ingenious
62 Points, 1 Silver
Designed by Reiner Knizia
#6 – Tikal
71 Points, 1 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze
Designed by Michael Kiesling & Wolfgang Kramer
#5 – Suburbia
76 Points, 1 Gold, 1 Silver
Designed by Ted Alspach
#4 – Glen More / Glen More 2
77 Points, 3 Bronze
Designed by Matthias Cramer
#3 – Castles of Burgundy
82 Points, 1 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze
Designed by Stefan Feld
#2 – Princes of Florence
90 Points, 3 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze
Designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Richard Ulrich
#1 – Carcassonne
147 Points, 4 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze
Designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Thoughts from Opinionated Gamers:
Chris Wray: I think our list is pretty good, although I’ll note two surprises. First, I’m shocked that Alhambra did not make the list: the game won the Spiel des Jahres and and has sold millions of copies. Second, I think the Princes of Florence is too high on our list, but I always think that game is too high on our lists.
I voted for four games that did not make the list: Alhambra, Isle of Skye, Chinatown, and Glass Road.
Larry: The first thing that strikes me when looking at this list is that many of us clearly have a pretty liberal definition of what a “tile placement game” is. Princes of Florence is one of my favorite games of all time, but, to me at least, it is in no way, shape, or form a tile laying game. I mean, the placement of the building tiles is such a tiny part of the design! And Age of Steam? Sure, the tracks are on tiles, but it still seems very different from a classic tile-layer, like Carcassonne. Oh well, I guess it’s just another illustration of how hard it is to pin down gaming categories. This exercise did make me realize that “tile placement” is broader than I’d first thought. For example, I hadn’t really considered Castles of Burgundy to be a tile-layer, but in retrospect, it obviously qualifies.
So, bitching about definitions aside, the group matched my tastes reasonably well. 4 of my top 5 games made the top 10 (Tikal, CoB, Heaven & Ale, and Glen More), with only Sun, Sea & Sand missing out. I also voted for Patchwork and Carc.
Brandon K: Tile Placement, as a mechanism, is one of my favorite things in board gaming. In general I love the act of building something physical on the table, generally starting with nothing and working into this giant, unique idea that yourself and other players have created. I’m not going to argue what is, or what isn’t a tile placement game, I’ll leave that to those who want strict definitions, I just know that in general, if a game has some kind of tile placement in it, I tend to enjoy them a bit more. I do however agree that Princes of Florence is always too damn high on any list here on the OG, although I did go back and re-buy it just to see if I was missing something, haven’t had a chance to try it again though as it just looks dull to everyone in comparison to other games.
My Top Five in descending order: CoMKL, Isle of Skye, Ginkgopolis, Gunkimono/Heartland & Carcassonne. I don’t think there is any argument against Carc being the tile placement game of choice, either here or anywhere else. It’s just a perfect example of what a tile placement game can be, plus it’s just infinitely expandable. I agree with Chris, Alhambra probably should have made the list as well, but I didn’t even vote for it because at the time of voting, I must have missed it on the list and didn’t think about it. So apologies to Dirk.
Past Articles in the 10 Great Series: