Worker-placement games are some of the best strategy games you can get. If you’re just getting into board games, you might have heard this term thrown around a few times since the category includes some of the most popular tabletop games.
The genre started with a game by Richard Breese called Keydom in 1998. The genre jumped in popularity when the game Caylus released in 2005 which was a great game that helped define the genre.
Since then, worker-placement games have become more complex and a blast to play, with several games innovating on the mechanic. These are the top games in the genre that are must-haves for anyone into worker-placement games.
1: Lords of Waterdeep
This board game released in 2012 to great reception. The game is published by Wizards of the Coast, creators of Dungeons & Dragons, and takes place in Waterdeep which is a city in D&D’s Forgotten Realms campaign.
Players take on the roles of secret rulers of the city trying to grab power, treasure, and resources by recruiting adventurers to complete quests.
Lords of Waterdeep is an immersive, satisfying worker placement Eurogame with a lot to offer.Wired.com
2: A Feast For Odin
A Feast for Odin sees players controlling Vikings to make the best Viking settlement in the world. This Eurogame released in 2016 to rave reviews, which isn’t surprising considering the creator (Uwe Rosenberg) is also behind some of the other best worker placement games out there.
The game comes with a ton of components and some super complex gameplay. This review by Shut Up & Sit Down does a great job of explaining all of the intricacies of the game as well as what makes it great.
There was also one expansion released for this game in 2018 which added some new islands and some new strategies. This went a long way for fans of the game looking to freshen up the gameplay.
Overall, this is a great pickup in the worker-placement genre and could arguably be in the #1 spot.
3: Viticulture Essential Edition
As far as themes go, this game stands out from the rest. Players are placed in the roles of Tuscany citizens who have inherited vineyards. The players race to become the first successful winery by managing their three workers.
The game is made by Stonemaier Games, the same people behind Terraforming Mars and Wingspan. So these guys have made some of the best games in the tabletop hobby. Viticulture is their shot at a worker placement game and they succeeded at making one of the most well-known and highly ranked of the genre.
There is a base version of Viticulture which released in 2013. However, the Essential Edition, which released 2 years later, comes with the base game and a few expansions. The Essential Edition has become the version to get of this game.
Speaking of genre defining games, here’s a title that is synonymous with the worker placement style of game. Although some other games have passed it by in time, it’s a classic that should definitely be on any worker-placement fans shelf.
The game focuses on players becoming farmers and assigning their family to tasks. Tasks in this game are based around farm life like collecting wood, building stables, and sowing fields.
Not the least of Agricola’s accomplishments was knocking the board game Puerto Rico out of the top spot on Board Game Geek which it held for 5 years!
The game originally released in 2008 with a second edition being released in 2016.
5: Alien Frontiers
Alien Frontiers, which came out in 2010, places players as space pilgrims assigning ships to stations orbiting around the planet to earn resources, expand the fleet, and colonize the planet. Players fight for control of orbital stations by controlling territory on the planet.
There was a Kickstarter held for this game’s 4th edition, which ended successfully in 2013. It blew past its $2,000 goal to gain a total pledge amount of nearly $152,000!
That should be all the confirmation you need to see that this game is loved by its fans. Since then, a 5th edition was released which is the version of this game to get.
The master, Uwe Rosenberg, has yet another go at making a worker placement game. This time in the form of farming. Of course, there’s another worker placement game built around farming by the same creator on this list. So what makes this one special?
Caverna is the predecessor to the (arguably better) Agricola, which it shares a lot of similarities with. Players are dwarves living caves trying to keep their family alive and possibly even thriving. You assign your family members to tasks that improve the outside of the cave or dig deeper into it for ore or minerals. At the end of the game, the most successful dwarf family wins.
This is a lighter worker placement game that works great for newer players but has enough to keep strategy minded board gamers interested. It’s also a must have if you’re collecting all of these great Uwe Rosenberg boxes.
7: Le Havre
This game was inspired by some of the other top games in the genre (Agricola and Caylus) and was released in 2007. Uwe Rosenberg really put his mark on the genre, with this being another of the many great worker placement games made by him.
The game focuses on controlling the workers on boat docks in Le Harve, which is an actual port city in France. Players take goods from the wharves and either processed the goods, uses them to feed their people, or uses the goods to construct ships and a buildings. Players balance all of these options with the ultimate goal of being the wealthiest person at the docks.
The game is highly rated and you can’t expect much less from the creator.
It’s a lovely, cruel little trip to the harbour, and it will keep your brain tied up in knots even months after you’ve finished.Shut Up & Sit Down
On top of that, there is an iOS and Android version of the game if you’re just going to try it out or play solo.
Despite being 8 years old, this game still holds a prominent spot in the top 50 board games on Board Game Geek. On top of that, this game is a fair bit more complex than most of the games on the list.
Tzolk’in sets players as leaders of Mayan Tribes aiming to be the most successful. There’s a whole lot of routes to success in this game like pleasing the gods or collecting corn.
The key difference this game brought to the genre was a time based worker mechanic in the form of gears. Your tribe gets rewarded when a worker is taken off the board, rather than when a worker is put on. Workers are put on gears that move and the rewards for getting workers back changes as the game progresses.
This opens up a whole lot of strategy (too much to go into in this little overview). If you’re looking for a deep strategy game that also implements worker placement, this is the one to buy.
This is another game that found success in innovating on the basic worker placement game.
You play a trader in the city of Orleans and, as any good trader, you need a lot of contacts. So you gather contacts which can be used to help you gain trading goods.
When you make a connection, you put the person into your bag. On a players turn, they draw from their bag of connections and place their people on the board to accomplish tasks.
In a way, this is a mesh of deck-building and worker placement and it works wonderfully. This game still holds a spot in the top 25 games on Board Game Geek.
This is the grand daddy of the worker placement genre. It’s about as pure of a worker placement game as you can get. Some other games on this list implement deck-building and eurogame elements but Caylus keeps itself firmly in the worker placement category.
The setting is 1289 and King Phillip the Fair has requested you to build his castle and develop the city around it. The players are master builders which use their workers to erect the castle.
Many other games on this list base themselves on Caylus. All of them put their own flavor to the game with different mechanics and intricacies but there is a reason Caylus is a classic still admired by the board game community. The competitiveness is enthralling and there is a lot of player interaction with chances to screw over your opponents.
The game was created by Uwe Rosenberg who dominates this category to the point that we could nearly call this the top 10 Uwe Rosenberg titles. Needless to say, this is a really good game.