I enjoy discussing and analyzing all things gaming - there's a lot that we can learn from each other! But sometimes we tend to trap ourselves in our own minds a little bit - we categorize things a lot to make it easier to discuss them, but that can sometimes box in our ideas and concepts, right?
The discussions of worker placement mechanics recently and my personal research of them over the past year or so have made me think hard on that topic as I've been developing elements in my own game project. So part of that process has led me to looking at some of the games I've played from different perspectives, trying to make sure my game feels unique even though parts of it were inspired by those other games.
I haven't played hundreds of games - I'm maybe at around 30 or so. I've never played a game with the "official" worker placement mechanic - that is to say, "action drafting", like Puerto Rico.
Or have I? I was thinking about it, and I think that Settlers of Catan could very well be a worker placement action drafting game - let me explain, then tell me if I'm going too far! This is more of a mental exercise - I don't really care what category everything fits into when I buy a game, I just want the overall experience to be worth the money spent and the time invested. But since we categorize and compartmentalize games and their mechanics for various reasons, it's worth it to me to look at games from different perspectives from time to time.
What if, when playing Catan, I substitute meeples in the place of settlements, and call them "farmers"? Then, instead of upgrading to a "city", you spend the same grain/ore resources (like a city) to place either a second meeple farmer, or maybe put a wagon token under the farmer to indicate that he can now produce 2 resources instead of one.
So now, I'm placing "workers", right? I am also preventing other players from placing workers on the same spot, as well as the 3 spots that are one space away from me on the hex map, right? So haven't I technically "drafted" those spots, since they are no longer available to anyone?
Does that make Catan a worker placement game? If not, why? Is it because you have to "build" your workers? Are there worker placement games that require workers to be hired, built, or bought?
Is it the fact that the workers don't take actions - they just sit there until triggered by a dice roll? Are there any worker placement games that require players to provide something for the workers before they produce or complete an action?
Is it the fact that the workers don't move from turn to turn, as they should be moved, like in Puerto Rico? Are there worker placement games where the workers remain in place permanently? I know in Manhattan Project that workers can stay in place for several turns, until the player is ready to move them, right?
Is it the fact that the "corners" of the land hexes don't really represent "actions" to take? Because all I do when I place a worker there is wait for a dice roll to tell me to collect resources from that area - is that an "action" or isn't it?
What requirements qualify a game as an action-worker placement game? What disqualifies Catan from fitting that category?
Remember, I'm only posting this as a mental exercise - I'm not trying to officially redefine Catan, I'm just experimenting with the edges of the boxes that we tend to place around our game mechanics, and I'm interested to see what others have to say about it, and the flaws and merits that you find in my post.
So have at it!