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Worker Placement and Variable Turn Order

10 replies [Last post]
Joined: 10/20/2012

Hi everyone,

I am currently working on a worker placement (WP) game. Based on my research until now I see that variable turn order (VTO) is used in the majority of the WP games in order to balance the advantage of a player to choose always first action spaces.

My question is: Could you suggest me some different ways for implementing a VTO in a WP game?

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Why yes!

My favorite mechanic is giving each player a number; 1 to X where you have X players. And put these pieces in a bag.

Each player picks a number from the bag. And that turn order is played.

Joined: 03/02/2014
1. There's a placement which

1. There's a placement which gets you the first player token (Lords of Waterdeep, I think), and it's just clockwise from there. This is best where going first is a big advantage but there are diminishing returns after that.

2. Players go in reverse order of current score. (A number of games.) It's an interesting catch-up mechanic, especially if there are some harder-to-get points that aren't scored until the final reckoning. This makes staying in last place a viable strategy as you focus on those hidden points.

3. Players go in order of "the favor of the gods." There is some placement that improves your favor (i.e. pray at the temple), but the other placements that are the most beneficial tend to hurt your favor. I've seen this somewhere, but I forget where. (If you do this, have a single ladder which represents favor, and you don't count rungs that other players are on. That is, if Fred is one ahead of me on the ladder and Barney is two ahead of me, I pray for 2 points of favor, I pass Fred and Barney as 1 point and then move one more rung for my second point. This has the advantage that there can't be ties, and it means that going last has the one advantage that it's easier to move up on the favor ladder.)

4. Bidding on some other aspect that also determines turn order. There's a Greek mythology game that does this well -- I think it's called Olympus, but BGG is down at the moment. It's not a worker placement game, though, and it might not translate as well to that style.

polyobsessive's picture
Joined: 12/11/2015
Some possible solutions, none original...

You could provide an action that provides a first player token (and possibly some other benefit, if going first is not enough). That could be extended to allow this action space to take a worker from each player, and the turn order is in the order these spaces were claimed.

Or you could have turn order being reverse score track order. Or direct score track order might be more appropriate in some cases.

One I like is that turn order is based on what order players passed in on the previous round.

There could also be bidding for first place (money or other resources, or victory points).

Or... or... or...

Joined: 03/26/2013
Dealer button

I didn't see anyone mentioning it, but simply taking turns being starting player is one way. Passing a "starting player" -token around in clockwise order if you want to make it clear who's starting player.

Joined: 02/05/2016
Passing a first player token

Passing a first player token is simple and fair. Puerto Rico is the classic example. A problem is that there is a big advantage in sitting to the left of someone who does not consider negative plays. In our PR games, left-of-the-noob is a common winning seat.

In my own game, I pass a first player token to the left after each round, but also flip it. One side has a clockwise turn order and one has an anticlockwise turn order. The advantage of sitting next to a weak player is therefore spread in two directions, and ditto for the disadvantage of sitting next to a strong or negative player. The same token has a reminder of the special phase that is at the end of each odd round and the different special phase at the end of each even round.

alandor's picture
Joined: 02/23/2014
Spending an action to get the

Spending an action to get the starting player token is good but if it continues in clockwise order after that it can often feel a bit unbalanced. I therefore like it when turn order for all players are decided by some given factor in the game, preferably some factor which has a thematic foundation, i.e. the amount of a certain resource (influence/power/wealth etc.). In Nations turn order is determined by military strength which I like.

The game Alchemist uses the first player token which is passed around, but that initial turn order is only used for determining the turn order for the game round. The first player choses his position, going first costs money and going later gives benefits. Then every player choses where to go after that, which decides the turn order for the game round. I know many games use similar mechanisms but I can't think of them right now. I think it's a good way to mitigate the determinism of just passing the first player token around.

The Professor
The Professor's picture
Joined: 10/25/2014
City of Iron has each player

City of Iron has each player bid for position as well

Gabe's picture
Joined: 09/11/2014
Pillars of the Earth has a

Pillars of the Earth has a really interesting mechanic for turn order that combines drawing from a bag and paying money. However, a player has the option of paying the cost or passing. Mr. Vasel will tell you about it here:

Also, The Capitals has a pretty cool mechanic where turn order cost gets multiplied based on the prior turn. It's a little hard to explain, so just watch this:

Joined: 02/05/2016
Bidding for turn order is

Bidding for turn order is fair and makes sense in financial games. I quite like the mechanic in Indonesia, where the bid is combined with a Skill Track that players can advance on during an RnD phase. The track offers many different lines on which you can advance, but one of them is a turn-order bid multiplier, letting you outbid others much more easily if you have spent your RnD phases investing in turn order. Once someone gets a clear lead on the turn-order multiplier, it is usually too hard/expensive to outbid them. This approach makes the turn order less swingy. Players who need to go first can prioritise the turn order multiplier, and players who are less sensitive to turn order can choose not to invest in it, spending their RnD on other things instead.

The down side is that it adds time and complexity.

Also, paying to go first can lead to a runaway leader effect. I imagine Puerto Rico would be almost broken if you could pay dubloons to go first, because the richest player would dominate the game. Coping with the relentlessly revolving turn order in PR is actually one of the intrinsic challenges of the game.

Joined: 08/12/2008

I'm particularly fond of the use of time as a concept in turn order in Thebes. Each action you take will use your time and you move your time pawn forward on the time track. You will not be allowed to make another move until you have been passed by all the other players on the time track. This allows for some interesting choices - should I do a mighty but time lengthy action or several smaller less potent actions?

It is less obvious how to implement this is in a WP game. I would love to see an implementation of it though! Perhaps each worker could be placed on the time track?


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