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Worker Placement: Why?

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lewpuls
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I am doing a series of screencasts (video) about mechanics used in (tabletop) games. The first one, about drafting, is here: https://youtu.be/vJ1HeqDyjXI

One will be about worker placement. I don't use worker placement in game design, but many do. Can you tell me why you do? (Please not "it's popular", why is it popular?) I want to be as fair to it as I can despite my dislike of it.

The Odd Fox
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Why I like worker placement

1.) One of the reasons I enjoy worker placement is the way it can sometimes grant me an action, while simultaneously limiting that same action to someone else. I know this is not exclusively how worker placement is used and there are other ways of achieving that same outcome, but that's one of the uses I enjoy.

2.) I like the feel of time when using one of my workers to accomplish a specific task. I know I've got various options available and dedicating one of my few workers to deal with a specific task, knowing I won't have him/her back for a time feels like something is being accomplished during that phase.

3.) In addition to the feeling of time I like the feel of investing in an action as a strategy for future returns. (interesting, I didn't know I cared so much about how it feels to play worker placement but two of my points are centered on the feeling)

4. Clear options. Whether I am the first player or not, it's pretty clear what options I have available to me. In conjunction with this I appreciate making interesting choices in a game.

questccg
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A sense of ...

Progression? And decision making. You chose to do "this" with your worker - that amounts to the option you chose and how it will affect your path to a victory...

Something like that?!

BHFuturist
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Dislike?

I am not sure I fully understand why you dislike worker placement in games. (not that I need to understand)

In my opinion worker placement is nothing more than a theme that has been places on the tracking of a limited action selection system.

Whether it is thematic with workers that are placed or more abstract with no named action points, the mechanism functions in much the same way across all games that use it (in my opinion). This can be limited action selection or any other sub-form of an action point allowance system.

As for me, I have not yet used worker placement in any of my completed designs. However, I see value in using it for the tracking of action selection if the theme of the game supports it. I would not start out with "worker placement" as a core design mechanism but I would theme an action selection system that way if it would work well with the game and selected theme.

Could be stamina points in a smaller scale or just action points, might be spaceships or galaxy influence points in a larger scale... or workers somewhere in the middle.

I do like the worker placement theme for the player friendliness of it. Players intuitively understand the relationship between having enough workers and that being the limitation that is placed on the actions they can take. Within the some themes even having a limit to the number of workers that can use or fit into an action selection space makes intuitive sense to the players.

This is a style choice in design for me rather than a mechanical one.

Just food for thought,

@BHFuturist

Rick L
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Semantics

Whoops- accidental double post!

Rick L
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Semantics

@Lewpuls could you give me an idea of how broadly or narrowly you want to apply the term "worker placement"? I'm not trying to be nit-picky about it, but the reason I ask is that I started a thread about worker placement using individual player boards, and no shared areas, and one of the first responses on BGG was a simple, snobby "this is not worker placement" remark!

Incidentally, I posted the same topic here on bgdf and everyone was perfectly polite about it :)

So basically, I had to redefine what I meant by saying "It's action selection where you choose 3 actions by placing workers, but it's not worker placement".

So are we talking about action drafting, where placing a worker chooses an action for you, and simultaneously makes it unavailable to everyone else? Or can this topic also include other mechanics where you place workers to decide what action/resource/risk you want this turn, regardless of how it does or doesn't relate to other players' options?

BenMora
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It's a mechanic that can very

It's a mechanic that can very closely capture the exact thing it is representing. Ie, a worker placement game where it represent literally sending actual workers to different areas, as seen in Stone Age, Archon, Star Craft the Board Game (if I recall correctly), Caylus.

My point being that so many other mechanics are so much more abstract.

lewpuls
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Rick L, I'd like to take a

Rick L, I'd like to take a broad view of the mechanic, rather than some person's narrow view. In the end it can be exclusionary (which is the type I really dislike), or it can be a way of allocating actions. And perhaps other things as well.

If a lot of people call it worker placement, that's close enough for me.

Willem Verheij
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It's an easy to teach

It's an easy to teach mechanic that tends to allow for games to not run too long. It's mainly the decision where to put the workers that is the challenge, but often players might already figure that out before its their turn unless someone just blocked them.

Rick L
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lewpuls wrote:Rick L, I'd

lewpuls wrote:
Rick L, I'd like to take a broad view of the mechanic, rather than some person's narrow view. In the end it can be exclusionary (which is the type I really dislike), or it can be a way of allocating actions. And perhaps other things as well.

If a lot of people call it worker placement, that's close enough for me.

Thanks lewpuls, I kind of wanted to address both things, but separately, and I also read your blog post on this, so I was debating where to best make a response. I think I'll just start here, and maybe save some thoughts to post on the other thread.

I like the concept of placing a worker or token of any sort to act as a reminder, whether to track progress of something, or to "trigger" and event or action, such as drawing a card, rolling a die, scoring a point, or collecting resources.

I don't think I've played any games that have action drafting, but I "might have" lol - I decided to start a new thread about that, discussing "Catan" of all things!

I tend to think it's the action drafting mechanism that tends to bother people more - even though I haven't played Puerto Rico or Manhattan Project or any of the others like that at all, I've studied them, trying to learn more about everything in gaming, and in my reading this is what I see debated a lot.

But "placing workers" is kind of independent of that, because that's basically all you're doing when you place or move armies in Risk, or putting your character token on an adventure card in Elder Sign, or building a settlement in Catan. We're just calling them different things - armies, investigators, settlements - so I'd agree with BHFuturist - this is "theme".

Steve Broadfoot
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For me worker placement is a

For me worker placement is a literal representation of he action I am tying to do.

I love Civ building video games like Sim City and Tropico, and I love when other genres use he resource mechanic, Fallout 4 being a recent one. I love he feel of creating a settlement, I find it makes an experience more personal, which makes me more invested in a game.

In board games, worker placement is as close to that as possible. Sure I can play card games that do this, Citadels or 7 Wonders for example, or tile laying games like Quadropolis. Hese are all great games that I thoroughly enjoy, but for me they are just giving me the end result of the action, and that is impersonal. In a game like Agricola or Lords of Waterdeep, each worker used is specifically representing the exact action, and the result of those actions make the game more compelling than just waiting for my turn and seeing what cards are left to pick from.

TL;DR worker placement is more compelling and more personal because its a precise representation of my actions.

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