Worker Placement (Preview)
I’ll give you three guesses as to what genre “Worker Placement”, a board game that’ll be launching on Kickstarter in November 2013, falls under. I’m honestly surprised that after all this time, no one hasn’t scooped up the name already. Like “Cargo Noir” and “Lords of Waterdeep”, “Worker Placement” tasks players with making the most out of the resources that you’ve been given by assigning them to various parts of the game board. In this case, each player is running a temp agency designed to help place workers into varying jobs. Those who do it the most efficiently will make the most money and win the game! Before we take a sneak peek at what makes this game tick, I’d like to thank Mark MacKinnon from Dyskami Publishing Company for reaching out and providing me with a prototype copy. As with all prototypes, it’s important to stress that they aren’t usually representative of the final product making the below content subject to change.
Thirty to ninety minutes, you say? Unlike most worker placement games I’ve played, you’ll be able to set the number of rounds that your game will last. Depending on your mood and how much time you have, you can customize your experience so that the game will last five (short), eight (average), or twelve (long) rounds. In fact, you may want to make use of the short game on your first time through, just as a sort of primer for the longer games. The game as it stands includes an eight page manual, so there is a bit of a learning curve. Experienced vets and those who frequent worker placement games however will be able to jump into this without too much trouble.
The game itself comes with a game board, over a hundred cards, sixty wooden skill cubes, player tokens of various types, and an hourglass marker. The game board represents a city and primarily consists of various buildings in which players can place workers. You’ll also see three tracks that track reputation (thumbs), cash, and time. Rounding out the rest of the board’s features is a Peer Networking Group (which acts like an auction house) and an area dedicated to the drawing and discarding of cards. It all can be a bit overwhelming to first time players, but it gets easier as you get a few games under your belt. The initial sensory overload experienced by our group quickly dissipated within the first ten minutes of playing.
“Worker Placement”, as a whole, is played over several rounds. As I indicated above, players can customize the number of rounds in order to make their play experience longer or shorter. With that being said, each round is broken up into six phases: 1) Determine Player Order, 2) Reveal New Jobs, 3) Draft Business Cards, 4) Auction Discarded Business Cards, 5) Place Workers, and 6) Reset. After all six phases are complete, the hourglass token will be moved up the time track. An individual player’s goal is to have the most money after the last round is completed. Players will also add bonuses to their cash value from various places (the thumbs track, leftover cards & cubes, etc.) when determining the final score, so it’s possible to jump ahead even when all seems lost.
Those of you who have played “Lords of Waterdeep” may be the most familiar with how the gameplay flows, as a lot of it revolved around collecting cubes (adventurers) to complete quests. Similarly, most of the buildings on the board in “Worker Placement” reward the player with the skill cubes and resources needed to ensure that their workers have the skills they need to complete jobs. Completed jobs earn the player with cash and reputation, which is obviously a good thing. There are some other buildings however that are dedicated to other pursuits, like converting skills cubes, trading cash for reputation and vice versa, filling jobs, playing cards, and more. Some of these buildings will cost you the very cash you’re trying to earn to win the game, so there’s a bit of strategy involved in choosing the most efficient route to victory.
Worker placement is only half the battle, though. Throughout the game, players will be able to place bids on and acquire business cards. Since some of these actions involve you spending cash in some way, you’ll have to outweight the pros and cons of the cards you set your eyes on every round. Players will soon discover that while placing your workers efficiently is the key to success, they won’t be able to do it without managing their hand and money appropriately. Wasting money on cards you don’t need during auctions, for example, can really set you back. “Cargo Noir” does something similar, that is, include an auction-style mechanic from round to round that requires players to be efficient with their money. With that being said, “Worker Placement” forced me to make some pretty tough choices.
“Worker Placement” practically screams potential and turned out to be more than the sum of its parts. It is fairly easy to learn, making it a great introductory game to the worker placement genre. While I can see kids at the recommended age playing the game, I’d highly recommend parental supervision as some of the concepts may be a bit confusing to newcomers and young players. After all, the game does lump worker placement, card management, and auctions all into one neat, little package. “Worker Placement” is definitely one of the better worker placement games I’ve played this year and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’ll look if/when it becomes funded.
You can learn more about and support “Worker Placement” by visiting the following websites: