Finally. We made it. You can finally stop lying awake at night asking yourself what my top two favorite game mechanisms are. After this article you should also be able to finally round out your collection with these last couple of games. In al seriousness though, these are some of my most absolute favorite games and if you haven’t had the opportunity to play these then I highly recommend seeking them out. These are games that I will always suggest and never turn down.
#2 – Worker Placement
As I look over my list of mechanisms I realize that compared to the others worker placement is probably one of the most simple and straight forward of them all. At its heart it is nothing more than a spatial form of action selection. Traditionally each player will have a number of “worker” pieces that belong to them and when it’s their turn they get to place one or more of these workers at a specific “location” to gain some reward or benefit, typically resources. What sets a worker placement game apart from a mere action selection game is that each “location” holds a limited number of workers, thus creating an ever growing sense of tension as you pick and choose not only where to send your workers, but also when.
The beautiful thing about such a simple mechanism is that there is a lot of room for flexibility and variation in the game design. There are countless games that have taken the traditional worker placement formula and put their own spin on it. This has been done in games where dice are rolled and placed as your workers. I’ve seen games with workers getting bumped from locations. There are even games where the longer you leave your workers, the better the rewards you get. All bring their own unique puzzles to solve and feel fresh and original.
A Feast For Odin
One of the most renowned designers in the hobby is Uwe Rosenberg. Nearly all his big games use some form of worker placement. And while I like Caverna, Agricola, and Le Havre, I absolutely love A Feast For Odin. While the viking thing may be somewhat pasted on, the design is second to none. Each player represents a clan of vikings seeking to be the most renowned in all the land. Players do viking things like raid and pillage, hunt and go whaling, and you guessed it, farm. Each action is represented on a giant central board. And when I say giant, I mean it. I believe there are something like 60 action places. All of these spots have one goal. Help you cover up the spaces on your player board with polyomino tiles.
While the most unique part of the game is the tile laying, the worker placement is also second to none. With so many action spaces there is a ton to do in the game. This is literally the most open and sandbox style euro game I can think of. And while there are a large number of action spaces, they all require a different number of workers between 1-4. The best actions take 4 workers but it will definitely mean you get to do less during the given round. And what the game lacks in competition of placement due to the large board, it make up for in the feasts that happen every round with players feeding their clan and the large number of negative victory points staring back at players on their personal player boards. There is always something to do in this game and no two games have to play the same. I love it.
This is probably one of the most well known worker placement games out there, and for good reason. It currently is the highest rated worker placement game on Board Game Geek and one of the first design of acclaimed designer Jamey Stegmaier. While I’m not real interested in drinking wine, I’m happy to try and make some for game night. Each player in the owner of their own vineyard and is trying to grow and sell the best wine. The game will see players doing everything from planting and harvesting the grapes, to giving tour and building out their vineyard, to aging and selling their wine.
Each location will provide a bonus reward to the player that places there first, adding an extra level of tension and excitement. But to count balance that level of stress and frustration you also have what is called your grande worker. You are always allowed to send your grande worker to any location even if it is full. The game does have some luck with so many card draws, but for a more approachable game it feels right. Speaking of feeling right. I don’t always want to play a longer euro game with 6 players, but it is nice that this game does provide that option. The game truly shines with the Tuscany expansion that adds seasons and a little more variety to the game.
#1 Hand Management
Here we are my favorite mechanism that belongs to my favorite game. Hand management is a term that is thrown around a little to loosely in the hobby. Many deck building games get tagged as hand management games and this just isn’t true. A true deck builder with see players playing all the cards in their hand each round or discarding what isn’t played. A good hand management game will allow players to hold a hand of cards that will have to be carefully played to manage their actions each turn. The decisions are simple but meaningful as efficiency is the name of the game.
If you don’t think this is a sound mechanic then check BGG’s top ten games. Six of these feature hand management with another five more in the top twenty. The mechanism is easy to incorporate into a game design, and in my opinion only adds to the enjoyment of the game.
While most will see this primarily as an area control game, the best part is the hand management. This is a two player game that will pit the USA against the Soviet Union right in the heart of the Cold War. Being the Cold War there is no real conflict between the players, rather just the tug-of-war of influence in various countries around the world. The game features a common deck that is divided into three eras. Within the deck are cards that are intended to benefit the USA player and cards that are intended to benefit the Soviet player. You will draw and need to play these cards. When playing a card that pertains to your opponent you will get some action points but then they will get a specific action of ability. Players will play cards and take actions to spread their influence to control key regions prior to their scoring card coming up.
The fact that you are responsible for when to play an opponents card is just amazing. Not only do you have to worry about playing your cards at the most opportune time, you have to play your opponents at the least opportune for them. And while there is no worse feeling than looking at a hand full of cards of your opponent, it is safe to assume that they are in a very similar position. There is just so much tension and tough choices within the game. Players are also responsible for playing a regions scoring card when it is found in their hand. The trick is not giving away to your opponent that you have the card as you seek to increase your influence there prior to playing it. I just adore this game.
Here it is. My most favorite game of all time. I absolutely love Concordia. Thank you Mac Gerdts. I have no idea why, but currently BGG doesn’t even have the game listed as hand management. Players are mediterranean merchants seeking to spread their influence and gain wealth. Each player has a hand of cards that they will play one at a time to perform a certain action. The sheer quantity of said action is typically only limited by the players supply of resources and lack of planning. Once players have played a card it goes to their face-up discard pile. One action card allows players to pick up their hand of cards and start fresh with all options available.
The interaction between players is limited, allowing for planning and efficiency to take the drivers seat. After every action players will look down at what they did and curse under their breath, knowing they could have done something better had they just more carefully thought ahead. All scoring occurs at the end of the game, further causing players to second guess their actions, with no real sense of how you may be doing compared to the player to your left. Most actions can be resolved while the next player begins their turn, helping the game move at a good pace. I love this game and will forever recommend it for those seeking a footing in more in-depth euro gaming.
There you have it. What are you waiting for? Go out and get these games played. Find out just how great they are. Either way, thanks for sticking through this and hopefully you found something new to seek out or found greater insight into what mechanisms you enjoy most and why.