3 Games That Show Why Worker Movement is Slowly Becoming Its Own Genre

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Everyone knows what Worker Placement is. You put one of your dudes on the board at a specific spot and it takes an associated action. Easy peasy. Think Caylus or Agricola. But in recent years, a new type of worker placement game has appeared. Instead of just putting your worker wherever you want, it can only move a certain number of spaces, or otherwise has its options restricted. Istanbul is a great example we’ve discussed before. You move to different spots to take the corresponding action, but you can only move up to two spaces.

But Istanbul isn’t the only game with this mechanism.  Far from it. Worker Movement puts another restriction on you that allows you to think more strategically and provides a deeper experience. Here are three great titles that are putting the movement twist on the worker placement genre.

The Colonists

In The Colonists, players are attempting to improve their own little patch of land by placing various shops and staffing them with farmers and merchants. They can even improve relations with the titular colonies in order to get special powers and abilities. While you try to build up your personal space, you have to compete – sometimes viciously – with the other players on a central board.

The central board is made up of several hexes. They begin semi-randomly and the playing surface grows as the game goes along. As the players progress from Era to Era, the board gets larger until it can be difficult to get from place to place. And that’s important because your pawn can only go so far. Maybe you’d love to take two actions that are on opposite sides. Well, that can be pretty difficult. Instead, you may opt for slightly worse actions, or you may use a turn doing something somewhat unrelated so that you can get to your preferred action next turn.

The Worker Movement component is great because it adds a spacial element to the game. It’s not just about taking the right action at the right time. It’s also about getting to the place you want and doing so without wasting too many turns maneuvering. The restriction on movement makes the game more strategic, and more interesting, than your typical worker placement title.


The oldest title on this list, Trajan doesn’t use workers in the traditional sense. Instead, each player has their own mini-mancala on their personal board. In order to take an action, they scoop up all of the cylinders in a particular bowl, then drop one off in each bowl in clockwise order. Each bowl is associated with an action and whichever bowl gets the last cylinder dictates which action a player can do that turn.

While it lacks the blocking aspect of other worker placement type games, the movement aspect is critical to play. If you want to take a Senate action, you can’t just decide to do so. Instead, you have to make sure that you can pick up cylinders from a bowl with the right amount to end on the Senate action. And not only does that impact what you can do this turn, but it also creates more long-term challenges. Not only do you want to grab an action that benefits you now, but you want to make sure you’re setting the stage so that you can take a good action next turn, too.

That mancala-like mechanism is what makes Trajan stand out among its peers. The worker movement requires long-term planning. In some ways, it feels like a game of billiards. Sure, it might be nice to hit the ball you want into the pocket. But the best move is often one that not only sinks a ball, but properly sets you up for the next shot.


The newest title on the list, Yokohama, is all about running a business. Sort of.  The board is made up of a randomized assortment of areas. They might provide actions like getting goods or gathering imports. But to take an action, you need to move your president there. Once there, the strength of the action depends on how much influence you have at that location between assistants, shops, and the president. The more you have, the better the action. But after completing the action, you have to return all assistants from that spot to your hand – and they are typically the main source of your power.

Most importantly, you can’t just put your president wherever you want. Instead, it generally has to move around the board. And, while it can move more than one space, the movement is constrained in other ways. For instance, it can only move through spaces that also have one of your assistants. As long as you have a chain of assistants, your president can go wherever it wants. But if that chain is broken, so is your president’s ability to move.

And, because you tend to remove your assistants as you take actions, managing those chains and getting more movement is juxtaposed nicely with taking relevant actions and ensuring that you are gathering game winning points. As with the other games on this list, the introduction of that movement element forces you to plan ahead – and to place assistants in areas where you might otherwise not.

Have you played any Worker Movement Games?  Tell us about it in the comments.

Image Credits: Mayfair Games, Passport Game Studios, and Okazu Brand

Featured Image Credit: Alderac Entertainment Group

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