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Board Game Mechanics: Tile Placement Games

Posted Sunday, 9-Aug-2015

 Create the board as you play with tile placement games.

Contributed by Andrew Knighton


It used to be that the board of a game was always laid out for you at the start. You knew straight away where to look for Old Kent Road in Monopoly or which way the secret passage went in Clue. Even when you have a random board you can usually see at the start where everything is. But now there are a whole set of games where you create the board as you go – tile laying games.


Keeping Tile Laying Simple With Carcassonne

Carcassonne by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede is the embodiment of a how entertaining a simple game can be. You take it in turns to add a square tile to a board showing a region of medieval France, matching roads to roads, sections of city to other sections of city, and so on.



Carcassonne Tile Placement Game
(Source: https://www.gamesetwatch.com)


Points are scored by placing meeples on these features as you lay down the tiles, meeples that give you points depending on the size of the road, river, field or other place you’ve claimed.

One of the great pleasures of Carcassonne comes from seeing what sort of map you can build, trying to make the longest road or most impressive town. It’s so popular that there are expansions making it more varied and complicated, such as The Princess and the Dragon and Abbey and Mayor, as well as variations such as South Seas and Hunters and Gatherers. There’s even a special two player version called The Castle.


Tiles That Move Pieces

Equally simple but less static is Tsuro, an abstract tile laying game by Tom McMurchie. Players take it in turns to lay tiles, which create tracks across the board.


Source: thinkgeek.com
(Source: thinkgeek.com)


Pieces automatically follow these tracks, and each player’s aim is to keep their piece on the board the longest.

Tsuro is also available with a boat and sea monster theme, in Tsuro of the Seas.


Making Maps

Tile laying is most often used to represent exploration or expansion, the tiles creating a map of the region the playing pieces inhabit. Both Archipelago and Entdecker: Exploring New Horizons use this to replicate the era of European expansion and colonisation across the globe. Tiles are laid down to form islands, which you explore in Entdecker and colonize in Archipelago.


Archipelago Tile Placement game
Source: (https://entropymag.org/)


Archipelago also shows how tile laying games have become increasingly complex over time. In Entdecker, as in Carcassonne, laying the tiles and laying claim to the features they represent are the whole purpose of the game. In Archipelago tile laying is one part of a more complex game of development and politicking.


Tiles Laying as Building

A growing number of tile laying games are turning from exploration towards building as a theme. Both Castles of Mad King Ludwig and Suburbia are recent examples of this. The satisfaction you get from laying out the board is matched to the satisfaction of construction for the in-game builders.


Castles of Mad King Ludwig tile placement
Back of the Castles of Mad King Ludwig box


Castles of Mad King Ludwig involves creating a single building each, a castle to impress the titular king. You get points for the rooms you lay out and how they fit together.

Suburbia turns tile laying into an economic engine game. You lay out tiles representing parts of a city, trying not just to match them neatly together, but to build an economically functioning city that will break even and eventually create a profit. As with Archipelago, it’s tile laying as part of a more complex and varied game.

With so many different themes, and such a wide range of complexity, there are tile laying games to suit almost any taste.


Find more tile placement games

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