I did a list of top 10 tile-laying games. I’ve defined tile laying much more strictly than the BoardGameGeek tile placement game mechanism list does. I’m looking for games where tile laying or tile placement is the main mechanism.
The game should be about laying tiles, with spatial relationships between tiles being important: either connections between tiles, adjacencies or something like that needs to be in focus.
According to a Solitaire Cube review, games where there’s a tile placement element but it’s not significant don’t count. A good example is Terraforming Mars: sure, laying tiles on the planet surface is a visible part of the game, but would you call Terraforming Mars a tile-laying game? I won’t, because it’d be easy to imagine the game with the tile placement completely abstracted out.
If the tile placement is purely grid coverage, I haven’t counted those either. A Feast for Odin has tile placement, but it’s just grid coverage, and a minor part of the game (worker placement being the major part). Patchwork is purely tile placement, but it’s all just grid coverage, so I’m not counting it here.
18xx games have a significant tile placement element in the track laying, but that too is a minor part, even though it’s often interesting and stratetically significant. It’s still a minor part, and could be replaced with something else.
With all that said, here’s my list:
10. Cities: Skylines
There’s a grid that’s being covered with polyomiono tiles in this Rustan Håkansson design based on the excellent Finnish city-building game. However, it’s still very much about the adjacencies and relationships between different kinds of tiles: you want these tiles adjacent to those tiles, and need to save space to fit in other tiles later. It’s all rather clever, and a nice co-op puzzle challenge.
This Reiner Knizia classic doesn’t have a theme, but doesn’t need one. The tiles are double hexagons and score based on straight lines of similar colors next to them. Balancing maximising your own score and minimising the scoring opportunities for other players is delicious, combined with the Knizia “highest lowest” scoring it all works wonderfully well.
One of my favourite children’s games, Marrakech has you laying fabric tiles. This allows for easy overlapping of the tiles and gives the game a third dimension. The goal is to create large, connected areas of your own colour, but as other players can lay their tiles on top of yours, you may be blocked. There’s a nice risk and reward balance, as moving the carpet inspector closer to the opponent territory is dangerous for points, but allows for more valuable placement opportunities compared to lurking on the safe areas.
7. Ta Yü
I generally have a strong dislike for connection games, but this is the exception. Ta Yü has one player connecting the north and south sides of the board, while the other players tries to connect the east and west sides. Both play tiles with routes on them, trying to advance their own routes and block the opposing routes. The pleasant tactility of the chunky plastic tiles adds to the pleasure.
6. Blue Lagoon
This Knizia gem has players place their tiles on board to spread influence, collect rewards and build connections – and of course deny opportunities for the opponents. At the half point, almost everything is reset and the second half is played like the first one, but from slightly different starting positions the players have built for themselves. Blue Lagoon is fast, packed with interesting decisions and looks nice.
One of the most basic tile placement games, Carcassonne is still fun after more than 100 plays. That’s a lot, I don’t have many games with more than 100 plays, but then again, divide by the twenty years I’ve played Carcassonne and it’s slightly less impressive. Still, this game is a modern classic and no less a shining example of tile placement games as it was twenty years ago.
Reprinted as U.S. Telegraph recently, this old favourite from early 2000s is a tile laying game where the goal is simple: lay all your tiles on board and you’ll win. That’s slightly tricky though, as the board is not large enough for everything at the beginning of the game. It grows, though, so no worries. The game is given additional twist from a sudden death victory condition: connect two temples on the edges of the board with your tiles, and you’ll win right away. This is a delightful tile placement classic.
3. Carcassonne: The Castle
The third Knizia title on the list, Carcassonne: The Castle adds both freedoms and restrictions to the basic Carcassonne game play. The game is now restricted within pre-defined boundaries, but players have more freedom for placing the tiles: the only feature you have to match are the roads, and you can place tiles against the walls. Incomplete structures are worth nothing and the roads will cause you great consternation when you hope to draw the tiles to finish your great structures before the game is over. The Castle takes just two players, but for two is the best Carcassonne experience.
The best city-building game has you placing tiles to flesh out your suburb. The spatial connections are the key, the tiles are full of all sorts of conditions. Residential areas don’t want to be near industrial areas, nobody wants to be next to a landfill and so on. There’s an economy to worry about, as you have to pay for everything, but the tile placement is very much in the heart of this game.
I like fast-playing games that pack a lot of punch in simple rules and quick playing time. Oregon sure delivers in that respect. Players place two kinds of tiles – one of which is represented not with a tile, but with a wooden meeple, as it only needs to carry one bit of information – on the board and where the two meet, points are created. Cards restrict where you can place your buildings and cowboys can be placed, so hand management becomes a problem as well as figuring out the best places to place your tiles.