Thursday, March 02, 2017

"Worker Learning" revisited (a "duh" moment)

About a month ago I posted about a game mechanism that could have some potential... Worker Learning, a worker placement game where your workers get better as you use them, incorporating aspects of games like Solforge and Concordia.

In that post I brainstormed a mechanism by which your workers got better as you played them. It was a potentially fiddly idea wherein each worker had a name or reference (A-G for example), and then your player board would have a track for each worker to indicate its level.

Tonight, while listening to a podcast, I heard mention of Biblios, described as a game where you have dice but you don't roll them... and upon hearing that, I had an epiphany. One of those "duh" moments that you can't figure out why you didn't notice it before.

Why not have your workers be dice! Not dice that you roll, but dice that indicate the worker's level!

So you could place a die, resolve the action, then increment the die face. In addition to the resolution of spaces ramping up with worker level, larger value dice could potentially be allowed to go to an occupied space, so long as their current value is higher than the value of the die occupying the space. This would probably make the whole idea of tracking worker levels much less fiddly.

As I said, I can't believe I didn't think of it before. This isn't even the first time I've considered using dice as workers where the pip value indicates level... my comments on Euphoria generally include something about a missed opportunity -- I would have preferred if the dice in that game were not rolled, rather the pip values indicate the knowledge level of the workers, and stronger actions increase the worker's knowledge, so when a worker becomes too enlightened and goes away, it's because of your actions, not a die roll.

Anyway, I wanted to get that down before I forgot it. If I ever get around to building a game out of this Worker Learning mechanism, then I'm pretty sure using dice for the workers is the way to go!

But before I worry too much about that... Joan of Arc!


Scurra said...

I'm sure I've played a game that uses that sort of "levelling up" mechanic, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was called (so my memory may be wrong!)
edit: after some searching through BGG, it was Panthalos (

I've certainly tried a couple of designs like that myself - indeed, you've inspired me to dig them out and have another look at them. :)

AlexC said...

Hm. I'm not sure I like dice that need to keep their number the same constantly apart from when specific actions change them. Players like to pick up a worker then dither about where to put it, and it'd be very easy to accidentally change or forget the number that was showing while the die's in your hand.

An alternative: Workers can gain "hats" that grant them extra abilities. Maybe the workers are Tower of Hanoi-style poles, or Ursuppe style like this: And then you can add beads/discs of various colours/designs to indicate various abilities/skills the workers have.

Kevin Flickner said...

I've been following your blog for awhile now. Eminent Domain is my favorite game-thanks for creating it.
But to address the "worker learning" dice concept--have you played Praetor? It's been awhile since I played it, but I think that had a similar concept--of dice "upgrading" to higher numbers.

Seth Jaffee said...

@Scurra - Thanks for the link, that game looks pretty cool. It's a little bit different from what I'm talking about -- you get to upgrade your workers for a cost. My idea has your workers upgrading on their own as you use them.

I might try to hunt down a copy of Panthalos to give it a try :)

@Alex - Legos or some such crossed my mind (see also the upcoming Chimera Station, coming soon from TMG!). I don't think the problem you reference is really a problem though. There's precedent for die workers where the pip info is relevant (see the game David referenced above, and Euphoria, and Praetor that Kevin referenced below)

@Kevin - I did play Praetor once, and frankly I don't remember it very well. I forget how the dice level up in that game, but I remember that they eventually retire :)

Thanks for the kind words about Eminent Domain! I'm glad to hear you like it :)