Thursday, 22 August 2013

Worker Placement Game: Commerce Court

I have always wanted to do a proper worker placement game, but every time I do, I end up with some hybrid that isn't quite worker placement.

Recently, I had an idea for a WP game that actually plays like a WP game. It has several unique aspects to it; I'll jump right into the rules so that you can see for yourself.


The board has the following spaces:
  • Basic Actions:
    • Concrete Industry: Get 3 Concrete
    • Oil Industry: Get 2 Oil
    • Steel Industry: Get 1 Steel
    • Silicon Industry: Get 1 Silicon
    • Financial Sector: Get $4
  • A space for the Contract deck and the Contract discard pile.
  • 6 spaces for available contracts
  • 2 spaces for additional contracts (available through research)
  • A space for the Employee deck
Note that there is not currently space on the board for the employee pool and any additional buildings are built throughout the course of the game.

I am using bingo chips for money. Green for $1, Blue for $5 and Red for $25. You could just as easily use poker chips, or even coins (pennies, nickels, and quarters). Find something in your game designer's toolkit.

Money is the driving force of the game. It serves as VP as well as the key commodity for hiring and paying your workers.

Employee Cards:
The employee deck consists of numbered cards from 3 to 35. I am using the deck from the game No Thanks. The number on each card is the employee's minimum bid, as well as its initiative value.

Employees are played in sequence of their initiative order (descending). In addition, you get a bonus at the end of the game equal to either 2* the value of your best worker, or 10* the number of workers you have (whichever is greater).

Used Tokens:
Because of the way I have done the Workers in this game, the tokens that you place on each location don't have to be colour coordinated. Coincidentally, No Thanks also has a lot of tokens. I am using those for this purpose.

Contract Cards:
This is a deck of 30 cards that detail the various things you have to do in order to earn money. I will give more detail on them later.

In summary, there are 3 types: Buildings, Research, and Resource Contracts. Buildings create new places for players to place their workers. Research alters the board in some way. Resource Contracts let you sell resources for money.

Resource Tokens:
I am currently stealing all of my resources from Puerto Rico.
  • Silicon is Corn (yellow)
  • Steel is Indigo (blue)
  • Oil is Colonists (brown discs)
  • Concrete is dubloons (money). This is because it tends to run out using anything else.

Each player starts with $25. Fill the employee pool with the lowest cards in the deck. Shuffle both decks and put them on the board.

As a personal preference, I like to put whatever resources a particular space produces on it, just for visual reference. This also helps keep track of the research you have done to enhance your basic industries.

Turn Sequence:

I use a mnemonic to remember the turn sequence; having already memorized the turn sequence for Magic: the Gathering, I liken my steps to its.
  1. Return all employee cards to their employer's hands. Remove all Used Tokens from all spaces. [Untap]
  2. Players pay their employees wages. [Upkeep]
# of Employees 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Wages 1 3 6 10 15 21 28 36 45 55

You may also wish to dismiss employees if you do not want to (or cannot) pay their wages. Dismissed employees go on the bottom of the employee deck.
  1. Fill the employee pool and the contract spaces. [Draw]
The employee pool can hold a number of employees equal to the number of players by default. The Outsourcing research can increase this.

There are 6 contract spaces by default. The Database Relations research can increase this to 8. 
  1. Add any resources to buildings that demand it. [Put down any mana] (and yes I am aware this technically happens in the main step; but it is my mnemonic and I can do what I want with it)
  2. Employee Draft: Players bid on employee cards in a manner similar to Power Grid's bidding for power plants. [Main Phase]
The player with the most money may select an employee and places a bid on him. If he does not (or cannot) he may not do any further bidding this turn. Players then go around making increasing bids, until all but one have withdrawn their bids. The winner collects his employee, and then cannot do any further bidding this turn.

Begin again with the player with the most money that can still bid. Continue doing so until every player has declined to select an employee, or has won one.
  1. Action Phase: Player play their employee cards in descending initiative order. [Attack Phase]
This is very straightforward from a rules perspective. Play an employee card and place a Used token

A few caveats when building buildings. They are twofold:
  • Some buildings require multiple workers. The worker you are currently using is the "foreman", and counts towards that total. You may use any other workers you wish from your hand to build it. (If you do not have enough workers, you cannot build it; the same as any other required resource)
  • You also have the option to bring along an extra worker to use the building immediately. Again, you may use any worker card in your hand. 
Resource Based Placements:
When playing things that let you sell resources, put the resources there instead of the normal Used Token. If you do not use all of its capacity, another player can use the rest. For buildings (but not resource contracts) these resources are cleared off next turn (in the "Untap" phase).

When you fulfill a contract, remove it and take the appropriate action. If it is a building, put it into play. If it is a resource contract, put it in the discard pile. If it is research, put it in the discard pile as well, but do not forget about its effects!

Note that Resource contracts are the only contracts you do not have to fulfill in one go.

End Game

The turn in which the final card is drawn from the contract deck is the last turn of the game.

The game is scored by the amount of money they have, plus their employee bonus. The employee bonus is either 2* their highest valued employee, or 10* the number of employees they have (whichever is greater). Unused resources do not contribute to your score.

Variant: Remove 5 cards from the Contract deck at the beginning of the game, showing them to all players. This makes for a shorter game, as well as adding a bit of strategy by giving more information to the players.

List of Contracts:
Each contract is formatted (here) like the following:

Name: Type (resource, building, or research)
Effects (note that cost and effect are combined for Resource contracts)

Oil Shipment (3 copies) : Resource
$10 (note that this is in addition to the value of the resources)
Sell 10 Oil at $4 each.

Oil Drill: Building
3 Concrete
Action: Collect all Oil on this building.
When this is built, and at the beginning of every turn after, add 1 Oil to this.

Oil Rig: Building
2 Workers, 4 Concrete, 2 Steel
Action: Get 2 Oil

Concrete Factory: Building
2 Workers, 2 Concrete, 1 Steel
Action: Get 3 Concrete

Moore's Law: Research
4 Silicon
Increases the output of the Silicon Industry by 1 chip.

Steel Plant: Building
2 Workers, 5 Concrete
Action: Get 1 Steel

Metallurgy: Research
2 Steel, 2 Silicon
Increases the output of the Steel Industry by 1 ingot.

Steel Shipment: Resource
$6 (note that this is in addition to the value of the resources)
Sell 4 Steel ingots at $6 each.

Gas Station: Building
4 Concrete
Sell 1 Oil for $8

Employment Office: Building
2 Concrete, 1 Steel
Hire an employee from the pool for his minimum cost. You may play him this turn (immediately if his number has already passed)

Advanced Computing (2 copies) : Research
2 Silicon
Increases the output of the financial sector by $2

Stock Market: Building
3 Workers, 6 Concrete
Action: Get $3 for each contract that has been paid out this turn.

Bank: Building
2 Workers, 3 Steel
Action: Get $6

Outsourcing (2 copies) : Research
2 Silicon
Increase the size of the employee pool by 2.

Oil Pipeline: Building
4 Workers, 11 Concrete
Action: Sell up to 5 oil at $4 each.

Factory: Building
3 Workers, 4 Concrete, 4 Steel
Action: Sell up to 3 Steel at $6 each.

Merchant Stand: Building
1 Concrete, 1 Steel
Action: Collect all money on this building.
When this is built, and at the beginning of every turn after, add $3 to this.

Public Works: Building
3 Workers, 11 Concrete
Action: Sell up to 10 concrete at $2 each.

Government Oil Contract: Resource
Sell 20 oil at $5 each.

Oil Refinement: Research
2 Oil, 2 Silicon
Increases the output of the Oil Industry by 1 Barrel.

Database Relations: Research
2 Silicon
Increases the number of available contracts by 2.

Chemical Processing: Research
2 Concrete, 2 Silicon
Increases the output of the Concrete Industry by 1 bag.

Commercial Plaza: Building
3 Concrete
Action: Get $5

Industrial Complex: Building
4 Concrete, 1 Steel
Action: Get 2 Concrete and 1 Oil

Concrete Mixer: Building
1 Steel
Action: Collect all Concrete on this building.
When this is built, and at the beginning of every turn after, add 2 Concrete to this.

Government Office: Building
2 Workers, 4 Concrete, 1 Steel
Action: Get $2 + $1 for each Employee that you have.


  1. Employment office has been revised to have the following ability:
    Get $2
    Any number of workers may use this space.

  2. I have also stopped shuffling the Employee deck; it tends to make the game a lot more strategic and cutthroat. Cards are sorted and dealt out from lowest to highest.

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