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The act of placing game elements when their spatial relation to other such game elements affects gameplay.

Some games use the spatial relations between game elements to represent aspects of game worlds or relations in abstract structures. Tile-Laying exists in these games when the elements and relations are not fixed but created through placing them, and it is likely that the resulting relations differ between game instances.

Note: While the pattern name suggests only the laying of Tiles, it is also applicable to Cards, Tokens, and Units.


As the name suggests, Tile-Laying primarily occurs in Tile-Based Games. For example, players' turns in Carcassonne consist of drawing and laying a tile in connection to those already in play and then optionally placing a token. Samurai and Neuroshima Hex have similar gameplay structures to depict struggles over land areas. Small World lets players place a number of units (and sometimes other tokens) as part of their turn. Acquire using Tile-Laying to abstractly represent competitions between hotel chains and Android uses played tiles to unveil a conspiracy; Illuminati is a Card Game where its is instead used to abstractly represent power structures. Tiles are placed in Drakborgen gradually as the players' explore the gameplay area. Kingdoms is a math-oriented Tile-Laying game with a fantasy theme.

Weaker examples of Tile-Laying exist in games where the Tile-Laying is done before gameplay begins. Settlers of Catan is commonly played this way in order to ensure that the resources provided on its hexagonal tiles are randomized. Rogue and Angband, early Computer-based Roleplaying Games that used ASCII-based graphics, randomizes the layout of levels for each game session.

Using the pattern

Tile-Laying is nearly always a form of Construction, and the primary design choice if one wishes to have it present in a game design is to decide if Cards, Tiles, or Tokens. Units can sometimes also be used (e.g. Small World) when they are placed onto Game Worlds rather than moved around on them, and in this case does not necessarily need to be seen as Construction. Tile-Laying may be used either before game play begins as part of the setup phase of the game or during gameplay as part of the actions players perform. While Randomness is typically used in both cases, in the later case Drawing Stacks are also common and sometimes combined with variants of Hands.


Tile-Laying a concrete way to construct Game Worlds or abstract structures whose relations are shown through spatial positioning. When laid Tiles (or Cards, etc.) can be moved, this allows for Reconfigurable Game Worlds during gameplay but this pattern is in one sense always supported by the game since the Game Worlds can change between game instances. While Reconfigurable Game Worlds can allow Game World Exploration goals, Tile-Laying can more directly link to this if players place Tiles as they do the actual exploration (e.g. Drakborgen). Tile-Laying done before gameplay occurs can create Fog of War simply by placing Tiles, Cards, or Tokens upside down. When players control the placement of the game elements that are used for the Tile-Laying to makes Player-Constructed Worlds possible.

Regardless if players are placing the tiles or Randomness is used, the variation this causes makes it likely that games with Tile-Laying have Varied Gameplay. This, or the Reconfigurable Game Worlds that Tile-Laying can provide, supports Replayability.


Can Instantiate

Game World Exploration, Fog of War, Player-Constructed Worlds, Reconfigurable Game Worlds, Varied Gameplay

with Reconfigurable Game Worlds


Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By


Construction together with Cards, Tiles, Tokens

Can Be Modulated By

Drawing Stacks, Hands, Randomness

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Tile-Laying that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].


  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.