Token Placement

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Using tokens to select future actions to be performed.

Many games give players several different actions to choose from. Those using Token Placement let players compete with each other in picking actions to be played by placing tokens. By having limited number of tokens that can be played and needing to compete with other players for the actions, Token Placement can require players to make trade-offs between with actions to do and iteratively design their plans before performing them.

Note: BoardGameGeek uses Worker Placement[1] to describe a similar concept.


The Board Games Agricola, Caylus, Dominant Species, Egizia, Homesteaders, and Stone Age all make use of Token Placement.

Using the pattern

Token Placement systems require deciding what actions players can pick by placing Bookkeeping Tokens and how many such tokens players should have. Since one of the reasons for using it is that players need to compete for being able to perform actions, the pattern is primarily one for Multiplayer Games. Likewise, Token Placement does rarely combine well with Real-Time Games, instead being used in Turn-Based Games. Regarding the actions, this not only means designing a Limited Set of Actions players can choose from but also considering if there should be one or several slots for each type of action. The actual amount of Tokens give to each player each round is often designed to occupy a certain percentage of the total number of actions - this means that the number is often changed depending on how many players participate but at the same time the number of actions are typically set so that players at least get to place two or three Tokens (the pattern Role Selection basically supersedes Token Placement if one can only place one token).

Token Placement are rarely designed to be contest of reactions, so a Turn Taking sequences need to be designed for the pattern. It is however quite common to support a Varying Turn Orders by allow Token Placement to placed so the change the turn order, in effect turning the Token Placement pattern back on the Turn Taking pattern - Agricola, Caylus, and Dominant Species all do this in various ways.

When players compete with each other over places in Token Placement this has quite similar effects as Bidding and Drafting in other games. For this reason, it may be appropriate to consider the consequences of all these patterns when consider having one of them present in a game design.


Token Placement makes the Tokens used into explicit Resources but also make the possible actions into Resources, so the pattern both instantiates and modulates Resources. Since the actions are limited in number, players are automatically put in Resource Competition situations by the pattern.

The use of Token Placement in games provide Planning Phases in which players have a Freedom of Choice to place Tokens (Bookkeeping ones even if they are referred to as workers in many games) to select future actions from a Limited Set of Actions. Since players have only a few Tokens to place these are Limited Resources, and since these are used to decide future actions the pattern can be seen as a form of Budgeted Action Points (the places to place the Tokens may also be Limited Resources and when this is true the pattern modulates Limited Resources as well). Given that the places are limited players may become involved in Competitions for specific actions. These Competitions are likely to create both Anticipation and Tension, and force players to make Trade-Offs between the most necessary and most efficient actions. Both figuring out where to place one's own Bookkeeping Tokens and to do this taking into consideration how other players will place their Tokens require players to engage in Tactical Planning.

Token Placement is a loose form of Action Programming since only the action to be performed is decided in advance - as long as there are several ways of performing the actions players have some Freedom of Choice during the execution these.


Can Instantiate

Action Programming, Anticipation, Competitions, Freedom of Choice, Limited Resources, Limited Set of Actions, Planning Phases, Resource Competition, Resources, Tactical Planning, Tension, Trade-Offs, Varying Turn Orders

Can Modulate

Budgeted Action Points, Multiplayer Games, Limited Resources, Resources, Turn-Based Games, Turn Taking

Can Be Instantiated By

Bookkeeping Tokens

Can Be Modulated By

Turn Taking

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Real-Time Games


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Entry at BoardGameGeek for the mechanic Worker Placement.