Tile Placement board games tend to be well received in our household. There’s something about the satisfaction of creating just the right pattern or fitting a tile in just the right place that seems to work well for all of us.
Over the years I have tried a lot of these sorts of games and it’s fair to say that they tend to be fairly diverse. But for all the many tile placement games I have tried so far, these are the ones I like the most. Ranking them was really challenging and in some cases, there was very little separating the games, but I decided to force myself to rank this list in order anyway. My feelings on the ordering of these games may change over time but I think they all deserve to be on this list.
What You Will Find in Our Best Tile Placement Board Games Article
8. Galaxy Trucker
Play Time: 20-30 Min / Players: 2-4 / Complexity: Medium / Age: 8+ we think 10+ / Publisher: Czech Games Edition / Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
- Not much down time as most play is simultaneous
- Great theme that is well implemented
- Plenty of interesting strategies to explore and ways to build your ship
- Option to play a one-off round or trans galactic trek gives flexibility to adjust play time and complexity
- Some nice tension during the ship build phase which adds to the excitement as you are competing for parts.
- Setting up the ship tiles for each round can be a little fiddly and take some time
- It can be tricky for new players to get their heads around all the ship parts.
Galaxy Trucker has you cobble together a space freighter out of random spare parts in the hopes of making your fortune hauling freight across the galaxy. This isn’t a peaceful sight seeing trip across the vastness of space, there are plenty of calamities that can befall your rag tag ship and its crew. You could be pummelled in a meteor shower, attacked by pirates or even contract a mysterious space virus that ravages your crew. If you can make it to the end of your journey in one piece you will be rewarded for any freight you managed to gather and other achievements.
Galaxy Trucker is probably the most thematic game on this tile placement list. It is such a cool concept, and it really comes through in the gameplay. My favourite part is the tile placement phase where you build your ship out of random parts you can snap up. It just feels so chaotic but also so satisfying when you can create a ship that you think will make it through all the calamities it might face. There are also plenty of laughs as players endure segments of their ship being blown apart or other crises that may pop up. I prefer this game with more players, but my son and I have a lot of fun with two players as well.
Check out our full Galaxy Trucker review.
Play Time: 15-30 Min / Players: 2 / Complexity: Low / Age: 8+ / Publisher: Lookout Games / Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
- Easy to learn
- Clever use of time as a form of currency
- Interesting and satisfying decisions
- Can be played fairly quickly
- Cool quilt making theme.
- Can only accommodate two players
- Can be punishing on new players as negative points are not uncommon.
Patchwork is the only game designed to cater for just 2 players on our best tile placement games list. In Patchwork your goal is to create a patchwork quilt which ideally will cover as much of the space you have available as possible. There are two currencies in this game, time and buttons. There is a limited amount of time available to piece together your quilt as represented by spaces on a track. Buttons can be earned throughout the game and your button earning potential can be increased by certain patches. You need both time and buttons to purchase quilt pieces during the game. The player with the highest score at the end of the game wins.
Patchwork is such a simple game but the concept of time as a form of currency is really well done and adds another layer to your decision making. There are some really interesting decisions here around managing your scarce supply of time and buttons to maximise your coverage of the quilting area. Beware though this game can be brutal, especially when you are new to it as points are deducted for every empty space on your board at the end of the end of the game. In my first game I ended up with negative points. However, it is definitely worth hanging in there to grasp the strategy as it is an amazing tile placement game.
Play Time: 30-45 Min / Players: 2-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 8+ / Publisher: Lookout Games / Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
- Great theme
- Easy to learn
- Meaningful decisisons
- Satisfying puzzly feel
- Great replay value with inclusion of achievements variant.
- Not a lot of player interaction.
In our next tile placement game, Barenpark, you will be competing to create the best bear park, how cool is that? You will start the game with a square park area where you can place your tiles and as you cover icons on this space you will be able to earn more polyomino tile pieces. You will eventually be able to expand out your park with more park areas and as you build out enclosures you will earn points. The person who can muster the most points for their bear park wins.
I tend to really enjoy games with polyominos and there are a few of those games on this list. I love the idea of creating a park full of bears, it’s such a cool theme. I also like the way the polyomino tiles add an extra layer of consideration to decision making as you have to somehow make everything fit nicely. The achievements variation is also a great way to keep the game feeling fresh when you are confident with it.
Play Time: 30 – 45 Min / Players: 1-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 10+ / Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) and Flatout Games / Designer: Kevin Russ
- Family mode reduces difficulty a little and makes the game more accessible
- Cute cat theme likely to appeal to a wide audience
- Three layers of scoring opportunities make for an interesting and challenging experience
- Recessed game board is fantastic
- Artwork and components look great
- Scenarios and variations offer some good replay value.
- Can be very challenging and some people may find this frustrating, especially younger players
- Game feels very constrained by the board and the small number of drafting options
- Solo mode is very difficult and may put some people off.
Calico is another tile laying game involving quilt making, this time though your goal is to entice picky cats to your quilt by satisfying their very particular preferences. In Calico players will take turns placing a quilt piece on their board and drafting a quilt piece in the hopes of making pattern or colour sets to gain cats or buttons. The full game adds three scoring tiles to your quilt for an additional option to earn points. The player with the most points wins.
Calico may look like a cute game on the cover, but it can be brutal. It is such a simple game but always makes me think so hard when I play. My advice is to start with the family mode, especially when playing with younger kids so it’s not so challenging. I think the thing I love most about Calico is that it always feels like a tight game where you need to make tradeoffs to succeed. Because of the multiple layers you need to consider for scoring purposes it makes it feel very satisfying when you get it right. It’s a game I usually reach for when I want a real challenge.
Check out our full Calico review.
4. Project L
Play Time: 20 – 40 Min / Players: 1-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 8+ / Publisher: Boardcubator / Designer: Michal Mikeš, Jan Soukal, Adam Spanel
- Easy to learn
- Plays quickly
- Fun puzzly feel which is satisfying as you get frequent rewards
- Interesting decisions and some nice depth for such a simple game
- Gameplay is smooth with little down time
- Components are great, especially the recessed puzzle tiles.
- No theme
- Not much player interaction.
Project L is another polyomino style tile laying game. It feels like the board game equivalent of the classic video game Tetris as you have to complete as many puzzles as possible using Tetris like pieces. The more puzzles you complete the more pieces you get and the more points you accumulate.
While all the games on this list are amazing, the top 4 is where I struggled the most, there is just so little that separates these 4 games. Project L has such a satisfying engine building feel to it as you accumulate more and more pieces and can achieve more each turn. I love that feeling of the game ramping up. It also is so accessible because completing puzzles is something most of us learnt as pre-schoolers. An amazing tile placement game which is suitable for a wide age range and experience level.
Check out our full Project L review.
Play Time: 30-45 Min / Players: 1-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 10+ we think 7+ / Publisher: AEG and Flatout Games / Designer: Randy Flynn
- Lots of gameplay variations on offer through different animal cards, solo mode, scenarios, and achievements
- Relaxing and addictive gameplay
- Very easy to learn with dedicated family scoring variant to help younger kids learn to play
- Gorgeous artwork from Beth Sobel makes the game look great on the table and the box looks amazing on the shelf!
- Not likely to cause many arguments amongst siblings as the gameplay is relaxed and there isn’t much opportunity to sabotage other players.
- A little luck involved in the random tile and wildlife token draws but this can be mitigated to an extent with nature tokens
- Not a lot in the way of player interaction which may not suit some people.
Cascadia is a tile laying game that is all about building habitats and settling wildlife in accordance with scoring patterns. It’s a balancing act of drafting the required wildlife and habitat tiles to maximise your points. Wildlife are scored against scoring card requirements, and habitats are scored on the basis of the largest contiguous space for each habitat type.
Cascadia has such a wonderful relaxing vibe about it. I think that’s because unlike Calico it doesn’t feel nearly as constrained or brutal. You can lay your tiles in any shape you like, there are no boundaries. Win or lose I enjoy the act of creating my own little slice of nature on the table. Although it doesn’t have a lot of player interaction, it means that players can focus on their creation without worrying about someone else interfering with it. Cascadia also has an amazing solo mode with scenarios to complete for when you want to unwind for a stress-free solo game.
Check out our full Cascadia review.
2. The Isle of Cats
Play Time: 60-90 Min / Players: 1-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 8+ / Publisher: The City of Games / Designer: Frank West
- Family mode is a fantastic way to introduce the game to younger or non-gamer players
- Some good depth in the full game mode
- Resource management, card drafting and tile placement stitch together nicely
- The components look amazing, especially the cat tiles
- Theme will appeal to a broad audience and is well implemented.
- Full game can last a long time at high player counts with some down time
- Can be challenging to differentiate the rooms on player boats as the symbols aren’t that easy to see at first
- Luck can play a role due to the lesson cards.
The Isle of Cats has you sailing to a feline filled island paradise to rescue the resident cat population before the evil Lord Vesh arrives. Each player will be trying to fill their boat with as many polyomino cats as possible while trying to keep like-coloured groups together and meet scoring objectives (lessons). This one is a cool combination of card drafting and tile placement which works really well.
The Isle of Cats offers so many interesting decisions due to the clever way the card drafting works to provide you scoring opportunities, currency (fish) to entice cats and other useful cards to use. The balancing act here is really satisfying as you need to ensure you are not only drafting cards that let you gain cats but also provide yourself with good scoring opportunities through the lesson cards. I mentioned before I really enjoy polyomino style games and this is probably my favourite. The full game can be a bit hard on younger kids to understand but thankfully there is an awesome family mode that focuses on the tile drafting and placement which is a great way to learn the game.
Check out our full The Isle of Cats review.
Play Time: 30-45 Min / Players: 2-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 8+ / Publisher: Next Move Games / Designer: Michael Kiesling
- Rules are extremely simple and easy to learn
- The depth in gameplay and strategy becomes more apparent the more you play
- As the game progresses tile spaces become more scarce adding some tension to your choices in later rounds
- Having two options on the boards for tile placement provides some nice variation in play
- The components are beautifully produced.
- The strategy can be hard to get your head around at first and may be frustrating for some
- Some players may find the game a little cut throat.
The number 1 spot on our best tile placement games list goes to Azul. Azul is a tile drafting game where you are charged with decorating a palace wall with beautiful tiles. The more tiles you connect the more points are on offer. The winner is the person with the most points after the end game is triggered. The game ends once a player has managed to complete a full horizontal line in their wall space (5 tiles).
As I mentioned earlier, deciding on the order for the top 4 games on this list was very challenging but I think it deservedly goes to Azul. Azul is a masterful mix of simplicity and depth. There are layers to this game you uncover as you play more of it. The player interaction here is a real highlight for me. Due to the tile drafting you really do need to be aware of what others are doing to be successful and at times it can be cutthroat. An amazing tile placement game and worthy of our top spot.
Check out our full Azul review.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best tile placement games. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts on this game please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page.
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