The 18 Card Challenge - Worker Placement

It's time for a new challenge. We had two in mind. One was easy, one was hard. We went with the hard. Sorry!

JUNE/JULY CHALLENGE: Create an 18 card worker placement game.

First lets define a worker placement game:

A mechanic where players have a number of available tokens, usually referred to as "workers", and take turns assigning them to different "action" spaces. Depending on the game, actions may resolve immediately or only once the worker is removed from the board. In most cases, a worker being present on an action space prevents another player from occupying it, or an action space may only have a few open spots, limiting the number of workers that can occupy that space. A "worker placement game" is one that uses this as a primary mechanic.

More precisely referred to as "action drafting", this mechanism requires players to select individual actions from a set of actions available to all players. Players generally select actions one-at-a-time and in turn order. There is usually a limit on the number of times a single action may be taken. Once that limit for an action is reached, it typically either becomes more expensive to take again or can no longer be taken for the remainder of the round. As such, not all actions can be taken by all players in a given round, and action "blocking" occurs. If the game is structured in rounds, then all actions are usually refreshed at the start or end of each round so that they become available again.

Actions are commonly selected by the placement of game pieces or tokens on the selected actions. Each player usually has a limited number of pieces with which to participate in the process. Some games achieve the same effect in reverse: the turn begins with action spaces filled by markers, which are claimed by players for some cost.

From a thematic standpoint, the game pieces which players use to draft actions often represent workers of a given trade (this category of mechanism, however, is not necessarily limited to or by this thematic representation). In other words, players often thematically "place workers" to show which actions have been drafted by individual players. For example, in Agricola each player starts with two pieces representing family members that can be placed on action spaces to collect resources or take other actions like building fences. When someone places a piece on a given space, that action is no longer available until the next round.

We see these as games where you place a finite number of units (or workers) onto a limited job/tash, that pays out in resources or provides other types of bonuses.

Stone Age, Lords of Waterdeep, Everdell, games with lots of components

What we love about worker placement games is the importance of timing. (getting to a job/task first because they are limited, when to place, and how long they must stay) as well as the tough choices in how you use your limited resources. 

Second, lets give you place to share your games, thoughts, look for playtesters and join in on the community behind these awesome games:

The Button Shy discord server has a whole section for designers, and a subsection for each of our contests. Visit it here and join along:

Now let's get into the rules:
-18 cards max
-Cards must be poker sized (2.5" x 3.5") and not square.
-You cannot use anything other than cards. This means nothing provided by the player. No pen and paper. No tokens. Nothing other than the cards.
-You cannot modify the cards in any way. No markers, dry erase, scissors, etc.
-Rules must be reasonable (a few pages of a google doc for example)
-No additional components or player provided components/tools

Additional rules:

  • No dexterity games. While I wouldn't expect any, you never know.
  • No solo games. We want to see great player interaction. 2P only is perfectly fine (and likely due to the lack of resources).
  • No tile laying games. We see too many of these. A small amount is acceptable, but I would say that if there are more than 6 cards of tile laying in your game, or it is a main feature, it's a tile laying game.
  • Little to no simultaneous reveal. We see too many of these as well and if you want to be on an even playing field, we'd suggest minimizing it.
  • Try to avoid flip rotate and swap as your main actions. We see too much of this as well. A little is fine, but we want to see more than manipulating a field of cards. [To clarify as we've received a lot of questions on this. You can flip, rotate and swap cards, but we don't want to see games like this: set out the cards in a grid. On your turn - choose an action: flip, swap or rotate a card. One player wins when (insert win condition here). We see way too much of that and are looking for some more interesting choices and interactions.]
  • If you are looking for loopholes, you will not win the contest. We're simply looking to see how someone can get worker placement elegantly into a cards only game. We aren't looking for the games that do that via loopholes. I can't even think of them in advance, but I know you will. :)


Submissions will be accepted until Friday July 31, 2020 at 11:59 PM EST.

Winner will be announced on or before Tuesday September 29, 2020.

Submission Requirements

For your submission, instead of emailing us, we have created a simple google form to collect the following information from you.

  1. Game Description: Including Game Title, Player Count, Estimated Play Time, Recommended Ages (if any), Brief Description of the game play.
  2. Print-and-Play File: This should include the rules and play sheet(s). The file can be hosted on either your own site, or a public one like Dropbox or Google Drive, or included as an attachment. IF YOUR FILES HAVE PERMISSIONS, PLEASE MAKE SURE THEY ARE OPEN SO THAT WE CAN SEND TO OTHER JUDGES.
  3. Short Pitch Video: No more than 3 minutes. This doesn't need to be any more than a handheld phone video, but we just request to see some visuals of the gameplay. WE RECOMMEND YOUTUBE OR VIMEO. WE WILL BE USING VIDEOS IN OUR WEB SERIES.

Additional Restrictions

Designs must be original works that do not infringe on any intellectual property. Submission must not be available for sale through any retail, secondary or print-on-demand market and may not be currently under consideration for publication by other publishers.

One submission per entrant.

Designers must be 18 years or older to enter.

While designs need not have final artwork or graphics, they should be complete and usable. All designs remain the intellectual property of the designers.


The winner will receive $100, paid via Paypal. All entries may be considered for publication by Button Shy Games (and will be offered a contract with royalties like any other design that we publish).


We will feature the game images and submission videos on our YouTube channel. We will discuss the finalists in detail and judge them on video as well. We will not be providing feedback on all entries, but watching the subsequent videos will show why specific games made it to the finalists or won. We plan to keep comments positive, and highlight why a game won instead of why a game lost.

Good luck everyone!


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