Tile laying was the reason I’m here doing this. The first game my wife and I bought was Carcassonne, and we were hooked instantly, laying out those tiles can be so much fun. And it makes sense: 2 of the games here won the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year), one was a nominee that should have won, and the other won it’s sister award, the Kennerspiel des Jahres (Connoisseur Game of the Year). So as it’s one of my favourite mechanics, why not rank my top 5 tile laying games. While a lot of games use the tile laying mechanic, to be here the games muse have tile laying as it’s main mechanic that drives the gameplay. So grab a bag, draw a tile and see if your favourites fit on my list!
Alhambra is a Spiel des Jahres winner that was sandwiched between Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride, and it combines elements of both games (as evidenced by Top 5 Games like Ticket to Ride… but better!). You use cards to purchase tiles, but the tile laying is really different because of the walls… as you build your palace, you must build the wall around it and cannot have inside that don’t connect to anything, meaning that you really have to strategize a lot more than other games on this list. The walls are some of my favourite parts of this game, and it really sets it apart from a lot of games. It’s one of the older winners and not as popular, but still one of my all time favourites.
There isn’t much more I need to say about these games. It’s hard to pick one of them, because combining them makes the ultimate experience: Both games alone allow you to either play 5×5 with up to 4 players or 7×7 with just 2 players, but if you combine them you can play 5×5 with up to 6 players 7×7 with up to 4 players. Kingdomino is obviously the simpler one of the 2, but Queendomino just adds enough to make it more strategic but not take away the charm of the original. If you haven’t played Kindomino yet, check out my review right here and if you have and haven’t tried Queendomino, you need to, because both are amazing game in their own right but perhaps even better together.
3) Isle of Skye
On paper, Isle of Skye kind of looks like Carcassonne, but once you start you’ll realize its a completely different beast. You draw 3 tiles per round, and you set bids for 2 of them and axe off one of them… all done secretly behind a screen. And then they all get auctioned off. What really makes this game stand out is the scoring: there are 20 scoring tiles, 4 of them are used for each game and they are always in a different order and scored in different ways, which makes every single game feel unique and adds so much replay-ability. So in one game one tile might seem worthless, but in another the same tile will be extremely valuable. This makes what could have been just another Carcassonne clone become one of the best out there. Check out my review of it here and see what its all about.
I could have easily put Patchwork here, but I’m going with Bärenpark instead… why? Because it’s a little more forgiving and plays with 4 players. There is nothing wrong with Patchwork and it’s one of my favourite games, but the more I play Bärenpark the more i fall in love with it. You have a sense of urgency in it that Patchwork doesn’t seem to have as much, due to the tiles taken first giving you more points and the objectives being the same. Both games give you that nice Tetris-like feel, but I’m going to give the edge to a game that allows you to build a sanctuary for panda bears and koala bears side by side.
I don’t know what else to say about this game, it should have won the Spiel des Jahres and my review of it says how much I love it. I love how everyone gets the same tiles each round, but by the end no one’s board looks the same. I’ve heard people describe it as a roll and write game without the rolling and writing, and it’s a accurate description. It’s one of my favourite games of all time, and my favourite tile laying game. Every game feels different due to the placements, and I’m excited every time it hits the table! It’s so accessible yet provides a rich and rewarding experience every time. Karuba is one of my all time favourite games, and my favourite tile laying game of all time.
*Honourable mention: Carcassonne (all versions… maybe some more than others… definitely at least one of them…)
You’ve heard me mention Carcassonne so many times, and it was the first game we bought… so why is it not on my list? Well… the original game is great, but so many games have made tile laying better. It’s also hard when you draw a tile that has no use for you and you just place it for nothing… and theres so many versions out there. My favourite is the The Castle variant, which is a tight 2 player game but is currently out of print. Gold Rush is amazing variant with a wild west theme and some mining aspects to it. And there’s the awesome kids version that is a lot of fun and captures the spirit of the original. If you haven’t played Carcassonne or any of its variants, you owe it to your self to try the classic. But at the end of the day, I feel the 5 games above are better games and therefore I guess Carcassonne (one of the versions anyways, I can’t pick) has to sit at 6-ish. But for the sake of arguments sake, get Gold Rush. Yea… Gold Rush is really awesome.
So there’s 5 awesome tile laying games, where you make some sort of puzzle in your mind and try to complete it in front of you to get the most points. Any others on your list that I may have missed? Sound off on the comments below!