Tile placement board games are fun because you get to watch the board expand as you make connections, form patterns, and lay tiles.
While many games include tiles or tile placement, this article will focus on games with tile placement as the primary mechanic. I’ll hit the highlights for each game and give recommendations about the best game for different categories.
Ready to get started? Let’s dive in!
- 1 At a Glance
- 2 Best Tile-Laying Game: Reviews
- 2.1 Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King: Best Overall
- 2.2 Carpe Diem: Best Runner-Up
- 2.3 Carcassonne: Best Gateway Game
- 2.4 My City: Best Legacy Tile Game
- 2.5 Akropolis: Best for the Super Competitive
- 2.6 Suburbia: Best Engine Builder Tile Game
- 2.7 The Isle of Cats: Best for Single Players
- 2.8 Azul Board Game: Best for Families
- 2.9 Castles of Burgundy: Best for Experienced Gamers
- 3 Tile Placement Games: Buying Guide
- 4 Best Tile Placement Games: Final Verdict
At a Glance
There are several reasons you might find tile placement board games appealing. For some quick recommendations, keep reading.
If you want tile games that feature another mechanic, I would go with Isle of Skye. This game blends tile drafting with a fantastic auction & bidding mechanic that makes the game uniquely entertaining. Other games that combine mechanics well are Suburbia and Castles of Burgundy.
If you enjoy legacy games, you should check out My City.
If you have a competitive nature and want something more intense, I recommend Carpe Diem. The mechanics are fantastic, and it has enough of an edge to make it more competitive. Akropolis is another good choice.
Best Tile-Laying Game: Reviews
Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King: Best Overall
Playing Time: 30-50 minutes
Isle of Skye is an award-winning tile game in which you take on the role of a chieftain responsible for building up your kingdom on the Isle of Skye through auction and bidding, variable scoring, and tile placement. From Chieftain to King is the first installment of a series of Isle of Skky board games.
This game is played over multiple rounds. To begin, draw four separate scoring tiles depicting the scoring conditions for that game. Players start each round by taking income from the bank based on their keep and their whiskey stocks.
Next, each player draws three tiles and lays them out. Players then secretly bid on two of the tiles and select one for discarding. Once everyone has bid on their own tiles, the screens are removed and the bids are revealed. You go around the table and each player has the option of buying one tile from another player by paying the price set by that player.
Once everyone has had the opportunity to purchase or pass on tiles, you’re required to purchase any extra tiles left in front of you according to the price you set for them. If you price a tile too high, you risk losing money on a tile you don’t need. If you price it too low, you lose out on price gouging your opponents on a tile they might need.
After drafting, now it’s time to place tiles and build your terrain. Terrain types need to match (e.g., mountains to mountains), but roads aren’t required to connect. However, you score points based on the income from whiskey stocks, which you can’t get without connecting roads. So it’s still important, even if not technically required.
Over the course of six rounds, you will score each scoring tile three times, according to the pattern on the player scoreboard. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.
Isle of Skye has a lot going for it. The secret bidding mechanic makes for intense and exciting games. There’s a good level of player interaction, and the diverse scoring options give a fresh take on the classic tile game.
- Fun, competitive game
- Fantastic auction/bidding mechanic
- High replay value
- Easy to learn
- Fast-paced gameplay
- Too much luck for some
Carpe Diem: Best Runner-Up
Playing Time: 45-75 minutes
In Carpe Diem, you take on the role of an influential patrician in Ancient Rome. Your goal is to build the most prosperous city district. You accomplish this by growing gardens, cultivating ponds, and building lavish villas.
This most recent edition has redesigned components in an attempt to fix the aesthetic problems of the earlier version. Even with a new look, it’s still not much to look at. That being said, the gameplay makes up for the lack of visual appeal.
Carpe Diem takes place over four rounds, each with a drafting phase (building phase) and a scoring phase (forum phase). In the drafting phase, players take turns drafting tiles from different depots. Since players have to move to an adjacent depot each turn, there are limited options that diminish as the game progresses.
In the scoring phase, players select two cards that intersect from a grid of cards and score them. Once a player claims an intersection of cards, that scoring opportunity is no longer available for the rest of the game. It’s important to get in there early and choose your cards as soon as possible to fulfill the scoring cards.
These systems make tile drafting all the more crucial. Carpe Diem can be a bit more punishing, but it’s great for those who have a more competitive nature. The rules are easy to learn, too.
Carpe Diem is a fantastic game for those who want card drafting with an extra challenge.
- Easy to learn, difficult to master
- Elegant game mechanics
- Inventive scoring mechanism
- Lacks aesthetic appeal
Carcassonne: Best Gateway Game
Playing Time: 30 minutes
When it comes to tile placement board games, Carcassonne is a modern classic. This was one of the first tile games to achieve widespread popularity. The premise is simple: Players fill in the countryside around the medieval fortified French town of Carcassonne.
Players collect tiles that depict cities, roads, monasteries, and fields. Each new tile creates the board as the game progresses. The players can then add their meeples to the board. The player with the most Victory Points (VPs) when the game ends is the winner.
Scoring points is a matter of completing cities and roads or surrounding tiles with abbeys. Place farmers on the board and score points at the end of the game based on which cities are adjacent to their fields. Other meeples (a.k.a. followers) can take different roles, determined by certain tiles. Each role will score VPs differently.
Carcassonne requires strategy and careful planning. And even though the gameplay sounds basic, it can be cutthroat. You can block your opponent’s road or prevent their city from growing, making for a competitive game.
With 84 tiles that can be configured into seemingly endless combinations, Carcassonne has a high replay value. The only downside is that it might get a little repetitive after a while. The good news is that there are expansions available to add variation and interest.
If you like tile placement board games that don’t require hours to learn or play, you’ll enjoy the classic game of Carcassonne.
- Simple rules
- Quick gameplay
- High variability
- Can get repetitive
My City: Best Legacy Tile Game
Playing Time: 30 minutes
My City is a family-friendly game that is played in a relatively short period of time. It consists of 24 different episodes, each beginning with the development of a city in its early stages and progressing through industrialization.
In My City, you have just arrived in a new land. You immediately start building and developing your city, when gold is discovered. And with any gold rush comes competition! Before you know it, the first factories emerge, demanding more resources. So people turn to mining, which becomes a valuable source of income. Finally, the railroad reaches your city, bringing you prosperity as you continue to develop important transportation and trading lines.
To begin the game, each player starts with the same set of different colored building tiles in various shapes and sizes. There is a deck of cards that corresponds with these buildings. On each turn, you flip a card and place the building shown according to the tile-placement rules. These placement rules and the way you score points evolve over time. The campaign is broken up into eight chapters, each with three episodes. Each chapter and episode often introduces new components that modify the game.
Even though My City is a legacy game, it doesn’t have the heavy feel of many legacy games. No minis, no app, no complicated rulebook that takes five hours to go through. The game will change and evolve over time, but the simplicity makes it accessible. Plus, there are sealed envelopes and fun stickers to discover as you play.
If Legacy games aren’t your thing? No worries. A double-sided game board offers an alternate setup for repeated play. This also allows those who finish the campaign to continue playing, albeit without the exciting discoveries each time.
- Legacy or perpetual game mode
- Easy to learn
- Challenging but fun game
- Fast-paced game
- Lacks replay value
Akropolis: Best for the Super Competitive
Playing Time: 30 minutes
In Akropolis, players act as architects designing the best cities they can. Set in the heart of the Mediterranean, rival cities seek wealth and glory. Your job is to guide your Akropolis to reach new heights.
Build housing, temples, markets, and barracks to ensure the city triumphs over the others. Raise your city’s prestige with thoughtful planning, creating districts and constructing plazas.
Akropolis has easy-to-learn rules, allowing you to begin the game quickly. A single game can be played in half an hour, which means you can bring it to the table again and again.
This board game requires careful planning and thoughtful decisions. You must consider how to spread out or build up. The higher your stacks of tiles, the more valuable the buildings. But you don’t want to run out of stone, so you have to be strategic.
Once all the tiles have been played, you’ll score your zones of the same type of buildings. Matching plazas multiply their points.
There is a potential for “hate drafting” with this game. You can thwart your opponent’s plans and frustrate their strategy. If you enjoy intensely competitive games, this might be right up your alley. If you don’t prefer that, however, just be aware it’s a possibility here.
- Easy to learn
- Quick gameplay
- Quality game components
- Can be intensely competitive
Suburbia: Best Engine Builder Tile Game
Playing Time: 90 minutes
Transform your small town into a major metropolis in Suburbia, published by Bezier Games.
In this tile-placement game, you take on the role of a city planner, placing hex tiles representing buildings in your small borough. You must balance several tracks representing the growth and wealth of your population. Your goal is to have a thriving borough with the largest population.
As your town grows, you’ll modify your income and your reputation. As your income increases, you’ll have more money to purchase better and more valuable buildings. You might build an international airport or a high-rise office building.
You’ll gain more population as your reputation increases. The player with the most population at the end of the game is the winner. During each game, you’ll compete with other players for several unique goals that offer end-game bonuses and population boosts.
On each turn, you’ll purchase a tile from the available market and place it in your city. The buildings interact with one another in ways you’d expect. For example, it hurts you to build a school right next to a factory, but a mansion near a lake will raise property values. It’s important to select tiles that will interact positively with the other tiles in your borough.
The available buildings vary in each game, so you can play a different experience each time. The scoreboard (“Borough Board”) comes with two different track formats, depending on a player’s preference. Plus, the quality organizers make setup and storage easy.
The product description compares this board game to SimCity in board game format, and I have to agree with that comparison. Suburbia is the perfect marriage of city simulation games and tile-laying games.
- Engine builder with tile placement
- High replay value
- Simple to learn
- Can have too much downtime between turns
The Isle of Cats: Best for Single Players
Playing Time: 60-90 minutes
What do you get when you combine tile games with cats? The Isle of Cats. In this fun family board game, your job is to rescue as many cats as possible from the evil Lord Vesh, place them on your ship, and bring them to safety at Squall’s End.
The Isle of Cats is fairly simple to learn and features a playful, appealing theme. The gameplay is straightforward. You draw cards, which give you various actions. You can rescue cats, draw objectives and treasures, and study ancient lessons.
Each round has new cat tiles you can pick from to maximize your score. Play your cat tiles on the ship in an attempt to fill the grid optimally. Group the cat tiles together by color and objectives to score points. You’ll also want to leave enough room to place the next thing on your ship. The game ends after five rounds, at which point the player with the most victory points wins.
The Isle of Cats is a great family game. It’s easy to learn and has plenty of variation, and each round moves along at a good pace so it doesn’t get boring. It requires strategic depth, but it’s still accessible to kids and beginners. Plus, you have two versions to play from: multiplayer and solo mode.
- Great for families
- Quirky and fun
- Has a solo mode
- Expansions available
- Some found it too complicated
Azul Board Game: Best for Families
Playing Time: 30-45 minutes
Azul is the 2018 winner of the prestigious Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award. This tile-placement board game offers an abstract gaming experience with plenty of strategy.
Players become artisans tasked with creating the most beautiful tiled mosaics. Buy tiles from a central market and place them into rows on the boards. Your goal is to score as many points as possible through different combinations.
Earn extra points by collecting sets of the same color tiles and creating particular patterns, but watch out! You could suffer penalties for taking extra tiles you can’t use.
You’ll have to race to grab the tiles you need before other players get to them. Every tile you claim will affect what your opponents can do. You’ll have to make meaningful choices that help you without helping them!
The round ends when a player completes an entire row on their board. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
Azul is a great gateway game for beginners but still fun for veterans. It has a randomized setup but uses a tile placement mechanic to balance strategy with replayability. The game is easy to learn but difficult to master, and anyone can win. Its wide-ranging appeal is one reason it deserves a spot as one of the best tile board games.
- Competitive, challenging gameplay
- Full of meaningful choices
- High replay value
- Colorful artwork
- Light on theme
Castles of Burgundy: Best for Experienced Gamers
Playing Time: 30-90 minutes
Set in 15th-century France, Castles of Burgundy is a heavier tile placement game that’s loads of fun. Your objective is to do everything in your power to make your lands flourish.
This game is not as visually appealing as other games, but it more than makes up for that in the mechanics. This is common with Ravensburger games. This game combines tile placement with worker placement mechanics, using the dice as workers.
On your turn, you’ll roll two worker dice. You can use them to take hex tiles from the offer and place tiles on your estate. But the pips on the dice determine from which depot you can take a tile and where on your player board you can place one.
There are several kinds of hexes, from castles and buildings to knowledge tiles and ships. The game is about completing areas of similar types of tiles. Create paths to victory by using different combinations for bonuses.
Castles of Burgundy has some randomization with the dice, but it’s highly strategic. You have to make do with what you roll and use your actions to maximize your turn. With multiple paths to victory, it’s possible you won’t know the winner until the game ends. The game is played over five phases, each with five rounds.
Castles of Burgundy is simple to learn, but mastering it is no easy feat. There are several player boards available to offer variety. When it comes to tile games, this game is one of the best.
- High replay value
- Multiple paths to victory
- Strategic depth
- Lacks visual appeal
Tile Placement Games: Buying Guide
If you’re going to play tile games, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. First, it’s important to have high-quality tiles that line up properly. Nothing is more annoying than a great game with misaligned tiles.
Secondly, consider the ages of the other players. If you’re playing with children, for instance, you don’t want to choose a game that has complicated mechanics or a long wait time in-between turns.
You also want to think about timing. Some games have several rounds, with scoring after each round. This can make the game last longer than you want. On the other hand, a fast-paced game may feel overwhelming or lacking in substance. It’s helpful to find the best match for your preferred game length.
Best Tile Placement Games: Final Verdict
Which one is the best of the best tile placement board games? Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King is one of the best tile placement games for the table. It’s sophisticated but easy to learn, can be played repeatedly but doesn’t get boring, and has a great auction/bidding mechanic on top of the tile placement. It’s at the top of my list.