In every worker placement game I have seen players have their worker pool and their resource pool. Workers are a unique type of resource as they are the one that trigger actions for the player. They give the player the ability to take actions. Normally, players use their workers first to generate resources then, after they have enough resources, they use their workers to spend those resources. Each worker spent either brings in resources or spends resources. But those resources go into and come out of the same pool. So each worker has access to all of the resources at once. There is no restriction on how many of a player’s resources one worker can spend.
One of the ways to create interesting decision in a game is to limit players. Why not limit the number of resources each worker has to spend?
The basic idea is this: if you send Jimmy the Worker out into the field to build a barn, he only has so much energy to spend. And maybe he has already done some work since he last slept so some of his energy is already spent. Maybe you would need to send Jimmy and Julie out to build the barn and together they can get the work done. Each worker has a limited amount of energy they can spend before they sleep and recharge.
This could also mean that maybe Julie the Worker has some extra energy, more than she needs to complete an action. So she can boost the action by spending extra energy to get more out of the action than she normally could.
This idea came from a design I am calling Project Gem Dice. In the game, players have dice as workers that represent gems. These gems can store energy that is spent to complete actions. When a player uses one of their gems to take an action they will dial down the number on the dice by the cost of the action, spending that energy. Players will have to decide how to best use each worker based on how much energy it has left. In this game, there will be an event that occurs every several rounds which recharges the gems with energy so players have to budget how they use their energy.
The sleep action example from above would be another good way to handle the “recharging” of this mechanism.
This also allows for actions that have variable cost which will make the player have to decide how much of their energy to spend on that action. So players can choose to spend 1 energy and receive a small benefit or 5 energy and receive a much larger benefit but risk running short on energy until the recharging event occurs.
Combining workers and resources provides new interesting decisions and it reduces the components needed in the game. It is a simplification in game size but doesn’t lose the resource management aspect. Actually it creates more interesting decisions around the management of your resources. How much do I spend right now? Should I save some energy for future turns? Do I use two of my workers to complete this action to get a larger benefit? Or because I really need to take this action but one worker doesn’t have the required resources by itself?