I’m not going to lie, I didn’t like this game when we started to play it but after I got the hang of things, it was actually really great. Five Tribes is very similar to the board game Splendor but I found it to be a bit more interesting.
Released in 2014 by Days of Wonder, designer Bruno Cathala created a game for the serious strategy gamer. Five Tribes is said to be Days of Wonder’s first gamer’s game, even though it’s a very easy one to play.
The game is aimed at players aged thirteen and up. The box recommends that the game will take between 40-80 minutes to complete. Our game with three first time players took around 60 minutes to complete.
Five Tribe retails for around $110 AUD.
Five Tribes takes place in the fabled Sultanate of Naqala. Players move meeples that represent the five tribes, around the board of tiles to gain power and influence. Players have to remove all the meeples from a tile and distribute them, one at a time. At the end of the game, whoever has the most influence and wealth will become the new ruler of Naqala.
To set up the game, players have to randomly place the tiles to make a modular board in a 5×6 array. The game comes with 30 double-sided tiles — meaning no two games will be the same. The meeples are drawn randomly from the included cloth bag and three are placed on each tile. Starting on any tile, all of the meeples on that particular tile have to be picked up and placed in an orthogonal-only path with one meeple being placed on each tile you pass. For your move to be legal, the tile you end on must have a meeple of the same colour you have remaining on it. The player then collects all of the meeples of that colour from the board and trades it according to what it offers. If the tile is then empty, the player can place a camel on the tile to claim that area.
Nine resource cards are set up on one side of the board, which can be purchased with certain coloured meeples or victory coins. There’s also a display for Djinn cards — three are face up from a deck of 22. Each of these has a special ability that can be used if you acquire that card.
The game also comes with some wooden pieces, which represent camels, palm trees and palaces. The camels come in each player’s colour and are used to represent who has taken ownership over which tile. Instead of being made from cardboard like the victory coins are, these pieces and the bid markers are made from thick wood and painted to match the overall style of the game.
The game is played in a series of rounds, where the players have to bid in order to go first. If someone doesn’t want to bid, they take over one of the free spots on the turn order track. This has to be done every round.
Once all of the tiles have been claimed or there are no longer any moves available, the game is almost over. Players must collect all of their tiles and accompanying cards, meeples, palaces and palm trees and tally up the points on the score pad that comes with the game. The player with the most points wins the game.
We were quite impressed that our scores were on the higher side, as we didn’t really know what we were doing to begin with. The game was interesting in which there are many different ways to collect points. The tiles are worth points, as are your remaining coins, and any meeples you collected throughout the game.
The artwork on the box is quite beautiful and detailed and I found that the tiles, cards, etc. matched the story well. The mix of dull browns and bright colours was very aesthetically pleasing for a game about a caravan stopping in a town that needs a new ruler.
I’ve only played Five Tribes once, but I imagine each game would be better than the last. Just as you think you’ve developed a strategy, the tiles get shuffled and a new board is created. As no game is the same, strategies can’t really be transferred from game to game.
This is the one of the games that we played during class that I would actually consider buying. Although it’s a hard game to master, I can imagine it being a crowd pleaser.