Five Tribes Review

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Hey folks, today we’re traveling to a far away land. We’re going to the sultanate land of Naqala. The old sultan just passed away, so they need a new one. Prophecy has told of one person bringing the 5 tribes together to rule the land. So, come with me on a magic carpet ride, we’re moving tribes together, claiming the city, and did I mention there are magic lamps? Not just one, but a bunch of them. We’re playing Five Tribes. This game is designed by Bruno Cathala. He’s got a lot of games under him, including a previous game I reviewed. Kingdomino. He also worked on Yamatai, Shadows over Camelot, and Mr. Jack. Five Tribes is a worker placement game for 2-4 players. It’s not just a worker placement game. You’ll be working on set collections, bidding for turn order, and all this is done on a modular board. Five Tribes is made by Days of Wonder. It plays in about 60 minutes.


The game comes in a large box full of components. This game comes with 90 meeples (These are split between 5 colors), 54 resource cards, 48 $5 coins, 48 $1 coins, 30 board tiles, 22 Djinn cards, 12 palm tree meeples, 10 palace meeples, 5 player aids, 1 betting order track, 1 turn order track, and 1 scoring pad. This is all in addition to the 4 player sets. Two sets have 2 turn markers and 11 camels, the other 2 sets have 1 turn marker and 8 camels. The sets with 2 markers and extra camels are used for the two player rules. If you’re playing with more, then every just takes 8 camels. A ton of components done in Days of Wonder fashion.


To set up, each player will pick a color, take the turn marker and 8 camels of that color. In a two player game, the colors to choose from are blue and pink, and each player will get an additional turn marker and 2 extra camels. Each player gets a value of 50 coins, nine of the $5 coins and five of the $1 coins. Mix up the tiles, and randomly place them down in a 5×6 grid. Mix all the different colored meeples in the black bag, and three go onto each tile.

Shuffle the Djinn cards, and place the deck next to the grid. Three Djinn are revealed and available to purchase during the game.


Shuffle the resource cards, and place the deck above the grid. Reveal nine cards and place them in a line next to the goods deck.

Resource cards and the ways to get them. Green meeples and the tiles with 3 and 6 coins on them.

Place the turn order track and the bidding track near the grid. Place the palm trees and palaces within reach for players to use during the game. There you have it. Set up takes some time, and it takes up a good amount of space on the table.

Players are trying to get the most points at the end of the game. The game ends when a player places their last camel or when there are no more moves left. So how do you get points in this game? I’ll explain that first, then I’ll go into how to play the game. This game is essentially a points salad. Everything you do is getting you points. You get 1 VP for every coin you have at the end of the game, with the 5 value being 5 VP. You gain 1 VP per yellow meeple you have, plus an extra 10 VP for each player with less yellow meeples. You gain 2 VP for every white meeple you have. You get the VP equal to the number on the tiles you control. Bonus VP if those have Palm Trees or Palaces on them. You gain VP equal to the number on the Djinn cards you control. Then you gain VP depending on how many different goods you’ve collected. As you can see, there are a ton of things that go into scoring.


Now for the game play. This is what I found interesting about the game. To start, players are bidding for turn order. Starting with the first player, chosen by any means, they pay the amount on the bidding track they want to place their turn marker. So, if you pay 18 coins, you’re guaranteed to go first, however think of that as losing 18 VP by spending that much. Three players can choose to pay 0. First player takes the spot next to 1. Every player that bids 0 after that, pushes the players already on 0, back a space. Once all bidding is complete, move the player’s turn marker to the turn order track. Highest bid going to the 1 spot.

Now for the other part of the game that intrigued me. Meeple movement. It’s similar to mancala. Pick a tile and pick up all the meeples on that tile. Now, place one meeple from your hand on an adjacent tile, and repeat this process until you place your last meeple. You then collect all meeples of that color from the tile you finished your movement. Your essentially moving from the tile you started a number away equal to meeples you picked up. There are a couple of rules when moving meeples. First, the last meeple color you place has to match a meeple color already on the tile. You can’t move diagonally, and you can backtrack.

If when end your movement and collect all meeples on a tile, you gain control of that tile. Place one of your camels on that tile. It’s now yours to earn VP at the end of the game. Players can still use that tile, and even activate the ability of that tile.


Now you resolve the worker placement part of the game. First, depending on the color meeple you collected, you do different actions. Yellow and White meeples you collect and keep in front of you. Those are used as points or can be traded in later for Djinns. Green meeples allow you to take resource cards. Starting at the end of the line, pick up resource cards equal to the number of meeples you picked up. Blue meeples will get you coins. You will count the number of blue meeples you picked up and multiple them by the number of blue tiles surrounding and including the tile you picked them up from. You then gain that amount in coins. Red meeples let you either remove a single yellow or white meeple from in front of a player or remove a single meeple from a tile equal to the number of red meeples away from where you picked them up. You can use fakir cards to count as blue or red meeples during this phase.


Next, you will preform the action of the tile you are on. Each tile will have different icons in the bottom left corner. The palace and palm tree icons will have you place a palace or palm tree meeple on that tile. The tiles with 3 on them lets you pay 3 coins and take one goods card from the first 3 in line. The tile with 6 lets you pay 6 coins and take two of the goods cards from the first 6 in line. Lastly, the tile with a white meeple lets you trade two of your collected white meeples, or a single white meeple and fakir card, in to buy a Djinn from the Djinn cards.


Djinn cards will add different in game abilities for you. Some change VP at the end of the game just for you. Some give you abilities when you land on certain tiles, and some give you abilities with a cost. You can only activate Djinns on your turn, and once per turn. When it’s your turn, you decided if you want to activate it. They usually take white meeples or fakir cards to activate.

Before the end of your turn, you can also sell goods cards. You pick what number of cards to sell in different suits and collect money from the bank depending on that number. If you only have 1 good card, that gets you 1 coin. That goes up when you have more variety. If you have 9 different goods, you’ll get 60 coins. Remember coins are also points at the end of the game.

After your check for control, resolve the meeple action, and resolve the tile action, you’ll go to the Clean Up step. Move the resource cards left to the front of the line, and refill the line until you have 9 cards face up. Do the same with the Djinns, but only 3 Djinns are available at once. Then, you’ll start the bidding to go first and repeat this process until someone places their last camel or there are no more legal moves.

That’s Five Tribes. I know it sounds or looks daunting when I reread all of this. You’ll get the hang of the turn order and phases. I’ll go into my thoughts on the game. First, I love the components. Tiles, wooden meeples, wooden turn marker, and thick and chunky coins. This is a Days of Wonder game, and they are known for their beautiful art and quality, and it shows here. You get a lot of good components in the box.


I like that every game will have a different lay out of tiles and meeples on them to start the game. It makes the replay of this game nearly endless. Which is great, because if you’re like me, you’ll want to play again immediately after the first game. This is a worker placement game, that uses a unique way of placing the meeples. I enjoyed this part of the game greatly. It can lead to analysis paralysis where players are mentally counting spaces for the best play. While players turns seem like they can be a little complicated, it’s easy to pick up what each color meeple and tile does.

Now, with that said, there is one thing I didn’t like about the game. Mostly it’s the set up. It takes a while to deal out the tiles, placing the meeples, set up the Djinns, and set up the resources. If there are any suggestions to speed this up, I’m all ears. Besides that, this is a great game.

It’s thinky, has worker placement, bidding for turn order, and you earn points for just about anything you do. There are plenty of choices and options in the game that lets you try different strategies. I like the bidding for turn order. Sometimes you see a move that you want to go first and gain control of a tile. Is it worth paying 8 or 12 coins to get it? Is it worth paying more than another player to block their move? I like that ability for each player to decide. I was able to explain and play this with my grandma. She wanted to play it again after the first game. I just needed to help her with VP at the end of the game. The game includes a score pad to make that part easy though. If you like unique worker placement games and strategic games this one is for you.


Thieves of Naqala Expansion.


This is a micro expansion for Five Tribes. It adds in thieves that you can buy the same way as Djinns. The thieves give you points at the end of the game, or you can use them in game and they then get discarded. Only one thief is face up at a time until the clean up phase. This expansion comes with 6 thieves and 1 Djinn. The Djinn protects you from the thieves abilities. The thieves all do something different. If you don’t have the Artisans expansion, remove the purple thief. The green thief when used makes all opponents discard 2 resource cards, then the player who used that thief picks 2 of those cards to keep. The yellow thief makes all opponents discard a yellow meeple and you get to keep one discarded meeple. The white thief makes opponents discard 1 Djinn and you get to keep 1 of the discarded Djins. The red thief makes all opponents take back a camel, then you can place one of your camels on the newly emptied tile. Lastly, the blue thief makes all opponents remove one palm tree or palace from a tile they control, you can select one and put it on any tile you control.


This micro expansion adds just a little bit of Take That to the game. Some seem really powerful, but remember there’s only one thief out at a time. You still need to trade in two white meeples to get one, and after you use the thief, they are removed from the game. I actually like what this adds to the game. It’s just the right size to start with expansions. It doesn’t change the game play, or add any complex rules to the game. It’s just 7 cards, but it adds some player interaction to the game. Do you absolutely need this expansion to make the game feel complete? No, you don’t need this to complete the game. It’s just adds a Take That element to the game. If you like Take That, then this expansion is for you. If you don’t like the Take That element, leave this one out. There are two other expansions for Five Tribes out. I have one that I still need to add to the game and play with first before reviewing. Artisans of Naqala adds more tiles, some impassable terrain, more Djinns, and another tribe. It doesn’t change the name of the game, it’s still Five Tribes. I just like to think that the Artisans are hipsters that don’t associate with tribe labeling. More on that when I play and write the review though.

This game has sparked a Bruno Cathala quest for me. I want to play Yamatai, a somewhat spiritual successor to Five Tribes. I want to play Scarabya, a tetromino laying puzzle game. Then eventually Abyss, which is a set collection card drafting game with beautiful art. There are just so many games that Bruno has worked on and look so intriguing.

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