Five Tribes: In Five Parts

Welcome to the Desert!

Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naqala, is a competitive strategic Eurogame based in the fictional city-state of Naqala. Another great game by Days of Wonder, its objective will pit players against each other to collect the most victory points. This is achieved through various means including owning tiles, controlling important members of populace, and of course, having the most gold.

Will you fulfill the ancient prophecy and claim the Sultanate as your own? Ready your camels, this is Five Tribes.

Pre-game (3/5)

To set up the board, shuffle the 30 land tiles and deal them in a six by five grid. Then, jumble the 90 Meeples in their bag and randomly draw and place three on each tile. Next, shuffle the Resource deck and lay out nine cards from right to left. The order is important, so place the rest of the deck on the left hand side to remember. Then, shuffle the Djinn cards and reveal the top three, placing the rest of the Djinn cards nearby. Finally make sure that either, all players can reach the palm trees, palaces, and remaining gold Coins, or a banker is established.

At the beginning of the game, each player is given 8 camels (11 for two player games) representing their claim on a tile, a minaret (two minarets in a two player game) to represent turn order, and 50 gold representing their funds they have arrived to Naqala with. The goal of the game is to have the most Victory Points by the end of the game. The final turn of a game is played when a player placed her last camel, or if it is discovered that no more legal moves can be made. Now that the game is set up, let’s roll with it.

Gameplay (3.5/5)

Five Tribes is played in a series of turns, with each turn consisting of a number of different steps. The game ends either when a player has placed all of their camels, or no more legal moves can be made. At which point any player who has yet to act during the turn may do so. Once all players have completed their actions, victory points are tallied and a winner is declared.

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What a two-player end game could look like.

Five Tribes has a number of interesting mechanics, beginning with turn order not being absolute. To begin each turn, players bid for first place through a bidding system. Then, utilizing a Mancala-styled mechanic, players pick a tile with at least one Meeple on it and distribute them one-by-one across tiles, ensuring that the last Meeple they place matches at least one Meeple on the tile they end on. This is known as the “Last Meeple Same Color” rule. Other placement rules include “No Doubling Back”, and “No Diagonal Movement”. Once a player has determined their final tile, they gain a special benefit depending on what color of Meeple they finished on. For a comprehensive rules list, check it out here.

After performing your Meeple action, the acting player performs their tile action. These vary from increasing the worth of the tile, to making purchases at the market, and buying Djinn. Finally, players may trade in resources at the market. Through tile abilities and merchant Meeples, players try to amass the nine different resource cards sold in Naqala. Players want more resources because when they trade in, they will receive a better return the more diverse the collection is. Once all players have taken their actions in the turn, the market is replenished, Djinn are summoned, and the bidding for the next turn begins!

When do you win? The game ends when no more legal moves can be made or a player runs out of camels. Once a player makes the “final move”, each opponent takes a turn to cash in their market items and activate any Djinn abilities (if they want). Then, the score is tallied and a winner is declared.

Component Quality (4.5/5)

I found the quality of the components to be a bit mixed. While the wooden pieces were of beautiful quality (in terms of both vibrant color and consistent form), I found the coins difficult to remove from their card stock. Though the tiles that comprise the board were of the same stock and large enough to easily push out, the coins, being much smaller, were much harder to cleanly remove. That being said, the coins and tiles show minimal edge fray, so overall, I am pleased.

Meeple

Some say “design flaw”. I say “personality trait”.

Experience (4/5)

Unlike my previous review of Gloom, which is easy to pick up and play, Five Tribes has a comparatively lengthy set-up time and learning curve. Admittedly, I just glossed over the gameplay rules and would encourage the interested to check out the rulebook to get a sense of just how many rules there are. One of the hurdles that new players (or those inexperienced with Eurogames) will have to overcome is a lot of minute rules. From each of the five colors of Meeples achieving a different goal, to to each of the 22 Djinn having a unique special ability, it will take quite some time before new players are comfortable playing without stopping for rule clarifications.

That being said, Five Tribes is an excellent game for small gatherings, close friends, and board game aficionados. While its lengthy set-up and extensive rules make the game daunting for new players, its replay value will leave you wanting one more game. Taking all previous factors into account, I give Five Tribes 3.5 tribes out of five.

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The final score from my two-player game.

Useful Links

Wil Wheaton and friends play Five Tribes:

Board Game Geek’s page and reviews.

A review by a reviewer after my own heart, Josh.

Ticket to Ride: A Great Training Game

All Aboard the Review Train!

Choo Choo! Welcome to Ticket to Ride (and my first review)! Set in America, 1910 to be exact, players aim to be the best locomotive magnate of the table. Produced by Days of Wonder, Ticket to Ride is a route-connecting, train-placement game that has players vying to connect America though strategy and guile. Winner of both Germany’s and Japan’s game of the year award in 2004 (among numerous other awards), Days of Wonder has expanded their tracks to other continents including Europe, Asia, and Africa as well.

Will you create the longest route and connect a thriving America? All aboard the review train, this is Ticket to Ride.

Pre-game (5/5)

Before the game begins, each player chooses a color and takes the associated trains and wooden marker. Then, the train cards are shuffled and four are dealt to each player. Once all the players have cards, the top five cards of the deck are revealed and placed beside the trains deck. Next, the destination cards are shuffled and each player is dealt three. Players may keep all three, but may discard down to two if they wish. Finally, determine who goes first! In Ticket to Ride, the first player is the most experienced traveler, but if you play with the same group, you can decide using an alternate method.

Now that the game is set up, let’s roll with it.

Gameplay (5/5)

Each turn a player can do one of three actions. They can claim a route; they can draw train cards; or they can draw destination cards. Once they have completed their chosen action, play goes to the next player in order. For a full breakdown of the rules, take a look here.

The object of the game is to have the most points. Players earn points through connecting different routes on destination cards. These cards name two locations on the board that the player has to connect using their trains. They are also kept secret from the other players so no-one knows exactly how many points you have. To show progression though, the trains you place also count for points which are immediately scored. Be careful though, when the game ends, you will lose points for incomplete destinations!

What I enjoy most about Ticket to Ride is that it is incredibly simple. Because a player only has three actions, it can be easily picked up by anyone. It also allows for massive replay  value because you likely won’t get the same routes twice. It’s easy to pick up, but requires flexibility in planning if someone takes your route. You have to think a few steps ahead, and that sort of challenge is what I look for in a game.

Component Quality (5/5)

The quality of the game is exceptional. The five colors of trains are all molded in vibrantly-colored plastics and the board is of sturdy stock. The only qualm I have is with the size of the cards. In the base game, the train and route cards that are provided are about 3” x 2”. While this may not be as large a problem for most, I’m not used to holding such tiny cards. However, the 1912 expansion rectifies this by providing full-sized train and route cards.

Experience (5/5)

I was fortunate to play host to a recent board games night and was able to document a full five-player match. The game itself is great fun, having to not only worry about your own routes, but also the routes other players may take. About halfway through the game, I took a one-train route that my opponent needed because it was the only way to access Atlanta. This was the beginning of the end of my game as the player then spent much of the rest of the game blocking me wherever she could. Managing your available trains is also something to keep in mind, as it was what ultimately led to my downfall in that match. Ticket to Ride is a staple in my household and I happily give it a 5/5.

Useful Links

Wil Wheaton and friends play Ticket to Ride

Board Game Geek’s page with reviews.

Review from The Opinionated Gamers.