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.