January Game of the Month – Five Tribes

The Game of the Month series highlights one of the many games in our libraries at Ravenwood Castle and the Malted Meeple. We will briefly describe the game, how to play it, and why we like it.

January’s Game of the Month is Five Tribes, by Days of Wonder. Five Tribes takes place in the mystical Sultanate of Naqala, where the death of the previous Sultan has created a power vacuum – and an opportunity for those with ambition and guile enough to take it. Do you have what it takes to maneuver the five tribes of Naqala and become the new Sultan?

Five Tribes offers a unique twist on the classic “worker placement” style game we all know and love. The game begins with worker meeples already on the board. Players must then use their guile to move them over the board to make use of the variety of villages, markets, palaces, oases, and sacred places of Naqala. By making calculated maneuvers at key moments, you can increase your score while putting your opponents at a disadvantage. As there are a variety of paths to victory, players will need to decide the best time to displace the Five Tribes of Assassins, Elders, Builders, Merchants, and Viziers that make up Naqala, as well as the legendary Djinns that dwell in the sacred places. Whichever player gains the most victory points will end up controlling the Legendary Sultanate and be declared the winner!

To begin a game of Five Tribes, each player is given the eight camels and one turn marker corresponding to the color of his choice. The turn marker for each player is placed on the bid order track adjacent to the turn order track. Each player also begins the game with fifty gold pieces kept face down. Next, all the tiles are randomized and placed in a 5×6 grid; these tiles represent the locations in the sultanate. Then, three randomly colored meeples are placed on each tile. The Resource cards and Djinn cards are now shuffled and the top nine and three respectively are drawn to create the initial offers. Finally, all remaining tokens and supplies are placed within easy reach of all players and the game may now begin.

Before any player takes a turn in Five Tribes they must bid for turn order, with the player bidding the most coins going first and so on. When a player takes his turn he must take all of the following actions before passing the turn to the next player. First, he must move his turn marker back to the first location on the bid order track. Next, a player moves meeples by picking up all of the meeples on one tile and placing one meeple on each tile you move through until you place your last meeple. There are three rules to keep in mind when moving meeples: the tile you end your movement on must contain at least one meeple of the same color as your last meeple, you cannot move diagonally, and you cannot immediately backtrack onto a tile you just came from. After moving meeples you must check for tile control by removing the last meeple you placed along with every meeple of the same color. If the tile is now empty you take control of it by placing one of your camels on the tile to claim it. Following the tile control check, you will take the tribe action dependent upon which color of meeples you picked up. The yellow vizers and white elder are placed in front of you and are worth victory points at the end of the game. The white elders can also be spent to activate certain effects. The green merchants are immediately removed from the game and allow you to take cards from the resource offer. The blue builders are removed from the game and allow you to gain a number of coins equal to the number of adjacent blue tiles multiplied by the number of blue meeples. The red assassins are removed from the game and allow you to remove one meeple in front of another player from the game or remove one meeple from a tile within range. Now, you must take the action depicted on the tile. These actions can include: taking resource cards from the offer, placing an oasis or a palace, or summoning a Djinn. Finally, if you wish, you have the opportunity to sell some of your merchandise and collect anywhere from one to sixty gold. After you have concluded your turn, play passes to the next player on the turn order track until each player has taken a turn in the round. Then, all of the offers are replenished. The game ends when there are no more legal moves available or one player has placed all of his or her camels.

What I like most about Five Tribes is how it takes the now familiar concept of worker placement and adds an exciting twist. The game has a strong Arabian theme which is both unique and fun. It also offers a variety of paths to victory which, combined with a completely new set up every time you play, is sure to keep the game fresh. For even more replay value, the game currently offers two expansions: Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala and Five Tribes: The Thieves of Naqala.

The next time you visit Ravenwood Castle or the Malted Meeple ask your Game Master for Five Tribes!

Jim Reed

Jim Reed is a lifelong gamer who started with the original red box Dungeons & Dragons. After spending 20 years in the corporate world, he decided it was high time that work be fun and struck out on his own. Jim now owns and operates Ravenwood Castle, and spends his days ensuring his guests have as much fun as he does.