Alfie Dix, 18, reviews board games that he plays with the family and subsequently with groups of friends. Here’s his review of Five Tribes.
The City-state is leaderless, an accident I suppose, and your loyal caravan stands beside you. They patiently await your orders. However, you are not the only one vying for power in the city of faith. The title of Sultan is up for grabs, but are you strong enough to take it?
A game of Five Tribes starts with a 5×6 grid of tiles each with 4 random meeples. These meeples come in 5 colours and each represent one of the five tribes. For your turn you will take all of the meeples on one tile and drop them off at adjacent tiles until you place your last meeple. You then remove all of the meeples of the same colour from that tile and complete the required actions of that tribe. These actions range from end game points, acquiring resources and even assassinating other meeples. This mechanism for taking turns is incredibly ingenuitive and very unique to this game. Whenever a tile becomes empty because of meeples removed you control that tile and it will score you points at the end of the game. If that wasn’t enough pregame randomisation there is also merchandise which you collect sets of to sell off and djinns which you can summon for points and special abilities, at a cost.
The turns are not the only creative aspect of this game, bidding for turn order plays a large part as well. This is because at the start of each round you will go through the previous turn order and bid, using victory points as funding. This not only allows the people who were last in previous rounds more control but if you are spending too much you could quickly find yourself lacking in victory points. This also allows for self-destructive plays such as reducing the number of legal moves so that not every player gets a turn, an interesting strategy that could cost players a lot if they are too far behind in turn order.
There are of course some slight issues with this game, the first of which actually originates in the bidding track.This is because of its deceptionate pricing and that retaining turn order generally holds less value than you may think. Due to this it is likely that a first time player will overpay and then fall behind for what may seem like no apparent reason. There are other such intricacies that are huge strategic points for the more advanced but are pitfalls that may make a player feel like they are doing much worse than they are. One example of this is that you may choose to pay to go first, and you take the best action currently available. However, in moving those meeples to adjacent tiles you may have just created a better action. The player after you who would have paid less, has now been given an unforeseen advantage.
This game is filled with mystical art and Tactical gameplay. I can confidently say that as long as all players are of the same general level the gameplay will remain full of decision points and diverse tactics to gain the upper hand. So wait no longer, summon the mystical djinns, gain influence over the Viziers and people of the land, ensure no one stands in your way and take the crown as your own!
Five Tribes is also featured in James Richards’ Eight Games blog.