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Fun Five Tribes looks great, has broad appeal

By Tim Kidwell
Published: November 14, 2014
Five Tribes
Product: I’ve been singing the praises of Five Tribes until my friends and coworkers are sick of hearing me. “Have you played it yet? Let’s play at lunch!” Created by Bruno Cathala, Five Tribes is one of those games that is destined for Catan-like fame.
No one can argue that Days of Wonder (now part of Asmodee Games) is producing some of the best games on the market today, and Five Tribes is no exception. It boasts more than 100 beautiful all-wood playing pieces, full-color djinn and re-source cards, and 30 tiles that create the game board.
The eight-page rulebook is concise, easy to understand, and supplemented with clear graphics to demonstrate all aspects of the game.

Two to four players compete to maneuver the five local tribes of the city-state of Naqala, summon djinns (genies) and gain influence. At the end of the game, the player with the most victory points (VPs) wins.
The board tiles are drawn from a bag and arranged in a five- by six-tile rectangle to create Naqala. The Meeples representing the five tribes—viziers, elders, merchants, builders and assassins—are placed in the bag and then drawn blindly, three at a time, and placed on each of the tiles. Each player is given camels of their chosen color (eight in a three- or four-player game, 11 in a two-player game) and starting money, which should be kept secret until the end of the game.
The gamesmanship begins right away as players bid from their starting money for turn order. Players then take their turns, each performing six actions: move turn marker, move Meeples, tile control check, tribe actions, tile actions and merchandise sale.
The first is easy enough: The player whose turn it is moves his turn marker from the turn order track back to the bid marker track.
Next, the player chooses a tile, picks up all the Meeples on it, and moves them onto adjacent tiles, dropping one Meeple on a tile as he passes through until he runs out of Meeples. However, three rules must be observed while doing this: The last Meeple dropped must go onto a tile that has at least one Meeple of the same color on it; you cannot move diagonally; and you cannot immediately backtrack onto a tile where you just dropped a Meeple.
Moving Meeples has repercussions be-cause the player next checks for tile control. The player picks up the last Meeple he dropped, plus all the other Meeples of the same color on that tile. If picking up all the Meeples of the same color empties a tile, the player takes control of the tile and puts down a camel, and will score that tile’s VPs at the end of the game.
The player looks at the Meeples in his hand and performs the actions associated with their color regardless of whether or not he took control of the tile. Each tribe has its own abilities—viziers count as VPs at game’s end; elders allow players to summon djinns and use their powers; merchants let players purchase resource cards that can be exchanged for money; builders can be exchanged for money; and assassins, well, assassinate.
Next, the active player performs the tile action, if any. Some tile actions are compulsory: Oasis and Village tiles automatically receive a palm tree or palace marker, improving that tile’s VP value at the end of the game for the controlling player. Other tile actions are optional: Small and large markets allow the player to exchange gold for merchandise, and sacred places let the player summon a djinn.
The last phase of a turn is optional: The player can sell merchandise to get some money to help finance his next round of bidding.
Once all of the players have taken their turn, the resource and djinn cards are replenished and the next turn begins with bidding for turn order. The game ends when a player drops his last camel onto a tile or no Meeples can be legally moved. Once everyone has completed their last turn, tally the VPs and see who’s won!

Marketing: Five Tribes will appeal to a wide range of customers. There’s plenty in it to snag hobbyists, but it’s easy enough to learn and simple enough to play to compete with mainstream games. I think the 13-and-up age recommendation is fair, although younger children with a good amount of game experience may be able to pick it up.
If you have a What’s Hot section just to the right of your decompression zone, give Five Tribes a prominent spot. Its brilliant and expressive box art will definitely grab attention. Don’t be afraid to group it with other hot sellers in your store—even if it pulls it out of where you might traditionally stock it.

Product: Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naqala
Maker: Days of Wonder
Stock number: 8401
MSRP: $60
Availability: Alliance Game Dist.

• Simple but strategic gameplay
• Incredible playing pieces
• Great instructions