A to Z Gaming: Five Tribes

We maneuvered five tribes and invoked ancient djinns to gain influence across Naqala and take over the land in Five Tribes, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Five Tribes
Players: 2-4
Time: 40-80 Minutes
Designers: Bruno Cathala
Artists: Clément Masson
Publisher: Days of Wonder



Five Tribes uses a mancala mechanism coupled with worker placement to create a unique game with a complex and variable strategy. The goal is to acquire the most gold (points) though a variety of means including claiming plots of land, buying sets of goods from the market, and recruiting elders and viziers.

The board is set up with a grid of 30 tiles and three meeples on each tile. The meeples represent the five tribes of the title of the game – Viziers, Elders, Assassins, Builders, and Merchants. Three djinns are dealt and a market of nine goods cards are laid out. Players start with a turn marker, 8 camels, 50 gold coins.

The game is played in rounds. Each round starts with players bidding on turn order. On their turn, a player takes all meeples from a single tile, and then puts them down one at a time on adjacent tiles. The one condition is that the final meeple played must have at least one friend of the matching color on the final tile.

The player then collects all of the meeples that match the color of the last-played meeple and takes an action based on its tribe. Viziers and Elders are collected, Builders produce gold for the surrounding blue-numbered tiles, Assassins take out another meeple, and Merchants take goods from the market.

The player takes a second action based on the tile of the last-placed meeple. Palm trees are added to Oasis tiles, palaces to Village tiles. Small and Large Markets allow the player to buy things from the market. And Sacred Places are where players can acquire djinns. The djinns give game-end points and may give players additional powers.

If a tile has been emptied due to a player’s actions, they get to place one of their camels on the tile to claim it. (This does not, of course, include that first tile from which they picked up all meeples.)

At the end of their turn, players place their turn marker on the bid-order track, and play continues to the next highest bidder. At the end of the round, the market and djinns are replenished and the next round begins.

The game ends either when a player has placed their last camel, in which case the round is completed, or when there are no additional legal ways to pick up and place meeples, in which case the game ends immediately.  Players total up their gold, points from tiles their camels occupy, points from palm trees and palaces on their tiles, points from djinns, and points from sets of materials from the market. The player with the most points wins.

I picked up this game after watching the Tabletop episode where they played it. The puzzle of how to pick up and place meeples looked interesting – especially the varied strategies that it can present.

Turned out to be a great bet! I really enjoy this game. It’s possible to get caught up trying to find the exact right move, so maybe not the best game for those prone to AP (analysis paralysis), but great for those who like to try out different tactics.

Often I try pick up as many djinns as possible – they have a lot of great abilities and end-game points. I’ll also try to grab a couple of the high-value tiles, but it’s not usually a main focus for me. But it’s a fatal mistake to ignore goods from the market – if you can get a full set, it’s a lot of points.

The turn-order bidding always trips me up. Often I bid too much to get a good place in line, but I’m trying to get better at that. Usually it’s not really worth it except near the end of the game when the choices for moves gets more and more constrained.

Definitely recommended…and I need to get it to the table more often.

How is it as a 2-player game? Five Tribes works really well as a 2-player game. There are a couple of changes for the 2-player version – players have a couple more camels and each player has 2 turn-order markers to make the round a total of 4 turns. Other than that, the game plays the same. I would like to get it out with more players, though…

How about the art and component quality? The tiles are a nice heavy cardboard, as are the gold pieces. I love the camel and palm tree pieces.

I also like the art – the tiles have a lot of great details. The iconography on the market cards are clear, and the djinns are all unique.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely, yes. I quite enjoy this game, and am looking forward to adding in the expansions.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *