Bruno Cathala and Days of Wonder!!…Team Up Again???
When Days of Wonder announce a new board game, the worldwide board gaming community takes an interest. I mean look at some of their games, Ticket to Ride, Memoir ’44, Smallworld, Colosseum and Cleopatra, the colourful boards, the fantastic components, the years and years of game play they generate.
Bruno Cathala has worked with Days of Wonder before, to produce the aforementioned Cleopatra and Shadows over Camelot, which have all been a huge hit with gamers. Other notable games in his repertoire are Mr Jack, Dice Town, Cyclades and Abyss.
So when I heard that Bruno Cathala had upped the ante on worker placement games, by making a worker displacement game, where you remove meeples from the board, I was really looking forward to playing this game.
On the Other Side of the Coin???…It looks like Arabian Knights!!
Ok I am going to be honest here, there were other factors too. As a kid I loved watching the cartoon Arabian Knights by Hanna-Barbera Productions on the Banana Splits show. As a teenager reading A Noose of Light and Sultan’s Turret by Seamus Cullen, conjured up all sorts of lurid imaginations, where Djinns are continually trying to seduce maidens and trick the holy men.
However on first sightings of the game, the reaction was ‘where is the lovely board and where have the lovely components gone’, it looks as if someone has thrown a pile of Smarties all over some postcards. My interest kinda died at that, but when the game arrived, with nostalgia rekindling the Arabian flame, it was time to break the seal and get down to some Djinning in the sand dunes.
Meeple Mayhem???…Camels, Palm Trees, Villages and Djinns!!
Five Tribes is a game made up of 30 large tiles that are randomly placed in a six by five portrait format. Each tile is a location and has a victory point value and an effect symbol. The tribes are represented by five colours, white, red, green, blue and yellow. There are ninety in total and to begin the game, they are placed in a bag and are randomly selected in threes and placed on each of the tiles, when the bag is empty, every tile will have three meeples on them.
The mechanism of the game is described as worker displacement, you pick up all the meeples on a particular tile and place one on an adjacent tile (never going backwards on a tile) until the final tile is where all or some of the meeples match the same colour as the one left in your hand (this is a requirement or the move is illegal). Then you remove all the meeples matching the colour in your hand from the destination tile and do an action relevant to that tribe and the effect on the tile.
If the only colour remaining on that tile is the same colour as the one in your hand, and you remove all the meeples, you take control of that tile and put one of your camels on it, gaining the tile’s victory point value at the end of the game.
The Power and Glory!!…Of the Five Different Tribes???
The Green meeples represent the Merchants and you draw as many resource cards that are placed besides the board, as per the number of green meeples you remove from the board. This can be extremely powerful, especially if that tile was a marketplace, allowing you to buy more resource cards. The resource cards will either be goods or slaves (we will talk more about slaves latter) and the bigger the suite of different resources you have, the greater will be their monetary value and money is equivalent to victory points in this game. If you play this game for the first time, do not ignore the merchants, you will lose badly.
The Blue meeples are Builders and when they are removed from the board, you times their number by the surrounding tiles that have a victory score that is in blue and gain that amount in money.
Yellow meeples are Viziers and count as 1 victory point at the end of the game, the person who has most Viziers at the end gains a further 10 victory points.
White meeples are Elders and are used to gain and use Djinns. They also count as 2 victory points at the end of the game.
Red Meeples are the Assassins and they can kill any meeple on the board or kill any Elder or Vizier in front of a player.
As already mentioned the tiles have further actions, this will be either placing a Palm Tree or Village on that tile, which give you further victory points at the end of the game if you control that tile. Markets which allow you to buy further resource cards or sacred places where you can purchase a Djinn tile or use its power for either two Elders or one Elder and a slave card.
Djinn tiles represent these powerful spiritual beings that allow you to manipulate play, such as protecting your Elders and Viziers from Assassins or move the palm trees around from tile to tile. Each Djinn has a victory point value and it seems those with the least amount of victory points have the greater powers.
The game ends when one player uses all his camels or when no more legal moves can be made, which in most cases is how the game ends. The points are totalled up on the provided score sheets, with the player with the most points winning the game.
Counting the Sands of Time…The Dilemma of the Turn Order Track???
The problem with the game is the analysis paralysis that happens at the beginning of every turn. There is the bid order track and the turn order track. To start the game the order of the bid order track is chosen randomly, but thereafter when a player finishes his move he takes his counter off the turn order track and places it on the Bid order Track. When all the players are back on the Bid order track, the Djinn tiles and resource cards are replenished and the first player on the bid order track decides where he is going to put his counter on the turn order track.
Each place on the turn order track has a cost value, with the highest being 18, you pay that amount of money while securing first place, the next is 12, then 8 , then 5 , then 3, 1 and then zero. If you are the first player to place your pawn on zero, you get knocked further down the zero track when the next player places his pawn in zero track and so on. Therefore the first player on the bid order will usually see if there are any potential moves, that would be worth spending a certain amount of money on, because you must remember, money is victory points in this game.
The second player will then think, has the first player put his counter on 8, forcing me to spend extra money to go first and if they have, what have they worked out and if it is possible to work out the same move, what potential moves will result due to that move, because there may be more tiles available for them to take control. Meanwhile, the third player may just place his counter on the 18 tile, because he has worked out his move and this of course means, all the waiting you have done for the first two players has been a complete waste of time.
Does Red Sand fall Quicker than Green Sand???…Still Counting the Sand!!
The strange thing is, as the meeples get less on the board, the harder it becomes to work out moves. What should be a game that lasts one hour, becomes a game that stretches out to three hours. Something drastic has to be added to the game play and that something is a Sand Timer. If a player can’t make up his mind in two minutes he places his counter on the zero place on the turn order track, it is a house rule, but life is too short. This may not happen with your group of players, but for me it did and I was slowly going insane. When we introduced the sand timer, the game became a whole load of fun.
Five Tribes…The Verdict???
The Five Tribes board game format looks a lot like Istanbul and I hope and pray that, this is not the way board game companies plan on pushing board gaming to look like in the future. I mean both games are ok, I prefer Five Tribes more than Istanbul, but both games feel lacklustre. Five Tribes has great components, the built in tray in the box is fantastic, there was some complaints from players about the colour of the tiles – sand colour!! There are rules for players to play a 2 player game, but there are times in the game, where a player will get to go first and second. The power spike is not accounted for in the game, so don’t play it with two players. If Five Tribes is brought to the table I will play it, as long as time issues are brought into the game, as it is fun to be played this way. If not, I will probably play a couple of Star Realms games on my mobile, or read the latest novel I have on hand.
In the States there was an outcry against the slave cards…hmmm!! Slavery is an injustice against human rights, but one doesn’t condemn the bible, because Joseph was sold into slavery. The Ancient Egyptian or Roman history is not blacklisted from schools, because their society was built and serviced by their slaves. Slavery still goes on in parts of the world, if Bruno Cathala has shaken your faith in board gaming, because of the use of slaves in his game, you need to take a hard long look in the mirror and ask yourself, what have you done to eradicate slavery from the world today?.
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Paul Matthews is a Sales Manager for Gamesquest Ltd, as well as a part-time Board game Demonstrator and Blogger. After several years playing Yu-gi-oh at Tournament level, his latest passion is all things board gaming. Besides playing board games, Paul is a part time author and enjoys reading and archery. Paul has a Degree in Humanities Psychology/Counselling and several Life-skill Degrees in Parenting, Horse Management and Ecommerce.