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Review: Five Tribes

2015 May 17
by Michael Schroeder

I’ve been hearing a lot about Five Tribes lately and it’s not zombie, steam punk or space themed, I figured it may be something I’m interested in and I should try it out. Keep reading to see what I think of Five Tribes, by Days of Wonder!

Five Tribes by Days of Wonder

Five Tribes by Days of Wonder

Designer: Bruno Cathala

Playing time: 40-80 minutes

Ages: 13+

Number of players: 2-4

PublisherDays of Wonder

In Five Tribes, you play a caravan that is crossing into the Sultanate of Naqala, after the old sultan has just died and you are hoping to gain control. You will gain control and win the game by having the most victory points through many different means, such as, the most money, points for Djinns (gods), the most Viziers, elders, etc.

Five tribes is a euro game at heart, but part of me can’t help but be reminded of a game of Chess, in the sense that the game also has an abstract slant. Let’s be honest here, any theme would have sufficed in this game – remove the theme and just replace the thematics with letters or numbers and you’d still have this game, however, it wouldn’t be as familiar, I suppose. The game is however, a euro, as I stated earlier, as the mechanics are extremely elegant in my opinion. The gameplay mostly consists of deciding the best place to drop all of the meeples in your hand. The gameplay is quite simple, yet the decisions are tough and complex.


Five Tribes Game set up

Five Tribes Game set up

Randomly place the large terrain tiles in a 6×5 grid in the center of the playing area. Give each player a  player marker in their color and the same color camels (8 in a 3-4 player game). Give each player a playing summary card as well. Shuffle the Dijinns and resource cards. Turn over the top 3 Dijinns and 9 resource cards. Take all of the meeples and place in the bag and randomly place 3 meeples on each terrain card. Separate the palace and oasis tokens and place to one side, along with the bank of money. Give each player a value of 50 gold coins (GC). Randomly determine a starting player and place that player’s marker on the 1 space of the small bid order track; continue doing this with the rest of the players. The game is ready to begin.

How to play:

  1. Bid – all the players are involved in a bidding process for turn order. The whole point of this phase is that the player should take the opportunity to see if they desperately need to make a move first and if that’s the case, they should bid higher than the other players. This isn’t the type of bidding that goes around the table until a player passes – every player has 1 chance to bid an amount on the turn order track. The turn order track has values of 18, 12, 8, 5, 3, 1, 0, 0, 0. When you bid, you announce a number you wish to go on and pay that amount and place your player marker there, from the bid order track. The higher the player on the track, the more initiative they have to go first. Also to note, there are 3 ‘0’ spaces. What this is for is, if you are the first to bid 0 and go on the lowest 0 space, other players can also bid 0 after you, and bump your marker up on the 0’s, meaning if they bid after you, they’ll get to go before you this turn.
  2. Player Actions
    1. Move player marker – move your player marker back to the first available space on the turn order track, this will determine bidding order for the next round.
    2. Move meeples – this is the juiciest part of the game. What you have to do is pick up all the meeples in one of your hands, on a tile, and 1 by 1, place them on an adjacent tile, beginning from the tile you just removed them from. The primary rules are:
      1. Your final meeple placed must end on a tile that contains at least 1 meeple matching the color of your last meeple in hand
      2. You cannot move diagonally
      3. No immediate backtracking
    3. Tile control check – if your final tile where you laid the meeple down on has only 1 color set of meeples, you pick up all of those meeples and immediately place one of your camels down on that tile. For example, if there is a tile with 3 blue “Builders” on it, and you just lay down your final blue meeple on that tile, where there now is 4 blue meeples, you pick them all up, do the meeples action or benefit, and now that the tile is cleared of all meeples, lay down a camel. Tile control is wiping a tile of all it’s meeples, but this can only happen if there is 1 color left on that tile. Once you have a camel on a tile, you have control of the tile and you’ll receive the printed points on the tile at game end.
    4. Tribe actions – remember the blue builder meeples I just mentioned above? Say you removed 4 blue meeples off of a tile, well, since they are builders, put them all into the bag, and you now count up all the tiles adjacent to the tile you just removed meeples from, including the tile you just removed from, that has a blue color behind the points value, and  multiply that number, say, 4, X the number of meeples put into the bag. So you’d have 4×4 =16 dollars! Tribe actions happen regardless if you wiped it clear or not.
    5. Tile actions – Tiles have certain benefits on them; one for instance is, you must place a palace down on that tile. Tile actions are required when you finish your turn on a tile, regardless if you wiped it clear or not.
    6. Sell merchandise (optional) – if you have resource cards, you may sell them for GC. You want to have sets of all different resource cards, Fakir’s do not count as a resource. You can sell as many as you wish and as many different “sets” as you wish. You are encouraged to wait until you have more of a variety of resource cards as the number of gold you receive increases a lot!
  3. Clean up – at the end of the round, draw Dijinn cards until there are 3 available and draw resource cards until there are 9 available. The previous resource cards that are still there from the prior turns, get pushed towards the front of the line and the new ones get added to the end.
Bid order track and player markers

Bid order track and player markers


  • Yellow (Vizier) – these give you points at the end of the game for any that you have; in addition for each player that you have more of these, you get 10 points. It’s possible you can have 30 points alone for this secondary scoring in a 4 player game.
  • White (Elder ) – give points at the end of the game, in addition are used to invoke Dijinns and take Dijinn cards.
  • Blue (Builder) – On removing these from a tile, place all the blue to pick up in the bad and multiply this number by the number of surrounding blue scoring tiles, as well as not forgetting the tile you removed them from – you’ll get this number of gold.
  • Green (Merchants) – Place them in the bag and for that number, you get the first X resource cards/Fakirs off of the front of the resource card row.
  • Red (Assassin) – Place all the red assassin’s removed from the tile into the bag, and for that number of assassin’s, you can kill 1 meeple of any color on the playing area, up to that number away (do not count diagonally), or, you may kill any 1 meeple in front of an opponent.




  • Village (mandatory) – place a palace marker on the tile you just ended your turn on, it doesn’t matter if the tile has been cleared or not
  • Oasis (mandatory) – place a oasis marker on the tile you just ended your turn on, it doesn’t matter if the tile has been cleared or not
  • Small Market (optional) – you may pay 3 GC to be able to buy 1 resource from the first 3 resources in the row
  • Large Market (optional) – you may pay 6 GC to be able to buy 3 resources from the first 6 resources in the row
  • Sacred Places (optional) – for a cost of 1+1 elder or 1 elder + 1 fakir, you may purchase a Dijinn card and if you can afford to implement it’s effects right away, you get that ability




There are too many Dijinn’s to go over now but I’ll give you an example of some…

One Dijinn gives you 1GC whenever a meeple is assassinated and 2GC if another player does the assassination. Another Dijinn makes your elders worth more at the end of the game, and another makes the Viziers worth more. The Dijinns are very powerful (most of them) and are a welcome addition to the game that offers variety as well as a bit of spice in this euro game.

Game end:

The game ends on he turn when a player places his last camel, or there are no more legal meeple placement moves left. At the end of the game you’ll receive points for…

  • 1VP per GC
  • 1 VP per Vizier/+10 puts for each other player that you have more Viziers than they do
  • 3 VP per elder
  • 3 VP’s per tile that you control, per Oasis
  • 5 VP’s per tile that you control, per Palace
  • X points per Dijinn
  • X points per tile that you control
  • X points for your resource cards you can sell (just like in normal rounds), as Gold ultimately counts as points anyways
Gold Coins

Gold Coins


If I had to rate Five Tribes out of 10, it’d be a 9. This is a great game! Euro’s are my favorite games and this is no exception. What I first noticed was the outstanding quality of the large wooden pieces. The game tiles are nice and large as well as rest of the components and the rules are also top notch, as is expected from Days of Wonder. The game is extremely elegant – the game is extremely simple to learn but difficult to master. This is a game that is absolutely prone to analysis paralysis, but that’s OK! My only gripe is I wish the game supported up to 5 players. Days of Wonder, if you’re listening, how about a 5/6 player expansion? Throw in some more tiles, tokens, etc. I can’t recommend Five Tribes enough, you won’t be disappointed!

Thank you Days of Wonder/Asmodee Editions for providing this review copy.

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