Review – Five Tribes

Posted on by Jesta

An area control, set collection game.

Title: Five Tribes

Year Published: 2014

Designer: Bruno Cathala

Publisher: Days of Wonder

Players: 2-4

Game Time: ~60 Mins

Set-up Time: >10 Mins

Ages: 12+

Theme: Arabian Mythology

Mechanic: Area Control, Set Collection, Bidding

How to win: Score the most points.

Game Description

Crossing into the Land of 1001 Nights, your caravan arrives at the fabled Sultanate of Naqala. The old sultan just died and control of Naqala is up for grabs! The oracles foretold of strangers who would manoeuvre the Five Tribes to gain influence over the legendary city-state. Will you fulfil the prophecy? Invoke the old Djinns and move the Tribes into position at the right time, and the Sultanate may become yours!

Set Up

I’ll only explain a 3-4 player game here but just keep in mind that set-up and game play changes slightly for 2 players.

Each player takes 8 camels and 1 turn marker in their colour along with 9 x 5 and 5 x 1 gold, gold is kept secret… Gold is points.

Shuffle the tiles and make a 6 x 5 grid then shuffle all the meeples in a bag and put 3 on each tile. ( I like to lay them all down for reasons I will explain later)

This is a 2x2 Grid but you get the idea... right?

This is a 2×2 Grid but you get the idea… right?

Randomly place the turn markers on the bid track and shuffle the resource cards, laying 9 out face up in a row next to the draw pile and shuffle the Djinns and lay 3 out face up.

Five Tribes Djinns and Goods

Game Play

Game play has a few phases…

Bid for Turn Order – In order on the bid track, bid for turn order paying the amount in gold and putting your marker on that spot. If you bid 0 and someone else already has, you push players down the track, going ahead of them.

Five Tribes Turn Order

Once everyone has bid, players will take their actions in turn order and each action phase containing 6 parts…

Move Turn Marker – Put your marker in the first spot on the bid order track. If you go first, you’ll bid first next round.

Move Meeples – Select a tile that contains some meeples and move them to adjacent tiles. As you move, drop a meeple off on each orthogonally adjacent tile until you run out of meeples.

There are 3 rules to this…

1 – The last meeple you drop off must match a meeple on the tile you finish movement on
2 – No diagonal movement
3 – No immediate backtracking, but you can complete a full loop if you have enough meeples

Five Tribes Meeple Movement Before Movement

I’ll be moving the Meeples in the top right tile…

Five Tribes Meeple Movement After Move

…down, left and up to the top right tile.


Experience tells me players (especially new players) will make mistakes here so I usually ask they stand up their meeples as they drop them off so they can easily take the turn back. This is why I lay them all down during set-up.

You take the last meeple you dropped off and all matching colour meeples on that tile to your hand.

Tile Control Check – If that tile is now empty, show you control it by placing a camel of your colour on a tile.

Five Tribes Tile Ownership

Tribe Action – Perform the action of the meeples you picked up.

Yellow Viziers – Kept in front of you, worth end game VP’s.
White Eldars – Kept in front of you, worth end game VP’s. May be spent during the game for Djinns. (Explained in a bit)
Green Merchant – Returned to the bag in exchange for resource cards. Take that number of Resource cards from those lined face up, starting at the beginning of the line. (This order is important)
Blue Builder – Returned to the bag in exchange for gold . You count the number of surrounding tiles, including the centre tile and times that number by the total of picked up Blue meeples plus and discarded slave cards you wish to get rid of.
Red Assassin – Returned to the bag, kill 1 meeple on a tile within 1 orthogonally adjacent Tile per Assassin you just dropped in the bag. Alternatively, kill 1 yellow or white meeple in front of another player. If you kill the last meeple on the tile you can put a Camel on it to show you control it.

Tile Action – Perform the action of the tile your last meeple ended on, even if you don’t control it. If the symbol on the tile has a red arrow, the action is compulsory.

Five Tribes Villages and Oasis

Oasis/Village – Place a Palm Tree/Village, there can be any number of these on the tile. If there are non left in the supply, ignore this action.
Small Market (1/3) – Pay 3 coins to buy 1 resource card from the first 3 visible.
Large Market (2/6) – Pay 6 coins to buy 2 resource cards from the first 6 visible. If only 1 card is left, you still pay 6 but only buy 1 card.
Sacred Places – Pay either 2 Elders OR 1 Elder + 1 Slave to take the Djinn of your choice.

Merchandise Sale (optional) – After taking these actions you can sell non-slave merchandise for points based on a scale.

Each player takes these actions in this order on the bid track. Once everyone has taken their actions shift resource cards down and draw back up to the available 9, reshuffling the discard pile if needed. Also draw back up to 3 Djinns, again reshuffle the discard pile if needed.

Go back to the ‘Bid for Turn Order’ phase.

Game End

When a player places their last camel, or there are no more legal moves remaining the game ends after the round is fully completed.


+1 VP for each Gold Coin
+1 VP for each Yellow Vizier + 10 VP for each opponent who has less than you
+ 2 VP per White Eldar
+VP’s of your Djinns
+VP’s of tiles with your camels on
+3 VP for each Palm tree on a tile you control
+ 5 VP for each Palace on a tile you control
+VP’s for each series of Merchandise (but not Slaves) you own that are all different

Tied winners will have to learn to share their power.

Round Up

The game has a random board set-up, random meeple set-up and  random starting Djinn set-up which means the game is different each time. You can go for the same Meeple strategy that works for you I guess but you’re not guaranteed to get the tile action you need or the Djinn you want while you’re doing it.

It COULD be said that a Djinn you get can determine how you play the game but they don’t have to. It could also be said that if you had a Djinn at your disposal in real life you would use it to your advantage. 🙂

With scoring being so varied you can take different routes to victory and I’ve seen players win with a pure Tile Control, Merchandise or Djinn strategy so it’s quite well balanced.


One of the better strategic games available with great re-playability.

I give it 8/10

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