How to Play - Five Tribes
Five Tribes is a two to four player game, designed by Bruno Cathala and published by Days of Wonder.
In Five Tribes, players are competing to gain control of the sultanate of Naqala. To do this, they must maneuver the five tribes of the game, as well as invoking the Djinns. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins, gaining control of Naqala - until the next game!
The gameplay in Five Tribes is based on the ancient game of Mancala. This is a different mechanism to that used in many games today, so read on to find out how to play.
Firstly, players take the pieces of their colour. If you are playing a two player game, the blue and pink pieces will be used, and players will take all 11 camels and both turn markers in their colour. In a three or four player game, players can be any colour but will only take eight camels and one of the turn markers. Each player also gets 50 gold coins made up of nine coins with a value of five, and five coins with a value of one. Place these pieces to one side whilst the rest of the game is set up.
Shuffle or mix the 30 large tiles. These will make up the game board (the Sultanate of Naqala). Then place the tiles face up in a five by six grid pattern. Place all of the meeples in the black bag and mix them round. Once the meeples are mixed up, take a handful out and drop three meeples at random onto each tile. Continue until each tile has three meeples on it.
Place the turn order and bid order tracks next to the board. Take each player's turn order marker and place these randomly on the bid order track. This will determine the order players bid on turns in the first round only.
Shuffle the resource cards. Draw the top nine cards and lay them in a face up row next to the board. Shuffle the Djinn cards and place these next to the board too. Then draw the top three cards and lay them in a face up row. Place the palaces, palm trees and the remaining coins in a bank near the board.
You are then ready to start playing.
Each round of Five Tribes is divided into three parts - the bidding phase, the player action phase and clean-up.
In the bidding phase, players bid for turn order in the upcoming turn. The player who is first on the bid order track will bid first. They will decide how much they wish to bid, pay the amount to the bank and place their turn order marker on the relevant space of the track. The higher the bid, the more likely you are to go first that turn. However, gold coins are worth victory points at the end of the game so you don’t want to bid too high and risk losing valuable points.
Apart from the zero space, you cannot be on the same space as another player, you must either bid more or less than them. If someone has already bid zero, and you do the same, move their marker down one space - so you will start before them.
Once everyone has made their bid, the player first on the turn order track takes their turn.
Player action phase
Firstly the player takes their marker from the turn order track and places it on the first open space on the bid order track.
You can then get into the main part of your turn - moving Meeples. Choose a tile with Meeples on it. Take them all into your hand. Then, drop each Meeple off on an adjacent tile until you run out of Meeples.
You cannot just drop the Meeples and move as you chose. Meeples must be dropped on adjacent tiles (left, right, up or down) and cannot be placed on tiles diagonally. You cannot immediately backtrack to a tile you have passed through (although you can complete a loop back to a tile if you have at least five Meeples on the original tile you are taking from). You also must make sure that the last Meeple you drop from your hand is placed on a tile with at least one Meeple of the same colour. Apart from the last Meeple, you can choose which Meeple you drop off each time.
Once you have dropped off the Meeples, you then take all Meeples of the same colour as the one you dropped on the final tile from that tile. You will have at least two of the same colour. If you do not the move was not valid.
If, once you have removed all Meeples of the colour from the time, there are no Meeples left on it, you take control of that tile. Place one of your camels on the tile. You will gain the victory points set out on the tile at the end of the game. If a player has already gained control of a tile, and you later empty it of Meeples again, you do not gain control of the tile. It will remain in control of the other player.
Players then carry out the Tribe Action of the Meeples they have taken, followed by the Tile Action of the tile they took Meeples from.
The Tribe Action you can take depends on the colour of Meeples you took:
- Yellow Meeples are part of the Viziers Tribe. Place any yellow Meeples in front of you as these will be worth victory points at the end of the game.
- White Meeples are from the Elders Tribe. The Meeples are placed in front of you. They can either be used during the game to gain Djinns (see Tile Action below) and invoke their powers or they are worth victory points at the end of the game.
- Green Meeples represent the Merchants Tribe. Once you have taken these Meeples they are placed back in the bag and you take a number of face up merchandise cards equal to the number of Meeples you took. You must take the merchandise cards from the front of the line, you cannot choose which ones to take.
- Blue Meeples are from the Builders Tribe. Place the Meeples you have taken back in the bag. You then gain gold coins equal to the number of blue Meeples you picked up multiplied by the number of blue valued tiles surrounding the tile you ended your turn on, including that tile. You can also discard Fakir cards to count as extra builders to get more coins.
- The Red Meeples are part of the Assassins Tribe. Place the Meeples back in the bag and kill (remove) one other Meeple. This can either be a yellow or white Meeple held in front of an opponent or a Meeple on the board. If the Meeple is on the board it must be no further away from your final tile than the number of Assassins you took. You must count tiles sideways or lengthways, never diagonally, when determining distance. It is possible to use an Assassin to take control of another tile, in some cases gaining you two tiles in on turn. You can also discard Fakir cards to increase the range of your Assassins (one tile per card).
Once players have completed the Tribe Action they then complete the Tile Action. This is based on the tile they ended their move on only. If you gain control of another tile using the Assassin Tribe you do not get to perform a Tile Action on that tile.
Some Tile Actions are compulsory. These are the actions marked with a red arrow. These compulsory actions are either placing a new palm tree or a new palace on a tile. These are worth points at the end of the game if you have control of the tile. There is no limit to the number of palm trees or palaces on a tile, save if the supply runs out. This can make certain tiles extremely valuable.
The other Tile Actions are optional. These are either a small market, a large market or sacred places. In a small or large market action, players pay coins to obtain merchandise from the face-up row. A small market action costs three coins and a player can take one of the first three merchandise. A large market action costs six coins and a player can take two of the first six merchandise.
On a sacred place tile, players have the opportunity to gain Djinn cards from the face up display. To gain a Djinn, players must pay either two white Elder Meeples or one Elder and a Fakir card. Each Djinn has both a points value and a special ability. Some Djinns require a further payment to be made to use their power, this payment consists of Elder and/or Fakir. There is a helpful description of what each of the Djinn’s powers are and their cost, if any, on the back of the player aid. Once you have taken a Djinn card you can use the power right away, as long as you can pay any cost. When you pay an Elder to gain or use a Djinn the Meeple is placed back in the bag.
Finally players have the opportunity to sell their merchandise if they wish. This is usually done if a player finds themselves short of coins. You can only sell the green backed merchandise cards and not the beige backed Fakir cards. The number of coins you will get from the sale of your merchandise depends on how many different types of merchandise you sell. The more different types you have, the more gold you will get.
Once all players have completed their actions, cards are replenished ready for the next round. Move any merchandise cards which are still face up to the start of the line. Draw new cards until you have nine face up cards. If the draw pile runs out shuffle the discard pile to form a new one. Move any face up Djinn cards to the start of the line. Draw new cards until you have three face up cards.
The next turn can then begin.
Game End and Scoring
The game ends at the end of the turn where either a player places his last camel on a tile, or there are no more legal moves. If there are no more moves, players can still use Djinn abilities until the end of the turn.
Scores are then calculated. The game comes with a useful score pad which takes players through scoring. Firstly, points are awarded for the value of coins a player has remaining. Points are then awarded for the Yellow Viziers and the White Elders. The player with the most Viziers gains an extra 10 points. Players then add up the points awarded by their Djinn cards. Players receive three points for each palm tree and five points for each palace on a tile they control. Then players add up the points for each tile they have a camel on. Finally players gain points for their merchandise cards, in the same way as set out above.
Add these points together , the player with the most points wins. There is no tie-breaker so if players tie they either both/all win or have to play again.
Hints and Tips
- Try not to over analyse when you first play the game. Of course, you do not want to set your opponent up for a great turn, but do not agonise over this the first time through. It is more important to get a feel for the mechanisms of the game.
- Be flexible in your strategy. Five Tribes does have a point salad type feel so do not get caught up in trying to get the most Elders (for example). Also, because of the nature of the game it is difficult to plan ahead. If you have too much of a fixed strategy you are unlikely to be able to see this through.
- Be careful when bidding for turn order. Whilst going first can be useful, remember that the coins you are using to bid are worth victory points at the end of the game. Sometimes it is better to not go first and bid less.
- Make use of the Djinns. Not only are these worth victory points, their special abilities can be really valuable too. It might seem that using Elders to gain Djinns is throwing away points (as Elders are worth points at the end of the game) but often the Djinns more than make up for any lost points. Of course, where possible use Fakir cards too.
- Fakir cards are valuable. Although Fakir cards cannot directly be converted into victory points, they have a lot of uses. As above, they can be used in place of an Elder to get Djinns. They can also increase the range of Assassins and the value of Builders.
- Make the most of Palm Trees and Palaces. These are easy ways to add to the value of your tiles. So either look for ways to add more to tiles you already control, or try to gain control of tiles where these are present.
Most importantly of all, have fun playing Five Tribes!