Five Tribes is an immensely popular game. And for good reason. Bruno Cathala is a board game churning mastermind when it comes to interesting mechanics. Five Tribes has a prominent spot in my top 10 games of all time. I think it excels as a 2-player game, and is one that I never considered would need an expansion.
Let’s be honest though. That expression is prevalent in this hobby. None of us need another game for example, but we will definitely end up buying more for sure. Don’t lie to yourself. You know you will!
Does Thieves of Naqala enhance the experience that is Five Tribes? That isn’t the question this review will answer. The age-old question that this review will definitely answer though is…
Does Size Matter?
You can see from the pictures, that this expansion is tiny. It literally arrived in a jiffy bag. Do you know how many games and expansions I have bought? Way more than I have needed, but still, this is the only one that didn’t need to be packaged in a box. It actually surprised and amused me. I mean, it literally fits in the palm of my hand. I have massive hands (ey! Sate your dirty mind, this is a serious review) but still, it fits snuggly in my grip (stop it!).
The expansion itself is a modular design. It gives you an extra little deck that sits next to your djinn deck. Only one card will be revealed at a time (as opposed to the 3 from the djinn deck). You have the option to buy the thief on display anytime you get the option to purchase a djinn, but it is only one or the other, it isn’t both. There is also a djinn card that is added to that deck whose power makes you immune from thief cards. The powers of the thieves can be triggered at any time during the game but can only ever be triggered the once.
The abilities on the thieves all revolve around a ‘take that’ mechanic. One will make everyone give up a djinn card, one will have them giving up a tile etc and the gimmick is that you get to choose and keep one from amongst those that are given up. That is all there is to it. It took me far too long to make the connection between the name of the expansion and the mechanic of stealing other players stuff.
What Works & What Doesn’t?
I love how easy it is to add this expansion Thieves of Naqala to the main game. It is simply an extra mini-deck. I also love the fact that there is only ever one card revealed at a time. This makes it so that the small deck is slowly interacted with, and can often go whole games where only one or two cards are chosen. This is due to the fact that there is only a small number of cards in the deck, and when you have a choice between a djinn or a thief, djinns are still tempting. As I stated earlier, the game shines at 2-players. This expansion goes a little way in making it more viable at 3 or 4 players, as it gives people small catch-up mechanisms if they feel they are falling behind in certain areas. If they manage to get to the thief before others do that is.
I am not a fan of ‘take that’ style mechanics. I hate spending a long time building something up just to have another player trigger a card or ability that disrupts what I am building. Or worse, when certain games make you discard, sacrifice, or otherwise dismantle what you have built up. I like that the ‘take that’ parts of this expansion aren’t completely overpowered. They can only be triggered once, and you get to choose what you are giving up. This means you can just give up the thing that is giving you the least amount of points, or one that isn’t contributing to your tactics. And if that means a player can trigger a thief so that they don’t feel like they are falling behind, and therefore get more fun from the game; then I am all for it.
The downside to this is that it is entirely possible for the player who needs the thief the least to take it. Just to stop the person who would benefit the most from it from getting it. The expansion also doesn’t work as well at 2-players. Triggering a thief to force only one other player to give something up, and basically give it to the player that triggered the thief, is a bit unbalanced.
Thieves of Naqala is a very simple expansion. It consists of only a couple of cards. This makes it incredibly easy to implement into your games of Five Tribes. And if you don’t feel as though it is enhancing your play experience, then it is easy to remove. It is incredibly cheap too, so the cost alone easily makes it an easy modular expansion to recommend.
So, does size matter? I guess the only real answer to that question is that it depends how much fun you get out of it. Don’t look at me like that.
Overall, I would recommend not picking up Thieves of Naqala if you only play Five Tribes at 2 players, but I would say it is easily worth it as an addition to the game if you play at other player counts. Check it out.