Five Tribes: Migration the media can get behind

Pairs well with: Any old cocktail so long as it has an umbrella in it. You’ll be needing that shade.
Brutus rating: 2/10 for picking the meeple the other person wanted GODDAMNYOU

Aren’t you guys lucky – this week we have a super exciting time-lapse of our game of Five Tribes thanks to our lovely friend Pete! Enjoy and keep on reading.

Have you ever wanted to own your own camel herd? A golden palace? How about controlling all-powerful djinn for your mischievous bidding?

It may sound like it’s taken straight out of a Disney film, but trust us, Five Tribes has all of the hallmarks of a great fantasy board game.

Five Tribes first grabbed our attention back in Essen Spiel, 2015. Brightly coloured and beautifully charismatic it was no surprise that Days of Wonder were pushing it to as many people as possible. Fortunately for Days of Wonder, the Misery Farmers were in fact drawn to the camels.

‘Holy shit it has camels. Like, a lot of camels. At least four camels. Guys, stop, we’re playing this. We need to see if it can compare to Camel Cup…’

The game is set in the mythical land of N’quala, where the design and artwork of the game leave little to the imagination. The aim of  is to use the five different tribes – the varying coloured meeple who are randomly allocated across the board – to control the kingdom. In short you’ll need to collect the most money (which double up as victory points), where you may dictate, sat atop your pile of cash.

Confusingly, that means that Five Tribes is NOT for five people. Five meeple, not five people. Cast away that spare friend and get them to be in charge of snacks.


Now, let’s get back to those tribes. A round kicks off with some jostling about turn order which relies on a bidding mechanic. After this, each player selects one square of randomly coloured meeple, each of which have a different profession, and therefore have a different action associated with them. Blues are builders, they gather you money based on the surrounding tiles. Reds are assassins, they allow you to kill lone and undefended meeple. Whites are elders, they summon djinn who may grant you extra actions. Etc, etc.


Wait! So the five different tribes are each a different colour? And any meeple of the same colour has the same profession?

Yep. N’quala is definitely not a place of very cleverly distributed jobs. No idea what you do if you want to build something and you’re not the builder tribe, for example. Pff. And what, when your hair starts to go grey do you go and leave your family to join the elders tribe? I mean I know a few badass old people but as a rule they must suck pretty hard at most things, like manual labour.

DSC_0782.JPGHowever it normally works, they’re all gathered together and mixed up at the moment. Probably for the best.

The key to this game is looking very, very intently at which squares to begin and end your turn with. Choose which action you want to achieve carefully before moving anything.

‘Right, that’s my turn… hmm… no… I’ve done this wrong, can I try again? Does anyone remember which order of different colour meeple I put where? Did I pick up 4 or 5 to begin with? Oh God, which tile did I start with, they all look so similar…’

^^Literally, fuck you. Don’t be that asshole.

To be fair, it’s a little unintuitive before you get used to it. You pick up all of the meeples from one tile and then spread them around one at a time on each tile as you move in any non-diagonal direction you like. You have to end on a tile with at least one meeple of the colour you’re about to put on it, and then you pick both of those up to keep or put away. That’s probably how the game has been described by our friends both as “reverse-worker-placement” and “the tidying-away game”.

The number of meeple you pick up on your last tile dictates just how much of that action you can do. For example, picking up three reds allows you to kill a piece up to three squares away. Not entirely sure how that one works, perhaps their morale allows them to travel faster if they’re egging each other on.


As well as taking actions through meeple, each board square has a symbol on the bottom left hand corner that provides you with an additional action, should you choose to use it. This allows some great combo-moves (obviously depending on your foresight and ability to count small wooden folk).

DSC_0777.JPGAnd so, each player picks up and redistributes meeple throughout the game, using their skills to generate victory points. Briony is particularly good at a strategy relying on market traders: it’s always satisfying to generate enough points in a single track to beat everyone else and their diversity tactics. She annoyingly does this with the science track in 7 Wonders and is rarely, if ever, beaten.

What about the camels, I hear you cry! You’ve been shouting it at us from the moment we stopped mentioning them. Well! If you pick up the very last meeple of ANY colour in a square, thus leaving empty, you are allowed to park a camel of your colour on it (which is worth a certain amount of victory points at the end of the game)*.

Yup. You know when we said that you’re not the tribes? Turns out you’re the camels. The better you make use of the human tribes to your own advantage and the better spots, goods, djinns, and many other things you end up for yourself, the closer it’ll bring you to victory.

Particular tiles have a palace or palm tree symbol also. This means that if any action occurs on this tile a palace/palm will be added. Whoever controls the tile with their camel** at the end of the game scores 3 points for each palm tree, 5 points for each palace.


Scoring at the end is a complicated affair, since there are a lot of different and interesting criteria to judge who the best bunch of camels are. But the game comes with an adorable picture sheet to help you tally up with. It’s all good.

As all truly great, repayable board games Five Tribes can be played with many strategies. A full game takes around 45 minutes to play, which means that you can try new ideas, refine old ones, and base your tactics off of the other players. It has that element to it where you’re desperate to try a new tactic before you’ve even finished the game you’re playing. You can even play it many times in one night if you like camels that much***.

The real winner, as ever, is board games. And camels. Camels and board games.

*’What do you mean that’s all the camels do in this game? Where is the excitement, the drama?’

‘I don’t know, maybe they’re the retired camels from Camel Cup?’

‘Hmm. Fair enough. That’ll do camel, that’ll do.’

**Strategic camel placing is a great strategy for this game. It is now commonly referred to as the ‘parking your camel’s butts’ method.

***Definitely not us, nope. No. No camels here…

Jaipur: One of the best camel trading games you’ll play this week!

Brutus Rating: 7/10 knives in back
Pairs well with: Fine wines sipped from golden chalices that you don’t quite have enough of to trade yet.


(Poorly lit photos can be blamed on the photographer friend not being around this week. Or maybe on Bob for moving house. Basically, anyone other than Lizzy, who is coincidentally in charge of posting this week.)

11720023_10155865987270085_260705191_n2014 was quite the year for camel games, so it also proved to be an excellent time for Lizzy to receive Jaipur as a Christmas gift. It most certainly ranks in the top three for camel-based-games that she acquired that year, and Briony is inclined to agree that is sure is fun. This review marks the beginning of a new, and duly called for, list created by ‘The Misery Farm’ – Two Player Games Ranked In Order Of How Likely They Might Make You To Split Up With Your Other Half While Spending Time Together.

Huzzah! Never has a more practical and important list been created! We constantly see threads on various sites and blogs that call for good two player games with a lot of specific categories: these range from ‘must be easy to learn because my wife has a short attention span’, to ‘has to be small and portable enough for me to carry this to another country to see my long-distance bae’.

"Show me the goods!" "Here they are!" "Good."
“Show me the goods!”
“Here they are!”

Jaipur is a pretty good two-player card game to kick the list off with. You buy goods, trade goods, trade goods for camels, trade camels for goods, trade goods for other goods, sell goods. Good? Good!

The game is fairly fast-paced and over two or three rounds: best of three is the winner. To win the round – that is, being the best at trading and most impressive to the Maharajah – you get a little token with the Maharajah’s face on, and the first person to please the Maharajah twice is crowned the victor and will forever be employed as his best personal trader. Conveniently, the Maharajah tends to be most impressed by whoever has the most points at the end of the round, so determining who wins is pretty simple.

His Grace's faces
His Grace’s faces

Your goods come in the form of captivating colour-coordinated cards, and you and your other half (and/or nemesis) have a hand of your own and a communal pile of five to compete over.

11715998_10155865989180085_1975058349_nThe best bit about this game (other than the inclusion of camels) is its excellent ratio of rules to strategy complexity, and the fact that it might occasionally remind you of playing card games with your Gran in your earlier years. The rules are fairly quick and easy to learn, just like the game is to play, but the more you play it the more you start developing a complex strategy for how to trade. There are several things that the game gives you to look out for, and winning means balancing strategies and trying to open up as few opportunities as possible for your opponent.

11739755_10155865988975085_779132515_nMost goods depreciate in value pretty darn quickly. You can sell some of that brown leathery stuff, the most common good, but only the first few bits that get sold will be worth a decent amount of points, so if you’re going to sell it then you want to be the first person to do so. But wait! The more you sell at one time, the more bonus points you’ll get, so you want to save up as much as you can before you sell it. This shit gets competitive, yo. You don’t want to be saving up a bunch of that lowish-value [green resource] for ages and then have some arsehole your loving partner sell a single [green resource] first just to take the best price. Knob.

The game gets a fairly high ‘brutus rating’ because most things you’ll do will tend to affect the other player. And if you’re anything like us (or anyone we know. We need some new friends) then you’ll be purposely trying to knobble them over instead of just getting ahead yourself. But that’s ok, because it’s a two-player game! That’s how two-player games should work, and the dicking-up goes both ways and isn’t too extreme.

11741830_10155865987485085_1100015158_nThere are also various other factors which turn the game into more of a rampant strategy-fest. The hand limit is devilishly small, which will leave you regularly cursing. And there are special rules for trading different numbers of goods, and special rules for trading camels. Some goods – the most valuable – can only be traded when you have at least two of them to hand. All of this is pretty simple to learn but, again, makes the game surprisingly tactical.

Another great thing about this game is that despite all of the above it’s really fun to play, and the resentment and hatred for your partner doesn’t build up so much that it’s not manageable. Sure, they’ve traded away the last goddamn silver but at least they haven’t ruined your entire bloody life. This time. The fast-paced nature of the game and the fact that you need to win 2/3 rounds for victory really helps with this. Before long the round will be over, and one of you will be taking your victory-Maharajah token, holding it up to your ear and saying,

“What’s that, Maharajah? You were really impressed with my trading prowess today? Oh, thank you, that’s very kind. No, it really is my pleasure. What’s that? You regret choosing Martin last round? Yes, well, we all make mistakes. Not to worry.”

"Oh Maharajah! You flatter me."
“Oh Maharajah! You flatter me.”

So yeah, you’ll give them a smack on the face once or twice, but there’ll be no permanent damage by either hands or words.

Definitely not missing a token. Don't know what you're on about. Your face is missing a token!
Definitely not missing a token. Don’t know what you’re on about. Your face is missing a token!

Lizzy took this on holiday with her boyfriend and they both came back in one piece. Which is an impressive thing to say any time Lizzy plays board games with anyone, to be honest. Briony has also had a good time playing it with a whole range of people, boyfriend included. So Jaipur gets a good rating not just as a good card game, but as a particularly good game to take away on holiday with you if you don’t want to have any more arguments or breakups than necessary. Good work, Jaipur.

The real winner is the camels.


(and Lizzy)