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…

Shadows Over Camelot: Knights of the Round Board Game Table*

Pairs well with: Mead (straight from the Holy Grail)

You know the hamster's in the way, right? Sigh. Of course you do.
You know the hamster’s in the way, right? Sigh. Of course you do.

There’s a lot to be said for a game with a traitor mechanic. And that’s not just because we’re a group of ruthless, soulless, naturally traitorous types who like nothing better than to yell accusations at each other across a table, floor or other flat surface. I mean sure, we are that, and such qualities do lend themselves to particularly enjoying traitor based board games, but still. There are also objective reasons to love a traitor game!

For example, co-operative board games, which the team love (see Letters From Whitechapel), can sometimes suffer from a bit of the ol’ problem where one person knows the game slightly better, or perhaps has a slightly better mind for tactics, and so effectively ends up controlling everything all of the other players do.

2 “Hmm, what should I do for this move…”
“Probably go throw a sword in that lake.”
“Well, I could, but also-”
“Yeah but seriously, the lake.”

And nobody wants that.

There are several solutions to this kind of problem in co-operative games, but one trusty solution is the traitor mechanic. If there’s a chance that the person offering you advice is secretly a duplicitous scum bag trying to con you then you’re maybe not going to be so ready to take that advice after all.

One of the players has three feet, but that's probably not too much of an advantage in this game.
One of the players has three feet, but that’s probably not too much of an advantage in this game.

This review was written during a particular game of Camelot with Dr Photographer, three other friends not yet quite fully immersed into the board gaming world and a hamster. And Lizzy ‘usually the traitor’ Blogger, there for journalism and science. The Misery Farmers: Having Fun So You Don’t Have To since… earlier in 2015.

In Shadows Over Camelot the team all play a group of plucky Knights of Round-Table fame. There are several to choose from: these range from the old favourites like King Arthur and Sir Galahad to various lesser-known characters to the farmers such as Sir Tristan ‘the purple one’ or Sir Bedevere ‘the blue one’. (‘Bluedevere?)


With your character you get a die, a little knight to move around, and a character card with some sorts of special abilities and spiel. Our particular band of plucky adventurers for the evening contained a couple of friends who were still, as mentioned above, fairly new to and slightly wary of all of these board gaming shenanigans, but we had thankfully managed to rile them up get them into the spirit of things with a few rounds of The Resistance first. As such, everyone was ready and willing to start yelling at each other straight from the get-go. Characters were still being dished out when our dear friend Sophie started screaming:

“I’ve seen his card! IT SAYS TRAITOR ON THE BACK!”

Of course, each of the character cards have a ‘traitor’ side on the back with an alternative set of tips and instructions, for if the traitor ends up being revealed. A quick cup of tea and some reassurances later, we persuaded her to stop screaming accusations until the traitor cards had actually been dished out.

“You can be the traitor even if you’re King Arthur?
“Nobody ever suspects King Arthur.”
*Lizzy looks guilty from a previous game*


Shadows Over Camelot is an excellent example of a traitor-based game. It has all of the best elements: mystery being one. The traitor card is shuffled into a deck with a bunch of ‘regular old good-guy’ cards and there are always more cards than there are people who receive them. That means that you have no idea whether there’s actually a traitor in the game after all! All of these wild accusations you’re throwing round might all be for nothing. Maybe everything’s fine! Right guys?

It also has the important traitor-game element of hidden cards. The actions available to any brave knight at any given time will be difficult to predict because, quite rightly, players are forbidden to say exactly what cards they have available to them, in terms of specific values and such. For example, one common card is a sword card, which can have a number from 1-5 on it, and the different numbered swords can each be used for very slightly different things. Players aren’t allowed to say specifically which kind of sword they have. (Although they will keep trying to forget this rule and someone (Lizzy) has to play the spoilsport and keep reminding them to shut the hell up)

Tremble before my medium-sized-swords, Saxons!
Tremble before my medium-sized-swords, Saxons!

This does, of course, lead to questionable gesturing and hinting at points which definitely seems to border on maybe not quite following the rules properly.

“Right, I’m making an effort to get rid of these bloody Scots again. I’ve got some… little swords, kind of more like a variety of knives, really. Can someone come and help me out next turn with … uh… some medium sized swords? You know, swords that aren’t that big and aren’t that small… nudge… nudge nudge…”

The beauty of having the full range of options for any one knight hidden from the rest of the table means that it’s always a little bit unclear whether any given person is having a run of bad luck, a traitorous scumbag or are just being plain incompetent.

Almost certainly the traitor
Almost certainly the traitor

On her first couple of turns, Sir Sophie of new-to-board-gaming fame had trotted off to an area where she could only be of use if she had a 1-Sword card, and promptly in the next turn complained of having no such card and being unable to help. Instead, after only the mildest of chastising, her fellow brave-knaves directed her to the opposite side of the board where some “medium-sized-swords” could be useful instead.

Another round of loyal knightery, holy-grail finding and throwing things into a weird lake later (and other Camelot-themed activities that make the game up) and Sir Sophie’s turn came again. This time, she protested, she was very sad to say that she was unable to help with the current quest at all, the only swords she had on her were 1-Swords!

The keenest of detectives among you will notice that there seemed to be something suspicious afoot.

“Nope, definitely can’t help out over here.”

“Oh, golly gosh, did I say that I didn’t have any of those last round? Oh! Oh my, my bad. I’m just not very used to this game yet. I think the card must have been hidden behind my other cards, sorry chaps!”

It’s a real testament to the team’s faith in Sophie that they all still carried on for several turns believing that she might actually just be playing the game incompetently rather than be the traitor.

Sir Dr Photographer-friend even went so far as to formally accuse Sir Lizzy of being the traitor for what seemed to be ‘the-hell-of-it’ rather than to doubt Sir Sophie. EVEN THOUGH Sir Lizzy had been the only knight to have actually won the good guys any points that far in the game. (definitely not bitter!)

All of the elements of mystery in Camelot not only make for great yelling at your friends but also for great gameplay. The game can be won or lost depending on how many black or white swords fill up the round table at the end of the game, and good swords can be converted into bad ones if you falsely accuse someone of traitorhood or if a traitor remains hidden and undetected right until the end.

This week the brave knights suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Sir Sophie of Traitorville. Like any good co-op game there’s plenty of suffering and plenty of horrible ways for the good guys to die. We lost by drowning in enemy siege engines, and we lost shamefully early with no hope in sight.

The crushing defeat.
The crushing defeat.

Luckily, this isn’t necessarily reflective of the game as a whole. We’ve had a fair few victories and a fair few terrifyingly close losses as well.

The real winner is the traitorous scum.

*Sorry to mislead you all so early in the review. We actually played this on the floor.

Credit for the photos, of course, goes to Sir Photographer-friend.