Five Tribes review

Five Tribes

Five Tribes was published in 2014 by Days of Wonder, the publishing company responsible for the success of Small World, the Ticket to Ride series, as well as Memoir ‘44 and BattleLore.

Five Tribes was designed by Bruno Cathala and illustrated by Clément Masson.

Game Components

  • 4 player sets with camel and turn markers
  • 30 game board tiles
  • 12 wooden palm trees
  • 90 wooden meeples (yellow Viziers, red Assassins, green Merchants, blue Builders and white Elders)
  • 10 wooden palaces
  • 1 scoring pad
  • 54 resource cards:
  • 36 Merchandise
  • 18 Slaves
  • 22 Djinn cards
  • 96 victory coins
  • 5 Djinn & turn order summary sheets
  • 1 turn order track
  • 1 bidding order track
  • 1 rulebook

Five Tribes - Unboxing

A lot of complaints was heard in the address of the game authors because of the slave cards that can be sold like all other resources in the game. Mark Kaufmann from Days of Wonder replied to that, saying that slaves were an important part of the story telling typical of the world of 1001 Nights where the game was set. He said that they “wanted to stay true to the historical theme” of Five Tribes. However, many people still were not satisfied by this explanation. Days of Wonder decided to change slaves to fakirs in the second edition and also to release a special deck of fakirs for those who already have the first edition and mind the slave aspect of the game.


You arrive in the Sultanate of Naqala from 1001 Nights. The old Sultan of the legendary city-state dies, and its fate becomes endangered! There is a prophecy of the oracles that says some strangers will control the Five Tribes who want to gain control over Naqala. Those strangers are you and your friends! If you conjure the ancient Djinns and run your tribe wisely, you might become the new Sultan of Naqala! The Five Tribes are Builders, Elders, Viziers, Merchants, and Assassins.

Your job is to move adorable wooden meeples around the land of Naqala made up of oases, markets, villages, and sacred places. How cleverly you do that determines whether you win or lose. The Five Tribes rules are straightforward and intuitively clear, but the variety of winning strategies can be confusing. You need to think which moves will get you best scores and put your opponents into a worse position. So, keep an eye not only on your own score but also on those of your opponents. Sometimes you will want to resort to the help of the magical Djinns.

Two to four people can play Five Tribes. The variant with just two people may be less exciting though it is still a good option if you want a game for two.

Five Tribes - Gameplay


Each player takes eight camels and one turn-marker. (If there are just two players, each one takes eleven camels and two turn-markers.) Then everyone gets fifty gold coins. You should keep your gold so that other players don’t know how much you have.

In Five Tribes, there is no board game as such. The playing field is made of thirty tiles (a 5 X 6 rectangle) arranged randomly. This is the Sultanate.

The bid order track and the turn order track are placed next to the Sultanate.

All resource cards are shuffled into a draw pile. The Djinn cards are also shuffled into a draw pile, then the top three cards are placed face up next to it.

The bank holds all the remaining gold coins, palm trees, and palaces.

Five Tribes - Tiles


Meeples are put on the tiles before the game starts randomly, three per tile. Meeples come in five different colors, with every color having its own function.

The turn order is determined by bidding. Bidding tokens go on a special bidding track.

When it is your turn, you choose one tile and take all the meeples from it. Then you place them on other tiles making a path, i.e. you are only allowed to put meeples on adjacent tiles. The last meeple you put down has to go on a tile that has at least one meeple of the same color. You take all of the meeples of that color from the tile and then act depending on the particular color. If there are no meeples left on that tile, now you are in control of it, and at the end of the game you will get points for that.

Djinns are powerful bonus cards that you can activate if you land on a tile that gives you that ability. Djinns give you superpowers. To acquire a Djinn card, you need a white meeple. If you get your strategy right, a Djinn card can help you get a big bonus when scoring.

Green meeples allow you to get merchandise cards. Your goal is to collect sets of all nine types of goods available in the game.

The game ends when a player has taken control of eight tiles or when there are no possible moves left. Then the scoring happens. In Five Tribes, it is a bit complicated process with an often surprising result. You get points for white and yellow meeples you have, the tiles under your control, values for Djinn cards, money, merchandise sets plus all bonuses you earned with Djinns. The winner and the Sultan is the person who has the most points.

Five Tribes - Forest Palms

Download the rules PDF manual here.

You may also find watching a playthrough on Roll for Crit useful or a tutorial on YouTube.

Here are some tips.

Similar Games

Five Tribes vs Small World

Small World

Five Tribes is a Euro game with lots of opportunities to choose from every time you make a decision. Small World is more American-style and minimalistic.

Five Tribes vs Istanbul


The theme and the mechanics are quite close in the two games. Istanbul is a combinatorial strategy game while Five Tribes is more about tactics and has more interaction as other players can mess up your plan.

Five Tribes vs Splendor


Splendor is simpler than Five Tribes and is easier to teach. Five Tribes is not hard to teach either, but it definitely has more depth and will seem more difficult, especially to players who do not have much gaming experience.

A game of Splendor only takes about half an hour, so, if you are looking for a quick and simple yet engaging game, it might be the best choice for you. It also plays brilliantly with two people.

Five Tribes vs Imperial Settlers

Imperial Settlers

The difference of Imperial Settlers from many games is that it is asymmetrical: different tribes have different sets of rules to follow. So, it might be more difficult to learn but also adds more unexpected dynamics to the game.


Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala Expansion

Five Tribes - The Artisans of Naqala

Artisans are a sixth tribe added to the basic five tribes. They are purple meeples who create magic items and precious goods.

The meeples come with new tiles: workshops and specialized markets.

The expansion also has a new tile (a chasm that you have to detour) and two new Djinns!

Buy on Amazon

Five Tribes: Dhenim Expansion

Five Tribes - Dhenim

Dhenim is a Djinn that comes with a single-card expansion. Dhenim brings you six victory points at the end of the game. He is also worth one coin when you take two yellow viziers and two gold coins when one of your opponents claims them.

Five Tribes: Wilwit Expansion

Five Tribes - Wilwit

Wilwit is a promotional card designed for the 2015 International TableTop Day Game Kit. It is a new Djinn who gives you five victory points at the end of the game for every Djinn you hold including Wilwit himself.


Q: Is there an errata for Five Tribes?

A: In the German version of Tribes, a mistake was found in the player aid. On the Djinns description page, Merchants and Builders are inverted. However, this mistake does not affect the gameplay.

Q: Is there an iOS app for Five Tribes so that I could play on my iPad or an online game?

A: There is no app to play the game itself, but there is a scoring app that makes the hardest part of Five Tribes easier: it does all the calculating. Also, there is a scoring app available for Android. There is no online version of Five Tribes.

Q: What is the size for card sleeves in Five Tribes?

A: The mini cards fit into the European mini size sleeves. You can get the red sleeves from Fantasy Flight.


Here is an unboxing video that demonstrates the game


Five Tribes boasts beautiful design and artwork like most works from Days of Wonder. The box insert plays its functional role – all pieces have places designed specifically for them, and it really helps to make setting up easier and quicker.

Five Tribes is a deep strategy, yet it can be enjoyed by anyone from the very beginning: the rules are simple, the gameplay is dynamic and interactive.

Winning the game is tricky but not impossible!

Buy Five Tribes on Amazon.

3 comments on “Five Tribes review

  1. Pingback: «BattleLore» review | Board Game Reviews | BoardGameKing
  2. Pingback: «Imperial Settlers» review | Board Game Reviews | BoardGameKing
  3. Pingback: «Star Wars: Imperial Assault» review | Board Game Reviews | BoardGameKing

Comments are closed.