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Five Tribes Two Player Review

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All board game reviews and ratings from “A Pair of Meeples” are entirely based on the game at two players. You can learn more about our rating system by clicking below.


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Five Tribes is a modern variation of the timeless classic mancala with lots of meeples.  There’s other stuff too but the sack of meeples is what our inner child is really excited about.

Five Tribes Review

8.5 out of 10
Five Tribes Two Player Review

Is it Good For Two Players? : The best player count!

We’re just going to come right out of the gates and say it, Five Tribes is a great game.  It took a timeless classic, mancala, and turned it into a modern board gaming marvel.  The expanding of each mechanism and the additions of new ones such as the unique Djinns all come together to create an excellent gaming experience.

Theme: 6/10
Replayability: 8/10
Components: 7/10
Conflict: 2/10
Fun: 6/10

Husband’s Rating
9 out of 10
Wife’s Rating
8 out of 10

Pros

Highly replayable

Unique Djinn powers add a lot of variety

Relatively easy to learn but hard to master

Lots of viable paths to victory to explore

Cons

Playtime can be long depend on how overanalytical players are

Game Overview: 

A lot of us probably remember playing mancala at some point in our lives, most likely before we ever even knew about modern board games.  If you don’t, we definitely recommend giving this timeless classic game a try.  So simple and elegant of a game that is just satisfying to play.  

Five Tribes takes mancala and cranks it up to 11.  It uses five unique pieces, represented by meeples that each do different things when collected.  On top of this instead of a row of pits, a modular grid tile board is used that makes each game different. Those are just the changes to the classic mechanisms of mancala.

There are also Djinns that can provide players with special abilities for a cost, a market of resources that can be used for trading and variable turn orders based on how much you’re willing to bet in order to go first.

Five Tribes Djinn Cards

It’s easy to see that at its core Five Tribes has all the same characteristics of mancala, but expands on them making them more complex and interesting components of the overall game.  All of this comes together to create a very unique game.

Game Experience

Five Tribes takes a while to set up due to its modular tile board and placement of 90 assorted meeples on this board.  

The placing of the meeples always stresses me out so much because the game comes with an exact number.  As you start getting to the last tile you feel how few meeples are left in the bag and start to worry that you aren’t going to have enough.  Luckily though, we haven’t lost one yet but it sure does get the tension up before you even start playing.

Once it’s all set up though the game looks really impressive on the table, and in all honesty it just looks fun with all those 90 meeples on the tiles.  Especially if you stand them all up perfectly like my wife likes to do while I lay them out. 

Five Tribes Board Game Review
Look at all those Meeples!

At the beginning of the game, it is a lot to look at though and can be overwhelming for some players, especially for your first few games and depending on the players it can be too much.  If you are an over-analyzer, like my wife and I, this game can take a long time because there are just so many moves and options to consider.  The box says 40 – 80 minutes but often we have no trouble greatly exceeding that.

The long playtimes aside though, this game is just pure joy to play and look at.  Picking up stacks of meeples and dropping them along the board to collect more and gain a unique benefit just feels great and is super satisfying when you make a good move.  

As the game progresses your path to victory will narrow and decisions will become easier, but if you have acquired djinns, and resources to use their powers, you now have even more action possibilities available.  

This is a game that is oozing with decisions, and that’s either a good or bad thing depending on the players and your preferences. 

How to Play Five Tribes:

Five Tribes as we said before is similar to mancala.  It’s fairly easy to learn but getting comfortable with all the different decisions takes some time.  The goal of Five Tribes is to use the meeples on the board, who represent the Five Tribes, to your advantage in order to score more than your opponent ensuring you become the new Sultanate of Naqala.  

After everything is set up and all the meeples are placed on the board, players each start with 50 coins and their respective camel pieces.  Players then bet on turn order to decide who takes their moves in what order.  Players can bet any way they wish, but each successive zero cost bet will push the next piece down.  It’s important to spend your money wisely though because at the end of the game each coin you have left is worth a point. 

Five Tribes is really a point salad game.  Players can earn points through tile ownership, set collection, Djinn cards, wealth, and worker collection and placement.  All this is accomplished through the picking, placing and collection of meeples.  

Players take their turn by choosing a tile with meeples on it and choose a path, dropping a single meeple on each tile on their way to the final tile of their choice.  The final tile must have at least one meeple matching the color of their last dropped one, and players collect all of that color, returning them to the bag and gaining their benefits.

Five Tribes Rules Summary
Turn Example Part 1
Five Tribes Move Example
Turn Example Part 2
Five Tribes Example Move
Turn Example Part 3

Each color meeple has different abilities when collected as follows:

  • Yellow (Viziers): These meeples are not returned to the bag and are instead stored in front of the player who collected them.  They are worth one point at the end of the game and the person with the most scores an extra 10 points.
  • White (Elders):  These meeples are also stored in front of the players and are worth two points at the end of the game.  More importantly though they can be spent in order to gain Djinn cards or use their powers.
  • Green (Merchants):  These are used to gain resource cards from the market.  Players place them back in the bag and collect as many resource cards in order, equal to as many meeples they have collected.
  • Blue (Builders): When a player collects these, they immediately score coins equal to the number of builders they collected multiplied by the number of surrounding blue tiles.  
  • Red (Assassins): These can be used to kill other meeples on the board or in front of other players.
How many meeples are there in Five Tribes
There are 90 Meeples in Five Tribes

Each turn must consist of picking up and placing meeples if there are no valid moves left that signals the end of the game.  The tile that the player ends on is also important.  

There are five different tiles in the game and each has its own unique action too that occurs when a player lays their last picked up meeple on it.

  • Oasis: When a player ends on this tile one palm tree is placed there, with each being worth 3 points to whoever has claimed that tile at the end of the game.
  • Village: When a player ends on this tile, one palace is placed there, with each being worth 5 points to whoever has claimed that tile at the end of the game.
  • Small Market: Ending on this tile allows players to shop for 1 out of the first 3 resources in the market.
  • Large Market: Allows players who end here to shop for 2 out of the first 6 resources in the market.
  • Sacred Places:  Allow players to purchase an available Djinn if they wish.  The Djinns grant players unique actions they can use once per turn if they can afford the cost.
Five Tribes Tile Types
Tile Types

If a player removes all meeples from the tile they have ended on and or assassinated all meeples on a nearby tile, they also claim that tile by placing one of their camels on it, and it will score points at the end of the game.  A player placing their last camel also signals the end of the game.

The resources that players have collected are scored as unique sets at the end of the game, but can also be sold at any point for coins if needed, even if this usually isn’t the best strategy.

Five Tribes Resource Cards
Five Tribes Market Cards

The actions players take mostly stay the same turn to turn, (other than the unique Djinns) but the options available are constantly changing as meeples continually move around the board. It’s easy to see there are a lot of moving parts to Five Tribes, and countless decisions to be made, but that’s what makes it such a great puzzle and game.  

Conclusion:

We’re just going to come right out of the gates and say it, Five Tribes is a great game.  It took a timeless classic, mancala, and turned it into a modern board gaming marvel.  The expanding of each mechanism and the additions of new ones such as the unique Djinns all come together to create an excellent gaming experience.  

At its core the game is fairly simple, but there are so many options to explore in terms of paths to victory, meaning it’s another easy to learn but hard to master game.  In this way it is definitely a game that gets better and better with each play as you get more familiar with it.

With all these options though comes our one and only complaint with the game, the high likelihood of analysis paralysis, especially in the early game.  There are so, so many meeples to look at and all those colorful wooden people can get a little overwhelming as you try to plan your first moves.  

So if you and your gaming partners are prone to overanalyzing your turns, that’s definitely something to consider when deciding if Five Tribes is good for you.  In our opinion, even if you are over analytical and drag the game out longer than it should go, that extra time is worth it because it is such a good game.  You just have to set aside the time and be prepared for it to be the only game you might play that session.

As you get more familiar with the game decisions should become easier though.  This doesn’t mean the game will get stale though, the random tile and meeple setup and huge number of unique Djinns will make sure every game feels different and requires different strategies. 

We already said it, Five Tribes is an excellent game, no matter where you’re at on your venture into board games.  Even if it sometimes takes longer than it should due to overanalyzing players, it is a great time no matter what.  If you have even a slight interest in this game we recommend you consider adding it to your collection.  It is definitely one of our favorites.

Is Five Tribes Good For 2 Players?

Five Tribes might be even better for two players than it is with more due to the interesting turn-order betting.  In two player games players have got two turns per round, this means that with the right betting a player can end up going four times in a row.  This allows for more control of the board and as a result deeper strategy.

Five Tribes Turn Order Betting
Players bet on turn order
Five Tribes Turn Order Betting Next Round
Previous betting also determines the next order of bets

This does make the game deeper but also increases the planning and thinking required by players, so two player games of Five Tribes are even more prone to over analyzing and taking longer but like we said, in our opinion it’s a game that deserves whatever time it takes to play.  

Even though the overanalysis is higher, player downtime is usually better in a two player game and additionally you have a better chance of planning during your opponent’s turn since the board will often change less between your turns.  So the extended game length isn’t as annoying as it would be at higher player counts.

Overall Five Tribes at two players is a much different game than it is at 3 or 4 but we think it’s for the better.  You can tell extra thought and care was really put into how this game plays with two and all the modifications paid off.  Five Tribes is an excellent two player game, and the modifications for this player count make it strategically deeper, less fiddly and ultimately make the turn order betting more fun and impactful.

Pros:

  • Highly replayable due to the random tile and meeple set up
  • Unique Djinn powers add a lot to the game in terms of variability
  • Fairly easy to learn but hard to master
  • Lots of viable paths to victory to explore

Cons:

  • Playtime can drag out if players are prone to overanalyzing.  The early game especially is slow due to lots of options available.

Five Tribes
Five Tribes
Five Tribes

We hope this Five Tribes two player review has helped you.

Our reviews are not paid reviews, but some games are given to us, we do not let this affect our opinions in any way. This post may contain affiliate links so we might receive compensation if you sign up for or purchase products linked to. As an Amazon Associate, we can earn from qualifying purchases. This helps cover our site's costs and allows us to continue reviewing games.


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