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Five Tribes, The Djinns of Naqala: If you like Mancala, this game is worth a go!

Five Tribes is a great Arabian themed game with a somewhat unique mechanism. Here's a gander!


Theme: You invoke Djinns and maneuver tribes in an attempt to gain control of a Sultanate name Naqala.


Specs: 2-4 Players. The box suggests 40-80 minutes play time and this is actually pretty spot on.


Recommended for ages 13+. It's not a beginner game, but I'd say a savvy 11 year old could play.


Mechanics: Mancala, variable set up, turn order auction/bidding, set collection, take that, variable player powers, and end game bonuses.


Designed by Bruno Cathala


Art by Clément Masson


Published by Days of Wonder


This game is a lot of fun and pretty different from any other game we have. Like most games, the object is to have the most victory points at the end of the game. Victory points are obtained through gold, certain colored meeples, Djinn cards, tiles you control, palm trees and palaces on said tiles, and collections of merchandise (Resource cards).


Everyone starts off by selecting a turn marker (or two for a two player game), matching camels, and 50 gold coins (kept face down so no one knows how much money anyone else has). The tiles that make up the board are shuffled and randomly laid out in a 5 x 6 grid. Then the wooden meeples are mixed up in their bag and three are randomly set on each tile. There is a deck of Djinn cards that is shuffled with three laid out face up and a deck of Resource cards that is shuffled with 9 laid out face up. There are also wooden palm trees and palaces that will get set on certain spaces during certain actions through game play.


Now for the fun part! Players bid gold to place their markers on the Turn Order Track based on what position they hope to play. Then players take turns in the order indicated by the track. Basically you pick up the meeples from a tile of your choosing and drop them on tiles until you run out. The meeple movement rules are simple; no diagonal movement, no immediate backtracking, and the last meeple you drop must land on a tile with at least one other meeple of the same color. And that color determines what actions you take next. As you play through the game and collect Djinn this will also give you more options. Everyone takes their turn in order and whoever bid first for the last round bids first for the next round. And round and round it goes until there are no more possible meeple movements left. Then everyone tallies up their victory points and you have a new ruler of Naqala!


I personally love Mancala and this is like Mancala on steroids with all of the other things going on as well, so it's a nice level up when I want to scratch that Mancala itch with something more challenging. And, not to sound like a broken record, but I really don't know of any other games with this mechanism. I'm sure they exist, I just don't know of them...yet!


As I'm sure you know by now, if I'm writing about it, I definitely think you should play it!


Do you have a simple game you love? What mechanism makes it so fun? Have you ever tried a more difficult game with the same mechanism and if so what did you think?



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