Five Tribes

A Guide to Five Tribes – Rules, Strategy & Playing Tips


Five Tribes is a board game that takes us to the ancient lands of Naqala where we’re playing a game world of strategy, cunning, and a bit of luck. The game was created by Bruno Cathala and released in 2014. It’s known for its unique “Mancala” mechanic, where players move pieces around the board to control tiles and collect resources. The game has a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, I find it’s really fun and has a good amount of replayability. The goal is to be the player with the most points at the end, which you can get in a bunch of different ways like controlling tiles, collecting goods, and using the powers of the tribes.

Quick Tip for Five Tribes

Always keep an eye on your opponents’ moves and try to predict their strategy. This can help you block them and secure the best spots on the board for yourself.

Rules for playing Five Tribes

Five Tribes is played on a 5×6 grid of tiles that make up the Sultanate of Naqala. Each tile starts with a random assortment of meeples in five colors, each representing a different tribe with its own power. The game is for 2-4 players and usually takes about 40-80 minutes to play. The rules are a bit detailed, but I’ll break them down for you.

The game starts with an auction for turn order, which is a cool twist. You bid with your victory points, which means you have to balance getting a good turn with not losing too many points. Once the turn order is set, you start the “Mancala” part of the game. You pick up all the meeples from one tile and drop one off on each tile as you move in a straight line. The last meeple you place has to match at least one other meeple on that tile, and then you pick up all of those matching meeples. Depending on the color, you get to do different things like assassinate other meeples, get goods, control tiles, or get genies with special powers.

There are also Djinns, which are like genie cards that give you special abilities or points. And there are resource cards that you collect to sell for points. The game ends when there are no legal moves left or someone places their last camel, claiming the last tile. Then you add up points from the tiles you control, the goods you’ve collected, the Djinns you have, and leftover money from the auctions. The player with the most points wins!

Equipment and Setup for Five Tribes

To play Five Tribes, you need the game box which comes with a bunch of stuff:

  1. A board made up of 30 tiles that you arrange in a 5×6 grid.
  2. Meeples in five colors, each representing a different tribe.
  3. Camels and palaces to mark control of tiles.
  4. Cards for goods and Djinns.
  5. Coins for bidding and points.

Setting up the game is pretty easy:

  1. Lay out the tiles in a 5×6 grid to create the board.
  2. Put three meeples on each tile randomly.
  3. Place the Djinns and goods cards near the board.
  4. Give each player their camels and a turn order marker.

If you don’t have the game, you could try making a DIY version with some paper tiles and different colored pieces for the meeples, but it’s a lot easier to play with the real thing.

How to Play Five Tribes and Game Mechanics

The key game mechanics in Five Tribes are pretty unique. Here’s a rundown:

  1. Setup: After setting up the board, players bid for turn order.
  2. Gameplay: On your turn, you pick up all the meeples from one tile and drop them one by one on each tile you pass as you move in a straight line. You must end your move on a tile with at least one meeple of the same color as the last meeple you placed. Then, you take all meeples of that color from the tile and perform the action associated with the tribe’s color. You may also claim the tile by placing a camel if you removed all meeples from it.
  3. End of the Game: The game ends when a player places their last camel or when no more legal moves are possible. Points are then tallied to determine the winner.

Here are the gameplay phases (steps you take during each turn):

  1. Bidding Phase: Players bid coins to determine turn order.
  2. Movement Phase: Players move meeples and perform actions.
  3. Claiming Tiles: If you clear a tile of meeples, you can place a camel to claim it.
  4. Cleanup Phase: Prepare for the next player’s turn.
  5. End of Round: Check if the game should end and prepare for the next round if not.

How to Win at Five Tribes

Winning at Five Tribes is all about getting the most points. You can get points from controlling tiles, collecting sets of goods, having Djinns, and having leftover coins. Here are some tips for each level of play:

For beginners, focus on learning how the different tribes work and try to control tiles with high point values. For intermediate players, start looking for good combinations of Djinns and goods that can give you bonus points. Advanced players should be able to predict their opponents’ moves and block them while maximizing their own points.

Best Strategies for playing Five Tribes game

To excel in Five Tribes, a player must employ a blend of foresight, flexibility, and tactical acumen. One of the best strategies is to carefully plan your moves to optimize the Mancala-like mechanism, where you pick up all pieces from a tile and drop them one by one across the board to activate the tile’s action and the tribe’s abilities.

It’s also crucial to keep a close eye on the Djinn cards, which offer powerful game-long benefits, and to strategically bid for turn order to ensure the execution of your plans or to disrupt an opponent’s strategy. Area control is another key aspect; securing tiles with palaces and palm trees can significantly boost your points.

Moreover, accumulating resources to create sets can lead to a high-scoring endgame. Adaptability is essential, as you must be ready to modify your strategy based on the shifting board state and your opponents’ actions. Balancing these elements while predicting your opponents’ moves and maximizing your own point-gathering opportunities constitutes the heart of the strategy in Five Tribes.

Here are some of the best tl;dr strategies I recommend for winning at Five Tribes:

First, always keep an eye on the turn order. Being able to go first can be a big advantage. Second, try to control tiles that give you ongoing benefits, like extra moves or coins. Third, don’t forget about the Djinns. They can be expensive, but their powers can really help you out. And finally, try to be sneaky. Sometimes you can set up the board so your opponents have to make a move that benefits you.


Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a tough spot in Five Tribes. Maybe you’re low on coins or you can’t find a good move. When that happens, try to minimize your losses and set yourself up for a better turn next time. And if you’re in a good spot, think about how you can make the most of it. Maybe you can make a move that will block your opponents or give you a big point boost.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Five Tribes game

Here are some common questions and answers:

Q: Can I move in any direction? A: Yes, but you have to move in a straight line and you can’t backtrack.

Q: What happens if I can’t make a move? A: If you can’t make a legal move, you pass your turn and the next player goes.

Q: Can I move onto or off a tile with another player’s camel? A: You can move onto a tile with another player’s camel, but you can’t pick up meeples from it or end your move on it.

Q: How do I get more coins? A: You can get coins by selling sets of goods cards or from some tile and Djinn effects.

Q: Can I have more than one Djinn? A: Yes, there’s no limit to the number of Djinns you can have.

For more information on Five Tribes, check out these links:
Days of Wonder – Official Five Tribes Page