If you want to be a member of a tribe, you have to fit in. And it does not matter if it is a group of people with ten million members (for example our republic) or a fanatical religious group with a few members or a tribe hidden somewhere in the middle of a forest. And after some long and tedious migration, we have to break into groups, set up new culture, flourish and experience new upcoming centuries. To do so, tribe needs pride to survive. Will you help them?
You will not miss anything else if you want to play Tribe board game. But do not worry, you should not expect any terrible social experiences. The author, Naotaka Shimamoto, prepared this game for us under auspices of Itten Company and presented his creation at the Spiel 2017 fair in Essen. Yoshiaki Tomioka impressed us with unique graphic design of the game.
We all arrive into the world of Japanese creativity at least in this review, which begins with unpacking of a black box with different tribal symbols on its lid. Players will be primarily interested in large gray figures, that serve as totems. Their legs need to be placed in stands and then all five figures are placed in a circular formation in the middle of the table.
They will prepare twelve (out of total fifteen) shapes of unique folklore pendants in a semicircle around them. Figures are wooden and same colors can never be adjacent to each other. All other (simpler) shapes are then put all inside a black bag – there are different bars, swirls and circles (seven types) in five colors. Each player gets three money tokens, which they put in front of themself and the rest of these hearts creates a common stock within easy reach.
At the beginning of his turn, player rolls a die to determine his action. It will always be an obligation to add a new ornament to one of the characters. Sometimes he will have to believe his touch in finding a different shape, than his opponent has placed before him (hand symbol rolled), sometimes he must follow color or shape (eye on die). And while these two options use a bag with ordinary ornaments, third icon is an ear and that means a selection of so-called folklore ornaments.
However, players this time can not decide freely, when choosing new decoration for active figure. It has to be first ornament in line. And also the figure is strictly determined by order. From the beginning, tribe figures alternate in a clockwise sequence. Players will therefore be given the chance to equip different stature in each turn. Figurines come in different positions, but it is always possible to place these ornaments only with one hand and without falling. At the same time, however, it may not touch other decoration of the same shape or color.
And what about the players? They try to be the first to equip three or five different figures with decoration of the same color or shape. By accomplishing this, he creates a tribe and receives points of pride – one token for a three-member tribe and two if he manages to equip fifth member. However, if any of the players makes a mistake and some of the ornaments touch the table by his fault, he must surrender two pride tokens back to the bank.
But that’s only the first part of whole match. When reserve of money or any type of ornament gets empty, game advances to the second (much shorter) phase called New Age. Here, personality tribes have already been formed, and scoring continues not to be evaluated on all the figures together, but colors and shapes are counted on the shoulders of each individual figure separately. Even here the players collect and lose points until it is no longer possible to place the ornaments following the rules. At that moment, player who has the most pride tokens in his possession wins.
The author of the board game Tribe took classical games focused on skill and made something a bit different with them. It provides tactic to gamers and, above all, gives all those interested in this type of game some new complex rules and interesting gameplay. It is not just about placing elements in a way they do not fall as usual.
Well, its your efforts in this game will still be focused on skill. That’s because any mistake is very expensive – two tokens really have high value in this game and returning them hurts. But the emphasis on smart fingers is accompanied by other options to play and succeed.
At the beginning of everything, however, die and luck determines which set of items you can choose from. Especially when you draw blindly, luck plays a significant role, because you simply cannot guess color by touch. You can only choose shapes. Fortunately, this is only a third of your turns. The player cannot select the character and he knows in advance, where will he be place the adornment. However, this is also moment, when players can choose and adapt.
The start of the game is quite slow. Initially, it is relatively easy to put the pieces so that they do not fall. But as time passes, it gets more difficult to place everything by the rules. Much importance plays a rule, that same shapes and colors are not allowed to touch. As a result, options usually get very limited.
Points can only be won for each tribe twice – once it reaches three members and the second time it grows to the maximum five. Thanks to that, there is not enough points to distribute. Therefore, it is important not to make unnecessary mistakes. Taking big risks is not worth it, because players do not play directly against each other. It is the lack of confrontation and conflict that is the most serious complaint to an otherwise pleasantly original and interesting game.
Game takes quite a while to complete. Especially the first phase gets around thirty minutes. The second one is very fast and you should not expect more than 45 minutes in total. If there are four opponents in the game, then you usually wait for your move a little longer and you do not have much to do in the meantime. That’s why lower numbers are better, the battle gets more intense and you get another chances to realize your turns.
Where the game definitely collects plus points is processing. Beautiful figures and wooden ornaments create really interesting shapes on characters. Unfortunately, the same care did not go towards the tokens and bag, that is not made of cloth, which is quite a shame. Tokens are really ordinary and do not fit into the otherwise luxurious look of the game.
Tribe surprised us in the end. The game is still just a comparison of skill, but comes with a lot of other interesting elements. This makes the game really rich, interesting and definitely not dull. With progressive replaying, the course starts to repeat, but it is still far from the level of classic balancing games (where games are very similar). Tribe is a really interesting game, that will be hard to find and buy, but it may be worth looking for.
Players of Tribe requires firm fingers. But only with them, you will not win, because you also need a little tactics and decision-making. Collecting points is not entirely about how high or crazy new ornaments you attache, but how well you can navigate in their choice and spread them across different members. While players are not always involved and game is lacking conflict, Tribe game certainly did not bore us at all.