Nov 11, 2015

[Games] Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala

So Five Tribes on its own is already a pretty solid game that combines a lot of different strategic elements in one interesting package. So it was hard to imagine how the folks behind the game might think of other ways of expanding the play options and keeping the game just as fun.

But true enough, they managed to do just that with Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala, although in doing so they sort of ruined the title of the game. I mean this all in jest,but seriously, the main feature of the game is bringing in a sixth tribe into the mix of things without increasing potential number of players. So I guess that game should be Six Tribes now, depending on how you want to view these hard-to-find artisans.

The game may seem like a small expansion, but it does add a heck of a lot of play to your existing Five Tribes experience. If anything it also adds a new layer of complexity on an already compelling game while still maintaining a general sense of balance for all players.

In Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala, the new purple Artisan meeple provide exciting new opportunities for players to gain much-needed victory points to get to the end of the game. The set also includes a few new tiles for the main play space and a few new Djinn as well.

The artisans themselves are interesting enough. Gathering artisans allows you to draw from the face-down stack of Item markers that are a separate marketplace on its own. The number of Artisans you take represent the number of tiles you can draw - but you can only keep one of these item markers for yourself while all others are returned face up. These items can range from additional victory points at end of game to various magical items that can aid you in special ways. The artisans themselves are also worth points, but of course are worth even more points if you have more artisans when compared to all other players.

Apart from the artisans, the only other way to get items from the new item stack is by visiting Workshops, which are new tiles added to the game. At a workshop one can trade an artisan or two fakirs (formerly slaves) for the top tile of the item stack.

Speaking of new tiles, the game adds 6 new tiles to the game as a whole, thus increasing your place space from a 5x6 grid to a 6x6 grid. 3 of the tiles represent the workshops. 2 of the tiles are for the new specialized market tiles, which allow you to spend 4 coins to purchase any 1 item for sale in the regular marketplace. And finally there's the Chasm, which is a space that cannot be crossed by players. The new tiles also have provisions for mountains, which act as additional barriers in the game. Thus now your sowing of meeple pieces has to include figuring out how to manage the mountains.

Brilliantly enough, the developers made sure that the new tiles would significantly affect the game. These 6 new tiles are mixed with the older tiles and form the core 4x4 central section of the board. Thus the combination of the mountains and the chasm are sure to create weird channels and paths for you to navigate around in your game. Then you lay out tiles from the base set all around to complete the 6x6 grid and thus creating quite the interesting play space.

The special items can be pretty crazy including a jump of 9 victory points at the end of the game magical items that are good for one-use like the lamp that allows you to claim a Djinn or the scimitar that allows you to kill two meeples and claim the tile if the action empties it. The right item can significantly shift your play strategy and allow you to map out new ways to gain points.

Lastly, the game introduces Tents. which are special pieces that act like Camels but with an added bonus. Like Camels, you place them when you gain ownership of a tile by clearing it or by using a special item or Djinn to place it. When you choose to place the Tent, it will also grant additional bonus points at end of game in a manner similar to how blue Builders gain points. But instead of looking at blue tiles, Tents get points for all red tiles surrounding it including the tile it is placed on if it is also red. So it's a cute little system tweak that almost feels like something that fits better in Carcassonne, but I'm not complaining.

Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala is a dynamic little expansion for the base game and one that nicely adds to the overall strategic potential for the game. It's worth adding to your collection to push your games to new heights. Thus the game gets 4 special treasures out of a possible 5.

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