Days of Wonder has already kinda sorta announced Bruno Cathala's Five Tribes, what with Cathala showing up at game conventions the world over to demo the game, writing a five-part designer diary on BGG and Tric Trac (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 & part 5), and recording a game preview with yours truly on a prototype version of the game:
But now the publisher has made everything official, announcing that Five Tribes, which retails for $60/€54, will debut at Gen Con 2014 in August in limited quantities, then be available at retail outlets everywhere in September 2014. I was able to play the Five Tribes prototype once at a convention, and here's an overview of how the game plays, should you not care to listen to Monsieur Cathala describe it himself in the video above:
You have a mancala-based worker displacement system on a randomized board with randomly placed workers with actions coming from the final worker you displace each turn as well as the tile from which it was displaced. All of that information is open, and the myriad choices available each turn should ideally drive each player's bid for turn order, although some players will have more choices or options than others thanks to meeples collected on previous turns or djinns that provide a special power or bonus only to its controller. The only luck factors in the game come from the order in which goods cards are revealed (with nine being visible each turn and some goods being more rare than others) and which djinn cards can be acquired (as each has a unique power).
At the end of the game, players score points from cash on hand, tiles and djinn owned, sets of goods collected, viziers in your service, and more. Money is required for turn order bidding and goods acquisition, although you can also acquire goods (which includes slaves as well as more common goods like gold) via merchants, and the slaves help you power certain djinn actions or gain more money through the use of architects. Everything seems tangled together as every meeple you drop during your turn can affect which actions — both meeple and tile — are available in subsequent turns.
Okay, that's a pretty abstract description. Here's the somewhat more thematic description from Days of Wonder:
Five Tribes builds on a long tradition of German-style games that feature wooden meeples. Here, in a unique twist on the now-standard “worker placement” genre, the game begins with the meeples already in place – and players must cleverly maneuver them over the villages, markets, oasis and sacred places tiles that make up the Arabian Nights-inspired City-state of Naqala. How, when, and where you displace these Five Tribes of Assassins, Elders, Builders, Merchants and Viziers determine your victory or failure.
As befitting a Days of Wonder game, the rules are straightforward and easy to learn — but devising a winning strategy will take a more calculated approach than our standard fare. You need to carefully consider what moves can score you well and put your opponents at a disadvantage. You need to weigh many different pathways to victory, including the summoning of powerful Djinns that may help your cause as you attempt to control this legendary Sultanate.
And now for the beauty shots, a.k.a. the final artwork and bits, which far more resemble a Days of Wonder release:
All of the components set up and ready to play
Samples of the wooden bits
Market cards that can be acquired
Sample Djinn cards, with each Djinn having a unique power