Tribes: Dawn of Humanity
- Designer: Rustan Hakansson
- Publisher: Kosmos
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 10+
- Time: 45-60 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Thames+Kosmos
Tribes: Dawn of Humanity was one of the big GenCon releases from Kosmos. The game is promised to be a civ-building game which can be played in under an hour. As I usual am with such a description, I was immediately interested – but of course, it remained to be seen whether or not the game could deliver on that promise. In this game, players take their Tribe from the Paleolithic Era, thru the Neolithic Era and into the early Bronze Age.
The three eras in the game are represented on the game board in rows of ascending order. The bottom row is for the Neolithic. At the start of the game, four (of 5 available) achievement boards are placed face up on the 4 spaces. The board ends up with 4 columns of achievement boards, with upward arrows connecting the different tiles in the columns. The later two eras are also seeded, but their achievement boards remain face down for now. A stack of event tiles for each age is found to the right of the achievement rows. The six main action tiles are shuffled and placed in a random row at the top of the board. Each player also gets a starting explored land area of 3 hex tiles, which are arranged in a triangle. There are four progress tracks on the board, and each player puts a marker at the bottom of each track.
At the start of the game, there will be 6 nesting crescent-ish action tiles. There is one each of the three basic actions (explore, move, procreate) and one each of the basic actions shown with an achievement completion symbol – if these combo tiles are chosen, the player may choose either the action or the achievement completion. They are in random order at the start of the game. Later in the game, event tiles will also make their way into this row of tiles. It might be easiest to think of this row of action tiles as a linear rondel of actions.
On a player’s turn, a player will choose an action tile showing the action they want to take. The left most action tile is free, and if the player wants to choose one further down the line, he must place a shell on each skipped over action tile. Then, the chosen action tile is removed, and the depicted action is taken. Finally, the used action tile is placed at the right (end) of the line, and everything is pushed back together.
The three basic actions use the progress tracks found on the upper left of the board. Your position on this track tells you how powerful your action is – based on the number of hashmarks next to your location on the track.
Explore: Draw a number of land tiles from the bag as your marker on the explore (eye) progress track, and then place them in your area, making sure that each tile is placed adjacent to an existing land tile. Once placed, land tiles cannot be moved. They may be flipped over in the course of the game – in this case, they are considered exhausted and cannot be used for the resource any longer.
Move: for each hashmark next to your marker, move one tribe member one tile adjacent in your land area. You are not obligated to use all your allotted moves.
Procreate: for each hashmark next to your marker on the procreate track, take one tribe member from the supply and place them on the land anywhere you already have a tribe member.
Achievement completion: If you choose the tile with the hand symbol on it, you can either choose to do the basic action or you can choose to do the achievement. Each tile has resource icon(s) shown at the top of it. In order to complete the achievement, you must have the resource(s) pictured which means you must have a tribe member standing on tile(s) showing that resource matching what is pictured on the tile. Place your achievement marker on the leftmost available space on that tile and score VP equal to the number in that space. Additionally, each tile has a progress symbol shown on it, move your marker up one space on the corresponding progress track. If there is a lightning bolt over your space, reveal the top event disc from the matching era and then place that event at the right of the action line at the top of the board. This event tile only takes effect when a player chooses it from the action line. Events usually refer to the strength progress track and usually punish the weakest or reward the strongest.
If you are the first player to place a marker on an achievement, reveal the tile in the column directly above this tile. In general, you can only place a marker in a second or third era achievement if you have a marker in all the tiles directly below it. Each player does have an arrow token which can be placed on the board to provide an alternate diagonal path. When placed, it is now available to all players.
The game continues until the end of the round where the Nth event tile of the third era has been executed (for N players). Note, that the event has to actually be executed, just flipping it over and placing it into the action line is not enough to trigger the game end.
Players have been scoring points for the advancement tile placements. In addition to this, there is some end-game scoring:
- Score for progress tracks – score VPs based on the number under each of your progress markers
- Most tribe members – 2VP bonus to the player(s) with the most tribe members in play
- Most land – 2VP to the player(s) with the most un-exhausted land tiles in play
My thoughts on the game
In Tribes, you work on improving your tribe and its landholdings in your quest to be the most dominant. The advancements come in the three different tracks, and while each player has the exact same opportunity to advance on those tracks, the timing of advancement can be different, and this gives the players a chance to possibly pursue different strategies as a result.
For some, trying to achieve things as quick as possible is the way to go – and in this way, trying to scoop up the higher point values for earlier achievements. Others may try to build up their engine – but exploring or increasing their movement value earlier – to give them more flexibility as the game progresses, and this might open up the chance for bigger scores in the 3rd era tiles. Others may try to make their tribe stronger in the early goings – this can give them incentive to pick up the event tiles (once they are laden with shells) from the rondel…
The action selection system constantly gives you interesting and sometimes difficult choices. Should you take the first available action which doesn’t cost you any shells – or do you spend some of them in order to get an action choice that you’d prefer more. You should always be aware of where the negative event tiles are in the stack as well – being short on shells could put you in a bad spot where you end up having to take a tile which is really bad for you. Heck, even having to take an event tile that does something good for everyone may not be a great play for yourself because you end up losing a chance to take an action on your own turn when you would still get the same benefit from the good event tile whenever it was resolved. Thus, you’re constantly juggling the decision over which action to take. I suppose at some level, you might even be able to look at the rondel and choose an action in a defensive sense and deny the next player of something that they really want – but that is a thought process that only exists on a theoretic level in my mind at this point; I’m still usually focused on just getting my own plans in working order, and not yet ready to also worry too much about what others are doing.
Speaking of bad event tiles, I do find that the first Era tile which causes someone to exhaust two land tiles is severely punishing to take, especially if this comes up early in the game. All of the other tiles feel well balanced, but this one has come up amongst the first tiles in my last two games, and it really has stifled the games of the players who were eventually forced to take them. Sure – I still have a really low level of experience with this, but it’s definitely not a tile I want to have to play, even if I get 15+ shells as a booby prize in return for having to take that event tile.
The components are solid and the artwork is a beautifully done Neo-caveman style. I do with that the VP tokens were single sided – the game tells you that you don’t have to let everyone know what your score is, but the double sided tokens make this more difficult than it needs to be. Though, maybe in my group this doesn’t matter, since each VP acquisition is a publicly known event, we see no reason for the scores to ever be secret as they are openly trackable. Also, I do wish that the board had a small area reserved for the small endgame scoring rubric. This is one thing that would be helpful for all players to have in front of them as they plan for the end of the game. But, both of those things are very small concerns. Overall, the quality is what you would expect from a big-box Kosmos game, and after punching out a lot of small run foreign games, I must say that it’s a joy to have sheets of double cut punchboard where the pieces are literally ready to jump out of the sprues without any risk of tearing themselves!
Tribes is a game which is advertised as a “civ builder in under an hour” – and while I don’t know if I would agree with that – it is definitely an enjoyable and engrossing game that plays in an hour, so I don’t know if I really care if it meets the initial expectation. It got to the table, played well, and I’m looking forward to playing it again soon.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y
- I like it. John P, Craig V
- Not for me…