Five Tribes

Last week, Kam and I played the boardgame Five Tribes: The Djinns of Naqala. (We had played it before, but it was a while ago.) I more or less like it, but as we went back through the rules to re-familiarize ourselves with it, I felt like the rules just kept going on and on with more and more complications.

Later, I amused myself by imagining the process of the game designers playing “yes, and” while creating the game:

—I just had a cool idea: what if we invent a game that’s like mancala, but played on a 5x6 grid instead of 2xn?

—Nice! But let’s make it a little more complicated: let’s have more than one different kind of tokens/meeples that you can pick up and distribute to the tiles that make up the grid.

—Okay, sounds good. Let’s make it five different colors of meeples, and each color does something different.

—Excellent. But I feel like the game is still a little too simple. What if we make each grid tile have a different point value?

—Sure. And not only that, let’s make some of the tiles a different color, and if you land on one of those tiles with a particular color of meeple, you get a bunch of extra points.

—Ooh, and let’s say that some tiles let you add other markers to them that also give you extra points!

—Nice. So how shall we decide what order the players move in? Just go around the table like most games? I feel like that would be kind of boring.

—I’ve got it! Let’s add a whole separate system of bidding for turn order! You can spend money to try to go before other players!

—Great, but where does the money come from?

—How about each player starts out with some money?

—Sounds good, and lets also say the extra points for the colored tiles take the form of money. But what if we also add a whole separate system of cards that represent goods, and the players can acquire goods over the course of the game, and then sell them for money?

—Great! But in addition to the goods, let’s make some of those cards a special kind of card that increases the effects of various other things you can do!

—Perfect. But I feel like—I dunno, I feel like the game just isn’t complicated enough yet.

—One more thing, then: How about if we have a whole separate set of cards, unrelated to the goods cards, that you can acquire in a totally separate way and that you can use to do magical effects?

—That’s it! That was the last piece we needed! Now the game feels done.

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