Tribes: Dawn of Humanity by KOSMOS
Players: 2 to 4
Playtime: 45 minutes
Perfect for: Families and groups who enjoy light strategic action-selection games.
Tribes: Dawn of Humanity is a game of competing to build the most robust civilization possible. Players will have to think strategically about their options and actions in order to outwit and outplay their opponents. In the end, the person who has grown their tribe the most will be the winner. Before talking about the gameplay and mechanics, here’s a bit more background on the theme from the publisher, KOSMOS:
The players lead their tribes in short, fast turns through the early history of humanity to the Bronze Age. They settle unknown lands and extract valuable resources through which they in turn discover new tools and inventions. Who will best prepare their tribe against events such as natural disasters? Who will take the lead, and who will follow in the footsteps?
To begin Tribes: Dawn of Humanity, two to four players choose their color and corresponding pieces. On a turn, a series of actions will be available to a player including explore, grow the population, move tribe members around, or enhance knowledge which makes the other three actions stronger when chosen.
Here’s a quick example of how the four actions work across four turns: 1) player explores and randomly selects a wheat tile from a communal bag and adds it to their map; 2) player grows their population, adding a new meeple to a map tile where they currently have one; 3) player moves their new meeple to the newly acquired wheat tile; 4) player enhances their knowledge so that the next time they explore, then can draw two map tiles instead of one.
There is a catch, however, to the actions a player can take on their turns. The action spaces are tiles arranged in a line (or chain) from beginning to end above the board. The action in the first position is always free, but each tile further into the chain will cost a player one shell (the game’s currency) for each position away from the front. So, if a player wanted to take the action in the third position, they would place a shell on each of the two tiles before it. And finally, when a person takes an action, they collect all the shells (if any) on them and remove the tile from its current position in the chain and move it to the very back of the line.
Players score victory points for Tribes: Dawn of Humanity through progressing up the skills trees, as well as the increasing knowledge in general. Furthermore, players who increase their knowledge first in particular areas get more victory points, so considering the most advantageous avenues given a player’s strengths and weaknesses is important. Gameplay proceeds until the majority of knowledge is unlocked and the player with the most victory points wins.
What works in Tribes: Dawn of Humanity is the engaging outmaneuvering and strategic planning. The rotation of the action tiles is exceedingly clever and makes the shells a very valuable commodity. The game almost feels like it’s playfully taunting people: “you can indeed take any action you want…but it’ll cost ya!” Furthermore, as knowledge is unlocked, so are events which enter into the action tile rotation. Some of these are boons such as ones that allow the person who chooses it to take a double move action. Others may cause setbacks like wiping out meeples, but often players have to pick those options because they are either completely out of shells so they can’t pay to use another tile or because the “bad” tile has collected so many shells, picking them up may provide a net positive. All in all, players need to keep a very watchful eye on the machinations of their opponents to anticipate what options are going to be available to them on their turn. This gives Tribes: Dawn of Humanity a fun dose of interactivity.
Players who prefer more direct conflict in a competitive game may not enjoy Tribes: Dawn of Humanity as much as others. More often than not, people must rely on reacting and adapting to a situation rather than actually outsmarting or sabotaging other players. This means that the majority of time is really spent on analyzing and considering options more than anything else. Fortunately, there aren’t too many choices, so analysis paralysis is unlikely to occur.
Tribes: Dawn of Humanity takes some core mechanics and integrates them really well to form a very solid tile-placement and strategic action-selection game. Gameplay is intuitive, moves very quickly, and has a nice balance of complexity and engagement.
Recommended if you like: Euphoria, Azul, The Castles of Burgundy
Final Grade: A
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