Rise of Tribes by Breaking Games Review

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Theme and What is it?

In Rise of Tribes, you and your fellow players are all leaders of tribal nations in prehistoric times. Lead your tribes to victory (15 points) by founding villages, gathering resources, researching technologies, and taking control of the modular hex board. 

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Gameplay Mechanics

Like any prehistoric society, you begin play with a number of hexes related to the number of players. Hex configurations are given in the instruction manual for 2, 3, and 4 player games. Players randomly draw a player board with their tribe indicated on it (no, sorry, you don’t get to pick) and also grab 20 meeples in their chosen color and the deck of cards that matches.

There are a few other setup instructions that the guide book will take you through, but the most important is that at the top of each of the four actions (Grow, Move, Gather, Lead) on the action board, you place three dice on the three available spaces with a particular side up in a very particular order: sun, moon, nothing.

Player order is determined at random, with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th players each being compensated more than the one before for going later.

Each turn has five basic steps:

  • Score villages
  • Roll dice
  • Take actions
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Build villages and complete goals

Each village you have earns you one victory point at the beginning of your turn, so it’s important to build early. (This lost me my first match.)

When you roll the two dice, pay special attention if doubles are drawn, as this triggers an event, which often serves to complicate matters. Volcano, anyone? Invaders?

During step 3, you can take any two of four actions: Grow, Move, Gather, Lead. You cannot do the same action twice. Let’s say it’s your first turn and you’re the first player. You roll a sun and a moon. You place your sun on the first die space of Grow and move the others along the path. You hand the last die that fell off the track to the next player. You do the same with Lead, only placing your moon there. 

In the Grow track, you pushed out a blank die and you now have two suns and one moon. The double suns indicate that your civilization is flourishing and you receive a bonus for that action.

In the Lead track, you have two moons and one sun. The two moons has the opposite effect as two suns; it is the dark of night for your civilization, so while you still benefit from this action, it’s not nearly as powerful as it could be. 

In the fourth step, you resolve conflicts. Essentially, each player with tribe members on a hex in contest (more than 5 meeples present) has to simultaneously take one meeple off until only one player’s tribe members remain. And yes, you can get into a fight with yourself!

In the fifth step, you build villages using resources you have gathered. Each village takes a somewhat different set of resources to build, depending on which tribe you are. It may take something like 3 stone, 2 wood, and 1 food token to build one. Completing development goals is fulfilled in much the same way, by paying resources. Achievement goals are fulfilled by triggering certain situations in the game, like controlling one of each type of terrain. Development goals and achievement goals both reward victory points, so don’t neglect them!

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Initial Impressions

I fell in love with this game when I first saw it at GenCon this year. I’m a sucker for civilization building games, and this totally fit the bill. I was actually really excited to see how the dice rolling mechanic played out. A lot of civ building games can take a long time to play out, and I was hoping that the dice would speed things along because let’s be honest: we don’t always have hours to devote to playing a game. Especially those of us with kids!

Game Build Quality

The game manufacturers use fairly standard heavy cardboard for playing pieces. I love the custom-cut wooden meeples. They appear to be carrying spears or torches, and I think it’s a really nice touch. The four wooden arrows that mark players’ progress on the victory point path are equally well done. I am just about DYING to see the deluxe upgrade kit, which features wooden pieces for the resources, village tokens, and more, but I haven’t been able to find a copy. 

The instruction manual is AMAZINGLY well done. Thick, glossy paper, full-color art throughout. I reference the rulebook frequently throughout the game just so I can touch it. That’s not creepy AT ALL, in case you were wondering. I just like good paper.

There is a neat little tray in the box insert for storing tokens, right next to where the arrows are stored, but I’d really like to see this tray have a lid. If I put game pieces in there and store the game vertically, they go everywhere. However, there is a large square storage area that I can use that comes with a paper cover of sorts that keeps the pieces more or less in place.

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Artistic Direction

The art on the box really captured my imagination: proud, strong indigenous people intent on using their wits and environment to create a civilization that conquers. I really loved that the art team featured a racially diverse group on the cover art.

There is also a great mix of male and female leaders depicted. Inside the box, on the player boards, each of eight leaders is shown with remarkable detail and fully half are female. As a woman myself, I really sit up and take notice when women are fairly represented. Board game developers typically target the while male demographic, and it simply thrills me to see other races and women included in game art. Bravo to Breaking Games and Brad Brooks for bringing this one home.

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Fun Factor

Okay, so we’ve established my deep and abiding love for the game’s art, diversity, and paper quality. But how fun is it to play?

The answer? Extremely!

I got so caught up in exploring my territory, discovering new technologies, conquering other players, and other story aspects of the game that I sort of didn’t win because I forgot about victory points. Next time!

Age Range & Weight

My nine-year-old beat me at this game the first time we played. He thoroughly understood the rules and used them to his advantage, so I’d say the average kid in late elementary could be taught to play, with lots of fun for the adults involved.

I’d call this a midweight game, though maybe on the lighter end of the middle, due to how quickly the game progresses. There’s a lot of meat here to digest, and tons of replayability, but it’s far easier for kids to manage than some of the real heavyweights. 

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Conclusions

So far, this is one of my favorite games to come out of GenCon this year. It’s bold, exciting, and the thrill of discovery and growth captures every bit of my imagination. 

I think the melding of the dice rolling mechanic with the civilization-building genre helps make the game more playable by more people than you might otherwise find. It’s faster, more accessible, and easier to get into than some other similar games I’ve played. 

The hardcore gamer in me is very attracted to it, but the appeal is also there for younger audiences and those who are looking for a gateway into the boardgaming community. This is the perfect game to bring out when we have friends over. The kids can play their own game, we adults can play this, and we can all be done in time for the baby’s bedtime.  

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