Learning Curve Act Seven

20160624_220958[1]Hi all.  This week you’ll be pleased to know that I actually managed to play some games!  I’m going to concentrate on a particular game each week and this week I am talking Tribal!  This is a game one of my friends picked up at Salute and it centres around the violent conduct of the Maori.  It is however useable in any pre-gunpowder setting so for our games we re-played England (Saxons) vs Wales (Welsh).  Despite being the most English player at the table I ended up being the Welsh…

Right from the get-go it is pretty clear that all things boil down to gambling with honour and the lives of your men.  Even force selection is done using the honour you’ll lose later in the game when those poor dudes die.  With just enough options to be interesting and a really straight forward system for choosing your guys you’ve soon spent enough honour to amass a small force.  Somewhere between 6 and 25 figures depending upon your fancy for the day.  Now since honour is the win condition it’d be a bit daft to spend it all and the larger your force the closer you are to fleeing and the further from winning…

20160624_203342[1]Once your force is ‘carefully’ assembled you will sometimes have the option of paying even more honour in order to attack!  The risk here is that if you fail to deal with your objective you’ve put yourself considerably behind.  I chose to attack and extract revenge upon the Saxon chief (he deserves it, look at him!).   Already down to only 7 honour to my opponents 10 I had an uphill battle to fight but if I could just kill their leader I’d be rewarded with enough points to win.  The game is on.

Since neither of us are particularly subtle we pretty much went for ‘charge’ and after a slightly cagey initial exchange where both of us tried to lure the other into a mistake but in the end just hollered and leapt into combat.  Interestingly the game uses no tape measures and no dice; just a normal deck of poker cards each.  These are used for activation and combat and part of the game is trying to decide where to put these cards in the first place to make the most of them for the turn.

20160624_211117[1]Combat is a trick taking card game where the suit affects the result of the round.  Red ones are cunning ploys and black ones are murderous intent.  The game here is playing your cards in the right order to mitigate your losses and make the opponents catastrophic.  Of course sometimes both of you play a joker and that is a very bad thing for everyone, causing men to quake in their boots at the awful portent of doom!

Eventually (with a lot of lucky draws) the Welsh were victorious and are still in the Euros.  The Saxons were wiped out to a man and the honour total became a messy amount.  I think we may have missed some tactical nuance and the addition of ranged troops and a few skills on our heroes would have made a massive difference to the game.  Next time we’ll give that a whirl!

All in all I’d say this is a great fun game, simple and enjoyable with enough options and gambling to keep you interested.  The rules have lots of scenarios and whole sections on using Vikings/Neanderthals/Gladiators etc so even if the main focus doesn’t appeal then one of the other options may.  I’d highly recommend checking it out.  Next week I’ll be discussing our experience of Burrows and Badgers so check back then! -Mark


  1. Cheers for the review guys – love the fact that you enjoyed the game. It looks like you picked up the complexities of honour – finding that balance between force composition and how the game plays out is always a difficult/personal choice. For those interested, there is a FB group where we talk about stuff relating to Tribal gaming: https://www.facebook.com/tribalgame/
    and there is a player-community group as well:
    As for Mana Press, we’re looking at releasing more Tribal supplements in the next few months – one on Prehistorics/Cave-wars, and the other on modern-day gangs/hooligans.

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