Reviews

Tribes of the Wind review —Nausicaä of the valley of the windriders

Rebuilding civilization after its collapse has become a popular theme in board games recently, and it makes sense that climate anxiety has finally taken ahold of the of the collective consciousness- as I write this review, it’s snowing in the mountain town I live in and a wildfire has broken out on the other side of the range just east of us. Tribes of the Wind is a strange game, in that while it puts you in the shoes of a leader of the survivors, it puts you in the headspace of the no-future profiteers that caused the collapse. That’s because Tribes of the Wind is a mostly self focused game of moment-to-moment tactical decisions based entirely on what’s most effective right then and there. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some strategy, but you’re never planning more than a couple turns ahead. This would make more sense if I gave a general overview, wouldn’t it? Each player has a personal board, complete with a 4×4 map you’ll be building forests and villages on, and asymmetric personal objectives to unlock asymmetric personal powers. “Wait Nick,” I hear you say, “personal objectives suggest strategy, you dumb idiot, what a useless review!”

Well, any strategy in Tribes is more the plans you make with friends after too many edibles- perfectly fine to pursue, but at your own discretion and also perfectly fine to abandon. Because every turn, all you care about is playing a card from your hand for maximum efficiency: red and blue to discard pollution from your board and gain water, respectively. Green to pay water and grab a forest tile from the shared market, yellow to move wind riders to your forests so you can eventually flip them and make villages. All this time, everything is happening at a breakneck pace, and there’s bits I left out to mirror that pace. All these cards have preconditions to playing them, and sometimes do things outside of their suit, and have wildly varying power levels that have almost nothing to do with how difficult they are to play. You’re also refilling your hand at the end of turn semi-blindly, only knowing the suit of what you picked up. So yeah, that green card you picked up may give a deep discount on making a forest, but the market doesn’t have any of the color forests you need, or the card you just played was focused around having as many yellow as possible, so your hand’s all gunked up with yellows, so you’ve got to shelve that bad boy for now. Or just use your turn to drop a shrine, discard most of your hand, and pivot. Sure, some village scoring cards require having a shrine in a specific location, but those only take one shrine, and you get bonus points for having used all four of your shrines over the course of the game, so may as well use them, right? No future, just now.

So, village scoring. When you get the requisite amount of windriders to a forest, you can spend your turn flipping it into a village and take a village card from the market, either cashing it in for a temporary benefit or (preferably) slotting it under the side of your player board for additional scoring. Like everything else in Tribes, the difficulty and points awarded are vaguely, but not actually, connected. And since the forest market can move absolutely glacially, a fair few may actually wind up being impossible for you because of how things come out and you wound up placing things earlier in the game. Is what it is, that was past you making problems for future you, only future you is present you, and if your score was an American, it’d barely be able to rent a car while your friends’ scores are retiring. Oof. The whole game’s a race to be the first with five villages, which gives a decent chunk of points, which kinda evens things out. Kinda? But that is my major beef Tribes, that it’s deeply unfair while failing to do anything to elevate itself from its competition. If I want a euro-style race game with gorgeous art from Dutrait, Heat’s expansion just came out. If I want a game that puts me in the headspace of a bumbling profiteer, John Company is excellent. It’s rough enough when you play it at 4 or 5 and the color forests you need to get your powers online take a while to come out, but at 3 and the two times the colors do show, they get nabbed before it’s your turn, and meanwhile, someone’s unlocked their power for putting a shrine in the last column. Uhm, excuse me?

Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

Nick grew up reading fantasy novels and board game rules for fun, so he accepted he was a dork at an early age. When he's not busy researching the intricacies of a hobby he'll never pick up, Nick can be caught attempting to either cook an edible meal or befriend local crows.

70

Good

Tribes of the Wind

Review Guidelines

Tribes of the Wind is a gorgeous game, and play whips around the table once everyone's got their minds wrapped around the iconography, but everything but the production oozes good, not great.

Nick Dubs

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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