An Uncomfortable Game

Over the summer I finally had the opportunity to play a game called Five Tribes.  It’s a good game, and if you play it you may be reminded of the old game Mancala.  Five Tribes takes that ‘pick them all up and drop them off as you move’ mechanism from Mancala and puts it to use in controlling a desert oasis.  It’s a very tactile, colorful game full of palaces, palm trees, wizards, and genies.  And slaves.

Yes, I said slaves.  Which caused some controversy when the game first shipped.  A vocal contingent objected to the slaves in the game (to make things worse,they’re actually traded away in the game for wealth and power), and yeah, I could see it wasn’t a smart move by the game’s publisher, Days of Wonder.  To their credit, the publisher quickly came up with substitute artwork for a revised edition of the game, this time depicting a Fakir with a long white beard sitting upon a bed of  nails charming a snake.  It’s a huge improvement compared to the slave slumped over in shackles.  Especially when everything else in the game is so bright and cheerful.  What were they possibly thinking?


But it didn’t really bother me too much when this first came up, I didn’t own the game.  It was all hypothetical and distant.  I could see why it was a bad decision, but then again it didn’t seem to be a deal breaker.  The copy of the game I played over the summer was a newer edition that already had the Fakirs instead of Slaves.  I really liked the game.

So when a copy popped up at a local game sale I snatched it up.  Yes!  It was the one game I’d gone there hoping to find, and I got the only copy.  For cheap too!  I felt like a winner.

Until I opened the box.  And those cute little Fakirs weren’t there.  The solemn Slaves stared up at me with their sunken eyes instead.  Now it was real, I owned a game full of slaves.  It was the first edition.

It shouldn’t have bothered me, or should it have?  It’s just a game afterall.  But it did bother me.  Now that I saw them, held the cards, and made trades using them as currency in the game – it bothered me.  I didn’t like it.   It just felt wrong.

So I fixed it.  It cost me a little more money, but I was able to order a set of replacement Fakir cards from the Board Game Geek online store.  The slave cards have been set aside, never to be used again.  But the slave illustrations do still appear here and there on the game board.  And in the rules.  And on the quick start cards for each player.

I guess I’ll live with that.   But if I ever have the chance to swap it for a slave-free second edition I’d do it in an instant.

What about you?  Have you played a game that didn’t feel ‘right’ because of the components?

2 thoughts on “An Uncomfortable Game

  1. I take it the slave cards don’t bother you John, and that’s fine. Understand that once I had the game it did bother me. As far as the assassins go, I think it’s apples and oranges. The term assassin supports the action of that piece in the game. The term slave didn’t reinforce anything in the game and was an unnecessary choice. The graphic used was very poorly chosen as well. In any case, thanks for reading.

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