Tribal by Australian company, Mana Press, is a set of skirmish gaming rules designed for recreating pre-gunpowder inter-tribal conflicts.
The aim of Tribal is to capture the essence of the heroic skirmish style warfare that existed in many pre-gunpowder cultures, who exalted the feats of the individual and their courage and prowess in battle.
Central to this type of warfare (and to the Tribal wargame) is the concept of honour. Honour determines why one is fighting, how battle is conducted, what sorts of tactics (both honourable and dishonourable) are used, and who becomes the victor at the end.
Tribal takes an innovative approach in using playing cards, rather than dice. In fact, you need neither dice nor measuring tapes for this game! Activation, movement, fighting are all driven by a couple of sets of ordinary playing cards. Other than that, you just need some tokens to represent ‘honour’, and of course some figures and scenery.
Whilst the splendid cover features a tattooed Māori warrior, these rules specifically cover other pre-gunpowder fighting than just Māori inter-tribal warfare, such as Vikings, Aztecs, Heian Japanese, and even Roman gladiators. But overall, the rules do have an emphasis on the Māori inter-tribal wars (no doubt based on the writers’ Kiwi backgrounds).
Australian manufacturer Eureka Miniatures actually makes a set of Māori figures specifically designed to work with Tribal, as illustrated in the pics above and below, borrowed from the Eureka website.
Or you could use Empress Miniatures figures for this game – the ones without firearms (like some of those in my picture below). Or, of course, you could use Vikings, Aztecs, Samurai, Roman Gladiators etc.
As they stand, the Tribal rules won’t be suitable for colonial wars, as they don’t include rules for using firearms. But I think I’ve heard that Mana Press are interested in expanding their rules to include them (can anyone confirm or deny?).
From my initial read-through, Tribal seems to be a characterful yet relatively simple game. Of course, this opinion is yet to be borne out one way or the other through actually playing the rules. But at only $10 to download the PDF in two formats (one lavishly designed, the other more printer-friendly), Tribal is a good deal even if you just read the rules rather than actually play them!
POSTSCRIPT: While I was writing the above article, I forgot that I’d already written a overview of Tribal back in June 2016 (and in more detail than the posting above)!!! So if you want to know more about Tribal, have a look at my old article too!