The gameplay of Tribune is fairly simple. The stipulations for winning are made clear by the Victory Conditions card at the very beginning of play. The number of victory conditions as well as the quantity of wooden "followers" allowed on the board depend on the number of players.
The Faction cards are then shuffled and placed on the board in locations which have been modeled after the famous landmarks of Rome. Every card belongs to one of the seven color-coordinated factions found at the top of the game board. Players take turns using their wooden followers to gain the cards of the factions which they wish to claim as their own. Depending on the location, players may have to pay the listed price of each faction card, trade in a card from their own hand, or engage other players in a bidding war.
Alliances with the game's various factions bring about laurel wreaths, favor of the gods, legions and many other helpful blessings. If you ever get lost during the game, each player has a handy-dandy reference sheet which lines out how to get cards at each location and the benefits of each faction. Whichever player achieves the necessary amount of items, loyalties, and other gifts as dictated by the Victory Condition card reigns supreme as Tribune.
Taking Over Factions
Taking over the various factions of Rome has to be my favorite element of the game. When a player has two or more of the same faction cards, they can place one of their wooden followers on that faction's square at the top of the board to stake a claim. At the beginning of the game, gaining the support of a faction is fairly easy. As long as the first player is the only person claiming that faction, they receive that allegiance as well as all of the benefits associated with that faction.
As the game progresses, however, any alliance can be challenged and allegiance goes to the highest bidder. In order to take over another faction, another player must make his or her intentions known by placing one of their followers at the top of the board and then display either a higher point value OR a larger number of cards associated with the intended faction.
The challenge of taking over a faction is great. You may have 3 cards and 23 points with the Patricians, but if another player challenges you with 8 points and 4 cards, they win. Which ever player looses the match up must discard all of their cards for that faction. However, all is not lost, friends! Every faction (as long as that faction is not covered by the chariot) is up for grabs.
Strategy and Insights
While playing, I like to place my first bet in the Latrine. I know that must sound horrible to those who haven't yet played the game, but the Latrine is a great place to get cards and money. On this location, a single Faction card is placed face down. When the card is finally flipped, the player who has claimed the Latrine has the option of either buying the card or receiving the number of denarii found at the top of the card. I almost always take the cash.
My other favorite hot spot is the Curia. Here, Faction cards are piled atop one another, face up, until their total value is 5 or more or until a leader is revealed. It is possible to place up to 5 cards here before these conditions are met. If a player has placed a follower at this location, they will receive all of those cards in exchange for one discard.
If I were to pick the best faction, it would have to be the Vestal Virgins. Sweet talking these ladies gives you temporary favor of the gods with the option to offer up a sacrifice and receive eternal favor of the gods. Plus they give you laurels AND the Tribune marker if you have a scroll. Coming in a close second would be the Gladiators. These trident-wielding warriors give you the opportunity to "kill off" the cards of your opponents, making it much easier to take over factions from other players.
Lastly, keep in mind that subtly is key! Try not to announce your intentions to win a faction too early in the turn. Typically, I wait until I am down to one or two followers before I stake my claim. This way, the other players will be less able to interfere with my card gathering. Also, flopping down the extra three cards that no one knew you had and dashing the hopes of your challenger is too sweet for words.
Like many others, my first experience with Tribune was in German. Though I loved the game when I couldn't actually read it, I have to say that the translation was well worth the wait. Each game is full of twists, turns and upsets, and each game is different. If you're in the mood for a game of political intrigue, underhanded scheming and the pursuit of power, check out Tribune!