Not the first of my new Christmas games that I have played but the first one I remembered to take pictures of 😅
We played this afternoon and had a really enjoyable time, it ended in a bit of a runaway win at the end but most of the way through it felt like anyone's game. Here are my initial thoughts:
Learning and teaching: both very quick, I read the rules in around 10 minutes and they didn't need a second read (there are a couple of fiddly bits but the rules book is good at highlighting them and elaborating). Teaching was equally painless, the 'display' where you build this tableaux of tribe cards was probably the most difficult to explain, especially as at the start of the game there is just an empty space in front of you, no grid or anything. However, it was about 10 minutes to explain and less than 5 to set up.
The art work and components: very solid, nothing mind-blowing by very on theme. It would have been nice if the outer ring of cards (which are permanent) could have been cardboard to differentiate them a little (the inner cards constantly change) but that is presumably keeping the cost down and it doesn't harm the game really.
Mechanics: mostly very simple and intuitive, the base mechanics are easy to understand and the tribe cards which are rules break in my and numerous enough that you only need to worry about the ones already on the board (there are enough that learning them would be mostly pointless). The way you select your actions in the middle: the cards at the intersections of the meeples you place around the edge, is clever and efficient. I've not come across something like that in a game before and it means you can rarely get everything you want and so each action, while generally quite rapid feels like a compromise.
Gameplay: So good, a lot heftier (if not heavier) than I thought it might be. This very much is a tactical game, if not much of a strategic game. We realised early on that the way you place your meeples is as much about what it will get as what you will deny your opponent, and you are rarely going to get everything (or even anything that you wanted at the start of the round. However, we almost never ended a round with one of us feeling like we had not gotten something useful, the game is very much in getting small margins over your opponent. The powers granted by the tribes cards are useful but by no means superpowerful so again it is getting a couple extra points of resources that swings the balance/game.
This is in someway my only complaint about what I think is a wonderful game: there isn't a huge feeling of progress, you aren't building an engine with the tableaux and each round is a new but familiar puzzle to solve.
Overall however I would absolutely recommend this game, it has plenty of meat to it and it makes you think and be engaged every step of the way through. It plays quite speedily (and I am sure on repay plays will be quicker still) and remains engaging throughout.