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Subject: FMW Reviews #14: Istanbul rss

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~Best for Business~
One of the things I'm really happy about reviewing board games is just talking about games I really like and want to spread the word for everyone to see and hopefully maybe consider playing the game with their friends. I know for certain that different games will be for different gamers. However, it's not everyday I get to review a game that is really good and that's where Istanbul comes into play.

Istanbul (not Constantinople, I promise this is the last joke I make on this) has the honor of winning the Kennerspiel des Jahres for 2014 and that in itself is such a high honor for any board game. I decided to buy it one day after I heard about it here on the site. I was hoping that my group would really like the game. And thanks to the power of BGG and the wonderful people on it, they were right. The game is very much fun and my group enjoys it very well. Well, let's talk about this award winner and see if this game really shines for such an award!

They Might Be Giants sure knows how to sing that song you know. Also that Tiny Toons Episode.

Released: 2014
Pick Up & Deliver/Grid Movement
2-5 Players
~40-60 Minutes


Istanbul doesn't actually have a board game but actually have large boards placed in a different order to make the game more interesting when trying to get certain items. Everything here is right on the money so here's what we have:

16 Place Tiles - Called Places in the game, this is where players will be moving around taking different actions in order to get resources.
5 Wheelbarrows - These are the player boards of the game where you store your resources you collect during the game.
15 Wheelbarrow Extensions - These fit inside the space of your board to hold more resources.
26 Bonus Cards - These cards allow you to get bonus items or bonus actions and can come quite in handy in getting something you want.
16 Mosque Tiles - These tiles are placed on the two Mosque tiles in the game, each of them having a stack for the number of players that is playing the game. These give you added benefits.
10 Demand Tiles - These are placed in the market tiles, giving you a chance to sell items.
57 Coins - The currency in the game, these range from 1, 5 and 10.
5 Player Tokens/1 Thicker Token/4 Good Indicators - These are for each player and gives you your merchants you can use and to keep track on your goods you collected in your wheelbarrow.
4 Mail Indicators - These are placed on the post office tile and changes what items you can get on it every time you visit there.
5 Overview Cards - These help you on what you can do on your turn and what the bonus cards allow you to do.
1 Starting Player Marker
1 Governor/Smuggler Tokens - These are randomly placed on the board and allow you to do special actions when you encounter them.
32 Rubies - Ah yes, these beautiful little gems are the main key of winning the game!
2 Dice

And with that, that's all the components and man, there is some great stuff in this game. The rubies are beautiful to look at and everything else is lovely. The place tiles are nice and thick and everything else is made with love. Thumbs up for me on that department. And now, the game itself!


Istanbul is a game where you are a merchant trying to sell goods in order to get a certain amount of rubies. You have your assistants to help you carry out these tasks in a way that makes the game fun! A turn may consist of 4 phases but there's two main phases that will happen every turn so let's go into detail on how they each work.

1. Movement - You will move your merchant and your stack of assistants one or two places. You can't move diagonally and you must end up at a different place from where you started. Once you take your movement, you have the following three options you can do:

A. If one of your assistants is already there, you can pick them up and place them under your stack.
B. You can leave an assistant behind on that place.
C. If you don't have any assistants or you can't pick any up, then your turn ends immediately.

2. Encounters with other Merchants - If there are any other merchants on the target place you end your movement on, you must pay them 2 coins for each merchant you encounter. If you can't pay them or won't pay them, your turn immediately ends.

3. Action - You can carry out the action you left your assistant on a target place and I will go into detail on what each tile does.

4. Encounters - Often times, you may have any encounter that doesn't involve merchants and these can vary depending on the token you encounter in the place.

A. Family Members - If you encounter a family member of another player on there, you must catch them and send them back to the police station. Once you do, you get either 3 coins or a bonus card.
B. Governor - You may draw one bonus card from the face down stack and put it in your hand. If you do, either pay 2 coins or discard a bonus card from your hand.
C. Smuggler - You may gain 1 good of your choice and if you do, either pay 2 coins or discard one good.

Bonus Cards - Throughout the game, you collect bonus cards and on your turn, you can play as many bonus cards as you want and you can keep any amount of bonus cards in your hand. Here's what these cards can do to help you on your quest in getting rubies:

Gain a good of your choice (x4)
Take five coins from the general supply (x4)
You can carry the Sultan's Place Tile again (x2)
You can carry out the Post Office Tile again (x2)
You can carry out the Gemstone Dealer Tile again (x2)
Place your family member in the police station and collect the reward (x2)
In the 1st Phase of the game, do not move your merchant (x2)
In the 1st Phase of the game, you can move 3 or 4 places (x2)
In the 1st Phase of the game, return one of your assistants to you (x2)
When you carry out the Small Market action, you can do it again but with different goods of your choice to sell (x2)

Place Tiles - Ah yes, the real meat of the game. These tiles are used in different ways in order to carry out actions. Some of these tiles allows you to actually gain a ruby! I'll tell you what each of these tiles do:

1. Wainwright - You can pay 7 coins to the general supply in order to to gain a wheelbarrow extension and placing them in your player board. After you buy your third extension, you can take one and only one ruby off the place and put it in your player board.

2-4. Fabric/Spice/Fruit Warehouse - These three tiles are one of the main ways to getting different resources. When you take this action, you max out of that resource on your player board. Remember that these tiles are the only ones to give you the basic resources while there isn't any blue warehouses to get them so you must use other tiles to get them.

5. Post Office - When taking an action here, you get the items that is shown on the four uncovered spaces on the tile. Once you take those resources, move the leftmost marker up, changing what items others may get. If all the markers are up when you take this action, move them all down once you collect your resources.

6. Caravansary - Take 2 bonus cards into your hand and discard one bonus card from your hand. When using this action, you can take cards from the discard pile!

7. Fountain - You can return any number of assistants from anywhere on the board back to you and you don't need to have an assistant to carry out this action. If you send a family member here, your assistants still get returned to your merchant.

8. Black Market - You gain either 1 red, 1 green or 1 yellow good and then you roll both dice. If you roll a 7 or 8, you gain a blue good. If you roll a 9 or 10, you gain 2 blue goods. If you roll an 11 or 12, you are a lucky person and gain 3 blue goods. You can also carry the dice rolling first before you take a good of your choice.

9. Tea House - Here you can announce a number between 3-12 and roll the dice. If you roll equal to or greater than the number you said, you gain that amount of coins. If you don't get it, you still take 2 coins.

10/11. Small/Large Market - Here, you can sell goods depending on what the tile is showing on the demand tile. The more you sell, the moin coins you get. Once you get your coins, take the demand tile shown and put it on the bottom of the stack, showing a new demand. For the Large Market, you get more coins but the goods you need to use is much more rare.

12. Police Station - Some of the black sheep of the family is here and when you take an action here, you can move your family member anywhere in order to take that action! You can't have any encounters with your family member token. But beware, other players can capture your family member in order to get a reward!

13.Sultan's Palace - Shown here is a chance to gain some rubies. You must deliver goods shown that aren't covered by rubies. If you deliver all the goods, then you can take a ruby and add them to your player board. In the process, it gets more expensive in which you now have to deliver more goods in order to get the next ruby.

14/15. Small/Great Mosque - These tiles allow you to take a tile to give you a certain ability. In order to get these, you must have the goods shown on top of that tile, plus you must use up that good in the process. Here's what each tile does:

Red Tile - At the Tea House and Black Market, you may turn one die to a 4 or re-roll the dice.
Blue Tile - You immediately take the fifth assistant color of your color and add them to your stack.
Green Tile - When using one of the warehouses, you may pay 2 coins to gain 1 good of your choice.
Yellow Tile - Once on your turn, you may pay 2 coins to have an assistant return to you.

Once you bought both tiles from a mosque, you gain one and only one ruby from that place and add them on your player board. So you can get two rubies by buying all four tiles from both mosques.

16. Gemstone Dealer - By going here, you can pay a certain amount of coins to the general supply to get a ruby and add it to your player board. Once you take a ruby from here, the next ruby becomes more expensive.

Man, that's a lot of tiles! With that in mind, you now have an understanding on where you can go. You start off with four assistants to help you on your journey as you complete tasks to get rubies. Once a player gets their 5th ruby (6th in a two player game), the game ends and everyone completes the last round for everyone. This is where you can play any remaining bonus cards in your hand to try to get a tie or gain more goods. Whoever has the most rubies wins the game!!!

Red Gems are Shiny Gems

The first time I saw rubies in a board game is Caverna and here they are again, taunting me as I try to go around the tiles to try to get them. One of the big things I love about this game is that you have choices in order to get what you want actually. You can stock up on coins and buy the rubies from the gem dealer. Or, you can get some wheelbarrow extensions to sell those goods at the Sultan's Palace. You can start off by going to the mosques and getting those bonus rubies too! The choice is yours on where you want to go and your not limited on what your doing.

I think people will like this game because it's not a hard game after you teach it to players. It took me a few minutes to explain everything to my friends and within ten minutes of starting the game, everyone had a plan on where they want to go. I had a friend continue to go to the tea house to get more coins while the other is trying to get more extensions. You have a choice to go where you want to go and the game can change depending on how you arrange the tiles so the game can change every time you play so you have to constantly change your plans every time you play the game and this is a fun game to play and one that I really enjoyed. But, the key thing is that, this game isn't that heavy so maybe some gamers might look somewhere else to get a good pick up and deliver game. Now this could vary between players but try the game, you may like it in the long run!

Final Verdict

Istanbul is one of those games that you have to play it in order to really understand how the game works. My gaming group really liked the game and thought that what it has to offer, it's a fun game. I mentioned that this won a major award and explained how it works and they agreed that the game deserved the win. As much as many of us sing the song, Istanbul is a great game where you have to think your way in order to win the game and that could be the fun part of the game! You have several paths in order to get that last ruby and this game is a lot of fun. In my opinion, this is a fun medium game that doesn't take too long once you start rolling with it and I think it deserved the award it was given.

Overall, I give the game a solid 8 and a half out of 10, showing that a game is as fun as the rubies they give you. However, maybe some players might not like the game because they prefer something else but like I mentioned before, try before you buy!

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