Mawihtecs Boardgame reviews
Board Game Exposure
Pegasus Spiele Games
A Review by
2-5 Players (2 player uses a dummy player)
10+ Age (Can be played well by 8+ but likely to be a little slow paced)
What is Istanbul?
Istanbul was designed by Rudiger Dorn, and is essentially a pick-up and deliver style race game. You are a merchant in a frantic bazaar area of Istanbul. Scrambling to acquire Rubies. You will use your assistants to trade on your behalf. Scurrying from the stalls back and forth to your barrow with the goods which you will need to turn into gems. It is a simple fact you want the most gems. Thereby you will set yourself up as the most successful merchant in Istanbul.
Get em while they’re hot?
Right from the start Istanbul will wow you with its sumptuous artwork. There is so much colour yet it is never garish or over the top. The setting is definitely not what you would call “modern day accurate” but it is definitely much more in the style of a Hollywood movie representation of what they think Istanbul should have looked like in the 30’s and 40’s. This is no bad thing at all because you instantly feel at home with it. Nothing makes you feel more at the heart of a city like a bustling market. Sights, Smells, Movement and numerous vendors calling out their wares trying to tempt you to spend big. OK so maybe Istanbul is not actually quite that immersive. But you will find it easy to envelop yourself in the role. “Spices! Spices!” “Special price for you sir and madam”.
What’s in the box?
Istanbul manages to cram a lot into its smaller than average box. This is going to give you a lot of game for not a lot of money (always a good thing). Inside the box you will find.
16 double sided Location Tiles in English/German.
15 Wheelbarrow extensions.
26 Bonus Cards.
16 Mosque Tiles.
10 Demand Tiles.
12 Gold coins.
15 Silver coins.
30 Copper coins.
Starting player token.
5 Merchants markers (1 in each colour).
25 Assistants markers (5 in each colour).
5 Family members markers (1 in each colour).
20 Goods Indicators (4 per player).
4 Mail markers.
1 Governor marker.
1 Smuggler marker.
2 Six sided dice.
5 Player overview cards.
Stickers for the various markers.
Wow sounds complicated?
Istanbul may initially seem confusing given all the various tokens and markers. To be honest I think the only real negative in this game is that it can be quite fiddly to set up. You will however be pleasantly surprised. By approximately half way through your first game you will realise, you have not looked at the rule book in ages and you just know how it works. All the Location tiles are very clear and the Iconography is very easy to understand. To start a game you will lay out the 16 Location tiles into a 4×4 grid. Helpfully the Rulebook has a suggested starting layout. This is a very good starting point for learning the game. It also contains an “advanced” layout which makes the game much more difficult. Another option is to lay the 16 Location tiles in a random 4×4 grid. It is from this last option you will find the most mileage in Istanbul. As the number and variety of different layouts, will mean you need to keep on your toes with varying strategies for trying to collect those pesky Rubies. Once you have laid out your “board” you will then place your Mosque tiles, Rubies, Mail markers, Governor, Smuggler and Family members (they start in jail, more on this later). Onto the tiles. Players will then place their Merchant marker along with 4 Assistants in a stack on the Fountain Location Tile. A nice quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle of the Market itself. You will also receive a basic Wheelbarrow. While this will hold some goods at the beginning. You will very quickly find you need to upgrade it if you are to have any hope of gaining Rubies.
Show me the money!
Movement in Istanbul is deceptively simple your merchant can move 1 or 2 spaces each turn. Sounds simple right? However the merchants will not do business with you direct, they will only deal with your assistants. Each time you move you will need to “drop off” or “pick up” an assistant in order to take the action available on the Location tile. It is all too easy to find yourself in the position of wanting to move to a certain tile to take an action. Then finding that you need to backtrack to collect assistants to be able to get there. Forward planning is crucial but thankfully given the 4×4 nature of the layout it is not “brain-meltingly” difficult to do. The actions available to the player when they have completed their movement will involve visits to
• Warehouses where the player can max out his supply of a certain good.
• Wainwright purchase a wheelbarrow extension or a gem if fully
• Post Office an ever-changing assortment of goods and money.
• Black Market utilize a “lucky” dice roll to obtain goods.
• Tea House roll a dice to try to win money.
• Markets where you can sell goods for money.
• Mosques obtain special tiles that allow a once per turn advantage.
• Caravansary bonus cards are discarded here.
• Police Station free your family member.
• Sultan’s Palace certain combinations of goods can gain you Rubies.
• Gemstone Dealer allows you to purchase gems outright with money.
• Fountain call your assistants back to you.
Back up. Who is in jail?
Being a successful merchant in Istanbul is not all plain sailing. You have your wayward cousin to contend with. He is trying so hard to be successful but things just don’t work out and he regularly finds himself a guest of the local constabulary. It is not all doom and gloom though. He will be so grateful when you pay his bail. He will happily pop over to any Location tile and carry out the action there regardless of who is already there. This can be a real boon when playing with the higher player counts as the board does tend to get crowded. I say this because, whenever you are moving your Merchant and you stop on a space already occupied by another Merchant, the Governor or the Smuggler. You will have to pay them to be able to carry out the tiles action.
Because the aim of Istanbul is to Obtain Rubies, there is a large element of “race game” feeling. This is further enhanced by the fact that as Locations are visited and Rubies are claimed the costs gradually increase along with them. So in a 5 player game being the last to claim a Ruby from a spot can be quite expensive. This is usually because you have focussed on getting Rubies from elsewhere. One of the beautiful things about a game of Istanbul is that there are multiple paths to victory. You can try your luck at the riskier but potentially more rewarding black market or gambling. Amass a fortune in coins and try to buy your way to victory. You might decide that the best route is to trade the goods well to obtain that win. It is just as possible to win a game by mixing together a combination of different strategies. Plan your route, make your plans and stick to them….unless you decide to change them LOL.
Istanbul is one of those games that in my opinion everyone should have on the shelf. It is a little fiddly to set up but the play time is quick and there is little downtime. A full game only takes around an hour. It always leaves you with a feeling of enjoyment and does not outstay its welcome. Even if one player gets a run of outrageous luck on some dice rolls you won’t feel hard done by. It has enough strategy to keep most gamers interested but it manages to balance this with an easy to pick up and play style that is great for novices as well. Istanbul does have some elements of luck but you can more or less ignore those tiles if you wish to. This is definitely not multiplayer solitaire as what actions the other players take can have a direct effect on your plans or available options. At the same time it is not a take-that game either.
Pros and Cons.
Re-playability. Does not outstay its welcome and leaves you thinking I want more.
Accessibility. Easy to teach, Easy to learn. Just what you want in a worker placement game.
Every game is different thanks to the variable Location tile layouts.
Scaling. The use of a dummy player makes the 2 player version well balanced while the 5 player can feel a bit crowded at time (3-4 is probably the sweetest spot though).
Rewarding. There is very little downtime, lots of options and some good thinking needed.
Luck. The luck of the dice on the tea rooms can mean that occasionally one player will just get a “very good run”.
A little too light for some. There are expansions available which can really up the strategy.
Set-up can be a little fiddly at the start
Component Quality 4/5
Player Interaction 4/5
Total Score 88%
good review. played with a friend, picked up to have something to play with my wife, now she plays just about everything. played with her cousins, they picked it up 2 days later and they never played board games. good starter game.
I say this because, whenever you are moving your Merchant and you stop on a space already occupied by another Merchant, the Governor or the Smuggler. You will have to pay them to be able to carry out the tiles action.
You don't have to pay the Governor or Smuggler to carry out the tile action. You take the tile action first, and then encounter the Governor or Smuggler. You must pay them (2 lira, or a card to the Governor or a good to the Smuggler) to take their own actions. This is a disadvantage of using your family member, who will not encounter the Governor or Smuggler, leaving behind a space with an arrestable family member and a neutral character which is attractive to other players.
- Last edited Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:06 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Sep 10, 2017 10:03 pm
David Grabiner wrote:
You must pay them (2 lira, or a card to the Governor or a good to the Smuggler) to take their own actions.
Even that isn't precisely accurate: actually, if you took their action, you have to pay them. You don't "pay" up-front.
This means you can, for example, see what card you drew before deciding whether to discard or pay, and what to discard if you do. And you can take the discard option even if you had no cards in hand when you encountered the Governor: draw card; decide you don't like card; discard it.