Istanbul (Board Game)

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Hustle and bustle in the bazaar district of Istanbul: merchants and their assistants are hurrying through the narrow alleys attempting to be more successful than their competitors. Good organization is key: wheelbarrows have to be filled with goods at the warehouses and then swiftly transported by the assistants to the various destinations. The goal of the merchants is to be the first to collect a certain amount of rubies. You are leading a merchant and four assistants through the 16 Places of the bazaar. At each Place, you can carry out a specific action. The challenge is that, to carry out an action at any of those Places, your merchant needs the help of an assistant and has to leave him behind. To use that assistant again later, your merchant has to come back to that Place and pick him up. So plan ahead carefully to avoid being left with no assistants and thus unable to do anything... 2-5 players Ages 10+ 40-60 minutes play time Contents: 16 Place tiles 5 Wheelbarrows 15 Wheelbarrow extensions 26 Bonus cards 16 Mosque tiles 10 Demand tiles 12 Gold coins 15 Silver coins 30 Copper coins 1 Starting player marker 5 Merchants 25 Assistants 5 Family members 20 Good indicators 4 Mail indicators 1 Governor 1 Smuggler 2 six-sided dice 32 Rubies 5 Overviews 7 Stickers 1 Rulebook

Product Details

Boards & Dice
10 May 2016
Strategy Games
Game Mechanic
Year Published
# of Players
2 - 5
User Suggested # of Players
Best with 4 players, Recommended with 2 - 5 players
Suggested Ages
10 and up
Playing Time
40 - 60 minutes
Game Designer
Rüdiger Dorn
Game Artist
Andreas Resch
Alderac Entertainment Group
User Suggested Ages
Language Dependence
No necessary in-game text
  • 2014 Kennerspiel des Jahres Winner
  • 2014 Golden Geek Best Family Board Game Nominee
  • 2014 Golden Geek Best Strategy Board Game Nominee
  • 2014 Golden Geek Board Game of the Year Nominee
  • 2014 Gouden Ludo Nominee
  • 2014 Gouden Ludo Winner
Expansion Sets
  • Istanbul: Brief & Siegel
  • Istanbul: Kebab Shop Mini Expansion
  • Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh
Supply Source

Customer Reviews

Ruby Ruby Ruby Aaaa haa haa aa aha!

Reviewed by on

Now that I got that song stuck in your head let's get to it :)

The Game:

You are merchants, racing around the bazaar to collect rubies in Istanbul. You will collect valuable commodities and trade for money, all in the effort of exchanging these for the luxurious rubies.

You win if you are the first player to five (or six) rubies; although it’s possible for multiple people to arrive at this target on the final turn and the game devolves to a series of tie breakers. You mostly gain rubies from two corners of the map, where the Sultan’s Palace exchanges sets of different coloured goods, and the Gemstone Dealer exchanges large sum of money for rubies.

On your turn, you are moving your merchant token up to two steps across the board. The board is set up as a 4 x 4 grid formed from modular tiles. Each tile is a different location, giving a unique effect: acquiring goods, markets to trade, upgrading your wheelbarrow, and others. All of these effects are designed to let you gather resources and money, and thereby marshal them towards trading for rubies.

However, as you move you are ferrying a stack of assistants with you. To perform the action of a location, you must leave one from your stack on the location. You will either recollect that assistant when you return to this location (performing the action again), or when your journey returns you back to the fountain (collecting all assistants). The placement of assistants is not mutually exclusive, but there is a fee to enter the same space as another player’s merchant.

My Opinion:

This game is a balance between charting a route around the market, and gaining and spending the items you need. It’s one part pick up and deliver, one part race game, and one part worker placement. You must charter a course around the board, with a view to returning back to the fountain. It makes for very curious loops as you do.

The modularity of the board is also really intriguing: you have three significant set ups, with easy, standard, and long pathways. The looping effect is noticeable on the different set ups, as in the easy one, you tend to cycle around the board in a progressive but lazy manner. The long board is actually very interesting, as you have to circumnavigate more tactfully. It’s the difference between stepping through the board, and planning ahead.

The end result of a game that disguises its pick and deliver features. Typically, I’ve not been a fan of said genre, but this aspect of Istanbul sits comfortably in the background to the point where it’s almost obscured by the rest of the game. Given that it’s structure to the game, rather than a major feature, I find it enhances the games flow.

One of the weirder aspects of the game is the feature that is the cousin pawn. They are your black sheep family member who starts in jail, whom you help escape to do odd jobs, and then gets sent back to jail. Mechanistically, you are incentivised to have this cousin recaptured so that you can use them again. It creates this implied narrative of black market deals, and shady actions of your character. It sits oddly dissonant from the game’s whole aesthetic.

Verdict: Great game, lots of speed, and excellent pacing.