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Istanbul; A Delightful Puzzly Euro Experience

Istanbul is a game I've played a few times...and while I quite enjoy it, I still don't love it. Fortunately my wife does (and keeps winning) and so I still own it. To be clear...I've enjoyed it every time I've played it...but it feels a bit too simple...although as someone who isn't winning perhaps I should take that statement back.


Istanbul is a game where you need to earn gems before the other players do....and you need to figure out the board setup, current player distribution, goals left etc...you basically need to see the pattern in the game and optimize around it. Which sounds exactly up my alley. Maybe that's why every time I play it I kind of hope it will make it through the next round of cuts...or maybe that's just because I want to play the coffee expansion (I love coffee). 


There's nothing I dislike about Istanbul....if anything it's the other way around, there are many things I do like. I like the optimization of a variable board state. I like the fact that every aspect of the game rewards you for being "first" but you can't be "first" everywhere. I like the minimal way players get in your way...enough to sting but not enough to really be frustrating. And yet despite that...I just don't pull it out enough. But I should. 


Currently it's the 109th highest rated game...absolutely nothing to sneeze at. The art is appealing, the gameplay is appealing, although admittedly the lack of any women at all...absolutely 0...among hundreds of men is slightly surprising. Thanks to Shut Up & Sit Down for that tidbit...literally blew my mind.  But regardless....I need to try Istanbul more. I need to get it to the table again, I need to try it with the expansions....it's a game I very much want to like more...but even as it stands...I still like it now.


2 comments

  • I’ve never tried it with expansions (would be open to). With the base game I felt an imbalance – that whoever got the dice upgrade spot first had too much of advantage such that it almost became whoever gets there first will probably win (once everyone knows that secret, it ends up that victory becomes almost based more on startup/setup conditions than strategic choices). This is why I sold my copy after about 6-8 plays.

    Dave Smith
  • The Mocha and Baksheesh (coffee) expansion is a must. A lot of people don’t like the Letters and Seals expansion, but I do; my family usually plays Istanbul with both expansions in the “Grand Bazaar” setup, and we’ve had several 6-5-5 and 6-6-5 games.

    W. Randy Hoffman

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