ISTANBUL from PEGASUS SPIELE is a game for 2-5 players aged 10+ and is designed by the renown Rüdiger Dorn.
A game with a full compliment of players takes about 75 minutes (the box says 40-60 but we figure 15 minutes a player
is about right).
This is another resource management game, of which there are many, but it is good, fun, and quite different from most
of the other games of this ilk. I say "most" because this has some elements of other games but mostly it is fresh.
16 cards make up the board
ISTANBUL has that frustration factor, you know, the one where you want to do so many things in your turn but you just
cannot manage it; this is one of the things that makes it so playable, make that replayable. There are 16 Places at that make
up the Bazaar and these are setup according to the sequence of numbers in the top left corner. The smaller the number the
more of a challenge the game becomes. Each of these Places offers the players a different Action such as gaining the game
winning Gems, providing an income, collecting resources and enlarging their wheelbarrows.
Each player has a "wheelbarrow" that holds the Goods (Resources) they collect. There is space to add three extra parts to this
barrow that can be bought for 7 Coins - I have to say that I was surprised to not pay more for each one (as infirst costs 7, second
cost 10 third costs 14), especially as gaining cash isn't too difficult and collecting 3 wheelbarrow parts gives you a free Gem. The
game ends when one player has collected the required number of Gems, 5 in all games except 6 in a 2-player game.
Players each have a Family Member piece which begins in the Police Station Place; they also have a Merchant and 4 Assistants. It
is the Merchant that moves around the board, traveling 1 or 2 Places (never diagonally) and taking the Action on the Place they end
up on - moving through other Places with no penalty. If the Place they end on has another player's Merchant (or Merchants) on it, a
choice is given - you either pay 2 Coins to the owner of each Merchant already there, in which case you can carry out the Action of
the Space, or you can decide not to pay, in which case your turn ends immediately and you do not get to activate the Action on that
Place as you have to move every turn at the beginning of your turn.
When a Merchant moves out of a Space it does one of two things: it either collects one of its Assistants who was left there from a
previous visit to the Space, or it leaves an Assistant behind - a Merchant cannot take an Action if it doesn't have an Assistant with
it. A nice idea is that you can collect Assistants as you move (as explained above - when you land on a Space you had already left
an Assistant in) or you can move to the Fountain Space in which case all your Assistants gravitate to you with no movement costs;
this takes up your entire turn. But on your next turn you can move off with a full compliment of Assistants and you do not have to
leave one behind on the Fountain Place - the only Place this happens.
If you move your Merchant to the Police Station you set free your Family Member (if they are still there) which means you can send
the Family Member to any other Place (no movement restrictions) and carry out the Action there, but only that Action. If you land on
the Place where there is another player's Family Member you send that FM back to the Police Station and collect a reward, either an
event card or cash.
Event cards begin as a face down deck but as they are collected and used they are discarded face up to the Caravansery Place. Once on
this Place cards can now also be taken from here, as well as the blind deck, by anyone who lands on the Caravansery Place.
I'm not going to talk through every Place, just suffice it to know that the one you are currently on is always (according to Sod's Law not the
rules)the furthest from the one you wish to land on next - that's almost a given. You can actually plan your moves out if you have enough
cash to pay opponents or if you do not mind abruptly ending your turn. This means that the game is indeed fun and appealing for games
players who like to plan their moves and for players who like to make their mind up after seeing what the other players have done. There
are also Mosque tiles (on the Mosque Places) in sets of 2, which give bonusses (and Gems), but only one of each can be collected per player
and there aren't enough sets to go round the number of players. To make life a little more amusing there are also two other pieces on the board.
These are the Governor (a Purple Pawn) and the Smuggler (a Black Pawn). If your Merchant lands on a Place where one or both of these Pawns
are you may use that Pawn's special Action - but you do not have to. If you do use the Action then you roll the two d6 and move the Pawn to
the represented Place (this means Places 13-16 cannot be rolled). If both Pawns were on the same Place and you used both Actions then you roll
separately to move each Pawn.
We had one minor discrepancy over the wording of the Caravansery Place in the English rules so we decided on gamer-sense. Basically the
rules allow you to take two cards from the draw pile and discard a card (either one of them or one you previously held if you wish to keep both
cards you picked up). The Caravansery wording is When taking Bonus cards with this action you may take them from the top of the face-up discard
pile. This suggests, by saying them that you can take the cards from the discard pile, it doesn't say the discard pile and the draw deck. So what we
asked ourselves is Can we take either 2 cards from the draw pile or 2 cards from the discard pile or can we take one from the draw pile and one
from the discard pile? We settled on allowing the taking of one from each stack or 2 from either the draw or the discards.
ISTANBUL is a classic resource using and balancing game and plays very well with 3, 4 or 5 players. We haven't tested it as a 2 player game but
there is a 2 player variant at the end of the rules.