Sometimes games get played a number of times in rapid succession by several of the local groups even if the game has been around for a little while. Such is the case lately with Istanbul (2014). Fine by me since I like the game and we've managed to introduce it to a few new players in the process. Interestingly, a lot of the playing has been with just the base game, not Kebab Shop or Coffee, and it holds up quite well without them. That's not to say those aren't fun, just a comment on the strength of the original.
The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
There's hustle and bustle at Istanbul's grand bazaar as merchants and their assistants rush through the narrow alleys in their attempt to be more successful than their competitors. Everything must be well organized: wheelbarrows must be filled with goods at the warehouses, then swiftly transported by the assistants to various destinations. Your goal? Be the first merchant to collect a certain number of rubies.
In Istanbul, you lead a group of one merchant and four assistants through 16 locations in the bazaar. At each such location, you can carry out a specific action. The challenge, though, is that to take an action, you must move your merchant and an assistant there, then leave the assistant behind (to handle all the details while you focus on larger matters). If you want to use that assistant again later, your merchant must return to that location to pick him up. Thus, you must plan ahead carefully to avoid being left with no assistants and thus unable to do anything...
In more detail, on a turn you move your merchant and his retinue of assistants one or two steps through the bazaar, either leave an assistant at that location or collect an assistant left earlier, then perform the action. If you meet other merchants or certain individuals at the location, you might be able to take a small extra action. Possible actions include:
- Paying to increase your wheelbarrow capacity, which starts the game with a capacity of only two for each good.
- Filling your wheelbarrow with a specified good to its limit.
- Acquiring a special ability, and the earlier you come, the easier they are to collect.
- Buying rubies or trading goods for rubies.
- Selling special combinations of goods to make the money you need to do everything else.
When a merchant has collected five rubies in his wheelbarrow, players complete that round, then the game ends. If this player is the only one who's reached this goal, he wins immediately; otherwise ties are broken by money in hand.
As always, the game is a puzzle that you are attempting to accomplish in as few moves as possible and in this game you are likely competing against your own previous attempts as much as against those sharing this time with you. Naturally, how you play affects others and they with you so staying in the moment is of great importance, but it can't hurt to learn from game to game and try to smooth out your own rough edges between games, if smoothing can be done. If you're using the fountain, for example, you probably have an extra move or two that could be trimmed from your game.
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