Istanbul, released in 2014, it becomes Big Box in 2020!
Istanbul has rocked many players with its playful flavors from the grand bazaar. A euro-type opus, which has become a must. Then, the Moka and Baksheesh made their appearance in the alleys. And finally, in the shadow of Hagia Sophia, Missives & Seals circulated to the delight of the players. As the Istanbul Big Box has appeared in French at our favorite dairies, let’s look at its content together …
Quick back, we are in 2014. Istanbul, the base game, is entering the ludosphere. Quickly, he interested a wide range of players and was appreciated to become the Spiel des Jahres the same year. Its author Rüdiger Dorn, and its editor Pegasus Spiele, see their work rewarded. In French-speaking countries, the title is carried by Matagot and by us, success is also at the rendezvous. Istanbul is becoming a safe bet and for all these years it continues to appeal to many players.
Scheduled for two to five protagonists, the opus offers us a management game in which the parts, quite accessible, spread between 45 and 50 minutes approximately. And concretely in Istanbul, we set off on the shores of the Masmara Sea and the Bosphorus, in the heart of a legendary city. In Istanbul, we are merchants. Accompanied by our assistants, we will walk the streets and shops to buy and sell resources. The wheelbarrows full of goods, it will be whoever trades or buys the most rubies. But faced with the competition, it will be necessary to work together to win the game …
Before we tell you more about the content of the Big Box and its expansions, let’s take a look at the base game. What makes Istanbul so strong. We summarize the rules for you.
What a market! A real souk…!
So here we are in the middle of the Istanbul souk with the sixteen locations offered by the game. We start the game at the fountain with our merchant pawn, our four assistants, some coins and a cart in which we will store our resources. . To win the game, you will have to be the first to collect five rubies (six for two-player games).
Each player takes their turn and then passes their hand to the next player. A game turn has four phases, but most often we will only do two. The first step is to move our merchant and stack of assistants to one of the souk quarters. We can move them one or two quarters. If there is already an assistant in the destination district, it joins our Merchant stack and we do not leave an assistant in this district. On the other hand, if there is no assistant present in the destination district, an assistant is removed from our Merchant stack and we leave it in this district. If there are other merchants in the destination district, we must pay them 2 coins each. The tour stops instantly if we cannot or do not want to pay them.
If we meet members of opposing families, they are captured and sent to the Police Station, for a reward. If we meet the governor’s pawn, then we can take a bonus card from the draw pile, for two coins, or discard a bonus card from our hand. And if the encounter takes place with the smuggler, goods can be exchanged.
If our Merchant picks up or leaves an Assistant in a neighborhood, we can then take the available action. We are not going to detail all the neighborhoods for you, but it is for example possible to recover extensions of carts, recover resources (fabrics, spices, fruits), take bonus cards, win goods through a game of chance, sell goods, free the member of our family at the Police Station, buy gems, etc. At the fountain, we can finally place as many assistants as we want under our Merchant pile.
And as stated above, at the end of the game, whoever has the desired number of rubies wins the game.
The “ultimate” box for Istanbul!
If you are new to Istanbul, and especially its base game, we have posted a full editorial article that will provide you with additional information. So that you too succumb to the charms of this title. Because there is no reason! You can consult it by clicking here.
Here ! Now that you know almost everything, let’s talk about this famous Big Box which arrives in French at Matagot. A large box which now sports an imposing square format, very thick and heavy. Inside, it must be admitted, you will not find a sacred souk but a plethora of equipment. Indeed, this Big Box certainly contains all the components of the base game, but that’s not all! You will also discover there all the material of the two extensions of Istanbul, namely “Moka and Bakchich” as well as “Missives and Seals”.
In Moka and Baksheesh, coffee is arriving and the demand for this beverage is so high that traders all want to start trading. Thus, the expansion adds four new locations, more interactions between players and new ways to earn rubies.
With Missives and Seals, a new lucrative idea has just emerged among merchants in Istanbul. Why not ensure mail delivery to the traders in the bazaar? A mission that offers the opportunity to seize important information, to sell for rubies. And to do this, a new companion is entering. Note also new districts and new characters that are added to the base game. More subtle choices, more varied travel possibilities and more tense parts …
For a few lines, let’s take a closer look at these two expansions which undoubtedly make it possible to diversify the gaming experience.
Mocha and Baksheesh, what else?
With Moka and Baksheesh, we now play on a 4 × 5 tile play area and we add several mechanisms to the base game. Thus, a series of guild cards are added to the game. These can be obtained in new places linked to the extension, such as the coffee corporation. Instead of taking your turn, you may play a guild card in your possession. With various and varied effects but quite powerful, you can for example recover precious rubies. Or other advantages …
In addition, coffee – as a new resource – is also emerging. It can be obtained either by exchanging it for Books, other resources or cards. It allows you to get rubies at the coffee house and introduces yet another new mechanic available at the tavern. By paying for coffee resources, you can install a barrier between two neighborhoods to make it difficult for other players to move around. Of course, with a small bribe, the instigator of this mechanism will keep a right of passage. Without forgetting also the coffee merchant who travels permanently on the game board (like the governor…) and the tavern tiles allowing to win on the move and in the exchanges, if they are acquired against resources of coffee.
In the end, when playing with Moka and Baksheesh, you will have to be in possession of six rupees in any configuration to win the game. For the rest, nothing changes at the level of the rules.
We bring you our impressions a little further down in this subject.
Missives and Seals, there is mail for you!
Before giving you our opinion on this Big Box of Istanbul, let’s also review the particularities of Missive and Seals; the second expansion of the game.
As with Moka and Baksheesh, we now find ourselves on a 4 × 5 tile playing area, in particular thanks to the new districts in the extension. And that’s not all. Again, new bonus cards provide effects that can be played alone or by mixing them with the rest of the base cards. But the main novelty will be the famous missives. Each missive tile in your possession – which can be acquired in particular at the Embassy – has a district number. Once in this quarter, the letter is considered delivered. The tile is then turned over to its seal side. Three seals and you get a new turn. Six seals and you get a new ruby in the Secret Society. In the Kiosk, new tiles will allow you to trigger new effects (obtain goods, Books, bonus cards, move your merchant, etc.) and in the Auction House you can auction bonus cards; whose sale proceeds go to the active player!
Finally, two new pawns will also be added to the game. The companion (one for each player) who only moves one district and only when you perform the Fountain action, but who can perform actions without an assistant! And also the courier allowing to acquire and exchange precious missives.
In Missives and Seals, as in the other expansion, in any configuration you will also have to be in possession of six rupees to win the game. For the rest, nothing changes at the level of the basic rules.
Investments and travel… So Big!
Istanbul has established itself as a great classic of the board game. We would even go so far as to say it is a must in any good game library. Worked and accomplished mechanisms which allow each time to have fun by appealing to our logic and our perspicacity. It is therefore a pleasure and obvious to find this great opus in a beautiful and imposing Big Box!
Especially inside, as in the base game, the same care has been taken to all the components. Boxes and canvas cards, colored wooden cubes with pretty stickers, not to mention the translucent rubies which have their little effect. Everything is stored in a cardboard wedging system that everyone can keep or not. In all cases, we advise you to sort the components correctly, between basic set and extensions, so that the installation is not too long or tedious.
With the Big Box, the publisher has gathered all the rules in a single booklet. The basic game is thus clearly explained and each extension includes information highlighted in a specific color. We really appreciated this unique booklet which has been well thought out and which gives precise explanations by separating the base and the additional content. It is easy to navigate and despite a fairly dense content, we do not get lost. Note also that the two expansions can be played together, with the base game, and it therefore made sense to read all these rules in one document!
We told you in our previous topic, keeping in mind that the goal is to collect rubies, we will quickly, and almost instinctively, select a chain mechanic that allows us to recover some. Because yes, the real mechanics of the game that must be addressed is the fact of optimizing its sequences of actions to recover the precious rubies. And this must be done by taking into account the contingencies, namely that the other players will inevitably come to encroach on our strategy. We thus develop combot mechanisms between the tiles of the game but also a good dose of anticipation. Indeed, the shots must be planned in advance which is essential not to get stuck in the game, especially as movements are limited. And as if that weren’t enough, the game still requires some resource management. And resource management with limited storage locations on the cart that each player has. This cart can be expandable but you will then have to pay the cost of this extension and move around the souk to retrieve the tile in question. Several actions will address this principle during the game and players will then have to make strategic choices.
But with the Istanbul Big Box, and more particularly with Moka and Baksheesh as well as Missives and Seals, you will be able to go even further in the game.
There are still two very different extensions. With Moka and Bakchich, it is above all the arrival of a new resource (coffee) which truly multiplies the possibilities for play. One more resource changes everything! And with this supplement, we realize that the publisher has mainly sought to renew the gaming experience. But not only… Thus, for example, we will have appreciated the blocking system with the barrier; placed in the right place at the right time, it can be formidable and penalizing. So, taking into account all of these new components, is Moka and Baksheesh interesting? From our point of view, it is mainly for players who have already quite “exhausted” the game. Of course, there is diversity. But if you are new to Istanbul, we advise you to wait a little before adding these components because the base game is already sufficiently rich and needs to be properly mastered. On the other hand, if the alleys of the souk no longer hold any secrets for you, Moka and Bakchich will clearly become essential. Especially since we now play with twenty quarters; which makes the game and the trips much more complex and even tastier.
For Missives and Seals, the gameplay is approached differently. There, it is not really a renewal but rather another way of approaching the game. With a set that can very quickly be added to the basic material! Indeed, there are small auction mechanisms (in the auction house) which are quite simply tasty and whose spice boosts your comings and goings in the alleys of Istanbul. We will also have appreciated the famous companion which provides a real advantage as long as we want to take the time – and this is the case to say it – to use it in a thoughtful way. For the missives, which remain the heart of this second expansion, the whole philosophy of the game is evolving! Who is completed! And that’s what we can expect from an extension. You could even say that it is a little game in the game. But the two elements blend perfectly. And it’s really exhilarating.
In the end, this Big Box will not have disappointed us. And there is something for all tastes and for all levels. A base game that remains a benchmark in the sector and extensions that renew the title in an intelligent and varied way. Especially since the latter can be introduced gradually. Which for us is a real guarantee of quality.
If you don’t know Istanbul yet, it’s time to come and smell its playful scents with oriental flavors. And for the others, certain alleys of the Souk sometimes hide more picturesque ones; let yourself be surprised …