Istanbul is a bloody good game. That’s a fact.
Adding in the “mini expansion” the kebab shop makes it a little better. It replaces the Fountain tile and I wouldn’t play the game without this now.
Playing with the first full expansion Mocha and Baksheesh adds new and interesting elements to the game. Such as coffee and it’s alternate path to victory, and the ability to block routes.
But how would the latest expansion Brief and Siegel that came out this week effect the game?
Well Jonathan broke his self imposed game buying ban for the month to buy it, and he had it delivered Thursday.
So with an exit pass granted Jonathan and I met up to throw everything Istanbul and the kitchen sink on the table for a mega epic version of the game.
With all the expansions in play set up takes a little time. And moving from four by four tiles to the four by five grid of tiles with the first expansion to five by five makes the game massive.
Placing the rubies on the board on the relevant tiles, they now look lost! Dwarfed by this increase in size of the board.
The new expansion introduces letters and seals, that are not only another way to get rubies but also away to get extra turns.
Naturally you get letters by visiting one of new tiles (there are two of the new tiles that give letters out), or from the courier (which acts like the coffee trader,smuggler, and governor). Each letter has an “address” or tile number on it. When you get the letter it’s worth one seal, deliver it to the “address” it’s worth two seals. Visit the Secret Society tile, and you can trade six seals for a ruby and possibly between three and one coins depending when you get there. Or you can use three seals per round to take an extra turn.
Jonathan used his seals well to get that extra turn at key moments. I’d been using this new scoring opportunity early on to take an early lead.
I scored all my rubies between letters, coffee and the odd guild card that gave me cheap ways to buy a ruby pushing the value up for Jonathan.
During the game I made no effort collecting lots of goods and trading. The only goods I collected were enough to purchase/fuel certain powers.
My first tactical mistake was with my companion (a new addition to the game) where I moved him too far away from the Caravansary and the Guild Hall (which were next to each other). If he was in position whilst I was exploiting the tile combo Jonathan had stumbled across on the opposite side of the board (see below), I could have still been drawing the guild cards and bonus cards, and get extra coffee counters.
And that brings me to the companion another new feature of this expansion. Because of the size of the board now, this is a much needed addition. It does give you a choice each turn, do you move your merchant or your companion once you have them. The companion acts like the merchant except it can only move one tile at a time, he works alone (can’t pick up assistants) and any tiles/bonuses that show the merchant don’t apply to the companion. With the companion you are able to leave him on the other side of the board to your merchant.
The Kiosk tile is awesome. It gives you a letter, plus it has kiosk mini tiles that have bonuses on them. You draw one more than the number of players, you pick the one you want, carry out that action. Then the other players do the same in turn order. Then the last tile left you get and action. I was using this a lot.
With the increased board size the tavern bonus tile that allows you to move any number of places in a straight line is a must.
Once Jonathan hit the tile combo shown below he soon caught me up on the ruby front. I joined him in exploiting it too late. Although throwing the barrier in his way to slow him down and make his life a little difficult did work. If I’d have remembered I could jump the barrier (the draw back of not having played the game for a while) along with my other “mistake” I could have won.
In the base game the “Black Market and Tea House should have a distance from each other of at least 3 places.” We felt that there should be a similar ruling for the above combo. Otherwise it’s too powerful a combo. We may house rule this. I think Jonathan is going to bring this up on bgg also. (He did here)
In the end this was a very close game with Jonathan pipping me to the post and the win. But I may have got the win if not for my two “tactical” errors.
Unless I’m playing this game with a new player I will not play this game any other way than with everything in play. The base game is a bloody good game. But with everything it gets taken to a new much, much higher level. The multiple avenues to victory, the random layout of the board each game, there is just so much variety and replayability.
It should be noted that apparently according to bgg there is a camel driver mini expansion that for completeness I will get but wasn’t used in this game because we don’t have it technically!