Last night was the monthly meet up of the Fenland Gamers gaming group in Wisbech (Capital of the Fens, Centre of the Universe).
Our first game of the evening was a five player game of Istanbul. We were playing the base game with the kebab shop promo. Which replaces the water fountain tile, which as popular opinion and I agree on is the better of the two tiles to use. It doesn't just allow you to recall your assistants but gives you an alternative action to do instead of paying two coins to send your criminal relative to another tile on the board to do the action of that tile.
For our game we used the random tile setup, instead of the short or long routes setups. Jonathan has his little game plan for the short route setup that scores him gems very easily using just three tiles that are close together. I wasn't sure if he had a similar plan for the long route setup. But I wasn't going to risk it. Neutralise the plans with randomness. See before the game had even had its first turn, the game had started in the setup!
Luck was on my side in this game, and I took an early lead in collecting three of the five gems that I needed, while the rest struggled to get enough goods together to collect one. I'd hit on a nice little engine, that allowed me to recycle a bonus card to get me the resources I needed to go buy the gems.
Katie did interrupt that flow by buying one of the gems pushing up the cost of my next one. But I'd got four gems this way before it was no longer a viable scoring option for me. I needed one more gem to win. The others had started scoring gems, Jonathan was starting to get close.
But I had a plan.
If I could gather sixteen coins I could buy my final gem from another tile. The others hadn't spotted what I was doing. They had hardly any money each, so none of them was going to be threatening to ruin my scoring opportunity.
I had a bonus card that allowed me to move three or four tiles instead of two. Then a five coin bonus card was left on the tile that allows me to grab a bonus card. No one took it. I got to the tile grabbed the bonus card, checked my math, I had the sixteen coins needed to buy the winning gem.
My next turn would be my winning move, despite the tile I needed to get to being three tiles away. I had that nice bonus card that allowed me to get there in one move and win.
Wow I'd won my first game of Istanbul ever. Ok I've only played it a couple of times previously, but despite loving the game I'd lost them.
Next up after my glorious victory, was a four player game of WWE Superstar Showdown. I sat this one out, although it's a game I want to play (well I do own it). My contribution to the game was ref! And just like the real thing, not an impartial ref.
It was boys against girls. Gavin and Jonthan had drafted Big E and the apex predator Randy Orton. While the Katie and Jo had John Cena and Daniel Bryant.
The figures representing the wrestlers are quite good, and a nice size. Although the game supports upto four players, I think from my observation the game is more suited as a two player game.
The “rock, paper, scissors” mechanic when simultaneously revealing cards, and the pre-programming of your moves by selecting the three cards you want to play, works well I think for this game.
I think thematically loosing cards from the deck mimics a wrestler getting weaker, more tired as the match goes on really well.
As Jonathan pointed out the iconography on the cards takes a little getting used to. Luckily there are some handy reference guides on the board itself.
I'd love them to release an expansion for the game of some classic wrestlers like my favourite Stone Cold Steve Austin, or The Undertaker. Maybe add more event types.
In the meantime this is one I'll play with Nath (he's a wrestling fan, or was). I think it helps if you are a fan of wrestling to get the most out of this game. It does seem to capture the theme well. What I observed hasn't put me off the game. It won't go down as a great game. But it will be one of those fun, light games I think. But proof of this will be when I play it with Nath and see what he thinks.