Game: Istanbul: The Dice Game
Publisher: Pegasus Spiele and Alderac Enterainment Group
Designer: Rüdiger Dorn
Artist: Andreas Resch
Main Game Mechanisms: Action Point Allowance System, Dice Rolling, Set Collection
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Game Time: 20 – 40 minutes
Description: Let’s head to the market and sell our wares to obtain riches in Istanbul: The Dice Game! The dice version of the popular AEG title is here, and in it, you’re trading dice and acquired goods to be the person to walk away with the most rubies.
In this game, you start your turn by rolling 5 dice. There are 6 symbols on the dice, 4 of them are goods, 1 is money, and 1 is the cards, which I’ll explain shortly. You get to take 2 actions using as many of those dice as you wish.
You use the 4 different resources in a lot of ways. Below is the player cheat sheet that will let you know what your options are (AA = 2 of same resource, ABC = 3 different resources, and so on). You can trade dice in for resource tiles so that you can start stockpiling resources, trade them in for reroll (blue) crystals, and more.
On the board, there are rubies that you can obtain in different ways – but as the game proceeds, it gets harder to obtain those rubies. For example, the one area of the board allows you to get a ruby with money. In a 3 player game, the first player to buy with money buys for 10; the second for 12; the third for 14 and so on until the last money ruby is bought for 20. For the another area, it’s about a set of all four different resources to start, then you keep throwing in additional resources as more are purchased. There are 4 areas with each resource (4, 5, and 6 of the resources) and you also get a ruby for free for having 5 (4 for 4 players) of the mosque tiles.
What are mosque tiles? There are always six of them out and available to purchase. They’re tiles that you can buy with resources (indicated on the tile), and you either get what’s on the tile at the beginning of each round or when the ability is triggered.
There are other ways to make things happen, too. Remember the “card” side of each die? When you use that, you get to flip as many cards as you have faces, and pick which one applies. These do all sorts of things, some that benefit just you, others that benefit you and give a little something to your opponents. These can be resource tiles, free reroll crystals, money, easier ways to trade for rubies, and more.
The last round starts when someone gets their 6th (5th for 4 players) ruby. Everyone gets an even number of turns and whoever has the most rubies wins, with selling off excess resources and counting coins as a tiebreaker.
Review: Istanbul: The Dice Game is a game that brings you into it quickly and you can get playing in minutes. It’s a solid game that is an absolutely simple teach – as you can see from the rules above, even people with minimal gaming experience will be able to pick up the game in just a few turns.
The two player game is absolutely on point. Not only is it fast, but it keeps you invested in every single ruby that each of you get throughout the game. At 2, it felt a little like an amped up version of Jaipur, which is definitely a compliment from me.
One of the best things about this game is the satisfaction that you feel every single time that you’re able to get a ruby. Every ruby that you get brings you that much closer to victory, of course, but how you get to that point (especially at the end of the game when it takes more to make it happen) is just So. Dang. Gratifying. Games where I feel that sort of gratification are fantastic.
The length of the game is something I wish I could emphasize more. As someone with chronic pain, I can’t always sit up for multiple hours to play those crunchy Euros that are out there. But I can scratch that itch with a half hour game in this title. And let me tell you, I appreciate that more than ever.
I could see where, in some instances, people may feel like the game is a little light for their tastes. I’ve never played the original Istanbul (now I want to, definitely), but I feel like it may be a step up in terms of complexity.
My only complaint – and it is minor – is that the symbolism on some of the cards can seem unclear. But, AEG made up for that because you can look up every single card in their rulebook. Yay for “can I see the rulebook?” rulebooks.
Try, Buy, Deny: For people that enjoy dice rolling games and games where you trade in things to get better things, this is a 100% buy. It’s a solid gateway plus title that should be on many people’s shelves, and the price point is reasonable so you can make that possible. I recommend everyone at least try this once – you may be asking to play again right after that first play!