Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday, 13 June 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Istanbul Digital Edition

Game: Istanbul

Publisher: Pegasus Spiele

Designer: Rüdiger Dorn

Digital Edition By: Acram Digital

Year: 2014

Istanbul is an award winning game - having won the Kennerspiel award as part of the Spiel des Jahres in 2015. It's a game that we've had in our collection for a number of years, but barely played at all. That's not to say it's a bad game, it just doesn't do anything that makes me excited to bring it off the shelf and onto the table. In preparation for taking a look at the digital implementation we did bring Istanbul down from the shelf and had a really enjoyable game, remembering the fun of the movement mechanisms, freeing your cousin from jail and racing other players to trade money and goods for gems. It's a very elegant euro game and I've been reminded why it has a place on the shelf, but what if the digital version could replace it and give me back one coveted shelf space in return?

Istanbul Digital is a very true representation of the board game, which works for a game that doesn't have a great deal of theme. It certainly doesn't go all out in terms of production, which gives the feeling of an app implementation, rather than a video game implementation of Istanbul. It's easy to change the board setup each time you start a new game and you can play with any player count and combination of AI and human players. What the app does particularly well is de-cluttering the screen, but giving lots of options to click on a question mark and learn more information about what a particular location or card does. What the app could maybe do better if simply needing you to click and confirm things less frequently. Once I've decided on a place to move, or completed my action in that location, taking a second step to confirm, made the app a little more clunky that I felt it needed to be.

Istanbul really ticks a lot of my boxes as an optimisation puzzle. There's not a whole lot of luck, besides two spaces that rely on dice rolls ad everyone is presented with the same opportunities at the start of the game. You simply need to figure out the most optimal route, with your limited movement rules, to collect money and or goods as quickly as you can. The race with your opponents is always one to watch because the price of rubies increases and that can be extremely critical when trading in goods in particular. I like how I'm playing my own game in Istanbul - no-one can attack me or steal from me, but I still have to be keenly aware of others to make sure I'm well prepared and able to be efficient with my actions. Sometimes it works (especially against the easy AI) but other times, you just find yourself in a spiral of less than optimal moves because of the corner of the board you ended up in, or not having a large enough cart to hold all of the goods you need. It's often easy to pinpoint the moment where it all went wrong and you really only have yourself to blame, which is a recipe for a good game for me.

I've been playing Istanbul Digital on Steam, but with its app-like feel and short play time, it definitely feels like a a game that I'd like to have in a portable format. I play a few apps on my phone, but mostly slightly lighter games than Istanbul, so something that edges towards a more medium weight euro game would be a nice addition to play whilst on the move. Fortunately, Istanbul is available on Nintendo Switch and is on sale right now, so I'd recommend it on that platform to get the most out of the game.

You Might Like...
  • Istanbul Digital has a great tutorial, but even if you want to skip it, there's lots of helpful aspects of the interface for new players.
  • Achieving setup variability is a breeze.
  • The digital edition packs a good medium weight euro experience into 15 minutes.
You Might Not Like...
  • Having to confirm everything you do is a little clunky.
  • The dice rolling spaces can still bite you, just like in the tabletop edition.

The Verdict
7.5/10 Istanbul Digital replaces the physical board game for me. I can play a game, against challenging AI opponents in just 15 minutes and get all of the experience I would in a 45-60 minutes board game. Istanbul was perhaps a little too light for me for a dry euro tabletop experience, but as a quick app, it had just the right amount of elements to think about, while remaining a good challenge. It's a simple, but effective adaptation.

A Steam code for Istanbul Digital Edition was kindly provided to us by Acram Digital.

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