I can’t help but start singing the They Might Be Giants song every time I want to play this game.  It’s no wonder I don’t get to play it enough.  Istanbul is one of the best themed games out there in terms of immersion.  You go around dropping your workers off at various locations – bazaars, post offices, gambling dens, the police station – while collecting enough resources to buy yourself some gems!  Oh, but those lazy workers!  They won’t do anything while you’re not around so you need to go collect them!  At it’s root, Istanbul is about moving around a board picking up and dropping off workers to collect resources that are used to buy gems.  The tension does not develop from the other players1 but from the fact that you need to be everywhere on the board.  Now.  In fact, last turn. You always want to do more things than you have workers or time.  It’s not a hard game to teach but it can cause people to become paralyzed from choices.  For experienced players, I’ve seen a classic race track scenario where players develop a route around the board and it becomes a race of who figured out the most efficient route to get resources.  It can veer towards a solitary experience, but still highly recommended.

Istanbul Board Game






Right Complexity


Beauty and Design


My Bias



  • Brain burner
  • A fast moving game
  • Beautiful components


  • Race track mentality
  • Possible cultural appropriation?