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I’m still not making the Constantinople joke

Playing a game means many things to many people.  This tends to create groups of people, and gaming is no exception.  Video Games –  Yuck (well, if you ask Alpal).  Board Games – Where are the buttons? RPGs – what do you mean it’s all in your head?

There are some games that blur the lines, such as XCom (which was a great experiment) and Mansions of Madness 2nd edition (finally letting me play an investigator!).

Then there is the growing trend of digital board games.  Historically, these have been pretty hit and miss, and tabletop players tended to avoid them.  Lately, some implementations have been good though.  Really good, with some becoming my solo play method of choice.

Onirim for example while fun is great on my phone.  I can get in a game really quickly, and I don’t have to shuffle the deck 20 times a game.  Lords of Waterdeep is a game I can pick up and put down with the AI players and play over a week if I want to.

So hoping to find another game I enjoy but don’t get to play much, I picked up Istanbul on my phone the other day and gave it a whirl.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Menu Screen
The Adventure is about to begin. Well, by Adventure I mean Tuturiol mode

The first thing you will see is the art is beautiful and very faithful to the board game version.  Even the loading screen looks fantastic.

The second thing I noticed is the text size.  I am ok with smallish text, but I also have a lot of people in the office look at my screen and squint a lot.  While you don’t need the text once you know the game, if you need to up the text size a lot maybe play this on a tablet or when it hits Steam.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Tutorial
The first screen of the tutorial. It explains the game pretty well, but if you have trouble with small text you may be in trouble.

The tutorial then takes you through the game basics but may leave new players a little stumped.  Istanbul is a great game with a lot of awards acknowledging this, but it is not a simple game.  Each mechanic taken in isolation is simple to understand, but it is almost impossible to teach the multiple layers interactions in one sitting.

The tutorial then takes you through the game basics but may leave new players a little stumped.  Istanbul is a great game with a lot of awards acknowledging this, but it is not a simple game.  Each mechanic taken in isolation is simple to understand, but it is almost impossible to teach the multiple layers interactions in one sitting.

To help with this, each location has the information on what it does as a part of each location.  The controls for how to do this are also fairly intuitive – ‘pick’ the location card just like if you were playing the board game, and while focusing on the location you can just read the text.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Post Office
Why would I want to go to the Post Office? Oh that's right

The biggest thing with Istanbul though is that it is not a light and casual game.  It’s not the most intricate of games or anything like that, but I know a lot of people that have gotten confused by their first game or two and been put off playing it ever again.

I don’t think the digital version will help with this.  You really need to know the rules of the game to get the most out of it, beautiful presentation or not.

Istanbul Board Game Digital Movement
They even animated the stacks of your assistants and family member. It's a small touch, but appreciated.

There have also been a couple of interactions that are illegal in the board game (such as family member interacting with the Governor and the Smuggler).  This has been corrected with an update, so the commitment to following the official rules is clear, but it was a little confusing initially.

So what do I think of the digital Istanbul?  In a lot of ways, it’s still too early to tell, but I have a few conclusions already.

  1. If you want to buy the digital version to try and learn Istanbul, that’s not a bad idea but I would probably grab the board game rules and/or watch a couple of YouTube how to play videos rather than rely solely on the tutorial.
  2. Like almost all of my digital board games, I can’t see myself playing this with anything but the computer.  Playing remotely waiting for turns is great when you want to play with someone far away, but I would still prefer to play the physical copy multiplayer.
  3. I was hoping the game would be more pick up and put down like in Lords of Waterdeep, and it really isn’t.  This isn’t the games fault, I was just hoping for more than it could be.  Istanbul is a game of longer-term plays and situational decisions, and putting the phone down for a day makes this kind of play difficult.

Bottom line though, if you don’t already know about Istanbul and want to at least try it, I wouldn’t recommend it as a casual purchase.  If they ever do a digital copy of Istanbul the Dice game maybe, but not Istanbul the Board Game.

Right now, Istanbul the Board Game is available on iOS and Android, with Steam to come in the near future.

Until next time,

JohnHQLD
Author JohnHQLD
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Categories Bits of Interest
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