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[Beyond PlayStation] Istanbul: Digital Edition Review

[Beyond PlayStation] Istanbul: Digital Edition Review
  • On July 18, 2019

Istanbul: Digital Edition is a video game take on the beloved physical board game. Did the team do a good job? Find out in our Istanbul: Digital Edition review!


Since there are many things to learn about Istanbul: Digital Edition to be able to have fun with the game, you should dive into the tutorial section before you start with a proper game. You can either go straight into the tutorial by selecting it from the game’s main menu or access it when you try to start a new game and have Istanbul ask you if you want to give the tutorial a chance.

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On the left side of the screen, you will find the Merchants panel where you can see all the information you need about you and your opponents. This section contains information on mosque special abilities, the level of the wheelbarrow for each type of good, the goods in your wheelbarrow, the number of cards, the amount of Lira (the currency of Turkey, where Istanbul is located), and the number of rubies earned. Rubies are the most important item in the game since they determine who the winner, as whoever gets a 5th ruby (or a 6th ruby when there are two players in the game) will be victorious.


Your merchant will have assistants who will aid him with trading in Istanbul. They are represented by tokens. As you move from tile to tile on the map, you will either get to leave an assistant there to perform an action, or you will recover an assistant and carry on. Your merchant stack represents your merchant on the map, and you’ll be able to move one or two tiles from your starting position – and no, you can’t move diagonally. If you ever need to recall all of your assistants, you can do so at the fountain on the map, where all of your assistants will go back into your stack.

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If you land at a tile where another merchant is already located, you will need to pay it two Lira to be allowed to perform an action. You need to evaluate if spending the two Lira is good for your plans, since you might need those two coins to perform an action during your next turn that would be more valuable for your overall mission. In case you can’t remember what actions you can perform when you land at a particular space, the game allows you to learn more about the tile you’re located at by pressing the – button.

To get a ruby, you will need to pay tribute to the sultan by delivering the required goods. With every ruby you obtain, the number of goods you will need to pay will go up by one, which is why getting all the rubies you need to win is not as straightforward as you think. Another location for getting a ruby is the gemstone dealer where you can use your Lira to buy one. The additional locations for rubies are the mosques on the map which will grant you a ruby when you obtain the special abilities the mosque grants. The last option is upgrading your wheelbarrow at the wainwright. Once you’ve fully upgraded your wheelbarrow, you will be rewarded with a ruby for your efforts.

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Goods can be obtained at the warehouses in the city, except for jewelry, which you will secure from other locations. Jewelry can be procured at the post office when you fulfill the requirements, or from the black market, which will depend on how lucky you are with the roll of the dice. When you have enough goods, you can sell them in exchange for some Lira. Another way of getting some extra Lira is at the tea house, where you can bet your money. You will select a number between three and twelve and roll the dice. If your roll is equal to or higher than the number you’ve selected, then you win. If your roll is not successful, then you lose, but at least you will be given two Lira as a consolation prize.

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As you play Istanbul, you can end up unlocking some of the more than 70 in-game achievements on offer. The list includes objectives such as completing the tutorial, getting your first ruby, winning your first game, obtaining five Lira by using a special card, selling a complete set of goods at the market, visiting each play tile at least ten times across all the games you play, fully upgrading the wheelbarrow in a game, finishing a turn with a fully upgraded wheelbarrow completely packed with goods, buying the last available ruby from the gemstone dealer, and even one that asks that you win 500 games! It’s a good list with a nice variety of objective that will keep you busy for hundreds of hours!

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The options menu offers a nice variety of things to change around. Along with the usual dials for changing up the volume of the music and the sound effects, there are also options for changing the language, lowering the overall framerate so that the console consumes less energy – something that is useful when playing in Portable or Tabletop mode -, and you can also skip your opponent’s turn animations, toggling vibrations on or off, and there’s even a colorblind mode for players that can’t play the game with its standard presentation.

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Istanbul: Digital Edition is an excellent digital representation of the physical board game, which you can now enjoy at home or on the go on Nintendo Switch. You can play it on your own against AI opponents, against local human opponents, or dive into an online game where up to five players from around the world can try to get all the required rubies in either synchronous or asynchronous matches open to everyone who wants to play, or with private online rooms protected by a password. The game is a steal at only $19.99, and it’s a must-have for board game players.

This Istanbul: Digital Edition review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy provided by Acram Digital.

Review Overview

Excellent digital take on a great board game