The highest honor a game can have is winning the Spiel des Jahres (a German game prize). In 2014, Istanbul by Rüdiger Dorn won this prize (in the category Kennerspiel). In this game the players are traders on the famous Bazaar of Istanbul who try to collect a certain number of rubies as soon as possible.
Istanbul is a game of employment with a twist. On the table are 12 tiles showing the different locations you can visit at the Bazaar. In the palace of the Sultan you can exchange goods (such as rice, fruit, jewellery or luxury fabrics) for rubies. But then you must have collected those goods first. This can be done in one of the warehouses or on the black market.
There are several ways to get rubies (exchange, buy, as a bonus for another action). However, you should be aware that rubies are becoming more and more expensive. At the beginning of the game you can buy another ruby for 12 lira, at the end of the game the price can be almost double. So the game is a real race in which you try to catch a ruby here and there as quickly as possible. Luckily there are also locations in the game where you can score bonuses which makes it a little easier for you in the rest of the game (for example one-time action cards or bonus tiles for permanent upgrades).
In this game, your player figure consists of a stack of loose discs. Each turn you have to move the stack to a new location at a maximum distance of 2 steps. You then leave one of your discs on this tile and then perform the action on that tile. When your stack is finished, you can let all the discs come back to you at the location Fountain.
Fortunately, it can also be done smarter. If you go to a location where there is still one disc left of you, you don’t have to leave a disc behind, but you can just pick up the disc that is already there. So if you plan a smart move to which locations you go and do the same location twice, that will save you from walking to the fountain.
Whoever has collected a certain five (or six with two players) rubies first wins the game.
So is Istanbul a good Board Game?
Istanbul is a well designed game. The game is easy to learn but because you can place the location tiles differently every time, there is enough variation in the game to keep the game interesting time after time. The big downside of Istanbul is that the theme is no more than a very thin layer.