Istanbul: Digital Edition Review

You can now play one of the best board games of all time on the Nintendo Switch.

Istanbul: Digital Edition, developed by Acram Digital, is a digital adaptation of the popular board game of the same name. In the game, you control a merchant and his assistants as they travel around a bazaar. Your goal is to trade goods, with the ultimate goal of being in the possession of rubies. You’ll have to buy and trade your way around 16 locations trying to become the richest merchant in the land.

Sound simple? Well, let’s discuss that.

Like with any board game, there’s a lot of rules to learn before you can actually start playing. If you’ve played Istanbul in its traditional form, the digital edition appears to be very loyal to how the physical board game works, so you’re more than likely good to go. But if you’re completely new to the game, it’ll probably take several playthroughs to get the hang of things. Expect to go through several stages of “what on earth am I doing?” and a few failed attempts before you’re confident in how Istanbul works.

The game is set up in a grid of 4-by-4 tiles that all represent a location in Istanbul (not Constantinople!). There are stands where you can buy goods, a place where you can increase the size of your wheelbarrow, as well as a jail and more. You start out with four assistants that you take along with you, and you can leave or take them with you every time you move.

At the start of your turn you move your merchant to a spot (within 1 to 2 tiles of you) and, if you’re able to leave an assistant or pick one up at that spot, you’re able to go through with the action on that tile. For example, id you move to the fabric store and leave one of your four assistants there, you’re able to put two fabrics in your wheelbarrow.

Some of the actions you can perform on your turn include buying and selling items, supplying mosques, freeing a family member from jail, or gambling to earn some Lira. All of this is so that you can eventually afford to buy a ruby from one of the locations on the board that has them. Other than buying one, you can also earn a ruby by giving mosque’s a certain number of supplies or upgrading your wheelbarrow to its max size. The first player to amass five rubies wins.

Being a video game version of a board game, Istanbul: Digital Edition includes some bells and whistles to make it more accessible and appealing on Switch. Features include the ability to play in single player against AI, a local multiplayer “pass and play” mode and cross platform online play. There’s also a range of preset and randomly generated gameboards, so no two games are ever the same, along with over 70 in-game achievements to aim for.

All of the features are brilliantly implemented. There are multiple difficulty levels for AI opponents, but by default they’re not too hard to beat. Online play works great, providing you can find an opponent, but my favourite mode is pass and play. Any local multiplayer mode is a bonus, but Istanbul‘s pass and play mode is perfect for those that want to play together while snuggling on the couch. Or platonically sitting on the couch a normal distance from one another. As friends. Whatever works.

The Nintendo Switch version of Istanbul is a fantastic board game adaptation. It takes  some time to figure out exactly how it works, but it’s worth putting the time into as you’ll be rewarded with an engaging and entertaining experience. After failing a few times, I soon started to get the hang of it! It’s colourful, the music and sound effects are great, and it’s definitely something I’ll be pulling out when my friends are around. Istanbul: Digital Edition a must-buy for any board game enthusiast.

Istanbul: Digital Edition is available on Nintendo Switch and PC. We reviewed the Switch version.