Variance Report #1: Istanbul


Variance report is a series of articles where I take a community made solitaire variant and put through its paces and report back and let you know if it is worth your time.

Today we look at a single player variant for the award winning Istanbul board game.  Istanbul is a game where players are a merchant who is moving around the board picking up and drooping off their assistants at different locations to perform actions there.  The goal of the game is to acquire money or goods to purchase rubies.  Based on the number of players, the first person to X number of rubies is the winner.

In this variant, the goal is for the player to collect 6 rubies, 3 from the gemstone dealer and 3 from the Sultan’s Palace.  In a normal game players able to get a few gems from the mosques and the wainwright but that is not available in this variant.  A unused merchant is placed facedown and moved before the player turn to keep track of how many turns it takes the player to collect all 6 rubies.  This variant is essentially a race type variant which is one of the four main types of solitaire variants.


My three plays and my thoughts on them are below:

1st play: 36 turns. Green mosque tile is incredibly important, had too much money early on but struggled to get goods. Strategy for next play, get green mosque tile early on, maybe blue one as well.

2nd play: 29 turns. Got green mosque tile early on and got three goods from sultan early but was low on cash. Tea house was 3 spaces from gem stone dealer which meant I couldn’t just go back and forth to load up on cash. Made a big sale at one point but still wasted a lot of time going to post office and other places to scrounge up the cash. I feel I should have kept going for goods after I got the sultan gems in order to sell for cash instead of trying to gamble for it. Maybe that is a lesson applicable to real life as well!

3rd play: 32 turns. Bad tile layout. Black market where you get goods + blue goods was next to the gemstone dealer where you need money to buy gems. The tea house, where you gamble for money, was next to the sultan where you turn in goods for rubies. That is the exact opposite of how you want your board to look. And not to mention these groupings were on opposite corners of the board from one another.

Final thoughts on Istanbul Board Game

A lot of solitaire players do not enjoy games or variants where they attempt to beat their high score game after game and there is no other goal or victory condition then that.  If that is you, then this variant might not be for you.  The only point is to compare how many turns it took you to your fastest game.  Another negative is that there may come a point where the variant loses interest because there is mathematically only so fast you can get the 6 rubies notwithstanding insane rolls on the gambling spaces and thus your high score will plateau at a point with you unable to improve it.  I also always play with the random layout and based on the layout i know that i cannot beat my high score because of unfavorable tile positioning.

The best feature of this variant is that it preserves most of the feel of the multiplayer game.  The multiplayer game is a race filled with tension and tactical play.  There is only slight player interaction in the multiplayer game and this solitaire variant obviously has none but it does not effect the game at all.  This variant is extremely fast to play.  I could knock a game out in 15 to 20 minutes because there is no downtime!  Another benefit of playing solitaire :D.  Moving the timer merchant takes a millisecond and most as he is only moving to the next tile.  The highest score I have seen is 24 rounds that the variant creator posted but I was using the random setup in all my games and i think the standard easy setup might result in quicker times.

I recommend you give this variant a try if you are looking for a fast playing solitaire game race game.  Just keep in mind the replayability may be limited and your high score might become an immovable object after a certain point.

Have you played this variant?  Do you have any ideas to improve it?  Interested in Istanbul?  Let me know in the comments!


    • Hey JV,

      Thanks for the feedback. I definitely plan to continue these there are just too many cool variants out there to not look at them. Up next is Morels, Carcassonne, and who knows what after that!