Istanbul: Big Box

Istanbul: Big Box – Rules, Instructions & Strategy Guide


Istanbul: Big Box is a board game that combines strategy, planning, and a bit of luck. It’s all about being a merchant and managing your assistants to trade goods, collect rubies, and be the first to achieve a set number of rubies to win the game.

The Big Box version, which I find to be superior, includes the base game and two expansions, which add more tiles, strategies, and ways to play. The game was designed by Rüdiger Dorn and has won several awards since its release. It’s set in a bazaar in Istanbul, and the theme is pretty cool if you ask me. You feel like you’re really trading in the market.

Quick Tip for Istanbul: Big Box

Always keep an eye on your opponents’ moves and plan your strategy accordingly. It’s not just about your own game plan, but also about adapting to others.

Rules for playing Istanbul: Big Box

Understanding the rules is key to enjoying any game, and Istanbul: Big Box is no different. The game is for 2-5 players, and each player has a wheelbarrow to carry goods, a merchant, and four assistants. The board is made up of different tiles, each representing a location in the bazaar. You move your merchant and an assistant to different tiles to take actions like buying or selling goods, gambling, or even catching a thief.

The main goal is to collect a certain number of rubies before anyone else. You can get rubies by trading goods, having a full wheelbarrow, or exchanging money at certain tiles. The game ends when a player collects five rubies in a 2-3 player game, or six rubies in a 4-5 player game.

Equipment and Setup for Istanbul: Big Box

To play Istanbul: Big Box, you need the game itself, which includes a bunch of tiles, cards, coins, goods, and player pieces. The setup is pretty straightforward. You shuffle the tiles and lay them out in a 4×4 grid for the base game, with the expansions adding more tiles and possible layouts. Each player gets a wheelbarrow, a merchant, assistants, and some starting goods and money.

How to Play Istanbul: Big Box and Game Mechanics

The game mechanics are simple once you get the hang of it. Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Setup: Place the tiles, give out starting goods and money, and position players at the Fountain tile.
  2. Gameplay: On your turn, you move your merchant and an assistant one or two tiles away, leave the assistant there, and take the action of the tile. If you run out of assistants, you have to go back to the Fountain to pick them up.
  3. End of the Game: The game ends immediately when a player collects the required number of rubies.

How to Win at Istanbul: Big Box

Winning at Istanbul: Big Box involves balancing resource management, strategic planning, and sometimes a bit of risk-taking. Beginners should focus on understanding how each tile works and the best ways to get rubies. Intermediate players can start to predict opponents’ moves and block them. Advanced players will have a deep understanding of the game’s mechanics and can use the expansions to their advantage.

Best Strategies for playing Istanbul: Big Box game

Some of the best strategies include focusing on a few types of tiles and building a strong engine to get goods and convert them into rubies. Pay attention to what your opponents are doing and try to anticipate their moves.

Sometimes, it’s worth taking a longer route to avoid giving them an advantage. And don’t forget about the expansions; they add new tiles and strategies that can really shake up the game.


Good scenarios in the game might include having a lot of goods or money, which gives you more options. Bad scenarios could be getting blocked by other players or running out of assistants at the wrong time. To turn these around, always have a backup plan and be ready to adapt your strategy on the fly.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Istanbul board game

  1. Q: How long does a game of Istanbul: Big Box typically last?
    A: It usually takes about 40-60 minutes, depending on the number of players and how familiar they are with the game.
  2. Q: Can I play Istanbul: Big Box with just the base game?
    A: Yes, you can play with just the base game, but the expansions add a lot of variety and depth.
  3. Q: Is there a solo mode for Istanbul: Big Box?
    A: The base game doesn’t have a solo mode, but there might be fan-made solo variants out there.

Additional Subtopics

Other things to consider when playing Istanbul: Big Box include managing your assistants effectively, keeping an eye on the bonus cards, and using the mosques to gain powerful abilities. Also, the expansions introduce new mechanics like coffee trading, which can be a game-changer.

For more information on Istanbul: Big Box, check out the official rulebook or look for video tutorials that can help you get a better grasp of the game. Remember to have fun and happy trading!

Istanbul: Big Box Official Page