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Istanbul Analysis – Determining Market Value

You know, of all the times titles to board game analysis blogs can be taken out of context, this might be the most obvious…

Istanbul is a board game designed by RΓΌdiger Dorn in which players are merchants looking to make their way around the city of Istanbul, trading goods and looking to collect rubies.

This is a game we actually reviewed really recently, however, today I thought we would delve a bit deeper. There are some quirks within the numbers of Istanbul, that make it worth analysing. This was initially going to be an Istanbul board game strategy, and we will undoubtedly look at a strategy in due course; however, before we do we really need to look at the numbers.

So, look at the numbers we shall. Now, there are quite a few interesting things going on with a few of the Place Tiles (or “Places”) in Istanbul, to the fact where quite a few, including the Black Market and Tea House, can be analysed. Today though, in case you hadn’t guessed by the title, we are not actually going to look at those. Today we are going to look at the Markets.

Istanbul Analysis: The Markets

The Markets use a really interesting mechanic in Istanbul. There are two in the game – the Small Market and the Big Market. Each has a stack of five tiles on them, and those five tiles denote what, out of the four resources in the game, you can sell each turn. Each tile shows five resource, doubling up on one or more to allow the players to sell different things.

Now, here is the interesting thing, and what we are probably going to nerd out over a little bit. Once a player has sold their goods, the market demand changes. They take the tile, of which they just sold one or more goods from it this turn, and place it to the bottom of the stack. It’s a super awesome mechanic, one that is exciting for board game geeks such as myself, and shows a real shifting market in the game.

So, there are four resource in Istanbul – Fabric (Red), Spice (Green), Fruit (Yellow) and Black Market Goods (Blue) – and you could be forgiven for assuming, upon first glance of the game, that they are all made equal.

Well, upon closer inspection we can see they aren’t equal. Blue goods (that’s faster than typing “Black Market Goods”) are found at the Black Market which uses its own mechanic to allow you to get goods. Namely, you gain one good of your choice (Red, Green, or Yellow), and then you roll to see if you also get a Blue. You can then get more than one Blue. It’s risky, but the rewards are interesting. Note also, you don’t max out your other good.

The other goods – Red, Green, and Yellow – are then maxed out (so you fill your wheelbarrow spaces up to the max) at the Fabric Warehouse, Spice Warehouse, or Fruit Warehouse accordingly.

Small and Large Market Bias

So, that much becomes clear as you play the game; however, the bias of each market is less clear. This is where, dearest math nerds, we get economic.

Istanbul Strategy - Market Cards By Resource Type

The above graph shows the break down for all 10 market demand tiles in the game. Now, this is where it gets complex.

What we need to do to truly understand the effect and value of each tile is break down each market. Each market has a different level of Lira it offers for selling X number of goods as displayed by the tile. Take the first small market tile for instance – when that is on top you can sell up to 2x Spice, 2x Fruit, and 1x Black Market goods. Selling 1x Spice there would net you 2 coins (Lira). Selling 1x Spice and 1x Black Market goods would net a total of 5 Lira. If you sell all things in the market, you get 20 Lira. Note though, you can only ever sell what is on the demand tile.

For the Small Market the numbers are:

  • 1 good sold = 2 Lira
  • 2 goods sold = 5 Lira
  • 3 goods sold = 9 Lira
  • 4 goods sold = 14 Lira
  • 5 goods sold = 20 Lira

For a Large Market the numbers are:

  • 1 good sold = 3 Lira
  • 2 goods sold = 7 Lira
  • 3 goods sold = 12 Lira
  • 4 goods sold = 18 Lira
  • 5 goods sold = 25 Lira

Now, let’s get mathy…

The Mathematics Behind the Markets

Okay, so now things get a bit weird. It is possible to look at both the Small Market and the Large Market and create an average sales price for goods. The Small Market has an average value of 3 Lira per good, and the Large Market has an average sales value of 4.

Now, originally, I got super complex when working this out and determined the value per variation. This gave slightly different averages (3.3 and 4.3), but for the sake of this article, and this thought experiment, we only need rough averages – so, let’s take 3 Lira and 4 Lira. The graphs turn out the same shape just with a slight shift in scale on the Y Axis.

From there, what we can do is work out the total value per card of each good, using the average, and from there we can work out the total value of those goods within each Market place. This will tell us the market demand within one cycle (or 5x demand cards) within each Market. Simple, eh?

If we do so, we end up with a graph like this –

Istanbul Strategy - Total Market Value Based on Average Value 2

So, what does this tell us? Well, firstly not all goods are created equally. If you want to make money, and specifically make money (which is a strategy in Istanbul), you’re going to want to make sure certain goods are always stocked up on your wheelbarrow.

More practically speaking though – if you want to sell Spice or Fruit, the odds are you will do better at the Small Market, whereas if you want to sell Fabric or Black Market goods then the Large Market offers better prospects based on average value of each good, depending on the sale size.

How Can This Information Be Used To Help Sculpt An Istanbul Strategy?

So, now, as we draw this analysis to a close, we need to look at how this information can help guide an Istanbul strategy? Well, first off, if you want to use the strategy where you buy and sell goods, it is worth keeping the above patterns in demand. Depending on your sales value (or the total number of things you want to sell), the Spice and Fruit are better sold at the Small Market, whereas Fabric and Black Market goods are better sold at the Large Market.

Now, there is one thing worth taking into account, something this analysis doesn’t do, and that is frequency of sale. It is easier to build up Spice and Fruit than it is to build up Black Market goods. Thus, although you can make more of a mint trading in Black Market goods, it is harder to do so. Sometimes being an honest merchant is the best way to go.

Istanbul Market Analysis Conclusion

There is so much to unpack with Istanbul that this is, in no way, shape, or form, the only article we will be exploring about Istanbul. For the time being though, we will leave it here for today, and on that interesting points about the Markets.

If you have read this article, but you haven’t played Istanbul, then I would urge you to play it. It’s a fab little Eurogame that presents quite a few different strategy options and thought puzzles.

Finally, whether you have played Istanbul or not, what are your thoughts? Do you like the game/sound of the game? What are your favourite things? Let me know in the comments below.

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