You’ll want to read the original Istanbul review first!
Mocha and Baksheesh is one of those board game expansions which cannot, I repeat, CANNOT be ignored during the game. As I often do when first playing expansions, the first couple of games I skirted around the newness. I tested the waters with a toe here and a foot there while my wife dove in head first right off the bat…and she destroyed me. =-) Compared to the fantastic original Istanbul game, the Mocha and Baksheesh expansion ramps up the intensity, excitement, and ways to win. Here are the added components and my thoughts on each:
It took a bit for us to wrap our heads around this new resource, so I’ll summarize it here for you:
You collect coffee…
- From new bonus cards (freebie)
- From the Roasting Plant (pay lira, goods, or cards)
- From the Guild Hall (freebie)
- From the new Caravansary (freebie)
- From Guild Cards (freebie or for pay)
…then you spend coffee:
- At the Tavern (to place the barrier, to receive a new tile, or for rubies)
- At the Coffee House (for rubies)
Holy cow, Guild Cards are fantastic! Received primarily from the Guild Hall, these cards are powerful. A couple of my favorites include: “Pay 1 red, 1 green, and 1 yellow good. Receive 15 lira in exchange,” “Carry out the Tea House action and receive double the income,” and “Take the next ruby from the Coffee House and pay half the cost.” As you can see, these cards are well worth the investment and should not be overlooked.
Now, don’t forget that playing a Guild Card takes place of your normal movement and action! We forgot this the first couple of games which ramped up the power of these cards beyond a reasonable degree. =-)
As the name implies, you receive coffee here. Pay 2 lira for 2 coffee, pay 1 good for 2 coffee (great deal!), or discard a card for 2 coffee. All three of these can be done once per turn, so you can get up to six coffee on a single turn (enough for the first ruby at the Coffee House!). This spot is a great go-to place to rake in the coffee which will serve you well (as it has my wife!).
This is the place to get Guild Cards (and a free coffee). It functions the same as the normal Caravansary where you draw two and keep one. This is the go-to place for those looking to leverage the incredibly powerful Guild Cards.
Simple: turn in an increasingly higher amount of coffee for rubies, starting with only six! This is a gold mine for those heavily pursuing coffee accumulation.
As the most complex and, arguably, the most powerful of the new Mocha and Baksheesh expansion places, the Tavern can do three things:
- Pay 2 coffee to place a barrier between two places. You then take the barrier control tile which allows you (and only you!) to pass over the barrier. As movement is such a limited and key component of the game, this can be extremely cumbersome to other players if placed well.
- Pay coffee for one of two new tiles: the Movement Tile (my favorite new component of this entire expansion!) and the Encounter Tile. The Movement Tile is super fun and super helpful. It allows you to move as many spaces as you want in a straight line! I have found owning this tile to be a huge competitive advantage because, again, movement is very limited in Istanbul! =-) The Encounter Tile lets you reap the rewards of the Smuggler, Governor, and Coffee Trader without paying the cost!
- Pay 4 coffee and three depicted goods to gain a ruby from one of three other locations.
Just like the Letters and Seals expansion, the gameplay and rules are identical to the original Istanbul, which I love! The new components are fun, powerful, and not to be overlooked. My only knock on this expansion is that it seems like the scales may be tipped a bit too much in favor of doing nothing but coffee at the expense of the other traditional means of gaining rubies. But all in all, if you enjoy the Istanbul series or strategic gaming in general, you will not be disappointed with this expansion.
Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.