Monday Morning Quarterback – Istanbul: The Dice Game, The Flow of History, & KeyFlower

Hey board gamers, BJ from Board Game Gumbo here, back with more Louisiana flavor and tales of board gaming. If you follow me on social media, you know that Gumbo Game Night takes place every Wednesday night at our Friendly Local Game Store (currently: Anubis Game & Hobby).

That’s our night to welcome a diverse crowd of locals (and the occasional out of town visitor) seeking to play the latest thematic hotness from BGG or an old familiar classic Euro. In a few short years, we’ve grown from four or five regulars to our current night of anywhere between 15-25 gamers filling up every table at the shoppe.

As much fun as I have on Gumbo Game Night, sometimes we have a stack of review games that need to be played at various play counts, or larger scale campaign games that we want to advance. This series will be a recap and quick overview of the plays, with a little bit of Monday Morning QBing throw in after talking with the other players.


First up, AEG sent us a copy of Istanbul: The Dice Game by Rudiger Dorn. Istanbul (the board game) won the kennerspiel award from the SdJ jury in 2014, beating out my number one game of that year, Concordia. I’ve yet to play Istanbul, even though it sits unwrapped on my son Jack’s game shelf since Christmas. So, I was very excited to test out the dice version.

After playing it three or fourth times at home, I was anxious to try it at the full player count of four players. While waiting for the rest of the Krewe to show, Bradly, Bryan, Mitchell and I launched the game after a short rules explanation.

I had wondered before the game started if the race aspect would go quicker with four than at just two or three players. Just as I suspected, the race was on right away. With fewer players, it’s easier to keep pace with the other player’s ruby or mosque card development with just a quick glance. But with a full table, and infrequent answer to rules questions, we got so wrapped up in having the best engine, that weI quickly got a few rubies behind the leader. Bradly set up a good combo last turn, and pulled two rubies as the last player for the win, without any fear of anyone mounting a comeback.

MMQB says: Six or seven mosque tiles in a four player game is just TOO GREEDY. Get a few tiles with some synergy and then start getting rubies. And Bryan says those dice are too light. Stay tuned for a blog post and review coming up.


Next up, a favorite of the Gumbo — The Flow of History by Jesse Li and Tasty Minstrel Games. Chris showed up just in time to join in, and he was he only player unfamiliar with the game, so it wasn’t long before we were playing. (If you haven’t read our rules recap and review, you can check it out here).

Every time I play, I love more and more the thematic nature of the cards. Each one of the icons and the card powers seems to make sense. Plus, I really dig the bluffing nature of the game — at least that’s what I’m calling the mechanism by which players will place bids on cards that they really don’t want in an effort to hate draft OR more appropriately, force players to pay them back for cards while giving an opportunity to continue to snipe others (if you know a better term, hit me up on twitter @boardgamegumbo!)

This was a hard fought contest. Chris had an early lead in military, Bradly tried a new harvest strategy, and Bryan and I were duking it out with the snipe mechanic. I tried hard to get a wonders + trading combo going, but couldn’t keep my cards because for the second game in a row, I was last in military almost the entire game. In the end, Bradly pulled out his third win with a respectable score of 28.

MMQB says: I have got to abandon my strategy of getting as few red cards as possible. Sniping just does not replace the losses quickly enough. Plus, if we are going to beat Bradly at this game, we are all going to have to pitch in to hate draft some of the combotastic cards he spots.


Last, but certainly not least, we dug into a game of Keyflower by designer, Richard Brees , published by R & D Games, and part of the famous Key series of games. By this time, Alex and Derek had arrived, so we were able to play the full six player complement without expansions. Only two of us had played before, so there was a brief rules explanation, but Bradly can teach this one in his sleep.

It must be said that I have a deep and abiding love / hate relationship with Keyflower. I love the game — bidding, tile laying and engine building? I’m in! — but I hate the fact that my points have gone down the last three times I have played it. (In fact, the last time I played, I only scored 15!) Could I somehow reverse the trend? Or would I be banished to Board Game Arena forever more?

As usual, I could not see any clear cut strategy after reviewing what was available. Despite this, I thought the first season went okay — I snagged a green meeple and held it for the second season to ensure that I could purchase the tile that I wanted. But, I lost focus after that and started chasing green meeples. Little did I know that too many green meeples can give you a tummy ache.

When the dust cleared, and I had passed five rounds in a row at the end of the fourth season due to a shortage of meeples, there was a wee bit of sunlight. I scored 24 points, which is a 60% improvement over my last game. At this rate, if I play Keyflower just a few more times, I should be able to score 153.6 points.

MMQB says: Bradly reminded me after the game — Keyflower is not about having a strategy going in, although there are some general concepts that can be applied in large count games. It is more about looking at what tiles are available early, building a strategy from there, always trying to get more for less with your bids and action investments, and knowing that you are the only one that knows what winter tiles you have, so plan and play accordingly.

So that’s Monday Morning QB — Krewe de Gumbo edition. We’ll be back tomorrow with an in depth look at a deck building, dungeon diving, fantasy game from AEG.

Have you played Thunderstone? Then get ready for our look at Thunderstone Quest, coming tomorrow.

Until next time, Laissez les bon temps rouler!

— B.J.

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