Ishtar: Gardens of Babylon by Iello – Review

Everything that is needed to create a really magical experience is found within the box of Ishtar. From the design process to the art, Ishtar was well thought out and I believe the goal was to create a game that had real staying power.




Theme and What is it?


Before you lies a barren and hostile wilderness. You have been tasked by the king to create a beautiful desert garden for the queen. No sweat, right? You will need to use the natural fountains to build flower gardens and to plant trees. 

As you begin this process you realize that it will be tougher than expected, but you discover that you will have help. Assistants will be sent to tend flower beds for you. You also find many gems that will aid with the purchasing of exotic trees. Maybe, just maybe, you have it in you to create one of the seven wonders of the world. 

Ishtar: Gardens of Babylon is a tile laying game for 2-4 players.

Gameplay Mechanics


Players start out by setting up the play area, which is a set of modular boards that can be arranged in many configurations. These boards make up the desert area. Players take turns selecting tiles from a general pool and placing them on the play area. Tiles make up a player’s garden and they can have multiple gardens. 

Within the gardens are flower beds. Players can place assistants inside the flower beds. This allows the flower bed to score points based on the number of flowers. 

Players also score points if they control fountains. Players control fountains by having the best gardens attached to them.

Another way to score points is by planting trees. As a player lays down tiles, they can collect gems from the desert. These gems are used to buy trees from a general supply. Each tree is worth a certain number of victory points based on its value. 

Finally, players can use gems to upgrade their player boards and unlock new skills. These are used to gain more tiles and new ways to score victory points.

After the end of the game is triggered, the player with the highest score wins the game!

Initial Impressions


I went into my first game of Ishtar with very high expectations. Being developed by Bruno and having art done by Biboun, that carried a lot of weight with me. I am happy to report that my expectations were met and I was not at all surprised by the fact that Ishtar turned out to be a very fun game. 

The rules were easy to navigate and teaching it was a breeze. I had the first game running in about 10 minutes and players picked it up right away. There is not too much down time and this keeps players engaged with the game. We had our first game wrapped in about 60 minutes.

Everyone that I have played Ishtar with has reported back that they have completely enjoyed the game. The combination of great game play and fantastic art has lead to some very satisfying games.

Game Build Quality


I hold Iello to some very high standards. They always go above their competition when it comes to quality. Ishtar, again, is no exception to that. The components are top of the line and enhance the game. The fountains and gems are awesome and give the board a great 3D element.

The insert keeps everything in its place during storage and helps with setup. Overall, you should be very satisfied with what Ishtar has to offer.

Artistic Direction


The wonderful game play is just half of the equation of what makes Ishtar a stand out game. The other half is the art. Biboun has done some of my favorite artwork of any board game artist. He understands the space he has to work with and maximizes it to create a beautiful and rewarding experience.

The art of Ishtar allows players to be engaged in the world the theme is based on. You are really there building the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. You take part as a participant, not merely an observer. It takes a special artist to create a moment like that.

Fun Factor


The reason Ishtar is so fun is the combining of lots of great ideas in one cohesive whole. The mechanics are polished and the game flows without interruption. I loved that the game plays very fast. A game with experienced players should take 45 minutes. I like have a quick game that involves some deep strategic thinking.

Combine this with art that invites players to accept their fictional roles as gardeners in Babylon and you have the necessary elements to allow for maximum player participation. 

Age Range & Weight


Ishtar has a recommended age of 14+. That is very high evaluation in my opinion. My ten-year-old would have no issue with playing this game competitively. I even plan on introducing it to my seven-year-old. There is some thought that needs to take place when making choices, but nothing that they have not seen before in some fashion or another. 

I can visualize Ishtar working well for all experience levels. Feel free to use it as a gateway game and don’t hesitate to bust it out when you meet with your experienced group. It will work well on any table.



Ishtar: Gardens of Babylon easily wins my Trifecta of Awesomeness award. It excels in all three categories that are required to be considered for this prestigious award. It has way above average build quality. The artwork is superior to other games. And last, but not least, the game play is second to none. There are only a handful of games to ever receive this honor and now Ishtar is among their lofty ranks. 

Everything that is needed to create a really magical experience is found within the box of Ishtar. From the design process to the art, Ishtar was well thought out and I believe the goal was to create a game that had real staying power. In a world where hundreds, if not thousands, of games are released each year it takes something special to make a game that will be played for years to come.