It;s the first game day of 2015! I’d hoped to get this out before Christmas, but in the event life took over, so instead, I’m presenting to you all now: Talisman!
It’s the classic fantasy adventure board game, as the box itself tells us all – it’s been around for decades now, of course, and the current iteration is the revised 4th edition of the thing. Having only played this edition, I’m not in a position to comment on the others, but wanted to share some thoughts with you all today all the same!
Players choose from one of fourteen classic hero archetypes, such as wizards and assassins, and travel around the board building up this character before they can take on the central challenge – the Crown of Command! The board is divided into three regions – outer, middle and inner – with travel between them only possible when you’re at the appropriate level. While travelling around the board, you will most likely draw an adventure card that will often offer a challenge that, when defeated, becomes a trophy:
Combat is determined by rolling a die and adding the strength value (or the craft value if engaged in psychic combat) of the two participants to the result – whoever has the higher score is the winner, with draws resulting in a stand-off. If the hero wins, the creature is killed and can be claimed as a trophy – the dragon above is worth 2 trophy points, as signified by the number in the bottom-right. If the creature wins, the hero loses one of his lives. Talisman can be quite brutal, and heroes can simply die, depositing all of their possessions on the space for another character to come along and collect.
Enemies aren’t the only type of adventure card you can draw, however –
The talisman is of vital importance to the game, as without it, a hero cannot enter the central area to stand a chance of winning. Characters can also gain spells through encounters, which can aid them in combat as much as weapons or other items.
These corner spaces sometimes allow players to buy items or heal, etc. All characters have an alignment, and some spaces have specific effects based on whether your hero is good or evil:
Indeed, it’s not just spaces – some objects can only be used by good or evil characters, and some events have specific effects, such as the Devil pictured above. The game comes with double-sided alignment cards, as heroes can also change their alignment throughout the game.
As I said before, the object of the game is to make it to the central space of the board. First, players must cross into the middle region by defeating the Sentinel in combat:
After this, the inner region is entered via the Portal of Power:
You either try to pick the lock or force the door, with a failure resulting in a loss of 1 from either Craft or Strength. If you make it through, however, the inner region awaits!
Heroes move through the inner region one space at a time, and can only access the Crown of Command space from the Valley of Fire, so there are at least four spaces to go through beforehand. Each space has a different effect, usually brutal, so you’ll want to make sure your hero is strong enough to survive! Finally, to enter the Valley of Fire, a character must have a Talisman, otherwise he is forced to turn back.
The object of this game is essentially to be the last man standing. When on the Crown of Command space, a hero then casts the Command Spell, rolling a die. If the result is 4, 5 or 6, every other character loses one life, until everyone is eliminated. However, if another hero catches up to you, you must fight them on the space – yes, Talisman also has player vs player combat rules! Another way to fight and gain your opponents’ stuff!
Perhaps the most hilarious aspect of this game – for me, at least – is the opportunity for players to be turned into toads. Yes, people, you read that right!
There are certain effects, such as an encounter with the Witch, which will turn your hero into a toad, a condition that will last for three turns. You take a replacement hero card, as shown above, as well as the miniature, and move just one space, encountering the board with your diminished, amphibian stats. When those three turns are over, you resume your hero, minus anything lost while you were in your amphibious state. Delightful!
I love Talisman, I have to say! Unfortunately, the game can go on for quite a while. In fact, it can go on for hours on end… the box suggests an hour and a half, but my first game was virtually double that. Left unchecked, you can just keep going around the board, adventuring and the like, without heading for the real goal. Sometimes, I like games like that, as all-too-often I find myself a little cheated by adventure games that have a built-in timer that prevents me from really, well, adventuring. However, there has to be a limit, and in Talisman you’re largely reliant on other players directing the flow, as you race to be the first to level up, in order to be the first to the Crown. If you’re playing with folks who are more leisurely, then it can be a bit of a problem. Personally, my usual gaming buddy likes to attack other people, and has no interest in being first to the Crown. It’s not a problem, per se, it’s just a bit of an irritant.
But that aside, the game is nevertheless an awesome adventure. Originally a product of Games Workshop, Talisman was taken over in its fourth edition by a different company, with Fantasy Flight Games taking over in 2008 and revising that into the version we have today. Being FFG, there are of course expansions aplenty, including big-box expansions that add a new, smaller board to each corner (and the Dragon expansion, which has a new board overlay for the inner region), and smaller, card expansions that bring a new theme to the game. All of these come with new heroes, meaning there is a plethora to choose from if you pool them together. Whether anyone would pool all of the expansions seems a bit silly, as the game would be huge… (I’m sure some enterprising people have a table – or floor – big enough, of course…)
At the time of writing this, I have all but the latest (Woodland) expansion, though I’m sure that’ll be in my collection soon enough. As the year wears on, you can bet each of these expansions will be making an appearance on my site, anyway!
As far as fantasy games go, it’s pretty damn great. It’s not a Runebound, of course, which is still my absolute favourite of the genre, but it’s a game that you can enjoy with friends as you trundle around the board, fighting dragons and gaining strength before trying to kill everyone else on the adventure. It’s simple, straightforward fun!