By: Ashley Quirke
Do you like fighting monsters, leveling up and stealing items from your friends? If so, you’ll love Talisman! That is, as long as you have enough time to play it.
Talisman is a tabletop adventure game for 2-6 players, first released in 1983. Since then, it’s been through many updates, the most recent being the revised 4th edition released in 2008. The object of the vanilla game is for a player to reach and gain control the Crown of Command, which is located at the center of the board, an use it to kill off the other player’s characters.
Talisman’s board is divided in to regions. The “outer region” lines the outside of the board, and is where players start off. Players generally use this region to strengthen their characters in preparation for the “middle region”. In this region, the player’s goal is to collect an object called a talisman, which allows them to enter into the “inner region” and start the trials that lead to the Crown of Command.
The game begins with players choosing their character. Each character is based off a generic RPG class or race (Druid, Thief, Elf, etc) and has unique abilities. The base game comes with 14 different characters to choose from, but the expansions add more.
Each player’s turn involves rolling six-sided dice to move around the board. The tile a player lands on will instruct them on how to proceed. In the outer region, it’s usually by drawing a card from the Adventure Deck. These cards range from monsters to fight, caves to explore, items to collect and followers: NPC’s who can grant bonuses….or take them away. Players can even choose to encounter one another if they end up landing on the same space. They can choose to cooperatively trade items, or to do battle, and to the victor go the spoils!
One of the simpler things about Talisman is its combat system. There are only two stats that players need to worry about; strength and craft. Strength is used for physical combat, and craft is used for psychic combat. Characters are usually more proficient in one or the other (For example, the Prophetess starts off with 2 strength and 4 craft). There are multiple ways for characters to gain strength and craft, the first of which is by fighting monsters. Combat is simple, if your damage roll and your strength or craft is higher than that of your opponent’s, you win. Strength and craft can also be gained through encounters, objects and followers. Players also have life points. Each character starts out with 4 and once they are depleted, your character dies. If lost, they can be restored at various locations throughout the board.
Talisman also employs a really cool mechanic called Fate. Ever fail a dice roll at the most inopportune time? Well, it’s time to change fate! By using a fate token, players can re-roll their dice, but must accept the second result. It can really save you in a close battle. Each character starts the game with a set number of fate, though more can be gained throughout the adventure.
One of the things I don’t like about this game is that it can be a little monotonous in the beginning. Everyone is just going around the board trying to level up their characters, and though turns are generally short, not a lot is going on. Once people gain a few magic items and start attacking each other, the game gets much more interesting. Be warned though, this is by no means a short game. In my experience, Talisman played with no expansions will last roughly an hour per player. Even a two-player game can drag on for a while (no pun intended).
A really great thing about Talisman is the sheer number of expansions that have been released. These expansions add new characters, spells, items, boards and objectives. As of right now, there are 12 expansions available, with a 13th planned for release later this year. The alternative endings and new game objectives offered by the expansions really breathe new life in to what can be a real slog of a game with a lot of players. Some expansions, such as the Blood Moon, introduce enemy characters (in Blood Moon’s case, the Werewolf). Players can team up to defeat this enemy, or throw each other to the wolf! Others offer alternative endings, a particularly nasty one involves characters being sucked into a vortex and dying.
The introduction of new characters in the expansions makes for a lot of fun too. Some, such as the Dragon Rider (my personal favorite) are good to the point of being broken in the right expansion. She comes with the Dragon expansion. She gets major bonuses when fighting dragons. It just so happens that nearly every enemy in the Dragon expansion is a dragon. See where I’m going with this? On the flip side, other characters can be pretty much useless, their mildly convenient abilities only being usable in the outer region. In future editions, I’d like to see the characters become a little more balanced.
Overall, I’d give this game 7 out of 10. It’s really enjoyable once it gets going, but can be a little monotonous at the start, not to mention really long. The fate mechanic is really cool, and I like the simplicity of the combat system. I would definitely recommend this to fantasy RPG fans who are looking for a fun-albeit long- board game to play with friends.