Game Title: Talisman 4th Edition
Designer: John Goodenough & Robert Harris
Publisher: Fantasy Flight
It had seemed too good to be true, a map to the legendary Crown of Command, and for only 2 gold coins? I'd have been mad to turn it down, unfortunately the person who wrote the map must have been mad too. Walk for five miles it claims, but I'll be damned if it gave me a direction, I'd been guessing the whole way and yet somehow each time I followed it's cryptic advice a new clue appeared. Whether that meant it was working or I was being played for a fool I had no idea, but with a prize as grand as the Crown of Command, surely any chance is worth taking? I looked down at my regular map. Five miles to the east there's a small tavern, a harmless enough place to spend more gold than you meant to. To the West was The Sentinel, a huge gateway which rumours persist was made by daemons. Glancing at the magical map again I knew only one thing... I really needed a drink.
Talisman is one of Games Workshop’s classic board games from back in 1983. Sometime in the past 30 years they decided that games that require only a handful of miniatures that were all included in the box wasn’t a good enough way to extract money from small children, and so they dropped Talisman (and many others). The game is now sold by Fantasy Flight and I have to say they did a good job, the game is rather well designed with nice graphics, well sculpted miniatures (particularly the toads) and a generally high production value.
Let’s start by saying the game play does show it’s age, players each choose a character with a special ability then take turn moving it around the board and adventuring with the ultimate goal to reach the central space, claim the Crown of Command and use it’s magic to kill everyone else. Movement is based on a dice roll (you move d6 spaces in one of 2 directions around the board, no more, no less), then you encounter the space you land on. Encounters tend to be drawing an adventure card which can be items to help you, monsters to fight or other random events, the interesting part is that if a player doesn’t fully resolve this action then it hangs around and anyone else who lands on the space gets a chance to take the item/fight the monster etc. As the game goes on the board starts to evolve, certain areas can be filled with tough enemies, while others might have shops and healers hanging around.
|The miniatures and dice, quite a collection, and seriously look at those toads, flawless!|
Combat involves rolling a dice and adding your Strength (or Craft on occasion), the monster then does the same, should luck (and enough items) be on your side then you claim the monster card. You cash in monster cards to give yourself permanent boosts to your stats until you think you are strong enough to advance. It probably should be noted that you can also fight other players in the same way and either hurt them or mug them for useful items.
The board itself is divided into three sections, an outer ring which tends to be easier and less likely to kill you, a middle ring that tends to be a little tougher (though can be that bit more rewarding), and a central ring which tests your ability to roll the right numbers(with your stat boosts acting as modifiers). Choosing when to advance is critical as you will need to be strong to brave the central areas, however if you are too slow you’ll find someone else got there first. Once you reach the central space then you can begin casting the ‘Command Spell’ which is a simple dice roll: 4-6 and you deal one damage to a player. A little lacklustre perhaps, but it’s worth noting that anyone who dies before someone reaches the central space gets to respawn with a new character, however once someone reaches the centre then death is permanent. The last player alive is crowned the victor.
|An example of the game board during play, note the 3 clearly defined rings and cards that have taken up residence on certain areas.|
We only played this game in 2-player mode so perhaps some of the imbalances were due to lack of player interaction, but the game (unsurprisingly) felt controlled almost entirely by luck. You move a random number of spaces, draw a random card which may help or harm you, then often randomise the card’s outcome. I do feel that more players will help boost the fun factor, but you can also expect a fairly linear increase to an already reasonably large play time.