Black Industries recently came out with a new version (the fourth) of a wonderful game that I used to play when I was younger. This game, Talisman, has gone through a number of revisions. The best of them by far being the 2nd edition and all of it’s subsequent expansion sets, long since out of print.
I was overjoyed when I received the package as this was one of my all time favorite games yet at the same time I was a bit nervous. What if this version of Talisman didn’t match up to the 2nd edition? What if it was awful?
I had read some teasers and was following their site with interest and my fears were somewhat eased when I read that they were taking the best of the 2nd addition and adding in a few changes. I decided to leave the box closed and invited Scott over to play the game and help with the review. We would also be joined by my wife, who by admission is not a dedicated gamer like Scott and myself.
Finally the night arrived, Scott was here and we had the table cleared. After a quick dinner of Pizza and soda (traditional gaming night entrees) we got out Talisman and opened it up. You can see the complete photo gallery below.
Our first impression was very favorable. The six section folding board was beautifully illustrated and sturdy as all get out. The box that contained all of the cards, character pieces, various bits and counters and of course dice was very nice. A sort of faux velvet. Even more important however was how it was designed. Every set of cards was compartmentalized, along with the character cut outs and counters. No more little baggies and aging elastic bands! Thank you Black Industries for paying attention to what seems at first like a little detail but makes cleanup, storage and replay all that much better.
We took everything out of the box and separated the various cards into their appropriate piles. The board is huge! A bit bigger than the 2nd edition and quite a good size to fill the center of a table. Adventure cards, character cards, toad cards, Talisman cards, spell cards, purchase cards, and alignment cards. Also bagged up were a large number of gold coins with an antique finish, six dice and counters for life, strength and craft.
Giving the rules book a thorough reading we found it to be well organized and well written. The rules are clearly laid out and very easy to understand. We did spot an editorial mistake, there are two section 16:10’s in the rules. Unlike everything else in the game, the book is a bit flimsy. It’s put together like a magazine. Hardcover would have been amazing, although what it would have done to the price or production run I don’t know.
I love the character cut outs. They are nice, solid cardboard which mount into plastic stands, as do the toads. Our one beef with the characters was that they would fall out of their bases half of the time when we were moving them about the board.
The counters are a nice change from the 2nd edition counters, which were card board cut squares about a quarter of an inch across. The new counters are roughly the same size but made of hard plastic. Our only beef was that the raised numbers on the counters (1-4) are a bit hard to read. Multi-colored counters, or a brush with white paint on the raised numbers would do wonders for this. The gold coins are beautiful and a lot nicer than little square cardboard bits. The six sided dice are nice looking as well.
We set the cards into their appropriate piles, shuffled the lot that needed to be shuffled and glanced through some of them. The cards are of nice card stock and while the size is good for playing, the type is perhaps a bit small. Certainly not a game stopper but it did cause a bit of pausing for reading very small type.
We all chose our characters at random. My wife got the Elf, Scott ended up with the Thief and I had the Druid. We set up our appropriate counters for life, craft, strength and our one gold piece and we were off!
That’s one of the inherent beauties of this game, it’s very easy to learn. While the rule book is important to read, for the most part all of the rules of the game are right in front of you. Each game space tells you how to act when you land on it. All of the cards, including the character cards have the special instructions you’ll need in order to make them unique characters. When you move and draw an adventure card, that card spells out exactly what you should do with it, including putting it in the discard pile if need be.
Each turn consists of rolling a six sided die to determine how far along the board you move, determining which direction you’ll go in and then drawing an adventure card or following the instructions on the board. The game board consists of three different realms. The outer realm where everyone starts is where you spend time strengthening your character, gathering equipment and allies, and planning your future strategy. Once your character is strong enough you journey to the second realm by way of a raft (either constructed, found or bought) or by challenging the Sentinal for the right to pass into the middle realm. Once there things get a bit harder. Monsters, animals and spirit enemies become stronger. All the while in both the outer and middle realms your not only encountering enemies via the adventure cards but you’re also encountering each other.
When two players meet, their may be a battle in which one player may lose a life, gold or an object. Spells fly and weapons come into play as well as the special abilities inherent to each character.
Once your character has the strength and/or craft to tackle the center realm, you’ll need just one more item. A Talisman. These can be found, given as gifts, stolen or won from other players. Once in possession of a Talisman you can attempt to gain entry and navigate through the perils of the inner realm. If you can reach the crown of command, once per turn you can cast a spell which has a 50% chance of taking one life from every player. Here’s where the game gets frantic as the other players try every trick, method and spell in the book in an attempt to slow down or stop the player who has the crown of the command. Eventually there is only one player left, and that player is the winner.
my wife picked up the game after our brief explanations and without reading the rule book in about three turns. It was immediately apparent that she was enjoying herself immensely once she got a feel for the game. We all enjoyed the game for its sheer playability. As soon as the first die roll is made everyone is involved. The turns are fast paced without being hectic and the game flow never stops. You just keep playing and enjoying it right up to the end.
The play time listed on the box is 90 minutes. Truthfully it takes a bit longer to play than that. We started at 6:30 and wrapped up at 9:00 for 2 and a half hours of play. Not to worry much though, we didn’t really notice the time going by. Talisman is one of those rare games that combines simplicity and immediate game play with a high replayability factor. Every time you play it will be a bit different thanks to the 15 characters available and the multitude of different events, actions and player decisions that will effect the game.
All in all we had a great game. After two and a half hours of character building and plotting my wife wielding the Elf made it to the crown of command to win the game, destroying first me and next Scott in short order.
This game brought back a lot of great memories of when we played Talisman 2nd edition. Even more important though it was just as fun in it’s own right playing right now. All of the flaws we found with it are of the nit picking type. Nothing is a deal breaker or will really affect game play.
Should you go out and buy Talisman when it hits the market in late September? Absolutely. If you enjoy board games with a fantasy bent you’ll have a great time with this game. I dare say you’ll be playing it a lot! With the 2nd edition there were a number of expansions that extended the game in all kinds of interesting ways.
While Black Industries original published this title, they stopped publication in January 2008, Fantasy Flight Games(http://new.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite.asp?eidm=29&enmi=Talisman) took over publication and are now handling the 4th edition.
[tags]board games, talisman, review[/tags]