Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: Talisman (Revised 4th Edition), By Robert Harris

Talisman: The Magical Quest Game. This game will ruin friendships. This is not a joke. Talisman first entered the world in 1983, and has been a growing force in the board game community. It accommodates 2-6 players ages 9 and up. It is my favorite game I own.

Fantasy Flight would like you to believe that a single game of Talisman will last for 240 mins. In my experience it devours an entire evening 6-8 hours on average with one game lasting a full 16 hours (with regular breaks for food, and leg stretching).

The game is heavily luck driven. Your character is randomly assigned. You roll dice to move, and roll dice for battle. You draw from an adventure deck with monsters and events and powerful items all mixed together. As you defeat these fierce creatures you keep them as trophies, and turning in a certain value of trophies adds to your strength or craft.

The Portal of Power
You will spend the first 3 hours of the game adventuring around the outer ring of the board trying to boost your favored stat. Then, after defeating the Sentinel you'll spend and hour in the middle ring attempting to get to the Warlocks Cave to get a quest. The next hour is devoted to completing that quest. In doing so you will be awarded the Rarest gift. A Talisman. Once you receive your Talisman, and your favored stat is 12 or above, you can make a break for the Portal of Power.

The Portal of Power is a skill check barrier between you and your last 10-12 turns of the game. At the Portal of Power you will choose one of your stats, Strength or Craft, then you will roll 2 dice, and hope that your favored stat is higher than your dice roll. If not, you lose one point in the stat you chose. The effect of which, is akin to losing a family pet.

Well, that's it in a nutshell. You may be thinking, "What? Where's the part about ruining friendships?" To which I will retort, "Didn't I mention the Toad?" After a quick command+F search, it seems I have not. Well then, if you want to alienate your friends, please continue reading.

The Sentinel
When you land on a space with another character, you may chose to encounter them. You battle. When you battle, compare your favored stats. Normally it's strength, but, with certain characters or equipment cards it can be your choice. You both roll, then add the result to your chosen stat and any equipment bonuses. The victor can choose to make the loser subtract a point of health, or the victory can take any of the loser's equipment or followers.

"WHAT ABOUT THE TOADS!?" you may be screaming at the top of your lungs. Well now, there are two  ways to become a toad. First, there is a spell, aptly titled "Random". It reads:

Cast on any character at any time
He rolls 1 die to determine
the effect on him:

Become a Toad for 3 turns
Lose Strength*
Lose Craft*
Lose all gold
Gain 1 Strength
Gain 1 Life

*All but Strength and Craft 

values and those gained from 

Followers and Objects



The second method for a good Toading:  When visiting the City, you can choose to visit the Enchantress and test your luck. You are likely to become a Toad. So what? Oh, did I not mention that becoming a Toad is terrible? That's right. When you become a Toad, you drop all your gear, followers, gold, and go back to base stats. For the next 3 turns you move one space a turn, which means you will probably never see your items again.


Not Your Average Toad
This  whole becoming a Toad has sort of derailed my thoughts, like becoming a Toad will derail your plans for reaching the Crown of Command. "What's the Crown of Command?" you ask? Well, thats the tower of riches in the center of the board. Your quest, when you sit down to play Talisman, is to be the first player to reach the Crown of Command, then cast the Command spell until all other players have perished. Until someone reaches the center, death is just a school zone on the highway to victory. When you die, you draw a new character from the box and start anew. But, once a player had reached the Crown of Command, death becomes permanent.


Talisman is a very dense game, and there is no chance I could cover all you need to know in a single article. I maintain that Talisman is still easy to learn, with very rich gameplay. If you've never had the chance to play Talisman, I recommend getting a play in. Just set aside an evening, and once you get going, the time will pass pretty quickly. There are untold treasures and adventures awaiting. 

Matthew Ryan Robinson is an indie game designer and runs Broken Prism Games. In his spare time he also posts on three other blogs: www.brokenprismgames.comabout games he’s designing,  www.solventcage.wordpress.com about his music tastes,  and www.360to180.comabout his weight loss journey. You can probably meet him at Dallas Gaming Marathon on Thursdays or Open Stage on Mondays {Youtube Search: Open Stage Penguin}. Twitter: @brokenprism