Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Talisman - One Silly Good Time

Last week we found ourselves in the Hobby Bunker needing a two person game. Rich stepped up and bought a copy of Talisman, 4th edition, so we could have something to play. What a great moment! I would have done the same but I had previously ordered Infinity and my impulse-buy points were all gone. Rich had played first edition back in the day and we settled down to see how to newest version held up.

Talisman is without doubt one old school game. The play takes place through moving a token around a rectangular board and seeing what happens when you land on a given space- pretty much the same as Monopoly. Each player starts the game by selecting a character. I always felt like the token in Monopoly should give you some special ability- the car should move faster or the dog could, well, that's where that plan falls apart. In Talisman your token does give you special abilities. Take the Prophetess and you can influence random events. Take the thief and you can steal from other players. Do you want to fight monsters? Then take a troll or warrior. There are more than a dozen characters to play and they have a variety of powers and advantages.

Once the players have chosen their characters they set up on the board. Each player rolls a die and may move that many spaces to the left or right. The player is likely to have to draw an adventure card on the space they land on and deal with whatever the card says. It may give the players a magical item, a faithful follower, or reveal some monster to fight. If you succeed at the challenge the card delivers you may improve your strength or spell casting ability. If you fail you may lose a "life," of which you have a finite number. After you resolve your adventure card the play moves on to the next player.

The goal of Talisman is to improve you character through these adventures until you can make your way to the center of the board and collect the Crown of Command. At this point the other players must catch the first soon or lose the game.

Rich and I enjoyed our game. I was pretty entertained as I acquired a unicorn and maiden follower for my Prophetess and then a gnome, which didn't make as much sense but was still pretty cool. Then I was turned into a toad and had to start from scratch but that was pretty entertaining as well. Through the coarse of the game we discovered hidden markets and sorcerers who would sell us armor and spells so over time we had locations we could return to to acquire more cool gear. In general we enjoyed the game's light tone and the character development that occurred as we moved along. I don't think i spent much time considering strategy, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

Talisman has received a bit of criticism for being very random. The adventure cards can deliver you a bag of gold or a powerful dragon. You may be forced to land on spaces that are unhelpful or even dangerous to your character. And you may struggle to get to an important space and consistently fail to roll the number required to get there. I think it's simplest to say that if a random game bugs you, just look elsewhere. If you find chance tolerable or even exciting then this is less of an issue.

Talisman is also very old school in that some of the characters may be stronger than others. It may also leave some players struggling to catch up to luckier, more powerful opponents. I think we see the same thing with games like Monopoly and Life. For this reason Talisman is absolutely not recommended for younger players who may find losing or perceived unfairness upsetting.

I enjoyed my game and I would happily play again. I see Talisman as a light and low key event rather than a competition. It absolutely has silly elements. There's a slight role playing quality in terms of watching your character develop and for me that's a bonus. The game itself is colorful and well put together. For people who are looking for an amusing way to spend some time this is a great game.

Talisman is available at most game stores, Rich got his at Hobby Bunker in Malden.

Pros: Light, cheery, full of surprises, role playing element

Cons: random nature of game means many many surprises

Beyond the Basics: You're not likely to become an "ace" Talisman player but there are some expansions to add a bit of variety

1 comment:

  1. A regular at the LGS' board game night always has her vintage copy of Talisman on hand. It's great for times when you want to play a game, but not worry about heavy choices or figuring out the system.

    Charting a character's list of failures can be more fun than their advancement, sometimes. "Well, firs the enchantress turned me into a toad, then the thief squished me three or four times. One I became a person again, without any gear, I met a dragon!"