Ok, so I really hoped that I’d be talking to you this week about Warhammer: Invasion, however it looks like I’ll have to save that for another time. So here then is my review for Talisman, 3rd Edition produced by Games Workshop.
To be honest, Fantasy Flight Games’ new previews for the expansion packs to the 4th edition have really gotten me interested in giving it a go, despite my increasing frustration with the 3rd edition. This frustration, I should add, is because my little brother insists on playing this game, every night! Picking up a copy of the fourth editions would at least give us a change of pace. Anyway I digress.
Talisman is an adventure game where all the players try and beef up their character, collect a talisman and defeat the Dragon King in the Wizard’s Tower for the ultimate prize, the Crown of Command. QED
Each character in Talisman plays differently, although they all have the same statistics. These are Strength, Craft and Lives. Each character has his/her own special abilities which differentiate them from the others. The Characters are by no means balanced so we always randomise them with a dice roll. I have personally created my own characters too (which may go up in a Ramble one day) so we have over 40 characters in the game. This means that each game has at least some variety.
There is a preconception that having a character with big statistics is an advantage in this game. It’s not. The adventure cards that drive the game mechanics are random enough that any character can win, as long as they get the right combinations.
On your turn you roll and move in either direction. In most cases you will have a choice of two squares, although in some case you may be able to use the toll bridge to enter the inner region for more options. When you land on a square you either take cards or deal with the cards already on the square. Cards are dealt with in a specific order: Events, Monsters, Spirits, Strangers, Objects/Followers and Places.
Events either effect you or a region or the whole game. For example: Book of Spells – You take your full compliment of spells. Storm – A storm sweeps through this region, all players in this region miss their next turn. Pestilence – All players lose a life.
Monsters have a strength score (and in some cases a special ability). To fight a monster, look at your strength, which is equal to the number of red cones on your character, add any bonuses from objects and followers and roll a dice. The monster also rolls a dice and his strength if your combined score is higher than the monster you win.
Spirits have a craft score but defeating them is almost identical to beating monsters. When you beat a spirit or a monster you take purple cones, experience points, equal to the monster/spirit’s strength/craft. 7 experience points may be exchanged for one strength, craft, life or gold.
Strangers do various things and can either help you, for example The Healer – Heal one Life for free, or hinder you The Witch who has the ability to turn you into a toad.
Objects and Followers give you special rules or increase your stats, however they can be stolen or lost in a number of different ways so don’t get too attached. Facing the Dragon King by counting on objects and followers alone is foolish at best.
Places are for the most part helpful and at the worst, annoying. The best three places are the Magical Stream (free strength points), the Fountain of Wisdom (free craft points) and the Pool of Life, (free lives).
As you move around the board and gain strength and craft (it’s better to concentrate on one attribute) you may stumble upon a talisman. However, its much easier to go to the Warlocks Cave and get a quest. This will be either, Kill a Monster, a Spirit or win a battle against another Player. Do any of these things and you will be instantly teleported back to the Warlock and rewarded with a Talisman.
Once you have somewhere in the region of 10 to 12 strength or craft and a Talisman you will be strong enough to take on the Dragon King. First you must pass three tests.
The Portal of Power – Hand in a talisman or roll and lose that many lives.
Magical Trap – Roll a die for each object you or a follower carries, on a 1 or a 2 it is lost to the discard pile.
Pit Trap – Now do the same for each follower on a 1 or a 2 they too are lost.
Then it is time to showdown with the Dragon King himself. The Dragon King has a strength and craft of 12. Defeat him and you take the Crown of Command and win the game.
The fastest way to win the game is get the Finger of Death and a Talisman. You cannot lose a spell once inside the Wizard’s Tower so as long as you have a craft of three or more you cannot be stopped short of Counter Spell or Preservation being cast by another player.
An even more powerful spell, midway through the game is Psionic Blast which allows you to add your craft to your strength. A reasonably tooled up character can hope to beat the Dragon with ease as long as he has this spell.
An interesting method that has come up in our many games is to enslave the doppleganger with the Staff of Mastery. The Doppleganer then fights one battle with you, he takes on the same strength attribute as whatever he is fighting, so against the Dragon King he has a strength of 12.
There are plenty of other examples of ways to win, but these three spring most readily to mind.
I’ve read a few negative things about 3rd edition, however, other than playing it over and over again *note to self: Buy New Games*, I don't think it’s a bad game. My little brother who demands we play this game has a form of cerebral palsy called Worster Drought Syndrome and this game is simple enough for him to play and understand (and win at, with surprising regularity) while being diverse enough (at least for the first twenty plays) to keep us adults entertained.
The expansions to the game I have are Dungeons of Doom and City of Adventure, both which add a whole range of options to the game and will probably be reviewed later. The fact that the game uses traditional Warhammer models made this game very easy to modify and add new characters to without them looking or feeling out of place.
The game itself can be very luck driven and after a few plays the same story gets dull. However, played with the right group and the game comes alive. It is rife with interaction as players cast spells at each other and fight over the best objects or simply race for the finish and the glory. Each game is different, however I think that it may be time soon to switch to 4th edition if only to get new adventure cards and alternative endings.
Talisman comes with:
The game board.
11 Character Citadel miniatures.
10 Slottabase stands for the above.
11 Character cards.
129 Adventure cards.
30 Spell cards.
40 Purchase cards.
5 Tower cards.
6 Talisman cards.
6 Toad cards.
30 Strength counters (red).
30 Craft counters (blue).
30 Lives counters (green).
20 Experience Point counters (purple).
32 Gold (plastic) Coins.
12 Alignment markers.
6 Toad counters.
The components are pretty good. My cards are now getting a little dog eared from continuous play, but as long as you don’t play every day for years on end they should last a good long time. The Character Boards are sturdy with all the information you need clearly visible. The cones for experience, strength, craft and lives are really useful because they stack so nicely. The miniatures are 1 piece plastics and although I have painted all of mine to a good standard they still don’t look as nice the ones I bought for the new characters. However each miniature will have at least one Warhammer equivalent that can be substituted in if you feel like spending a fortune customising this game.
Would I suggest you buy 3rd Edition Talisman? No. Why? Because although the game is a lot of fun, especially as a light distraction, it is not worth the £100+ price tag it currently has on ebay. You can pick up a copy of Fantasy Flights edition from Infinity Games for only £37.49 and this version of the game is very much alive, with at least one if not a whole lot more expansions pending for it. And because it is published by FFG the components will be top notch and the game will continue to be supported for several years to come. I know that I will eventually change over, but for nostalgic reasons, I may keeping playing 3rd edition, maybe just once a year though…