Monday, March 12, 2012

Talisman 4th edition review

The Bratii (ages 15 and 10) were over Sunday and I pulled out a copy of the latest edition of the Talisman board game to give it a whirl with them.

The object of the game is each player works their way around the board as a unique character building up their characters and acquiring useful objects and followers before slowly venturing inwards before finally reaching the Crown of Command in the centre and trying to use it to wipe out the others.

As I say it's a board game with the vanilla playing area being about 3ft by 2ft folding up to a 1ft square for storage so reasonably hefty. The board itself is heavy card; full colour; with three concentric tracks called regions each divided into their own little areas; and the one single centre square bearing the Crown of Command.

As well as the main board the game comes with a set of unpainted grey plastic miniatures to represent the characters each modelled to correspond with the portrait on their 3"x6" character card that sets out their unique abilities. They're not as detailed as the Games Workshop models, but they're good enough. I think I was fortunate in that few displayed overt moulding lines or holes and only a couple had a couple of bent parts that some boiling water soon fixed.

For the characters there are tokens to represent various characteristics red, green and blue plastic cones to represent strength, craft, and lives respectively; heavy cardboard discs representing fate; and and some neat clanky plastic gold coins representing... well gold coins. One point we found during play was that the cones are smooth and thus had the tendency to ping out of a player's hand when picked up; we all liked the gold coins.

In addition there are various stacks of cards used during play; in order of amount - a big pile of adventure cards; a much smaller pack of purchase cards; a slightly smaller pack of spell cards; and some special cards for the special Talisman object and alignment alteration cards.

Finally a set of six aged bone dice which are quite nice.

The box itself has a standard moulded plastic holder, but goes above and beyond other games I've played by provided extra holders unused for storage which are ideal to hold extra various cards and tokens.

Playing the game.

Doing things properly we started with a random selection of characters I got the Priest; Major the Sorceress and Minor the Ghoul. We located our start positions on the outer track as indicated on our character cards; each received a number of fate tokens that can be spent to re-roll dice rolls; one gold coin; a set of life cones and, in Major's and my case, one spell each.

The turn sequence is quite simple - Cast a spell if you wish to; spells have affect anywhere on the board so that's simple. Then roll a die and move that amount around the track unless some effect is in play. When a space is reached do what it instructs; normally draw an Adventure card, then do what it says.

Cards may be an object that can be taken; a place or person that has been discovered; or an enemy that can be fought.

Combat is simple. Cast a spell if the player want so t; roll one die and add either your current Strength or Craft to it depending on the type of combat as indicated on the enemy card (or special ability) add any modifiers from weapons or objects and then another player rolls one die for the enemy. Highest scorer wins. If it's the enemy they take one life; if it's the character they take the enemy card as a trophy.

Finally the player can cast a spell before finishing their turn.

Any cards left at the end of the turn remain in that space to be encountered by any other player landing there.

Play then progressed to the next player until all players have moved and that ends the round.

Play started off slowly as we all got used the rules and stuttered as Minor acquired a Talisman (the McGuffin needed to reach the Crown of Command) and tried to enter the inner regions with the different encounters; the second time around we zipped through.

The first game took just over an hour and a half; the second had to be called off due to time limits but would probably been about an hour. It's quite variable depending simply on gaining lucky encounters and being able to build a character up enough to reach the centre space.

Downsides

It's a competitive game. Players can target spells at other players or if landing on the same space can choose to attack them.  Now I've no problem with such things, but with kids things can turn vindictive. So warning there and they might start moaning that they're being picked on.

Some of the instructions can be a little vague and need interpretation. Some of this has been dealt with by the FAQ and Errata found at the publisher's site but others are still open. House rules need to be applied.

The cards themselves are a tad small about 2" by 1" and even for the young'uns some peering was required to read the text on some.

It needs space; not just the board but space around it for character cards etc. That's not a real complaint as the amount it takes up is about the same as other board games, but it can't be described as compact.

One final point is regarding timed events - you can be turned into a toad for three turns; or a blizzard can slow down everyone for two rounds. We ended up keeping track by using either fate tokens, or gold on that card. In hindsight one of the spare dice would have done the trick, provided it didn't get knocked over; tokens are less likely to move.

Conclusion

They enjoyed it; I enjoyed it. Once we established a couple of House Rules and stuck to them we were flying through our turns and even Minor was able to proceed by himself. With all the miniatures and cards at £40 it's about right. They state they're happy to play again over and above other games.