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Talisman is a cult fantasy board game for 2 - 6 people. Players control a myriad of characters from a heroic warrior to a powerful sorcerer. In this perilous adventure, play centers around the journey of these gallant heroes to find and claim the Crown of Command, a magical artifact with the power to destroy all rivals and make the bearer the true ruler of the kingdom. Only with strength, courage, and wisdom will players be able to survive the ultimate test and beat their opponents to victory.
Talisman's enduring appeal is that of a traditional fantasy boardgame and more. Players soon find themselves taking part in an epic quest of brave deeds, daring encounters and death defying battles, which deepens as the game unfolds.
First released in 1983, the game continues to excite and maintains a strong following with a thriving Internet community. This edition of Talisman will appeal to fans of the timeless original, and will also create a new following of would-be adventurers.
Average Rating: 3.2 in 6 reviews
Games Workshop only teased us with the release of 2003 Talisman. The copies are extremely hard to find and are a bit pricey ($75 retail), but well worth the investment. This is game is easy to learn, fun to play and a great collectors item. Just look up the previous expansions are valued between $80-$250 dollars each.
The game appeals to many for the simplicity, and yet exciting ever changing gameplay, that it will always have great replay value. The cards change the outcome and you can never play the same game twice. This game is must have item for every die hard, stay up all night, eating cold pizza, drinking Mt Dew, game playing fanatic.
The happiest day in most hard core gamer's life is the day the finally get their grubby little paws on a copy of GW Talisman.
I saw there wasn't a review for this game and so I just had to write one. Writing a review for an out of print title may not be all that useful, but on the off chance that Funagain gets a copy floating through its doors in the future I thought I would let people know a bit about it.
Talisman - The Magical Quest Game was first published in the early to mid 1980's, when fantasy role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons were quite popular. Games Workshop published a few other games before this one, but to my recollection Talisman was the first game they published that had wide-spread acclaim and really catapulted the company's success.
There are three editions of the Talisman game. The first and second editions are the same game, with the second edition incorporating card errata and rule clarifications but not changing the game play at all. The third edition is a substantial redesign with all new components and several rule changes. The changes are substantial enough that third edition Talisman actually plays like a different game. This review applies to the first and second editions of the game. I'll make some comments about third edition at the end.
Talisman is a fantasy board game where each player takes up the role of a hero seeking to rule the world. Heroes battle monsters, and each other, to be the first to travel through the three regions of the board (Outer, Middle, and Inner) and place the Crown of Command upon their head. Once someone wears the crown, the other players can swear fealty (i.e., concede victory) or attempt to brave the killing power of the crown to eventually wrest it for themselves.
Heroes have four stats: Strength, Craft, Lives, and Gold. Strength is used to physically battle creatures and other heroes. As heroes defeat creatures this way their Strength increases. Strength is also increased through the use of weapons and various magic items. Craft is used to battle spirit creatures (psychic combat), escape traps or other puzzles, and cast spells. Craft does not increase as it is used, but can be increased through magic items. Lives represent the life force of the hero. Each hero starts with 4 lives and loses one each time he/she is defeated in combat or fails in some other lethal situation. When lives are reduced to zero, the hero is dead and the player is out of the game (optionally, the player can start over with a new hero if no one yet has the Crown of Command). Lost lives can be healed, and the hero can have more than 4 lives through magical means. Gold is the hero's wealth and used to purchase items, spells, healing and so forth.
The game mechanics are straightforward. Players roll a die, move their pawn the appropriate number of spaces, and follow the instructions for the space they land on. There are places to buy and trade items, learn spells, gain healing, and so on. Primarily, though, the board has open areas where players draw adventure cards to see what happens. This is the crux of the game. Adventure cards have monsters to fight, magic items and equipment, gold, events, and various people or entities who may harm or help the players. Cards are ordered such that events take place first, then conflicts with monsters, then interaction with any items or other denizens.
Game play consists of traveling the board to increase your hero's stats, gather useful items and followers, and find a magic talisman that you need to enter the Inner region. Once you think you are powerful enough, and you have a talisman, you head for the center of the board and the waiting Crown of Command. Once you wear the crown the other players either concede victory or continue on. If they continue, you roll a die instead of taking a normal turn. On a 1, 2 or 3 nothing happens, but on a 4, 5 or 6 every other hero takes one point of damage. Eventually either another hero will reach the center of the board and engage you in combat to determine who keeps the crown, or they all will die from the damage you inflict with the crown.
Talisman became so popular that GW published six expansions for the game. The first two: Expansion Set and The Adventure, add new heroes and adventure cards to the base game. Talisman Adventure also adds an optional rule for random endings, so the Crown of Command becomes only one of several possible endings. The next three expansions: Dungeon, Timescape and City, add additional boards to the game with their own cards and opportunities along with new heroes. These extra boards expand the scope of the original game and consequently also increase the game length. The final expansion, Talisman Dragons, adds a number of dragons to the adventure deck as well as items with which to better defeat them. It also adds four new heroes and a new ending: defeating the Dragon King in order to win.
Talisman is very exciting, challenging, and entertaining. The heroes are quite varied so game play is interesting as players use different tactics based on the character they are playing. Some are brute-force types while others rely on guile and stealth. The random nature of the adventure deck and the numerous different hero types results in no two Talisman games ever being the same. This makes the game exciting and creates a sense of adventure. It also means the game is not strategic, so if you loathe having your best laid plans laid waste by a few random events you should steer clear of this game. If, however, you enjoy exploring and overcoming hidden challenges, then this game is perfect for you.
The game is not without its faults. Game balance is not perfect. Some of the heroes have abilities that are more useful than others, which gives them an advantage. Usually the advantage is minor and doesn't affect the game much. Sometimes, though, the disparity is so unbalancing that either those heroes should not be used at all (e.g., the Prophetess) or the players should make sure that all of the heroes used in the game are of similar power levels. Game balance is further eroded as you add the expansions. Some of the added heroes do not mix well with the originals, and should only be used in a game against each other. Timescape is the most blatant example of this with the opportunity for characters starting on the Timescape board to get firearms or power armor early in the game and then easily plow through the main board to win.
Another detractor is the potential for 'chase the leader' to occur. Because so much of the game is random, should a player get a few good draws that increase his/her hero's power early in the game it can be difficult to catch up or knock that player down. Difficult, but not impossible. There is always the mighty Random spell that can turn even the greatest hero into a toad--for a short while.
Lastly, the game components are not of the same quality level as today's 'german' games. The hero pawns are thin, coated paper pieces that you put into plastic stands. Over time the bases tend to not stay on. GW came out with pewter miniatures that are very nice, but are quite expensive if you buy the whole set. You could substitute miniatures from a different game, I suppose. The adventure cards are made from the same thin paper and thus have a tendency to tear or bend if not treated with some level of care. This isn't a problem for adults, but kids enjoy the game too and can be rougher on the parts.
Overall I think Talisman is a great game and well worth the time investment it takes to play (at least two hours). I have yet to play a fantasy themed board game that does as good a job of creating a sense of adventure and role-playing as Talisman. My enthusiasm for the expansions is a little less than for the base game. I recommend the Expansion Set, Adventure, and Dragons with no reservation. Talisman City and Dungeon are OK for variety, but I do not consider them to be 'must haves'. Timescape is too unbalancing, in my opinion, to use other than in a game with Timescape-only heroes, so its value is limited.
A comment on third edition Talisman: Some of the criticisms I mention above were corrected in the third edition. The paper pawns were replaced with very nice plastic miniatures. The heroes were completely redone with simpler, more balanced powers. Instead of combat victories only improving your Strength, they added an experience point system where all creatures are worth points that you can then use to improve any stat you want: Strength, Craft, or even Life or Gold. This adds a good measure of flexibility that is lacking in the first and second editions.
These changes greatly improved game balance. They also took away a lot of the character of the previous editions, however. Third edition heroes are not as unique and thus the interaction among the players is not as varied or necessary. The adventure cards were also simplified and balanced. To me, the result is that third edition feels 'dumbed down' and sanitized. I think they balanced the game a little too much and ended up dousing a lot of the excitement found in the earlier editions. It may be that I am just used to the earlier editions and do not appreciate the finer points of the third edition. The third edition is definitely a better choice for families with younger children because the rules and cards are simpler and the components are more durable.
I like a good dungeon crawl as much as the next person, and this game does it as well as any other. Roll a die, move your character (each with his own special abilities), and draw a card which could be a monster, a treasure, or a follower, or attack one of the other players, should he or she be unlucky enough to be there.
Unfortunately there's really not much more to it than that, and not nearly enough to justify the $75 price. The only decision you make each turn concerns which of the two directions to move your character, unless you're lucky to have a spell or item you can use on the other players. Everything else is random, whether the roll of the die or the luck of the draw. This would be a fun family game... if only the average family could afford it.
Oh, but it has great plastic minis. That must be what costs so much.
Talisman came out in the very early 1980's, a fantasy board game that very obviously sought to do for fantasy what Cosmic Encounter had done for science fiction. The systems were simple, and each character had unique powers. Unfortunately, Talisman was not half the game that Cosmic Encounter was.
Talisman was popular enough to spawn a number of expansions which gave the game an amazing amount of variety, with the fantasy characters suddenly thrust into the roles of time travellers, as well. A new version came out which gave nice full-color artwork to the many (many, MANY) cards in the game.
Was it worth all the fuss? Ultimately, no, but it was still a fun ride. There was simply too much randomness to the game, and games could take an outrageously long time. Still, a lot of us who have been gaming a long time have fond memories of hours (and hours and hours...) spent trying to make it to the Crown of Power.
Auction sites like E-bay sometimes have copies of this, but they go for exorbitantly high prices. Best to put it on your Funagain wish list and hope for the best.
One nostalgic thumb up.
I’m a big fan of fantasy games and quite enjoy those that tend to recreate the fantasy role-playing experience in a board game. In discussions of this genre, the game that tends to spring up most often is the game Talisman. Opinions of this game, which was first published in 1983, were quite varied; but there was a group that tended to radically praise the game, heralding it as a truly great fantasy board game. Just recently, the 4th edition of the game was published (Black Industries, 2007 – Robert Harris and Rick Priestly), and I finally got my hands on a game that I had heard about for years but had never seen or played.
Well, you can certainly color me disappointed, as I was amazed at how the exciting ideas involved in the game are held back by clunky mechanics and annoying luck. Mind you, the components are fantastic and there is some neat theme thrown in here with some varied and enjoyable characters to play. But while some may be fond of the nostalgia that this faithful reprint exudes, I am more frustrated at how it pales beside more modern, better systems. (Runebound and Return of the Heroes come to mind). Talisman 4th edition has come boisterously to the year 2007 - twenty years too late.
In Talisman, each player chooses one of fourteen characters (Monk, Priest, Thief, etc.), taking the matching character sheet and figure, which is placed on their starting space on the board. Each character has two major stats (strength and craft), and markers of each type are taken to match these starting numbers. Characters also have one or more special abilities that will come into play during the course of a game. Piles of cards are placed on the table, and each player receives one gold, as well as four life. The board is made up of three rings of spaces (the outer, middle, and inner region). One player is chosen to go first, and then play proceeds around the table.
On a player's turn, they roll a six-sided die and then move their character in either direction around the ring they are in. The player then follows the directions of the space they are in. Some spaces have stores where the player can buy weapons and other items; others have random events that can help or hinder a player. Most, however, require a player to draw an adventure card and deal with it. A few spaces cause a player to draw two or three cards. Adventure cards may be
- Followers: These are people who help the character - basically giving him a special ability. A player can have unlimited followers.
- Gold: The player finds some gold
- Objects: The player receives an object (of which they can only have four). There is a "mule" that allows a player an extra four objects.
- Event: An event occurs that affects the players, or possibly all players in the same region or on the board.
- Shop: A person sets up shop on the space where the card was drawn, effectively turning it into some sort of store.
- Enemy: This could be anything from a lion to a dragon to a brigand. Each enemy has a strength number. Combat occurs, and the player may attempt to play a card that allows them to evade the enemy; otherwise, they must fight. A die is rolled for the enemy and added to their strength, with another rolled and added to the character's strength. If the character's total is higher than the enemy's, then they defeat the enemy and keep the card. Otherwise, they lose one life, and the enemy stays in the spot, ready to attack any future characters who land there.
- Spirit: This is the same as an enemy, except that they have a craft stat, and the dice rolled are added to the craft skill in combat.
Once a player collects enemies that have a total of seven or more strength, they may discard them to gain one permanent point of strength. The same can be done for enemies with craft, increasing the character's craft. Weapons and armor can also increase these two statistics, as well as random encounters on the board.
Players may also start with spells or collect them on their journey. The amount of spells a player may have at any one point depends on their craft number. Spells can do anything from evading combat to attacking enemies. Players continue to move around the outer ring, adventuring, but will eventually attempt to get to the middle ring. This can be done by fighting a strength 9 Sentinel at a bridge space or by finding, buying, or building a raft and crossing the river that separates the two rings. The middle ring is the same as the outer ring, although the spaces have more difficult challenges. Eventually, the player can land on the Portal of Power space and attempt to move to the inner region. This can only be done if they have found a Talisman on their journey. Once they do make it to the inner region, they then can only move one space a turn - difficult spaces, but with two choices - a track that emphasizes strength, and one that emphasizes craft.
Whenever a player is killed, they discard their character and start over with another character. However, once one character reaches the final space on the inner track - the Crown of Command, dead characters no longer are replaced - a player who dies is out of the game. Not only that, but the character on the Crown of Command causes each other player to lose one life point each turn eventually ending the game. The last player left alive is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
- Components: I may not like the game play very much, but I can't
complain about how nice the game looks. The artwork is fantastic, and
the components are very nice. I have a few small problems - I don't
like using the strength and craft counters; it's clunky and annoying;
and I wish they used plastic miniatures -but these are small problems.
The game looks tremendous when set up and really invokes a strong
fantasy theme. The plastic coins are probably the best pieces of the
game - I want to steal them for other games; they're that nice.
Everything fits inside a nicely decorated box, which screams "cool
fantasy game inside"!
- Rules: At first glance, the twenty-page full color rulebook looks
fantastic. And there are some nice back stories, illustrations, and
pictures scattered throughout. But in teaching the game, it's an
annoying jumble, really. The rules are printed in a bulleted format
(1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.1, etc.), but there's no table of contents, and some
of the rules seem to be placed randomly in the rulebook. The overview
at the beginning is actually more helpful than the rules themselves.
The game is actually quite easy, and yet there is a detailed flowchart
on the back for how to handle the spaces. I found it amazingly
complicated for what actually happens when landing on a space, and
thus ignoring it when teaching new players. Despite my problems with
the rulebook, I haven't had any issues when teaching the game; most
folks pick it up quickly.
- Roll and Move: Talisman uses a game mechanic that was quite
popular twenty years ago, that of rolling the dice and moving. Now
there are ways in which this mechanic can be put to good use, but
Talisman's movement is annoying to an extreme. I get the exact same
feeling in Talisman as I do in Trivial Pursuit, as I roll and re-roll,
hoping to land on the space that I need. It's frustrating as a player
attempts to go to a specific space (healing, for example) and
continues to miss it time after time. This might be fun for children,
but I was ready to flip the board at times.
- Luck: The adventure cards are also ridiculous in their luck.
I've seen one person land on a space and get a dragon (strength 7),
while the next lands on a space that causes them to draw two cards,
and they get two gold and a Talisman. Sure, this luck is supposed to
even out during the game, but a player who starts with a few bad draws
is going to fall behind and have a hard time catching players who find
treasure and good fortune at the beginning. I wish that there were
different decks for each of the tracks, as you really have no control
over your encounters. In a real role-playing game, a good Dungeon
Master won't have a first level party run into a dragon or find the
most powerful item in the first session, yet that can happen in this
game. Oddly, I don't mind the luck in combat, as that seems to even
out over the course of the game.
- Characters: One thing Talisman does extremely well is the
different feel that they give to each of the characters. From the
character's alignment (Good, Neutral, or Evil) to their special
abilities, each must be played a different way. The dwarf and troll
can simply power their way across the board, while the priest and
ghoul must use their special abilities to do well. I can't speak to
how balanced they are, although they seem on onset fairly even (the
only one who seems overpowered is the monk, but that may just be my
imagination). I will state that the strength trait seems extremely
more useful than the craft trait; as the majority of enemies will
attack via strength, and the spells that craft gives don't seem to
make up the difference.
- Strategy: The best strategy in this game is to land on spaces and
hope the cards are good to you. Really, there's not much else there.
Sure, you can head towards spaces that will be very beneficial to
your class; but if you don't land on them, what's the point? In every
game I've played, the player who got lucky first ended up winning.
The game has a very strong "rich get richer" feel, as a player who
makes some early kills gets stronger and eventually starts mutilating
every enemy they come across. Since enemies don't increase along with
characters, the end of the game can become boring; as powerful
characters race to be the first to be lucky enough to find a Talisman
and then get to the end.
- Fun Factor: Despite everything I've said, a few people I taught
the game to really enjoyed it. I don't understand how a game that
seems to be 90% luck is enjoyable - especially when it takes three
hours to play, but maybe the simplicity is what appeals to folks.
However, most gamers who've played it are annoyed at the luck,
especially when they've played superior games, such as Descent,
Runebound, and Return of the Heroes. Talisman may have been a fun,
fun game in its day, and I would have played it to death as a
teenager. Now, however, it's going to languish on my shelf - it
simply doesn't measure up to other games.
There is a core group of gamers who've played one of the previous editions of Talisman and have been clamoring for a new release. They, most likely, will be the ones who enjoy this game the most. However, a discerning gamer will be heartily disappointed; because between the stunning randomness of card drawing and the annoying "roll and move" factor, Talisman takes a fantastic theme and drags it down in the mire of clunkiness. A fourth edition brings the connotation of vast improvements and refinements. If that's true regarding Talisman, then I feel sorry for those who played the first edition!
"Real men play board games"
Before I discovered German games Talisman was one of my favorites. This is a game that wouldn't seem to have much going for it, yet it remains popular and commands decent prices on E-bay. A limited 2003 reissue sold like hotcakes at $75 a pop.
Roll, move, draw a card and resolve the card. With a few exceptions that is the game. Try to get your character to build up strength, lives and gold so you can work your way to the center of the board and win. The components are cheap, it lasts too long for what it offers, and there is a 'gang-up-on-the-leader' factor that causes the game to drag on even longer. There is little strategy and the end game is very weak.
On the plus side, the basic game has lots of different cards which keep the game from getting too dry and repetitious. The fantasy theme and art are done very well. The designer had a wonderful imagination. If any game succeeded at capturing the D&D flavor in a purely boardgame format Talisman is the one. The truth be told, I hated D&D, but for a short period of time I really enjoyed Talisman.
Although I haven't played Talisman in years, I am often tempted. The reality is that I have, maybe, 50 games that are more fun and better designed. Common sense always prevails and we play one of those instead.
I doubt I will ever get rid of Talisman, purely for nostalgia reasons. I had a lot of fun and really, really enjoyed this game for about 20 minutes in the 1980s.