How To Play the Talisman Boardgame
Playing the Fantasy Board Game Talisman
I remember my youth. A friend called me and said that this weekend we were going to try out his new board game. He had been reading the rules over and over so that when I and a few others got there, we could dive right in. The game was Talisman.
Since Talisman came out in 1983, hot on the heels of Dungeons & Dragons, my story sounds like many others I have heard. Everybody remembers fondly collecting loot, casting spells, and trying to collect the Crown of Command in the center of the board. You can look fondly back at those days, and not remember all of the flaws that plague Talisman. Without a heavy dose of house rules (of which you can find plenty online) the game just doesn't hold up nowadays, which saddened me when I cracked it open for this review.
How to Play Talisman - Rules, Instructions
Learning how to play Talisman isn't too hard. The game starts by each player picking their character. There is an assortment to choose from, and each has two stats: strength and craft. They also possess one or two special abilities that will help you out throughout the game. The initial rules dictate that you are supposed to choose your character at random, but you will probably find it more fun to pick a character you are looking forward to trying your first few times. Everybody starts with the prerequisite four life, and one gold to get you started on your adventure.
On your turn, you roll a die and move that many squares. Each of the spaces provides you with a store, or a marked event, but most are set for adventure. The harder the area, the more likely it is that you are going to have to draw multiple adventure cards.
Adventure cards are mostly what the game is made up of. They have a multitude of functions, and if there was one thing that Talisman does that it might be able to fix one day (or with more previously mentioned house rules) is make these cards a bit more distinct. Drawing a card means you could be facing off against a dragon as your first encounter, or your first 10 cards could all be gold, weapons, and followers. The latter type of card draw is going to gain an edge early in the game, where the former will have you stuck for a few turns.
If you do draw an enemy, the fighting style is fairly easy. The enemy has a strength number that you are fighting against. You roll a die, and someone rolls a die for the monster. Add in your strength score and whomever is higher wins. If you happen to lose, you remove one life token and have to leave that spot, but the monster remains. Enemy cards use your strength skill and spirits attack you with your craft skill, but it really is the same system.
One of the great features of the game is the way it 'raises your level'. After defeating a certain number of enemies or spirits, you can raise up your stat one. The dynamic is simple and easy for a game that is role-playing inspired, and does eventually mean that the game can be beaten if you have a few squares filled with undefeated monsters.
There are three zones that encompass the board. The first area, or the 'outer ring' takes up the entire measure of the board, and it is expected that you have built up quite a bit of strength for you to make it into the 'inner ring'. The game gives you two ways of getting in, through combat against a guard that blocks the way, or by sneakily using a raft that they have found or bought. (Again, all done through adventure cards).
Once you are on the inner circle, game play continues as it did on the outer, but with more adventure cards and harder square instructions. From here, you are just waiting to get a Talisman, as you can't go into the final section of the game without one. Again though, the way you are getting a talisman is by collecting more and more adventure cards. Your first draw could grant you the power to win the game, but you still are going to have to go through all of the trials and tribulations.
Once you get to the end of the final section, the inner track, you are in possession of the Crown of Command. Many house rules end the game there, but the real intent is for the person with the Crown to continue bothering the other players, killing them slowly. If someone can retrieve the Crown from you, great, but otherwise the last person standing wins.
Talisman is a cult classic for good reason. The art is gorgeous, and the game play starts out really fun. As you and your friends slowly leave monsters and start to strategize the best way of getting around things. It does start to fall apart later in the game as you realize you are just grinding to get through to the next section. With enough people, the backbiting and spell-casting that happens on each other really makes the game fun again, though.
I'd love to be able to give some firm Talisman strategy for winning, but it is near impossible when so much depends on the roll of the dice and a card draw. I can say that the first half of the game is going to be dictated a lot by the strongest characters, while the end of game is going to be trumped by the 'craftiest'. The key to the game is keeping track of all of your special abilities, and if you are near death, go to the healer. A smart player who really wants to mess with those who are trailing the pack might just leave a few monsters nearby there though.
Talisman reminds me of sitting in my friend's living room and having my first real experiences with fantasy games, role-playing, and "complex" gameplay. Playing it now as an adult, I can see the large flaws, but still had a fun time playing with my gaming crew.
Does that mean that Talisman should be avoided?
Not at all. Talisman is still a fun game, but is going to make
people who like more strategic games grind their teeth in despair as
they waltz around the rings looking for a good card draw.
Copyright 2007-2011 Board Games Pub - All Rights Reserved