Talisman

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Talisman is a board game created by Bob Harris back in nineteen dickety two. In his nerdy college days, he wanted to make a way to play a quick and dirty D&D game, and so made a board game with variable stats, gold, and alignment constraints, a central quest, and different characters that began with different abilities. The lord saw it and said, hey, that's fuckwin, and planted the idea in Mr. Harris's head to go to Games Workshop, insidiously sneaking a gaming magazine into his stack of porno. Games Workshop said, "Fuck! TSR is stomping our assholes flat and all we're doing is making figures for them, and reprinting American RPGs, maybe this'll be good? We'll cross promote it with our Warhammer idea." With the Warhammer Fantasy fluff in the board game, they ran off a few copies, which sold out to rabid fans fairly quickly. With the money and cross promotion, Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Talisman helped Games Workshop get into the US market, and then annoy everyone with their other Warhammer 40K shit. Black Library (operating under the trade-imprint Black Industries) released a fourth edition, but when they shut Black Industries down, all of the rights (along with Dark Heresy) were licensed to Fantasy Flight Games, who reprinted and reskinned it with the Warhammer 40,000 grimdarkness and called it 'Relic'.

The Premise[edit]

It's a last-man-standing board game.

WAIT WAIT DON'T LEAVE YET

Okay, we know that last-man-standing board games generally suck (see; Monopoly, Risk). But consider this; imagine if Monopoly had a single property which was ridiculously difficult to obtain, requiring you to put your character at severe personal risk to obtain it -- but then, once you got it, you could vacuum all of the cash out of every other player's wallet. Imagine that the reputation of that property was so terrifying that, in 90% of games, every other player would immediately retire when one person made the push to the legendary property. Talisman is kinda like that, and the legendary property is called the Crown of Command.

It's a pretty simple idea. You are a dude (or woman) in search of the fabled Crown of Command, which you can use to kill someone anywhere in the world (thus knocking them all out of the competition). You explore the land (board) gaining objects and experience in order to tackle the rougher areas in the middle. You can kill other players, fight all manner of critters, find nifty objects, learn spells, get weapons, and generally get really stabby. The board is in three tiers; the outer "grassland" tier, where things are generally safe, the central "wasteland" tier, where there's more treasure but also more danger, and the central "fuckland" tier, where you have to push through four incredibly tough challenges to get the Crown of Command. The Crown's power usually makes the other players concede the game, unless one of them is currently pushing their way through Fuckland to challenge you for the Crown. If there are two players sharing the Crown square, they must fight to the death for it.

(If you're playing one of the expansions, you can also have other victory conditions; usually, either a variant of the classic Crown ending above, first to beat the BBEG wins, or a race to complete certain conditions and then get to the Crown; hidden victory conditions are allowed, but not recommended].)

The Editions[edit]

Revised Fourth in all its glory
  • Talisman: The first edition of the game was a fairly quick and cheap printing, black and white cards with no gloss, and a fairly flimsy board. Still it sold well.
  • Talisman Second Edition: This was an exact copy of the first game with two exceptions. The cards were full color, and they were a better glossy stock. They started releasing expansions for this edition and while the quality was still fairly on the low side, it began to offer tons of diversionary depth that most board games didn't have.
  • Talisman Third Edition: Apparently Games Workshop thought that the board artwork needed to be more cartoony and have a bazillion skulls on it. The quality of the materials here was great, plastic minis, heavy stock game board and high quality cards. However, much of the board was changed and some of the changes were too dopey to be forgiven. There were only 3 expansions released for this game - thankfully - and Games Workshop said "oops, we fucked up" and stuck the game in a back closet until they finally sold it. This game is more related to Warhammer than the earlier edition(s) but only in fluff, and the gameplay was too different and more than a few people turned away, as the expansions turned a fun and simple game that could be played in an hour to drudging complicated mess that could take more than an afternoon.
  • Talisman Fourth Edition: Black Industries used their brains and made this game more like the second edition. In fact, it essentially is the 2nd edition but with a board that's 3 times as large and some amazingly good artwork. Black Industries may have overextended themselves on the game however, due to high production costs and Capcom failing to deliver the PSN/PC/XBLA versions of these games for the cross promotions. Furthermore, Black Industries had just bombed with Dark Heresy and GW shut them down within two days of it being released. They then passed the franchises to FFG who figured they could do a better job.
  • Talisman Revised Fourth Edition (Current): Fantasy Flight Games tweaked the game a bit; in addition to some mostly cosmetic changes to the counters, cards and character pieces they added the fate point mechanic which allows characters to reroll a die for those "I just got turned into a toad, ffffffuuuuu" moments. An upgrade pack to bring previous 4th Edition sets up to the Revised standard was available but has recently become hard to find.
  • Relic: Talisman IN SPESS, Fantasy Flight Games wisely saw that they could both make more money and avoid irritating fans who disliked the original TimeScape expansion by releasing this Warhammer 40K themed Talisman clone as a stand alone game rather than as an expansion for Revised Fourth.
  • Talisman: Digital Edition: A version of the game on sale on the Steam digital distribution platform. The game is being continually developed by Nomad Games and doesn't yet have all expansions that the Revised Fourth Edition has.

Expansions[edit]

Second Edition[edit]

  • Talisman Expansion Set: More cards and characters to play.
  • The Adventure: More cards, yet more characters, and alternate endings.
  • Dungeon: A new deck of cards and a new board to play on. The monsters are very tough in this expansion.
  • TimeScape: A very odd board added, new cards, and characters spanning genres, from pulp to sci-fi. The Space Marine is here untouched from 40K, and the Archaeologist looks very familiar with his bullwhip.
  • City: This adds several shops and opportunities for more money to the game. It also adds several new standard characters, a new deck and board, and 4 "Elite" characters, the High Mage, Master Thief, King's Champion, and Sheriff.
  • Dragons: Very Rare and released near the end of Talismans Second Edition run. I haven't played it because I can't find it, so I can't tell you what it's like. Ones that played it, say it's mediocre.

Third Edition[edit]

Note that the third edition expansions used a "Realm Die" which slowed movement. It was essentially a d4 with two '2' spots and two '3' spots.

  • City of Adventure: Added a City Realm and a Forest Realm
  • Dungeon of Doom: Added a dungeon Realm and a Mountain Realm.
  • Dragon's Tower: Replaced the center of the board with another endgame scenario.

Fourth Edition[edit]

None, except the upgrade pack to Revised Fourth.

Revised Fourth Edition[edit]

FFG have been very active in producing expansion packs since acquiring the rights to the franchise, and have released a number of "small box" and "large box" expansions.

Small Box expansions[edit]

Generally add 3-4 more player characters in addition to more Adventure and Treasure cards.

  • The Reaper
  • The Frostmarch
  • The Sacred Pool
  • The Blood Moon
  • The Firelands
  • The Harbinger

Large Box expansions[edit]

Add new board sections and victory conditions as well as new player characters and Adventure cards.

  • The Dungeon
  • The Highland
  • The Dragon
  • The City
  • The Woodland
  • The Cataclysm

Fifth Edition?[edit]

Talisman is coming back. Fantasy Flight and GW don't work together anymore, so GW is doing this solo. We know exactly zero about it, and could be set in Age of Sigmar, the original setting, or something completely different. GW seems to be loving these Fantasy board games now.

Board Games
Classics: Backgammon - Chess - Go - Tafl - Tic-Tac-Toe
Ameritrash: Arkham Horror - Axis & Allies - Battleship - Betrayal at House on the Hill - Car Wars
Clue/Cluedo - Cosmic Encounter - Descent: Journeys in the Dark - Dungeon!
Firefly: The Game - HeroQuest - Monopoly - Snakes and Ladders - Risk - Talisman - Trivial Pursuit
Eurogames: Agricola - Carcassonne - Settlers of Catan - Small World - Stratego - Ticket to Ride
Pure Evil: Diplomacy - Dune (aka Rex: Final Days of an Empire) - Monopoly
Others: Icehouse - Shadow Hunters - Twilight Imperium