Friday, 19 September 2014

Review: Talisman (3rd Edition)

I have a distant memory of the shop. From what I recall (and we all know how unreliable memory is) it was probably in Chester and sold nothing other than bunch of board games. The walls were lined with piles of them, while the centre was taken up with...something. I don't think there were any windows; maybe it was in some kind of basement? I only went in that shop once, and can't be certain that it existed before or after that single visit.

Which lends itself very nicely to the kind of game Talisman is.

I think I bought what turned out to be the 2nd edition of Talisman (I understand it only has a cosmetic difference to the 1st edition) solely on the fact that there was a great big dragon on the front of the box.Wings spread, looking very dynamic. It turned out to be a very fun game indeed for 8 year old(? complete guess at age) me. Set in a fantasy world, you traveled the board, increasing your skills, before tackling the dragon in the centre and claiming the Crown of Command.

I had no idea about Games Workshop or their miniatures at the time, in fact it was only when the 3rd edition was released, in 1994, by now having painted a few Citadel Miniatures and attempted to read the rules of Warhammer, that pieced together the the game and the company in my mind.

Obviously I had to buy the new, improved version of my favourite game!

This new version, and the version of this review, came complete with plastic miniatures as the playing pieces, unlike the bits of cardboard you used in the original. While your first impression might be that this is a great improvement, remember that the miniatures come unpainted and thus how great they look is highly dependent on your ability to paint tiny things. Mine so.

Although the box states '12+' the game rules are relatively simple to understand and I've spent the past week playing with my 7 and 5 year old. Even my 3 year old daughter has been joining in and gets the general idea of what to do. This is much in contrast to the extensive rules of other Warhammer games where trying to teach people the rules can take an age. Most of the game instructions come from the Adventures cards which you have to pick up on virtually every space on the board. Having the rules printed there means you have less to read before you begin and the vast number of cards means every game is different.

One issue is the size of the board and getting access to all sides of it (especially with expansions - but more on those later!). While most board games you can sit in your chair, Talisman will require you to get out of your seat and take a stroll round the other side of the board to see the instructions on the space. Having a large Lazy Susan (who was Susan? And why was she so lazy?) would be very beneficial for, well, lazy people.

Playing time takes around a couple of hours, though my kids have been playing the same game on and off for days and still enjoying it. And I mean really enjoying it. They've essentially been doing nothing else in their free time since they dug this game out of the cupboard. They love the ability to increase their skills, fight off monsters (and each other). I suspect they may be putting off fighting the dragon as they don't want the game to end.

The children were very excited to learn I've also got the 2nd edition (at Grandma's) and are looking forward to playing that next time we're there. They've also asked for the 4th edition for Christmas (which is no longer made by Games Workshop, though still comes with plastic miniatures as the playing pieces), which has a whole heap of expansions for it (so if anyone's wondering what to buy them for Christmas, now you know). It could well prove to be an electronics-free Winter.


The 2nd edition had expansions released for it, though I never realised it at the time, which expanded the core game by introducing new characters, boards and rules. For the 3rd edition the expansions were announced at the time of release and followed quickly onto the main game.

For the first game the kids and I played we stuck to the core game, but they were eager to add the extras in. For the 3rd edition there are five new sections, four of which go onto the corners of the board and the fifth is a large cardboard tower, leading up to a model of the dragon (dragon currently at Grandma's house thus absent in the photos).

The Dragon's Tower, I would say, is an essential addition as it creates both a centre piece to the board itself and provides a much more interesting climax to the game. The other boards don't do much, other than making it slightly easier to get hold of a talisman (a piece of equipment necessary to enter the tower). I've played games in the past with these corner regions and no one's bothered to enter them. It's also slightly annoying that the entry/exit points of the corner regions don't line up exactly with the entry/exit on the main board so it's not entirely clear where the crossing is between the boards.

Of course there's now the 4th edition however, despite owning it for a while now, I haven't got around to playing yet. 'More like the 2nd edition' is what I'm told, though some people also tell me that dogs can't look up.

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