[TT] Talisman

I mentioned Talisman: Prologue over the weekend. So, what about Talisman itself? It’s a random number generator overlaid with a fantasy game skin.

The flavor of Talisman is right: fantasy adventure, many classes and options, slaying monsters, gaining treasure and followers. In practice, you’re getting a random walk through all of that, where the importance of any decisions you make is vastly dwarfed by the randomness of deck and dice. You might get killed by the strongest creatures in the deck in your first turns, find half the weakest monsters an hour into the game, or perfectly replicate the hero’s journey. You’re basically along for the ride, without the opportunity to play through a story like Betrayal at House on the Hill. The ride can be fun at times, but it is pretty clearly a ride; you are not driving. You roll a die, and then the most important decision you make most turns is, “Do I move right or left?”

Potentially good for younger players or people who enjoy long games but not strategy or decision-making, something you can talk around, hoot and holler when the dice go your way, and blame the dice when they don’t. I find it time-consuming and unsatisfying, something I can neither play with serious gamers (who tend to care if their decisions matter) nor casual gamers (who tend not to play multi-hour games that require dozens of pieces). Board Game Geek lists this as a 90-minute game, and maybe it is with two experienced players; I usually see it cited around 4 hours. Talisman is remarkably newbie-friendly, what with the lack of decisions to make. You can teach someone to play in less than 5 minutes, less than 30 seconds if you want to explain four stats and set them loose.

: Zubon

I really want to like Talisman, but my reaction is more, “This?! This is a foundational work of fantasy and board gaming?”

2 thoughts on “[TT] Talisman”

  1. Talisman is, I think, the only fantasy-themed board game I have ever played. There’s a copy of the first edition somewhere in my loft and I have strong memories of playing it and enjoying it as a child.

    Only…I just checked wikipedia and Talisman wasn’t released until 1983, by which time I’d graduated from university and was working in a comic shop. So I guess I was a post-education, married adult when I bought and played Talisman. Probably played it with my ex-wife, I guess. We played a lot of games – board, card, video…

    With that inaccuracy of recall in mind anything I say has to be treated with extreme caution. The man things I remember about Talisman is that I loved playing it for a while and then later, coming back to it, I found it dull; that it always went on too long (but then I would be very hard-put to name any board game I have ever played that didn’t); that I had no sense of the game being overly “random” because to me all board games were like that (and still are) because decision-making rarely enters the forefront of my mind when I play board games.

    The main thing I remember is that Talisman was beautiful and evocative and there was literally nothing else like it. It’s all very well to dismiss it now, when the world is stuffed tobursting with gorgeously-packaged, fantasy themed board games, but at the time it was Talisman or Totopoly.#

    Ah, Totopoly…now there’s a tedious, never ending, nightmare on a wet winter Sunday afternoon…

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