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The Cataclysm is the final expansion for Talisman 4th edition, and it is probably the most feature-rich expansion of them all, adding content to just about every deck, including new purchase cards, terrain cards, Warlock's Quest cards, alternate endings, characters, spells and Adventure cards, along with a couple new card types. And, of course, the main feature: a new main board to use instead of the original. After the land of Talisman was destroyed by the apocalypse in the Talisman Harbinger expansion, this expansion depicts the post-apocalyptic remains of the land, with old artifacts left over from earlier times and scattered denizens of the land trying to come together to rebuild civilization.



On the theme:
The fantasy world post-apocalyptic theme is interesting, and one that I don't see very often. There are looters and scavengers in the Adventure deck, along with Blightwood cultists who worship some kind of Lovecraftian being and mutate into multi-armed monsters. The board depicts ravaged landscapes and destroyed or flooded towns. There are definitely some Mad Max references in the decks, and I really like the feel overall.

You can use any and all other expansions with this one, though it may be thematically odd. You can even use the Harbinger with the Cataclysm, which would create a setting where destructive apocalypses apparently occur in rapid succession.


On the new Board:
The new board is, gameplay-wise, generally an improvement in my opinion. The biggest change is that "town" type spaces (The City, Village, Chapel, Graveyard, and Castle) are all changed to "Draw 1 Denizen card". Denizens are card versions of town type space encounters, like the City Enchantress or Village Blacksmith. These spaces are more interesting now, as they don't always have the same encounters available, and sometimes you can run into a good one-time-use Denizen.

As for the rest of the board:
The new Chasm space is sooooo much better than the old one. Now, instead of just losing life and/or followers, you choose one of your objects or followers to discard. Now that some of the essential denizens used to get rid of negative objects/followers are buried in a deck instead of freely available, it is good to have a space where you can get rid of any negative object or follower (like the Hag, for example). The Crags and Forest spaces also make you discard an object or follower if you roll low.
The Cursed Glad and Desert and Runes spaces let you draw 2 cards instead of 1, now, which makes the middle region more attractive and can help people progress more quickly. You also get to heal for free at the Oasis, which is nice. There is an extra desert space, which makes water bottles more valuable. You can now enter the inner region with a Warlock's Quest, though you will suffer a penalty to enter the Portal of Power. I like the new inner region, it's a bit different, and a bit less unfair (no dice with Death) while possibly being more lethal.

Overall, the board is nice for variety and has some nice little tweaks. Also, the artwork is really great.


The new board

On the new Denizen deck:
All the people who lived in the town, city, chapel, etc. now roam the land and can be found in the Denizen deck. Some of them are card versions of encounters on the original board (e.g. Chapel healer, the Ferryman, Village mystic, Doctor, etc.) and a lot of them are new. Some of them will stick around on their space and some of them are discarded once encountered. I do like the variety of them and I think they make the "civilized" spaces more attractive, since you always draw a denizen when visiting one of these spaces and some of them are quite good. Also, it is neat to see empty town spaces slowly become populated with multiple denizens as the game goes on, as if the town was being rebuilt as you play.

A couple of the Denizens

On the new Remnant Cards:
There are a number of spaces on the new board that start with face down Remnant cards at the start of the game, representing old relics left over from before the apocalypse. The Remnant deck consists of low level enemies and goodies with some nice magic objects and places and events mixed in. Remnant cards start on the board and are not replenished, giving players an incentive to explore various parts of the board to uncover the Remnant cards before their opponents.

Some of the Remnant cards

On Talisman Cards:
There are 6 new cards for the Talisman deck to use instead of the base game Talisman deck. Each Talisman gives you some kind of bonus ability or effect, except for the false Talisman (which you must keep until you find a real Talisman). I really like that Talismans now give you some kind of benefit besides just allowing you to enter the Valley of Fire. A great addition to the game.

The new Talismans. The Ageless Talisman is a Remnant card

On Purchase Cards:
This is the only expansion for Talisman that adds cards to the Purchase deck. For the most part, the new purchase cards already existed as loot in various decks throughout the expansions or adventure deck, but it is nice to see them purchasable outright at the various merchant-type cards added in this expansion. Most of them are generally useful and great cards to have.

The new purchase cards

On Terrain Cards:
I like the new Terrain cards. The Firelands expansion added normal board spaces as Terrain cards, while the Harbinger expansion added a bunch of new terrains that were generally painful to land on. In the Cataclysm, the terrain cards all represent a rebuilding of civilization and are all generally useful instead of painful, which is nice.

Some of the new Terrains

On characters:
I like the characters. Overall they are good and pretty straightforward, unlike characters from the Woodland and Harbinger, which generally required extra tokens or messing with strength and craft values. The plastic miniatures are made of the high quality plastic FFG has been using in their more recent games. The miniatures are more durable feeling and more detailed than many in earlier expansions.

Barbarian: I really like this character. He's really straightforward and good. He hits hard and focuses on strength, and has abilities that prevent him from using magic but also protect him from other people's magic. His crags ability gives him a board space for free healing and fate replenishment, which can be hard to come by on the Rebirth board. It's also nice not having to worry about craft AT ALL.

Mutant: The mutant can lose a life to randomly mutate once a turn. Those mutations can be very hit or miss. She is a very swingy, but potentially powerful, character.

Black Knight: This guy is brutal for PVP style play. He doesn't even have to encounter someone to make them lose a life or a gold. His ability, combined with the spiked shield, make it painful for other players to be around him. Also, it is possible for the Black Knight character to run into the Black Knight denizen, which is funny. Must be bad blood between two rivals.

Scavenger: This character has a built-in concealed pouch ability, and the ability to carry any number of objects. It's very nice for players who like to hold on to everything. They can also take stuff off the top of the discard pile, which can be very nice at certain times. Good, straightforward character.

Arcane Scion: This character is all about gaining spells and magic objects. He can steal spells and magic object from others, and can gain and spend spells throughout the game. Since his ability allows him to discard a spell without casting it, this character can cycle through multiple spells without worrying about getting stuck with one they cannot cast. Powerful.


On the new Adventure and Spell cards:
The Cataclysm adds to the adventure and spell decks, just as all expansions do. The cards fit in fine with the Talisman generic fantasy theme, with the general theme of the new cards being either post-apocalyptic-ish, about building new towns or roads, or about mutants and cultists or raiders. There are some separate groups that have multiple cards associated with them in the Adventure cards. For example, there are a number of "Blightwood" cards like slavers, mutants, and cultists who seem to come from the Forest space. There are also a number of "Ashfield" cards, like Ashfield looters and the "Queen of Ash", their leader. They steal things and stash them at the Oasis and look a bit like raiders from Mad Max. There is a shout-out to Timescape in the Spell cards, "Astral Journey", which grants you a strength and a craft as you travel to some other dimension or place (represented by missing your current turn). Overall, I like the new cards a lot.


On the Alternate Endings:
I quite like the "Eternal Crown" ending. It is similar to the normal endgame, but faster and more interesting (the caster has a chance of losing a life, themselves), but it doesn't end the game so quickly that the ending is rendered pointless (like the "Crown and Scepter" ending).

"The One Talisman" is interesting, in that it limits the game to having one Talisman only, which increases your strength and craft while you hold it, but it may be stolen by anyone who does something that would normal get them a Talisman.

"Lands of Wonder" is a great ending for speeding up the game. All players draw one more adventure card than normal for the whole game! Also, players can attempt to collect encountered cards for themselves (including places, events, strangers, etc). You need at least 12 collected cards to win. This ending is great for getting more cards out and getting lame cards off of the board so new ones can come out.

"The Cult of the Damned" is one I haven't tried, but looks interesting. Basically, all denizens in the land turn out to be evil cultists who want to claim the inner region, and probably the Crown of Command, for their cult or something. The game becomes co-operative, and all players have to work together to kill every last one of them before they reach the inner region.

The new ending cards

Summary:
Overall, this is a great expansion. It adds a lot of content to the various decks that add variety without adding fiddlyness or new rules or mechanics on top of everything (except for the Denizen cards). A lot of the card effects or mechanics are new or different, but not too drastic in theme or feel from what I expect out of Talisman, which is good. I can't say that about all the other expansions.

Talisman 4th edition had a great, long run of expansion content, and while this isn't the one expansion to tie them all together (like Arkham Horror's Miskatonic Horror expansion), it does expand upon many of the mechanics introduced in the earlier expansions, and provides a large kit of options to use whenever you want to play a game of Talisman. At this point, I am a bit sad it will no longer be officially supported or expanded, but I have enough content and options to play it endlessly.

Talisman is Dead! Long live Talisman!


Thanks to Azioc and CristiQ for uploading the photos.
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Samuel Bailey
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Thank you for the great overview and review of Cataclysm. It was a pleasure to work on, and I am happy that you have enjoyed it. Wish I could have done those 4 more corner boards though, would have been great.
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azoic
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Nice to see that you used my pictures ...
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Plaid Dragon
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Always reference/credit your pic sources.
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Aaron Tubb
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azoic wrote:
Nice to see that you used my pictures ...
Yes, I hope you don't mind. I put a footnote at the end noting that you took the photos.
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