- Merric Blackman(MerricB)Australia
VictoriaHappily playing games for many, many years.
Glen had played with me in the strange game we’d played of Talisman with the Firelands expansion, and was very eager to see what the game was like when played without that expert expansion. I’m not overly fond of Talisman as a two-player game – a large part of the fun of Talisman for me these days comes from seeing the player interaction – but it was likely to play quite quickly using just the base game, so I set it up. Randomly choosing characters, I dealt Glen the Monk and myself the Sorceress. Glen then promptly got Cursed by a Hag, stopping himself from taking any followers and stripping me of one of my major powers – the ability to take his followers from him!
It was entertaining to see Glen’s first experiences with the core game. Talisman is an excellent game, and one that I played hundreds of games of as a teenager. It is not a game that needs much strategy; there are decisions to be made, but they are not as crucial as in a game like Twilight Struggle. It is far more about the experience. Talisman allows you to feel like you’re playing a heroic fantasy adventurer. This accessibility is a great feature to the game; you don’t need to know much to start playing the game, and is a chief reason why it’s still available twenty years after its debut and Magic Realm is not! (Magic Realm is likely a better game for experts, but trying to learn it in the first place is challenging).
This game we played almost entirely in the outer region; we found enough treasure and monsters there so that we never really needed to adventure in the middle region – we only went there when we were moving towards the Portal of Power and the Crown of Command. Glen spent about half the game cursed, managing to roll every number but what he needed to land on the Village Mystic, but he eventually got there. Of course, the only follower he then got was the Alchemist. I was delighted to gain the Maiden, but Glen found the Crown of Solomon, and thus we both managed to boost our Craft by a couple of points. Likewise, we split the rewards from the Fountain of Wisdom.
Talisman has a reputation as a game that can take a very long time to finish. This game took under an hour. Two players does tend to go by faster, but we had an additional advantage: I’ve played a lot of the game. I can instantly tell you where your die roll takes you without counting spaces. And, furthermore, I understand what you need to win the game. My rule of thumb is that you need 10 points of either Strength or Craft to successfully negotiate the perils of the Inner Region, and so the early part of the game needs to be concentrated on gaining what you need.
There are a few design decisions and rulings that have been made since the original game that I disagree with. One of those regards the Monk – someone decided he needed to be “balanced” by having only his initial Craft score add to his Strength in combat rather than his full Craft score. The trouble with that is that it basically strips away the advantages the Monk has. His low initial stats – which requires him to gain one more point of Craft to win the game than other characters – are balanced by the ability to only need to concentrate on Craft. Strength in Combat, while nice, is no substitute to having actual Strength. So, when you play at my table, the Monk returns to his original greatness.
I hasten to add that I don’t disagree with all the rulings and changes that have been made. The revised versions of the Prophetess, Druid and Priest, for instance, are great changes that improve the game.
Glen got into position to tackle the Inner Region before I did – barely – and began his ascent, easily defeating the Sentinel to reach the Hidden Valley, where nothing bad happened to him. (Alas!) I had an axe by this stage, so I used it to build a Raft and cross to the Oasis, where I picked up the one gold that Glen had lost earlier in the game, shedding the Poltergeist in the process. Glen discarded the second Talisman the Hermit gave him in the Plain of Peril, thus giving me the chance to claim it myself, as I was lacking a Talisman, and then cast Acquisition on me to take my Magic Belt – if he’d just waited until I’d picked up the Talisman, he could have stopped me reaching the Crown of Command entirely!
It took him two turns to traverse the mines. The Vampires took only one life from him – he discarded the Alchemist – and he finally reached the Crown and spent several turns ineffectively casting the Command Spell at me.
I eventually gathered up the courage to enter the Inner Region, though I knew that Glen had a big advantage in the final combat. It didn’t help that he had finally worked out how to roll above four on the die, and so I was losing lives from the Command Spell as I made my ascent. The Vampires took only a lone follower from me (the Princess), but I was down to one life when I reached the Pit Fiends, and with only five strength! I cast a Healing Spell, but Glen responded with a Counterspell. I then died to the first Pit Fiend (of six) I faced, and Glen had won the game!
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- Steve ShockleyUnited States
Nice session report! Sounds like a reasonably close game. Most of my two player games have been lopsided and a little anticlimactic.
Talisman is a game that I resisted for a long time. When I finally bought and played it, I realized that it's a true gem. It is as much a ride as a game, but it feels more like a fantasy adventure than any other game in the genre I've tried.
I only have the base game and the Reaper expansion, and I initially thought that would be enough. Now I'm thinking I should get everything I can while it's in print; otherwise I've a feeling I'll be kicking myself years down the road.
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