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Talisman (Revised 4th Edition)» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Memories and nostalgia - 5/10 rss

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Bruno Pigeon
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Once upon a time, in a life almost forgotten, I got a great birthday present: Talisman 2nd edition. What a great day that was. Ripping open the paper, and opening the box for the first time. Don't know about the english edition, but the French edition box was made like a book, in a really cheap plastic. And a little drama followed. My cousin ran away with the box, slipped and fell down on it, crushing the plastic. It was still usable, but I cried a lot.

I remember playing, the laughter, being turned into a frog, fighting dragons and demons, meeting wizards and fairies, getting the plague. The adventure, discovering great artifacts.

Time passed, I grew older, and for some reason, I got rid of my Talisman. For the past few years, I had great regrets about my game. Why oh why did I sell it? It was a gift from my mother, and she passed away 3 years ago. And it hurts. And I had all those memories of playing with my friends, my father, my mother and sister.

And recently, I got to play the 4th edition a few times. First game was a lot of fun, a trip down memory lane. Rediscovering the runic sword, the spells, the mule and followers. What a great time!

Then I got to play a second time, and a third. And now I remembered why I sold it.

In Talisman, you get to be a fantasy character in a race to win the Crown of Command. Whoever grabs the Crown of Command can cast spells to kills all his opponents and become King of the World. You start as a somewhat weak character, with unique special powers, and then gain experience and loot, and become stronger and stronger.

And it's great fun at first. You roll the dice, choose to move left of right, draw a card or two, which can be loot, events or monsters and your turn is done. You can also fight other players and steal their stuff if you land on the same space. You have some destiny points that can be spent on a re-roll. That's the game in a nutshell.

You get good stuff, you get bad stuff, you laugh at the misfortune of your competitors, for about an hour. Then it begins to feel repetitive. You encounter a dragon, for the third time. You get powerful stuff, then lose it when you become a frog, again. You lose a turn for the tenth time. You enter the mines, confident of your power, only to get lost and start in the outer region, again and again. And you get killed, and start from zero. And get again that stupid witch, who makes all of your followers run away.

And that is what kills the game. It could be a great fun game, if it lasted for an hour. But it drags on and on. It reminds me a lot of snakes and ladders. In that game a player will rise to the top, victory is near at end, then you fall down to the bottom, and rise again, and fall again, and rise, and fall. Until someone gets lucky and finally ends the stupid game.

Even the ending drags on and on. Every step of the way through the inner region can send you back to the beginning, and if you grab the crown of command, do you win? No, you have to roll the dice each turn, and on 4-5-6, every other players lose a life. So you roll, get a 5, everyone lose a life, then one gets fully healed, the other gain a spell that block you, you roll a 2, then a 3, then a 1, and a game that was almost over goes on and on for an hour more.

Sure you can houserule the thing to death to make it an enjoyable experience. But the base game is seriously flawed in my opinion. It's a bit like taking your car and going for a ride, except you turn around in circles. At first you discover great sights, but once you've seen it a few times, the fun disappear.

Imagine playing Diablo, but once you reach the final level, you get sent back to the first level and lose most of your loot. That's what Talisman is.

As a matter of fact, I don't ever remember playing a complete game of Talisman. It always ends when everybody just give up.
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Mike Oberly
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super_bruno wrote:

As a matter of fact, I don't ever remember playing a complete game of Talisman. It always ends when everybody just give up.


I think I've finished some games, but this is still a pretty good summation. laugh

It's a game very much of its time. I enjoyed it back then, but there are so many better options nowadays, at least for me. I can still be talked into playing it with friends over beer, though...I'm easy.
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Paolo Tosolini
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This review reminds me of the first games of Talisman I've played with friends in 2008 after the release of the Revised 4th edition. We used to play games that started at 22 in the evening and ended up at 5 in the morning. Things went more or less as you describe.

Basically if you don't know when you can win, what you can expect when you draw cards, what can stop you on your way to the Crown and what can stalemate the game, this is probably the impression you'll get about Talisman's winning conditions.

People who happen to like this game have played it a lot, despite the long time it requires when players are unexperienced. When you get acquainted with the game content and mechanics, there's less downtime between turns and decisions are taken consciously. Players who go completely random in their play usually don't win now. If you happen to have constant bad luck throughout the game, still you can't win Talisman. Better take it with a smile and hope for the next time. I've played 38 games in a row before winning my first one with 4th edition, losing even to the last newbies; now I'm winning 45% of the games I play. That's not because my luck has steadily improved, it's my perspective on the game that has changed.

Nobody is supposed to buy expansions of a game that he doesn't like, but I ensure you that they've added a lot to the core game in terms of options and less random choices, including shorter and funny Alternative Endings. We still like to play with standard Crown of Command, though.
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Aswin Agastya
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Well, it's kind of funny to hear that Talisman is an all luck game, yet some groups never finish this, some in 3 hours, others in 90 minutes.

That perception that Talisman is a light game will often become a tar pit for inexperienced group.

I had a steady group of 3 players... we finish in 90 minutes (a 2 hours game is stretching it). One of us had poor English.

There were several... code of conduct that we follow.

First, a normal Talisman turn should not last more than 15 seconds. Deciding where to go is generally very simple. If possible, we always go to empty card space, unless we have a target. Cycle the adventure deck as soon as possible.

Second, generally we avoid doing nothing. This includes beating/encountering another player with minimal gain and visiting a full card space that yields nothing. I'd rather hit the tavern or forest space than a card space with a helmet I do not want.

Third, at its core, Talisman is a competitive game, and despite all the randomness, can be played as such. This doesn't mean you have to calculate everything as if you're playing a zero luck Euro, but rather you don't want to be too far into the laid-back nature of the game. I won about 50-60% of our games of Talisman.

Fourth, you get to the CoC as soon as possible. When you have 12+ attribute, you go up there, not screwing other players. Sometimes we went in at very low scores, using items to mitigate the inner region.

Those above seems like a dry set of rules, but really... playing fast really helps. Interesting things keep happening, and when nothing happens the moment go away in a blink.
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Bruno Pigeon
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I agree with you on all of your points. But I think it's not as much a matter of the number of minutes you play, but the number of turns. Cycling through the adventure deck for the 3rd time in the game is not as fun a doing it once.

Yes you have decisions to make and it's not all luck. But luck plays an important role in this game, and luck can easily send you back to the beginning, making you lose 4 or 5 turns to return where you were.

And having to come up with a code of conduct, houserules or whatever to shorten the experience does illustrate the fact that the game goes on for too long.

 
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Bruno Pigeon
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The_Warlock wrote:
This review reminds me of the first games of Talisman I've played with friends in 2008 after the release of the Revised 4th edition. We used to play games that started at 22 in the evening and ended up at 5 in the morning. Things went more or less as you describe.

Basically if you don't know when you can win, what you can expect when you draw cards, what can stop you on your way to the Crown and what can stalemate the game, this is probably the impression you'll get about Talisman's winning conditions.

People who happen to like this game have played it a lot, despite the long time it requires when players are unexperienced. When you get acquainted with the game content and mechanics, there's less downtime between turns and decisions are taken consciously. Players who go completely random in their play usually don't win now. If you happen to have constant bad luck throughout the game, still you can't win Talisman. Better take it with a smile and hope for the next time. I've played 38 games in a row before winning my first one with 4th edition, losing even to the last newbies; now I'm winning 45% of the games I play. That's not because my luck has steadily improved, it's my perspective on the game that has changed.

Nobody is supposed to buy expansions of a game that he doesn't like, but I ensure you that they've added a lot to the core game in terms of options and less random choices, including shorter and funny Alternative Endings. We still like to play with standard Crown of Command, though.


Well, having owned the game for about 25 years and played it a lot, I did have some knowledge about what to expect.

Yet you still won't convince me that luck doesn't play a big part in Talisman. And that is not what I am complaining about.

What I am saying, is that the game gets repetitive after a while and goes on for too long. And the luck factor doesn't help because it can keep the game going on and on.

Return of the Heroes suffered from a similar problem, in that you could postpone the endgame for far too long. But it was easier to overcome in Return of the Heroes since you can choose to go where you want. You just had to decide when. In Talisman, you can decide when you want to go for the ending, but there is no guarantee you'll get there quickly.

 
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Paolo Tosolini
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super_bruno wrote:

Well, having owned the game for about 25 years and played it a lot, I did have some knowledge about what to expect.

Yet you still won't convince me that luck doesn't play a big part in Talisman. And that is not what I am complaining about.


I didn't plan to convince you of such a thing. Luck grants victory to first time players and bad luck sometimes breaks all your certainties. In fact, I said that now I win 45% of the games I play, not 100%. Considering that my luck is usually poor, it's still a good rate. Talisman is not only about winning, usually it is more about what happens in the meantime.

super_bruno wrote:
What I am saying, is that the game gets repetitive after a while and goes on for too long. And the luck factor doesn't help because it can keep the game going on and on.


The standard Talisman endgame is supposed to be long and other characters are supposed to have a chance of stopping who tries to win the game. I don't consider the Inner Region to be a really difficult challenge, especially with the current edition where you have fate tokens; if you fail miserably at the Mines, Dice with Death and such spaces, probably you didn't calculate your chances correctly.

If somebody else has a Random Spell and casts it succesfully on you, it can hit you hard but shortly after somebody else should take your place in the lead. In every Talisman game there is a leading character, 1-2 pursuers, and 1-3 characters that are having a hard time and cannot hope for anything, unless the big contenders hit each other so bad that the outsiders get a sudden second chance.

I don't know of dragged and boring finales, actually. I've either seen granted winners be overthrown, or win as expected while nobody was able to stop them. The ending was either long and full of surprises, or quick and predictable.

Still, I noticed that in some games there's a moment, preceding the final rush, where the games tends to drag a bit; leaders are setting themselves up for the attempt, while others wander around with no real purpose, hoping that somebody would end the game quickly. But when the rush begins, it is usually an exciting moment for everyone.

Everybody plays the game in different conditions and with different people, so I'm not saying that you're wrong or that I don't believe you. Your review reminded me of the first games with 4th Edition, when I played Talisman less regularly and with an often changing group, where nobody got very familiar with Talisman. Probably I lost so many games in the first years because I had to teach the game to at least 1 newbie per game, so I tended to give a lot of suggestions and neglect my own character. My impression was that I used to feel more or less like you, but now I have a different opinion of this game and I tried to explain you what has changed for me in the years.
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