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This is a session report for Ultimate Talisman!

What is Ultimate Talisman? It’s Talisman with all expansions, from Reaper to Cataclysm, with all standard rules and no house rules or variants. We were lucky to get six players together for this epic adventure!

For characters, we mixed all 69 together and each drew one and played that. I drew the Totem Warrior and this report will be about his journey. The other starting characters were the Spy, Celestial, Mutant, Conjurer, and Warlord, but we also ended up with the Dark Cultist, Elementalist, Troll, Chivalric Knight, Gladiator, Dwarf, Prophetess, and Ghoul due to the deaths that occurred!

For Endings, we randomly determined to play revealed and drew Dragon King. We wanted to use the full Dragon expansion regardless of the ending, so we called the boss the “Old Dragon King.” We figured that, according to the lore in the rulebook, he may be the very first Dragon King that the notorious wizard banished to the Horrible Black Void, while the Draconic Lords are his underlings.

We randomly determined the Inner Region (Dragon Realm) and Omen (Stars Align) and were ready to begin!

The Prophecy: The Stars Align
I started off heading into the Woodland on the Path of Glory. The Werewolf followed me in there and turned me into a lycanthrope. Well, an interesting start to the adventure! I immediately found Oberon's Gate; being lightbound, I was flung to an area beyond my control: the Mountain Pass in the Highland. The First Sign (and The Conjunction Omen) happened pretty quickly in the first round and I learned the Crack the Earth Spell.

1: The Conjunction
I cast Crack the Earth on the Celestial, who ended up getting killed by the Reaper after the Mutant stole all the fate with the Cheat Fate Spell. Nothing like a deadly start!

I wandered around the Highland, finding a few gems and killing a couple of weak Enemies. I also found a Lucky Charm and Dragon’s Teeth. I used the charm to evade the boulder thrown at me by a Skyfall Sentry, and the Dragon’s Teeth to help kill it. The creature was guarding a Magic Mace! What a helpful weapon. Someone encountered the Heretic Angel who signaled the next Omen.

2: Mysterious Knowledge
I learned the Psionic Blast and Summon Stormcrow Spells from the Mysterious Knowledge. I used a totem spirit token to heal a life, and then someone cast Dark Binding on me, forcing me into the Eyrie. Well, I wasn’t ready to fight the Eagle King, but I had no choice! I cast Psionic Blast - my only decent chance of winning - but it was countered by Dispellation. Not wanting to sacrifice my Magic Mace to cancel it, I took the loss. I tumbled down the mountain back to the Crags as the Eagle King laughed. Dusting myself off, I headed into the Chapel, where I met a couple of helpful lads. First, I met a Hermit who gave me a Talisman of Power! Then I met a Bounty Hunter; I gave him the gold I found in the Lost City and he went out to kill a Frost Giant for me! +1 Strength. Someone used the Altar of Wrath, so the land was now engulfed with Power Overwhelming.

3: Power Overwhelming
I made a pretty uneventful journey over to the Tavern where I met a Boatman who offered to ferry me somewhere. I asked him to take me to the Castle so I could start using my Talisman of Power in the Middle Region. Well, a lot happened while he was getting the boat ready. First, the werewolf burst into the tavern and attacked me while I was sitting there peacefully drinking ale. I was wounded (I rolled a 6, but someone darked it to a 3). After he left, I became evil while witnessing Hell on Earth and the tavern became engulfed by Hellpits. Then, the werewolf came back again and wounded me (rolled 2). I was down to one life. I had to roll again, and I could die. I rolled a 6 - and of course, someone darked it - but luckily they re-rolled a 5. Since I was already a lycanthrope that was +1 to 6, and so the werewolf decided to take pity on me and heal all my lives. Phew.

Made it over to the Middle Region and killed a Demon of Decay, but I left over the bridge when the Harbinger showed up. And then I got stuck with a False Prophet. And then the Troll attacked me and took my Talisman of Power. Thanks, Troll.

You know what goes nicely with the False Prophet and five other players carrying dark fate? The Reaper. By nice, I mean heart-poundingly scary. Somehow I didn't die, even after a dark re-roll. Well, I had enough of the Outer Region. Time to explore the Highland again.

On the way over to the Highland we (me and the prophet) went to the Crags and found some gold in a Ruined City. I summoned the Stormcrow to fight the scavengers and won! (+1 Strength). Someone used the Altar of Envy and thus began the Arcane Feedback.

4: Arcane Feedback
While we were lost in the Ruined Mine, my good friend the Werewolf came by and killed the False Prophet! Nicely done, Wolfie! I left, found a couple of gems and a Stream of Knowledge! I drank the water and felt smarter (+1 Craft). The Werewolf came on over and replenished all my fate. OK, I forgive you for nearly killing me back at the Tavern.

I made friends with a lovely Horned Owl, but the Werewolf came and killed it too. You know what, Wolfie? We can’t keep having this on-again, off-again relationship. I left the Highland alone, killing some Enemies along the way, drinking from the Stream of Knowledge (+1 Craft) again and later the Magic Stream (+1 Strength). After someone killed a Doomsday Prophet, the next Omen became active.

5: Burnt Away
I killed a Miser Dragon with my Magic Mace and totem spirits (+1 Strength), gaining 4 gold from its hoard. Time for a trip to the City. I went on a bit of a rampage, killing a Varthrax Warlord here, a sleeping Eastern Dragon there, and eventually made it into the City where I somehow killed a massive Shadow Dragon.

I found a Barterer who would give me anything he had for anything I had. Would you trade a Flail for an Opal? You would? Here, take this junk... I mean, this most valuable of all gems. Wow. A free Flail. I put that Magic Mace away and swung my awesome new weapon in the air. Time to go on a battling spree. Someone lost against the Horseman of Disease, so I lost Strength because I didn’t have my Talisman of Power anymore. Thanks, Troll.

Oh and then the Third Sign came. That’s great. I really like losing Strength and Craft. Thank you, whoever triggered that. Probably the Troll.

6: Fleeting Magic
Time to spend money. I had 7 gold. Went to the Menagerie and bought a pet. Of all animals, the shopkeeper brought out a wolf named Fang. I’m a werewolf, in a complicated relationship with another werewolf, leading a third wolf. Great. We went to the Stables, got a Riding Horse, and then took the Wharf over to the Magic Stream for another drink.

Time was running out and I was not ready to get through the Inner Region yet. I rode my horse over to the Village, with Fang at my side. The Village was being raided by the servants of Cadorus. We stormed in there and tore up the streets, killing a Cadorus Acolyte, a Copper Wyvern, and an Amethyst Dragon. Stat buffs all around, but we still lacked a Talisman and enough power to get through the Dragon Realm.

But then we found the Ageless Talisman lying in the grass! And the final Omen was triggered... the Dragon Realm was now empty and harmless! Time to haul over there!

7: A World Without Magic
We dashed over to the Sentinel, killing cultists and animals from horseback along the way, but the path past the Sentinel was blocked by the Grilipus scale, since he was wearing the Crown! Argh, there is no time to waste on this! Luckily I found the Dragon Spirits and I told them to go take the dragon scale from the Sentinel. I was ready to go to the Dragon Realm, but the Elementalist found the Dragonspire in the Woodland and it brought him straight to the Crown of Command. He had 14 Strength and 5 life, but no Talisman and no fate! Would he kill the Old Dragon King and win?!

The Old Dragon King flew around the land, attacking everybody and killing several characters. Fang and I survived, but the Elementalist did not; after several rounds of combat, eventually he was killed.

It was down to me, the Ghoul, and the Troll. For these two, who had no chance to win, the game turned from “let’s try to win” to “let’s bring on the apocalypse.” Bah! We’ll show them!

We rode like thunder past the Sentinel, smacking it in the face with the Flail, and kicked open the Portal of Power. I led the horse and Fang through the empty Dragonbone Crypt and the abandoned lair of the Covetous Dragon. Well at least the Dragon Realm was easy!

Until the Troll TROLLED me and used the Stones of Time to force the 6th Omen back, which reverted the Inner Region, forcing me to fight the Hydra Dragon. Thanks, Troll.

6: Fleeting Magic
We fought the triple-headed creature, killed it, healed some burns with Totem Spirits, made it to the Valley of Fire, and finally to the Old Dragon King himself. With the Ageless Talisman empowering me, we had this in the bag.

Except the Troll darked my roll, turning it from a 6 into a 2. Which meant the Old Dragon King destroyed my Ageless Talisman. THANKS TROLL.

I rolled next turn and got a 5. Which was darked. My heart was pounding: if I dark re-rolled a 1 or 2, I would not be able to sacrifice another Talisman and I would die. I re-rolled a 6. PHEW.

OK. I had Strength 8. The Old Dragon King had Strength 11 (daytime). I picked up the dead Elementalist’s Bow. I had 2 gold left to use with the Bow. The final battle began. I kept shooting the Old Dragon King with the bow as he flew overhead, smacked him with the Flail as he descended for a bite. I took some hits while faithful Fang got in some chomps of his own. In the end, with a final great strike with the Flail, the Old Dragon King staggered back, plummeting off the edge of the tower into the fiery abyss below. The Old Dragon King was vanquished. The Draconic Lords surrendered the Crown to the Totem Warrior and fled. The Totem Warrior placed the Crown of Command upon his head, and sat atop the tower victoriously with his horse and loyal pet wolf.

The true winner and unsung hero of this game, of course, was the Barterer. The one who made this all possible. The one who traded a Flail for a mere Opal. He probably knew what he was doing all along. (But I’m evil alignment now, so I’m too proud to go back and give him credit.)
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mathias van butsele
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Enjoyed your tale-isman, but one thing bothered me :

"3: Power Overwhelming
I made a pretty uneventful journey over to the Tavern where I met a Boatman who offered to ferry me somewhere. I asked him to take me to the Castle so I could start using my Talisman of Power in the Middle Region."

How did the Boatman ferry you in the Castle since you met him at the Tavern ?
 
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Iron Gates
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Well, I met him in the Tavern and rolled s 6! Chapel, Graveyard, or Castle were my choices.
 
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Grarrrg Grarrrgowski
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stranigie wrote:
Enjoyed your tale-isman, but one thing bothered me :

"3: Power Overwhelming
I made a pretty uneventful journey over to the Tavern where I met a Boatman who offered to ferry me somewhere. I asked him to take me to the Castle so I could start using my Talisman of Power in the Middle Region."

How did the Boatman ferry you in the Castle since you met him at the Tavern ?
Playing with all expansions, Cataclysm replaces the old Tavern with a "new" Tavern/Boatman:
http://www.talismanwiki.com/Boatman
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mathias van butsele
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grarrrg wrote:
stranigie wrote:
Enjoyed your tale-isman, but one thing bothered me :

"3: Power Overwhelming
I made a pretty uneventful journey over to the Tavern where I met a Boatman who offered to ferry me somewhere. I asked him to take me to the Castle so I could start using my Talisman of Power in the Middle Region."

How did the Boatman ferry you in the Castle since you met him at the Tavern ?
Playing with all expansions, Cataclysm replaces the old Tavern with a "new" Tavern/Boatman:
http://www.talismanwiki.com/Boatman
Guess I do not have got Cataclysm but my answer
 
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Nick Hayes
United States
Huntsville
Alabama
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This was an awesome read, and now I want to play Talisman with all expansions!
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Doug Buel
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Hollywood
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Great report. Don't you find, though, that when you use all of the card expansions, that they're so diluted as to make it uncertain if they're having much effect? Thinking particularly of the Firelands here. When you use Firelands as the only card expansion, you really feel it. When you use every card expansion, you get a Firelands card once in a blue moon and it seems like it's no big deal.
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Iron Gates
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dbuel wrote:
Great report. Don't you find, though, that when you use all of the card expansions, that they're so diluted as to make it uncertain if they're having much effect? Thinking particularly of the Firelands here. When you use Firelands as the only card expansion, you really feel it. When you use every card expansion, you get a Firelands card once in a blue moon and it seems like it's no big deal.
Yes, but I am not too concerned about diluting the theme of each small expansion. I think the mixed themes are quite fun. As long as players still draw the types of cards they need to progress, then whatever expansion provides those cards doesn't matter too much; it just adds variety.

It's been said that playing with all small expansions dilutes the monster count, but it actually stays identical to the base game (28%). It's just that with 600+ cards, the chance of encountering clusters of more filler-type cards is higher, even with perfect shuffling (it's just probability).

In "Ultimate Talisman," I cheat the shuffling a little bit by making a deck of 100 cards containing 15 Events, 3 Lunar Events, 9 Strangers, 11 Followers, 11 Objects, 11 Magic Objects, 12 Places, 4 Animals, 6 Monsters, 2 Dragons, 8 Spirits, 1 Construct, 2 Cultists, 3 Elementals, 1 Outlaw, and 1 from Fae, Undead, and Demons. This is the proportion of cards (e.g. 95 events out of 621 cards = 15%) but by reducing the total cards to 100, it reduces the chance of card types clustering. Plus, 100 cards is more than you'll ever need when large expansions are also used. I separate the 16 card types with all expansions, shuffle each pile, deal out the right number into the deck for the game, and then shuffle that deck. It's a bit of work, but it makes people more confident about sticking to the main board if that's where they wish to be.

Here are some other observations about Ultimate Talisman. The player interaction is huge. The full Spell deck was incredibly fun and varied. Dark fate makes every die roll tense. The Reaper and Werewolf, when combined with dark fate, are downright scary. These things are punishing but largely optional. Dark fate can be used, or not, depending on your personality and play style. The Woodland will reward or punish you just as much whether you are lightbound or darkbound. We found the game most fun when there was a good amount of dark fate; some players when taking a fate flipped it like a coin to determine the type.

The Reaper and Werewolf are technically optional too. If you don’t feel like moving them, you can just “forget” (skip); the official rules say you just move on. Many times players who rolled “1” left them alone, leaving them as looming threats.

The true star of the show, I think, is the Harbinger. Character death is still a real setback, but now losing players can switch gears and actually attempt to bring on the apocalypse, preventing anyone from winning. They are even likely to find the Apocrypha, effectively dividing players between those going for the Crown and those going for the Apocrypha. Players who die look forward to drawing a new character. It’s a massive game changer, and to me is more fun than more arbitrary ways to end the game early.

Also, the Harbinger cleverly advances the Omen deck faster as more players are added, since more Harbinger Cards are encountered, directly fighting the tendency for more players to lengthen the game.

The Dragon is helpful too. Red scale Enemies are always battles and green are always psychic combats, so you can control what you fight. Plus, the scales give a fight bonus in addition to trophies and they survive death. They start to clutter the board just as you are probably strong enough to take them on. I used to avoid using the Dragon with Alternate Endings, but I like using it now, regardless, even if the Draconic Lords are just placeholders and not fought at the end.

Without corners I think all the mayhem concentrated on the main board would be too much, but with corners I think it’s just right!
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Qwerty Cat
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Really enjoyed your play through. I agree that the Troll never plays fair!
I like the concept of the 100 card deck that you set up. Thanks for this info. I have all the expansions and have always just grabbed a random stack of adventure cards to use. But I agree with your comment that some players may avoid the main board And use the corners to have access to a better "known" deck. But this is ok too, after all Talisman is a super fun game no matter what.

Side note: One of my group enjoys playing firelands and made an adventure deck using many of the the firelands cards to play out a story of invaiding Ifrit. Was pretty cool.
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Iron Gates
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Thanks!
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