Jonathan A
United States
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Introduction
There are always questions about expansions, so here's my current go-to setup for Talisman. I own all expansions for Revised 4th Edition and use some full expansions, some partial expansions, and a couple house rules. This includes official expansions only.

Part I: Which expansions do you use?
Boards & Main Expansions:
1) Cataclysm Game Board
2) All 4 Sideboard Expansions + The Deep Realms
3) Reaper & Harbinger NPCs

Decks:
1) Adventure Deck - Frostmarch & Cataclysm only. (No Base Game cards.)
2) Spell Deck - All expansions except Blood Moon.
3) Warlock Quests - All expansions. (Remove 'Visit the Alchemist/Blacksmith/Enchantress/Mystic' quests.)
4) Warlock Rewards - None.
5) Terrain Deck - Harbinger & Cataclysm only.

Partial/Optional Expansions:
1) Blood Moon - Horrible Black Void alternate ending and characters. The rest of the expansion is excluded completely. I like NPCs, but I always found the werewolf too similar to the Reaper (rolling 1's, but less impactful). And the day/night cycle too fiddly and similar to the Harbinger (drawing events causing additional effects).
2) Dragon - The Crown Token is literally the only component I use from this expansion. Place the crown in the middle of the board to symbolize the win-condition. It's also used instead of a fireland token for the Crown of Flame alternate ending.
3) Firelands - Crown of Flame alternate ending, Spells, and characters.
4) Sacred Pool - Spells, Warlock Quests, and characters.
5) Nether Realms - I go back and forth on adding this to the Endings list. Fun but not necessary.

Part II: Which additional rules do you use?
Alternate Rules (Official):
1) Strength & Craft Six
Six points of Strength or Craft instead of seven, to gain stats. Speed up the game a little bit in the face of impending Omens.
2) Random Treasures
Receive a random treasure for defeating the Lord of Darkness instead of choosing the treasure.
3) Fight or Flight / Fleeing the Woodlands
Strict movement in the Woodlands towards your destiny, until you choose to Flee and abandon your destiny. Woodlands only and not the Dungeon because the Woodlands is weird. Let's make it more weird.

House Rules (Unofficial):
1) Talisman - The only way to get a Talisman is from the Warlock Quest. Remove all other Talisman from the game. This includes 3 from the base game adventure deck, 2 from Dungeon, 1 from Woodlands, 1 from Deep Realsm, and 7 from Cataclysm. The only exception is when text is printed on the game board or cards where you can roll to gain a Talisman.
2) The Crown of Command - Roll a d6 (fate tokens apply):
1: Horrible Black Void
2: Crown of Flame
3-6: The Eternal Crown

Part III: How does it play?
Cataclysm --> Warlock --> Harbinger
1) The Cataclysm - The beginning of the game is jump-started with Cataclysm remnant cards jump-start. This is by design and I've always thought was one of the best mechanics introduced in the Cataclysm expansion. For the Adventure deck, Frostmarch compliments the frosted over middle region of the Cataclysm board. And I found many of the base game cards weirdly out of place thematically. The goal is tight, thematic gameplay in a game that can sometimes feel like players are making no progress.
2) The Warlock - The mid-game forces players to take a Warlock Quest or take one from another player to get a Talisman (or roll on a random table). This is done by removing all non-Warlock Quest Talisman from the game. I like the way the game flows without them. (And by removing the Dungeon Talisman, I feel like the Flail is less of a problem. With Flail, the flow of the game became a race to farm gold, buy a Flail, defeat the Dungeon boss for a Talisman, and teleport directly to the Crown of Command.)
3) The Harbinger - The end of the game is all about the Harbinger Omens. I'm a fan of many Cthulhu-Mythos games and the Omens remind me if this impending doom and forced endgame.

Final Thoughts
My set-up leans heavily into the Harbinger & Cataclysm. I attempted to minimize how fiddly-ness of some expansions/modules and focused on what I think is the core of the game, while including as many expansions as possible. Werewolf, Firelands, and Dragon are interesting, but add a lot for little gain. Harbinger & Cataclysm add momentum to potentially stagnant games. There are a lot of quality-of-life improvements like adding Shovels & Maps to the purchase deck. These were very smartly designed sets by people who have a deep understanding of the game. Lastly, I appreciate the updated text on the Cataclysm board. For example, the Warlock space tells you to draw a quest instead of roll a die. And the Portal of Power punishes you for having an active Warlock quest, but doesn't bar you from entering completely. You are now able to play the game with the text as-written on the board. The last two expansions were two of the best and am happy the game went out on a high note.


Anyway, I just wanted to share. ninja
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Jonathan A
United States
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Appendix A: Character List
This is my curated list of 24 characters. There are 8 Good, 8 Neutral, and 8 Evil. The goal is to increase the over-all power level of the character pool and avoid the feel-bads of randomly drawing and under-powered character.

Amazon
Arane Scion
Assassin
Bounty Hunter
Conjurer
Dervish
Doomsayer
Grave Robber
Gypsy
Leprechaun
Leywalker
Magus
Prophetess
Scavenger
Scout
Spider Queen
Spy
Swashbuckler
Tavern Maid
Thief
Tinkerer
Totem Warrior
Warlord
Wizard
 
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