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Subject: You Can Never Go Home, Especially If You're a Rat Dude rss

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Matt Drake
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Remember when you were like nine years old, and you had your FAVORITEST GAME EVER, and you played it until it was falling apart? And then twenty years later, you pulled that game out of the closet, sweet nostalgia rushing over you like a waterfall of good will and joy, only to discover that stuff that appeals to fourth-graders tends to fall a little flat with adults?

We call that ‘Talisman Syndrome.’

If I were a child, if I still thought girls were gross and could actually sit through an episode of Thundercats without laughing at the retarded voiceovers, I would think Talisman was the most amazing game on the planet. Because if I was nine years old, I would be stupid.

The crazy thing is, I hear a lot of good buzz for Talisman. I don’t understand this. Nobody tries to recapture the greatness of Candyland, and Talisman is only marginally more interesting than Candyland. The only possible explanation I can find is that these people are the same people who spend days on end making supplementary material for HeroQuest when that game is actually only fun the first three times you play it, because when they were in junior high they blew an entire weekend on it and they’re trying to recapture the innocence of wondering why they didn’t get asked to Sadie Hawkins.

For the sake of clarity here, I’m reviewing the third edition of this ridiculously stupid game. I have to be specific because – I am not making this up – people have made four different editions of Talisman. For some people, that would indicate that it is obviously a brilliant game. For others (like me), it would indicate that there are an awful lot of people who have absolutely no common sense. After all, Apples to Apples sold a million copies, so standards for someone are obviously very low.

So that you can understand the way you play Talisman, let’s say you want to play Candyland. Only you want to make it an adventure game, so you let the players move forward and backward, and every time they land on Gumdrop Grove they can add some fat-ass points. Throw in some Licorice Bandits and the Caramel Creeper, make the entire game a random dice-fest with virtually no purpose or direction, remove nearly every single opportunity for decision-making from the game, and you have Talisman.

Every player gets a character (at random, because starting by letting you make a decision would set a dangerous precedent), and then you all wander around circular trails, encountering monsters and rolling dice and having virtually no control at all over the outcome of the game. You might start out an evil rat-dude, turn into a good guy, get eaten by a ghost and get a new character, and then have that morally-ambiguous dwarf get transformed into a toad because frankly, the dice hate you.

But even if the dice love you, you would still probably hate this stupid, stupid game. We had one guy win because halfway through the game he drew the Finger of Death spell, which instantly eliminates the super-villlain bad guy once that player gets to the tower in the middle of the hideous board (the board, incidentally, looks like it was drawn by a tenth-grader who was obsessed with metal bands in the early 80s. There are more skulls in the art for this game than you'll find in a French catacomb). While I was routinely losing my spells to evil wizards and severe head trauma, this guy managed to keep this one spell long enough to waltz into the dragon king’s tower and smoke him without rolling a die.

Call me crazy, but when I play a game, I want to have some control over the outcome. I want to practice some luck management, a little long-term strategy, and maybe a dash of practical common sense. I don’t want to have the entire game decided by a handful of die rolls over which I have virtually no control. I also don’t want to spend a quarter of the game bouncing back and forth between the witch’s house and the chapel because I’m attempting to give up my toad status.

I’ve played some really dumb games. Since I promise to eventually review any game anyone ever sends me, I have subjected myself to some of the absolute dregs of gaming society. I can definitely say that I have played games that were less fun than Talisman – Monster Quest comes to mind, for instance – but I would be lying if I said I ever wanted to play another iteration of Talisman. I have the second edition as well, and I think I even have the dungeon expansion for that one (my mind still reels that anyone thought this game was good enough to have an expansion), and I will be trading all of these copies as quickly as I possibly can.

It’s almost ironic that I just reviewed Tales of the Arabian Nights and loved it. Neither game offers a great deal of control for the players, and both games tend to be wildly random. Both games have you bouncing around the map like a kindergartner on crystal meth, and yet I really enjoy Arabian Nights and thoroughly despise Talisman. The difference is the story – where Arabian Nights leads you through an exciting and unpredictable story, Talisman plods through random, pointless fights with virtually no motivation or reason to continue playing.

I’m actually glad that a lot of people like Talisman, even if that does mean that a lot of people lack the sense God gave a hairless mole rat. Since a lot of people like this game, it means I shouldn’t have too much trouble trading it to some poor schmuck who still watches Voltron because it reminds him of eating sugary cereal in his pajamas while his parents slept off hangovers.

Summary

Pros:
Great trade fodder

Cons:
Stupid
Random
Pointless
Grinding
Soulless
BORING
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Brandon Holmes
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I have to agree. I recently purchased Talisman after selling it when I was a teenager. After a couple so-so games and one horrible, wish-it-would-end game I am looking to trade it. The only thing holding me back from aggressively trying to trade it is that I am having children (hopefully) in the next couple years and I may want to give it to a son. As a pre-teen he may enjoy it but really, if any decent trade offer comes up I will bite.
 
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This Guy
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Fundamentally, everything in you review is accurate, but we still enjoy it. I grew up playing Talisman with my mom and my sister. So instead of trying to recapture some lost feeling, we have the same experience every time: playing some light fare over which we can talk and enjoy each other's company.

It is not a good game, but it is a good time. For us at least.
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John "Omega" Williams
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See my recent review on this very game. You left out the fact that the box is better than 50% oxygen. (Yes. I know it was likely intended to also hold some of the expansions, but still. oog!)

You have control over which direction you travel the two circles. And you have a little control over your advancement.

I think its that control, but uncertainty that appeals to some and not others. Were it a co-op adventure like Arkham I think more might have gotten into it. But aside from Warhammer Quest, GW hasn't made any true co-op games. Someone always ends up playing the eeevil side or opposition.

I think another appeal of this game is its incredible simplicity. The actual rules comprise little better than a page or more. This makes it a very easy to get into game and you just move and let the cards dictate what happens. Controlled randomness.

I believe this is the core of why so many of GWs old board games have such lasting appeal. Neat and simple. (Aside from Dark Future which was messy and complex but still darn fun!)

Its still a box of !@#$%^&ing air though... ahem... yuk
 
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Get Funkadelic
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Random, but incredibly funny slams removed to protect the innocent/guilty...

VixenTorGames wrote:
make the entire game a random dice-fest with virtually no purpose or direction, remove nearly every single opportunity for decision-making from the game, and you have Talisman.

This is pretty funny coming just after the pick a path to your adventure game that you just reviewed that you could have opened up with the same setup, replacing 'dice' with 'nearly random book paragraph'.

VixenTorGames wrote:
Every player gets a character (at random, because starting by letting you make a decision would set a dangerous precedent),

At first I thought you had your facts messed up here, but the 3rd edition, IMO the weakest link of all appears to be the only version that doesn't give you a choice in what character you will play. All the other versions do.

VixenTorGames wrote:
and then you all wander around circular trails, encountering monsters and rolling dice and having virtually no control at all over the outcome of the game. You might start out an evil rat-dude, turn into a good guy, get eaten by a ghost and get a new character, and then have that morally-ambiguous dwarf get transformed into a toad because frankly, the dice hate you.

Outside of the fact that there are regions are layed out on the game board as rings and that dice are involved rather than a book where you 'choose' an action in response to a relatively random event, this sounds again alot like Tales.

VixenTorGames wrote:
But even if the dice love you, you would still probably hate this stupid, stupid game. We had one guy win because halfway through the game he drew the Finger of Death spell, which instantly eliminates the super-villlain bad guy once that player gets to the tower in the middle of the hideous board (the board, incidentally, looks like it was drawn by a tenth-grader who was obsessed with metal bands in the early 80s. There are more skulls in the art for this game than you'll find in a French catacomb). While I was routinely losing my spells to evil wizards and severe head trauma, this guy managed to keep this one spell long enough to waltz into the dragon king’s tower and smoke him without rolling a die.

I'll agree with you here too on the artwork choice for the third edition. I think it again is the weakest link of the bunch. I think this was GWs attempt to really lock in into Warhammer. The other versions look much better. The third edition reminds me of some hard core biker gang motif, which is great if you really like that look but a bit hard on the eyes for many.

VixenTorGames wrote:
Call me crazy, but when I play a game, I want to have some control over the outcome. I want to practice some luck management, a little long-term strategy, and maybe a dash of practical common sense. I don’t want to have the entire game decided by a handful of die rolls over which I have virtually no control. I also don’t want to spend a quarter of the game bouncing back and forth between the witch’s house and the chapel because I’m attempting to give up my toad status.

Well the are many things that are mitigating luck during the game.

You do have at least two and perhaps three choices for where you can move your hero/anti-hero every turn. If you need 40 choices, well Talisman isn't going to cut it.
Most characters are getting progressively stronger in strength and craft or both and are gaining followers and items along the way. This makes the outcome of battles more certain (no matter what the dice roll).
When you lose a combat, your character most likely will not die, forcing you to restart, but merely weaken them, and there are plenty of places and ways to heal back up (or not if you choose to ignore that and fight on).
When you lose a combat, you will not be forced to face the same encounter endlessly. So your character will move on to greener, or more desolate pastures the next round.
As the game progresses, more permanent locations and people are placed in the lands, therefore you will already know what you can encounter by chosing some paths, while others less certain. Another flaw, IMO, of the third edition is that there are far fewer adventure cards to go around and likely less chance of these type of locations and people showing up.
There are permanent locations on the board when it starts where you know what the possible events already could be, so I don't see the uncertainty there.
Again, the second and fourth editions do give people some or full ability to choose their starting character.
Each character has a unique set of abilities. Not playing the strengths of the character you choose (or in the 3rd edition's case) you were dealt with will doom that character in a heartbeat.
The fourth edition adds, Fate tokens, which allows nearly any dice roll to be rerolled, further reducing random chance, if you choose to tempt fate and use it.
The additional expansions, Dungeon specifically, not only change the shape of the game (referenced by you earlier), but give more choices on how characters can get what they need to get the prize.

After only the first play of Talisman, everyone should realize the hurdles they have to pass and what strength and craft they need to aim for to make a run for the goal. Talisman is a race game after all with an initial 'screw the leader' element and a latter 'leader screws the rest' element. The first big hurdle is the Sentinel, then obtaining a Talisman (by yourself or from the generous heart of another character), then picking one of the two paths to the Crown of Command (one with primarily Craft based challenges and the other Strength based challenges), the last challenge pits the Crown wearer against the rest of the characters.

...
VixenTorGames wrote:
It’s almost ironic that I just reviewed Tales of the Arabian Nights and loved it. Neither game offers a great deal of control for the players, and both games tend to be wildly random. Both games have you bouncing around the map like a kindergartner on crystal meth, and yet I really enjoy Arabian Nights and thoroughly despise Talisman. The difference is the story where Arabian Nights leads you through an exciting and unpredictable story, Talisman plods through random, pointless fights with virtually no motivation or reason to continue playing.


That amazes me too, because they are quite similar in the story building aspect. Perhaps it appears you have more control of the story in ToTAN, but I really think you have less. I enjoy both.

...

Unfortunately I think you tried the worst version first. The second, with Dungeon, or the fourth play out quite a bit better. After the shell shock wears off, give one of them a try sometime. Just curious, how many people did you have playing?

Great review, Matt! Even though I couldn't disagree with you more about the fun factor but couldn't agree more on the aesthetics of the edition you played.

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Rauli Kettunen
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GetFunkadelic wrote:
At first I thought you had your facts messed up here, but the 3rd edition, IMO the weakest link of all appears to be the only version that doesn't give you a choice in what character you will play. All the other versions do.


Yep, Talisman 3rd edition (or Talisman: Warhammer pretty much) is to me like Highlander sequels, never happened. I played a ton of 2nd ed back in the day, now 4th edition is closing on 100 plays.

Oh, and characters are dealt randomly always. If it were by choice, you know which maybe 5 chars would always be used. You got the Priest? Suck it up and deal with it devil ! Oh man, I got the Minstrel whistle !!!

VixenTorGames wrote:
But even if the dice love you, you would still probably hate this stupid, stupid game. We had one guy win because halfway through the game he drew the Finger of Death spell, which instantly eliminates the super-villlain bad guy once that player gets to the tower in the middle of the hideous board


Which was another weird twist, changing (or in this case removing) the Inner Region that all other versions have. New FFG ending cards offer a combat finale as well, except the Ice Queen can't be affected by Spells.

Quote:
The first big hurdle is the Sentinel


Of course, didn't the 3rd edition remove the Sentinel alltogether? Also, Sentinel is rarely taken as the method for crossing to the Middle Region, there are just so many other options available.

Quote:
then obtaining a Talisman (by yourself or from the generous heart of another character)


That latter part is one of the key reasons Talisman remains a hit: PvP. Hell, games with more PvP than fights against Adventure cards aren't unheard of !
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Get Funkadelic
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Dam the Man wrote:
GetFunkadelic wrote:
At first I thought you had your facts messed up here, but the 3rd edition, IMO the weakest link of all appears to be the only version that doesn't give you a choice in what character you will play. All the other versions do.

Yep, Talisman 3rd edition (or Talisman: Warhammer pretty much) is to me like Highlander sequels, never happened. I played a ton of 2nd ed back in the day, now 4th edition is closing on 100 plays.

Oh, and characters are dealt randomly always. If it were by choice, you know which maybe 5 chars would always be used. You got the Priest? Suck it up and deal with it devil ! Oh man, I got the Minstrel whistle !!!

VixenTorGames wrote:
But even if the dice love you, you would still probably hate this stupid, stupid game. We had one guy win because halfway through the game he drew the Finger of Death spell, which instantly eliminates the super-villlain bad guy once that player gets to the tower in the middle of the hideous board

Which was another weird twist, changing (or in this case removing) the Inner Region that all other versions have. New FFG ending cards offer a combat finale as well, except the Ice Queen can't be affected by Spells.

Holy crap. I didn't even notice that they removed the inner region altogether from the third edition. No wonder John and Matt disliked the 3rd edition game so much, that is dreadful. Your Highlander sequel comment rings so true.
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Rauli Kettunen
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GetFunkadelic wrote:
Holy crap. I didn't even notice that they removed the inner region altogether from the third edition. No wonder John and Matt disliked the 3rd edition game so much, that is dreadful. Your Highlander sequel comment rings so true.


Most fans of the 3rd mention that you had to have the Dragon Tower expansion for the 3rd.
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Get Funkadelic
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They remove the inner region so that you have to pay for the game plus a rough 3D equivalent expansion...Nice.

I suppose it wouldn't be half bad if anyone actually had one. I never saw it in my neck of the woods and I'm not sure I could afford it if I did.

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Matt Drake
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GetFunkadelic wrote:
That amazes me too, because they are quite similar in the story building aspect. Perhaps it appears you have more control of the story in ToTAN, but I really think you have less. I enjoy both.


It's not control, because sure, you have more control in Talisman. But the stuff in Talisman doesn't feel like it goes anywhere, or has a point, while the story in Arabian Nights feels like a story, rather than a series of meaningless sword fights.

Quote:
Unfortunately I think you tried the worst version first. The second, with Dungeon, or the fourth play out quite a bit better. After the shell shock wears off, give one of them a try sometime. Just curious, how many people did you have playing?


We had three of us. I might consider trying 2nd, but I don't know. I really despised this game, and I'm just not sure why I would like any of the others any more. But I'll at least read through the rules before I trade it off.
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Sean Shaw
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VixenTorGames wrote:
GetFunkadelic wrote:
That amazes me too, because they are quite similar in the story building aspect. Perhaps it appears you have more control of the story in ToTAN, but I really think you have less. I enjoy both.


It's not control, because sure, you have more control in Talisman. But the stuff in Talisman doesn't feel like it goes anywhere, or has a point, while the story in Arabian Nights feels like a story, rather than a series of meaningless sword fights.

Quote:
Unfortunately I think you tried the worst version first. The second, with Dungeon, or the fourth play out quite a bit better. After the shell shock wears off, give one of them a try sometime. Just curious, how many people did you have playing?


We had three of us. I might consider trying 2nd, but I don't know. I really despised this game, and I'm just not sure why I would like any of the others any more. But I'll at least read through the rules before I trade it off.


I actually felt the review was quite rude. I was tempted to say a snarky remark or two, but having been the recipient of such in the past, as well as having played another version of Talisman other then the 2e or 4e recently, the only reason I would have been rude is the incredibly rude way this game is reviewed, or at least how it infers that players of the game are like, which I would see as an indirect insult.

I must admit the only versions I want to play now are either 2e or 4e, as at least I've seen those games go by rather painlessly and quickly. I suppose I should give 1e another shot, but our last game, after playing for 4 hours and then getting triple whammies which reduced us all in our stats basically back down to starting values...made me throw up my hands in despair...and then another two hours later having a similar thing happen made me jump ship and abandon that game...

For once I understood those who said Talisman is the game that goes on and on and on, hadn't had that happen in 2e, at least that drastically, nad not in 4e at all yet. Of course we also play that whoever gets the the crown first wins...but in the older ones, no one ever even reached the crown before we gave up...or I gave up I should rectify.

However, the roll and move aspect is not that bad in I believe Talisman gives you better choices than a psuedo choose your own adventure board game (to tell the truth most of the series of books called choose your own adventure books were also very poorly written boring pieces to read...for ME...but very exciting and interesting to others).

In short though, though I find gouging my eyes out were more fun then the 5th hour of Talisman going on and on and on...I still would disagree with your review since most of the weaknesses would apply to ALL versions of Talisman, and I actually REALLY enjoy a nice game of 2e or 4e...sooooooo.....
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I bought 3th edition for the Citadel miniatures. It was worth the buy (for a collector). cool
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matthew mclaughlin
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Hilarious!

I actually like Talisman a lot, but I get what you're going for with this review, and you've done a great job writing it up humorously.
 
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