Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Board Game Review: Talisman by Black Industries

One of my friends indulged himself with nostalgia when I told him the 4th Edition of Talisman was available in one of the local comic stores so I bought him one for Christmas... but I went through its contents first. Last Friday, we played two games to test it out. Personally, I was introduced to hobby gaming later in life (in the 90's) so Talisman, a game that was first released in the early 80's, has no nostalgic appeal to me whatsoever.

The first thing that stands out with the board game is the art which is fantastic and evokes the epic fantasy the game is trying to simulate. The map is huge, consisting of six fold-out sections. Talisman is a game for two to six players although theoretically you can play with more players as there's more than enough characters to choose from, although doing so might bog down the game. The character selection is reminiscent of D&D and fantasy stereotypes which I think fits the theme.

Let's talk about gameplay. Well, considering that this was developed in the 80's, there's really nothing outstanding about the rules. It's sophisticated enough but Talisman follows more the vein of old, simple board games which involves lots of dice rolling. That's not to say there's no strategy to the game but rather a good chunk is dependent on luck. If you're looking for innovative rules, this isn't the board game you're looking for. However, since Talisman follows a formulaic, old-school approach, learning to play the game shouldn't be too hard. In fact, the manual is there mostly to clarify rules and most of the game can be inferred from the text on either the cards used in the game or the board itself.

Personally, I don't like board games with many components and Talisman is one such board game but to its credit, it doesn't take too long to set up. Most of the components are card piles and there lies my complaint. The cards are quite small and honestly they're not the sturdiest of card stock. Opening them from its shrink wrap, the top-most card already took some damage so I expect playing with them often will result in quick wear and tear. There's an upcoming online Talisman board game and I'm looking forward to that because another problem with the small and not-so-sturdy cards is that they're difficult to shuffle. And I think this is an issue with the event card pile which is quite high, taller than most Magic: The Gathering decks at half the size.

The game also uses tokens, mostly to denote your current stats, life, and gold. Unfortunately, they're also quite small which wouldn't be so bad until you find out that they have numbers listed on them. So for our game, with the exception of gold, we ditched the game tokens and used poker chips instead: red chips to denote Strength, blue chips to denote Craft, and white chips to denote Life. It made the game a lot smoother and visually more tangible to run.

Aside from those complaints, the game was quite fun to play. Not the mind-blowing kind of game but rather more of a simple, guilty pleasure that follows more of an old-school type of game. I suspect many people will be playing this more for the nostalgia factor but modern gamers will find this decent enough. If you're looking for a new, mind-blowing game, I wouldn't recommend Talisman but those feeling nostalgic might want to grab a copy. While there are some improvisations I'd recommend (such as using poker chips), the game isn't so bad.

Rating: 2.5/5.

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