Talisman


Games Workshop, 1985, 2-6 players, ages 9 and up. Talisman is a fantasy board game where players take turns moving their characters around a board (via die rolling). Most spaces that you land on require that you draw one or more cards which you then have to deal with. You might find some treasure, or a useful item, attract a follower, meet an enemy you must fight, or set off an event that you or everyone has to deal with. Players use the magic items, weapons and magic spells they amass to fight the various opponents they encounter (as well as each other). With each victory, players increase their personal "stats", allowing them to take on greater and greater challenges. Once a player feels powerful enough and has acquired a "Talisman", they set off for the Plain of Peril at the center of the board and attempt to survive a series of tests leading up to the ultimate test, against which if they are successful, they win the game. Each player plays a different character (of which there are dozens), each with its own set of strengths, weaknesses and special abilities. The nice thing about the game is that you're never out of it. Even if you lose all your lives and are knocked out of the game, there's always plenty of time to pick a new character and dive back in.

This is one of the all-time great games and certainly one of the most influential and imitated games of the past 20 years (along with Trivial Pursuit and Magic: The Gathering). If you were into gaming in the 80s, more likely than not you played this game, it's as simple as that. The game itself is very simple to get started playing and I don't recall ever even having to look at the rules once I had the basic game mechanics explained to me. The only real problem with the game is that there are so many different cards, special game spaces and special player abilities that rules questions, conflicts and contradictions are inevitable and numerous. You have to have a pretty relaxed attitude about the game or you're just not going to have any fun. Just realize up front that as a group you're going to have to make a lot of rulings, and try not to get your undies in a bunch if things don't always go your way. The game is wonderfully arbitrary and random insofar as one person may be on the verge of winning while another person has just started over, when lo and behold, the near winner gets their ass handed to them on the Plain of Peril while the formerly weak player builds themself up to contention status and winds up stealing victory.

The game pieces are typical GW stuff- lots of cheap carboard cutouts with decent art. And, in the GW tradition, there are lots and lots of expansion sets for this game (another testament to its enduring popularity). Each expansion adds new characters, items, cards and whatnot to the game. The Timescape, City and Dungeon expansions come with their own boards (that you jump to from the main board if you draw the right cards). Some expansions are better than others, but we enjoy (and use) them all:

Talisman Expansion
Talisman the Adventure
Talisan Timescape
Talisman City
Talisman Dungeon
Dragon's Tower

There have been three editions of the game. I own a 2nd edition set. 1st and 2nd edition are, as far as I know, pretty much the same. The 3rd edition attempted to clean up a lot of the rules problems with the 2nd edition and I believe has nicer game pieces. This game is still in huge demand. A complete set with all of the expansions will cost you anywhere from $500 to $700 or more. I honestly don't know why it is out of print. Who knows? Maybe some day it will return. In the mean time, I plan to hang on to my dog-eared set like grim death.



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