Buyers Guide to Fantasy Flight’s Talisman

Howdy.  I’ve played a lot of Talisman. Hundreds of games with the Games Workshop 2nd edition and maybe a tenth of that with Fantasy Flight’s version.  They came out with more expansions than the number of times I get to play in a year for a bit there, but now that FF and GW have ended their long, fruitful relationship, Talisman will again be in limbo and eventually prices will start to rise and things will become scarce.   Here is a list to help you spend your ducats.

The following list and thoughts are not for collectors, but may help you determine what may be sought after by players.  For the completionist, just buy everything.  If you didn’t get the print on demand stuff– ouch!  I would AVOID Deep Realms unless you are the most ardent collector.  However, the Nether realm Expansion is fantastic.

For players, if you are new to the game or new to this version of the game (from 2nd or 3rd editions), here is what you really need to buy, what you sorta need to buy, and what you shouldn’t buy.



CORE game

Make sure you are getting the Fantasy Flight version of the game and not the Black Industries version.  The FF box is ‘less black’ than the Black Industries version (see above).  If you do end up with the Black Industries version, you will need to purchase/find the upgrade kit with the fate points and stuff in it.  These will likely be SCARCE.  Obviously, you need the core set, but in my opinion it’s not enough for the full experience of Talisman. The base set doesn’t have enough characters, nor spell cards and the adventure deck is too small.


The following are what I feel are the absolutely essential expansions to Talisman.  There are very few of these that you actually need to have to get a good experience forever with the game.  This will likely run you about 100$ retail.


#1 The Reaper expansion

This is stuff that really could have all been in the core game.  While you can leave the actual Reaper and his rules in the box, the cards and characters in this expansion flesh out the base game enough for me to say, “yes, you are really playing Talisman.” By far, this is the most important expansion to the game, with the absolutely essential adventure, spell and characters as well as the Warlock Quests.  If you get only one expansion, Reaper is it.


#2 Frostmarch

Frostmarch is the first of the “more stuff” expansions that fits very well with the core game, Reaper and Highlands for a base set to play with forever.   It has few new rules (unlike Firelands or Harbinger), just cards and spells and a few more characters.  Because this is just ‘more stuff,’ one could argue that it’s not essential, but if you are going to expand your Talisman and have Reaper, this is the next one that you will want to get, especially if you are going to play without the Board expansions and keep your Talisman SANE.

MauriceBastard: Meh, I can’t think of anything great about it, I bet there are some good items in the pack but I don’t associate them with it, I most likely just assume the good items in this pack come from The Reaper.


#3 Highlands

Highlands is an ‘extra board’ expansion that has a lot going for it.  Why this instead of Dungeon?  First, it does not offer a pathway to the Crown of Command, so players will still need to go up the normal method.    What happens when you have a lot of boards in a Talisman game, and especially if you include Dungeon, is that players scatter all over the place and have no interaction with each other at any time during the game.  Sure they may cast spells up against each other late game, but the concept of landing on another player is totally moot if there are four separate boards (and deep realms) in play.  Characters like the Thief and Sorceress become fairly useless in these situations and once someone gets rolling and chooses to chase down the other characters to destroy them, it’s a lot more difficult with all the boards.    You have to decide on whether or not you have the table space and also want to have your players all over the place by picking up the board expansions.  If  you are going to get one, Highlands is the one to get first.  It has few special rules that effect the base game, critical characters to the game (Valkyrie and Alchemist for example) and does not have that egress to the Crown that Dungeon has, while still giving brutally strong magic items if you win the board.

MauriceBastard: Makes the outer region of the main board almost completely useless as this area is good for starting characters.

With the core set and the essential expansions, you have 28 characters.  Fantasy Flight, compared to GW, were REAL stingy with the characters they put out in each expansion (compare 8 in 2E’s Talisman: Adventure to FF’s expansions at on average 4 each), probably because they came with miniatures instead of having them sold separate, so this is not a massive list. However it covers the basics: varied strength attackers, shitty trick characters (elf/dwarf), and the all important craft attackers (ghoul, wizard) and lastly, spellcasters.

Chivalric Knight
Dread Knight
Dark Cultist




#4 Sacred Pool

This, like Frostmarch, is another ‘more stuff’ expansion with more Adventure, Spell and characters to include in the game.  Because it has rules that do not mess with the core gameplay, I place this as one of the best expansions to get.  What’s more, if you are trying to stick with just the main board, this is a good one to get after Reaper and Frostmarch.  I like all of the characters that came with this one.

MariceBastard: Ya again the items that are worth it in this pack I attribute to The Reaper.



#5 Dungeon

The 4E Talisman Dungeon expansion is far and away better than the 2nd edition one, with awesome monsters, great magic items, good characters and a means to get to the Crown of Command to boot, circumventing the entire randomness of the middle region with a straight up combat instead.  Many players B-line it to the dungeon as soon as they feel strong enough to farm it for goodies and strength/craft.  Unlike the Highlands, the Dungeon is not an easy board to make it through, and many characters will die if they go in before they are ready (usually after 2-3 stat upgrades).  That said, Dungeon is not an essential expansion because it’s a new board section and while some people may like it, the fact that you can circumvent the inner region’s perils and get the the crown of command changes the game drastically, adding to the sad fact that more boards = less player interaction.

MauriceBastard: Fine. Allows a end round run to the center for overpowered heroes which is a needed mechanic late game.


oh yeah!
oh yeah!

#6 Nether Realm

The Nether Realm expansion is one of those funky print on demand ones and when it came out, I thought that was the end of support from FF for Talisman (i.e.: no new expansions).  The components were very good quality and this expansion is fantastic. In the new victory condition, instead of a Talisman, the players must kill a certain number of Nether Realm creatures and get to the Crown of Command.   The creatures are represented by a Nether deck that has some of the nastiest stuff I’ve ever seen in the game!   This win condition also promises a shorter, tighter game, so I like it a lot. This expansion also adds back in the Pandora’s Box card for the inner region, using the NetherRealm cards in place of Adventure cards!    Once out of print, this one will be very expensive, but if you can get it no for 15$, it’s great.

MauriceBastard: Great shit, excellent way to change up the center region for extra challenge, make sure to exclude The Dungeon so you can’t end run the mosh pit of the center.


#7 Blood Moon

Like the Reaper expansion, the Blood Moon expansion has a guy that goes around and does stuff to people independent of the characters.  This is less optional if you are going to play with everything from this expansion than the Reaper is.  We’ve played with both the Reaper and the Werewolf and that was a clear mistake that slowed the game to a crawl.   This has some interesting characters and most importantly, it has the HORRIBLE BLACK VOID card which makes the first trip to the Inner region even more dangerous than before.   We play that once the void is drawn, it goes away for the game and at that point no other characters can be drawn.   This gives both players going through the dungeon or up the inner region method a bit of pause about hitting the Crown of command space.

In addition to the Werewolf mechanic, Blood Moon introduces the Day/Night cycle to the game with +1 and -1 vs monsters during this time.  This is one of my most hated mechanics that has been added to Talisman.  Don’t bother with it.

MauriceBastard: We’ve entered the arena of where expansions stop working when you are playing completionist, while there are some good cards here the day night and werewolf shit becomes too much to keep track of if you play with reaper as well.


#8 Talisman City

There are a lot of options that open up in the City, and a lot of strange new cards.  I like the pets and I like the fact that with the City expansion GOLD actually starts to have value again where normally it was pretty useless mid to late game.  You can pay to win using the City, with very powerful cards on sale.    We’ve enjoyed this expansion but you have to make a choice: do you go the standard Highlands/Dungeon configuration or do you remove one of those, or do you make the game board MASSIVE and play with all three.  Frankly I would probably play with Highlands/City at this point and leave the Dungeon out.

MauriceBastard: Overpowered shit galore the Alchemist will gape you.



#9 Firelands

While this has some interesting cards and characters, because it fundamentally changes some of the rules of the game with the firelands tokens, and does not mix well with everything else (if you play with EVERYTHING, the firelands cards won’t do much in the game), you do not need to get this expansion.  “Destroying spaces” is a mechanic we started to see a lot more of in nearly all the later expansions.

MauriceBastard: Great expansion that needs to be played without other shit to help keep shit manageable, extra punishing late game.



#10 Woodlands

We have only played with Woodlands 2-3 times.  It is another big board to add, so you have to decide which to play with and which to leave behind.  Most of the time I would choose to leave the Woodlands in the box except that it’s new and we need to find out what the designers were trying to do here!  The board comes with a new mechanic where players draw Fate cards, which are quite cool, but it’s yet another mini game– and since Talisman tends to be beer and pretzels, some players are not keen on it’s complexity.  If you use Woodlands, I would use it alone with just the main board for a few games and see how you like it.   There are some really interesting and cool characters in this set like the Leywalker and Spider Queen.  The art in this expansion is superb.

MauriceBastard:  Shite, feels completely shite / haven’t played it enough because there tons of great content already so who wants to bother with Woodland.


#11 Cataclysm

This is really new, and I’ve only gotten one game with it so far.  What I like about it is that it’s Fantasy Flight’s artists going to town on the main Talisman Board.  They inherited the main 4E board from Black Industries and the art on it, while OK, was not up to the normal Fantasy Flight standards.  Just compare the older main board with all the art on the other boards and you can see the difference.

Cataclysm fundamentally changes the game in that none of the spaces you are used to going to are going to be on the board at first, nor will they end up in the spaces that you normally get to them.   Depending on the card draw, there may not be any place to heal, there may not be any place to get FATE points back or buy stuff.  I think the best way to play this is to play without the city, with the Dungeon and possibly the woodlands/highlands.   Since this is an expansion late in the development of the game, it will be very hard to divorce the content enough from player’s sets to see how it stands on it’s own.   Overall I would say this is probably a good buy to get, event though the characters in it are a bit trash; much like Harbinger, there’s nothing that great except for the Barbarian and maybe the Scavenger.  The Arcane Scion is powerful, but I hate the art on that card.

While cool and a bit of a must have since it’s the last blast we’ll ever see of FF’s Talisman, it’s not essential.

Mauricebastard: A last gasp at keeping Talisman fresh, a honest attempt to switch some shit up a lot, played once and it seems FINE.



#12 Dragons

I do not own this expansion, but probably will someday.  The brilliance of the 2nd Edition Dragons expansion is that it was just a set of cards that went into the main deck which shifted the way the game played without fundamentally restructuring the entire experience.   You knew there were dragon problems in the 2E game because dragon cards kept coming up and destroying you and stuff on the board.

FF went full bore on the Dragon’s expansion and it’s a totally different game, one which I would not play with any of the other expansions, including none of the other game boards.   There is a lot of book-work between turns and Dragons will be a slow slow game compared to normal Talisman.  This one is almost in the Don’t Buy section, but not quite. It does make for an interesting game if you are prepared for it.

MauriceBastard: FUCKING BROKEN EXCEPT WHEN PLAYED BY ITSELF WITH THE BASE, a way to switch shit up if you are playing weekly, a attempt to spice shit up that fails in a completionist “play with all expansions” game.

Mouth: My dragons is still sealed, and I think I may have only ever played it once, and maybe just the heros [sic], which were Meh at best. 


Only two on this list.



Totally forgettable.  The characters in it are pretty dumb and I just don’t even want to integrate the adventure cards from this, let alone the added mechanics. I may comb this for adventure cards to add to my CORE SET+, but probably won’t play with the rest.  Collectors only.

MauriceBastard:  Unsure what this one is, I own it and have played it once I think, fucking can’t remember what it is, expansion fatigue has set in fully, old man who plays once or twice a year.


Deep Realms

Collectors only.   It’s just a total mess in play physically– it just doesn’t work well with another board between boards.  We tried it once and it’s been in the box ever since. I’m not even sure I would recommend ever playing with the boards you need all together to make this work.

MauriceBastard: Shitcakes with a side of diarrhea.

The End papers

There wasn’t and there will  never be a Talisman Timescape expansion for 4th Edition.  Instead FF decided to make Relic which, yeah, no interest at all.  We will never have the Astronaut, Space Pirate, Cyborg or essential ASTROPATH to round out the what used to be the top three characters in the game (from 2E :Prophetess, Monk, Astropath).

I also make this post with some emotional feeling that FF’s run is over despite at the same time thinking: THANK the GODS since there was just too much coming out for the game for awhile there (right around Firelands I was overwhelmed).  I’m proud of what Fantasy Flight and John Goodenough did with Talisman. They did right by the license, for the players and obviously it was lucrative to some extent!  I was happy to support them by buying (nearly) every single expansion the day it was released.

With the end of the Games Workshop relationship we are absolutely at the end of an era with Fantasy Flight (though that could be said when they were sold to Asmodee too).  They will be putting out some great individual games for sure (like the new Game of Thrones: Iron Throne), but their Golden Age is over as they will never have a license so rich with possibilities and an amazing board game back catalog as the Games Workshop one: not Star Wars, not Warcraft, not anything.  Lament though we might, what we need to do is pick up the GW licensed stuff that we want right quick!


Talisman has become a pick and choose your expansions game, different from v2 of Talisman which played WONDERFUL when you used everything. Version 4b can’t be played in total, or perhaps it can if you are 16-24 years old and don’t have true responsibilities and can focus fully on playing epic turn maintenance cluster fuckery. Now some people want Talisman v4 to be like v2, to have a “complete” version. A version that includes the best expansions that play well together. A version that you keep “shuffled” together and play over and over, ignoring the expansions that add too many new rules or to much turn maintenance bullshit. Fucking just play v2 if you want complete. Perhaps my picks for a complete V4 would be:
The Reaper
The Frostmarch
The Sacred Pool
The Dungeon
The Highlands


For the small boxes… The reaper, is essential. Frost March and Sacred Pool are also good… More endings and the warlock quests were good additions. The blood moon is a little Meh and managing the whole day/night mechanic is tedious. Firelands is cool, but the flame shit and destruction of everything is again tedious, but can prove both beneficial and Terrible all at the same time… I think it’s a keeper. I have no experience with the harbringer.

For the big boxes… Dungeon and Highlands are both great, borderline essential. City is better than the original and makes gold worth having, but not essential. 

Other… The neither realms is cool, and brutal… It’s good. No knowledge of the deep realms.

Also, I purchased the conversion kit for the original black library release of talisman. This gives you a complete second set of cards for the base game so it matched the ff version. I selectively added duplicates of the adventure deck cards to the base game. Basically adding all of the monsters and events… And I think some of the bad cards like the poltergeist and hag. I did not duplicate any of the magic items or bags of gold… But I would have to check to be sure. This was necessary when 4ed come out, as the base set was not balanced enough for a good play through, deck cycling was too frequent, and monsters scarce because people were holding them for trophies. I think it was also good for the first few expansions… At this point I could probably take all of the duplicate cards out since the adventure deck is massive with only half of the expansions in use.

Fantasy Flight and GW – there goes Talisman

Fantasy Flight and GW are no longer working together.  The announcement is here.  


Basically the only thing I really care about is that Talisman will go out of print again. I will have to care for my stuff instead of abusing it as this level of support for Talisman we probably will NEVER SEE AGAIN. I just picked up the Harbinger Expansion to make sure I had everything (except Dragons) that was out for 4th Edition.

Other stuff that was good from FF: Chaos in the Old World,  Dungeonquest (updated version, not the first FF version) and Chaos Marauders.   Dracula was cool, but not my favorite game.  Other stuff, like the 40K and Fantasy CCG’s, the 40K Talisman version and Blood Bowl manager were all totally forgettable.

RPG wise, this is going to fucking sting for people that liked the 40K RPG.  Since it was closer to WFRP and had a TON of support from FF, I can see people weeping about this.  It wasn’t anything I was interested in, but I can see this as a loss.

FF not having the WFRP licence anymore is FUCKING GREAT as the 3rd edition of the game was an experiment gone wrong. Yes, it had some very very good adventures (witches song and the new version of the enemy within are notable examples); yes, it begot Edge of Empire which is a fine game attached to a boring ass license, but WFRP still is one of my favorite RPG settings and 3rd edition with all it’s pieces and chits and crap was just too much to deal with.  I’m fully aware that both 1st and 2nd edition’s rules are not great as well, but you can play it with the book, some paper and pencils and regular D&D dice….  GW: Give the WFRP license to DESIGN MECHANISM and be done with it.

Free RPG day 2016 and sharting for the win

Free RPG day was good this year.  Perfect weather and two places in town that were hosting it.  There was TOO much good stuff to choose from so tough choices had to be made.  We ended up getting SLUGS! of course, which is a ridiculous Lamentations of the Flame Princess spoof (yes, it has some good monsters in it, but the intro– teeing off on all non DIY publishers in a Donald Trump style diatribe must be read to be believed), The Derelict, a Cthulhu adventure, the Nights Black Agents/13th Age combo (the 13th Age adventure looks pretty good too) and the obligatory Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure.  All of it kick ass stuff that will get some use (except the Nights Black Agents– we don’t play that) even if we just read it.

Why attack the Xmas slug? Why???
Why attack the Xmas slug? Why???


After the whirlwind of game and comic shops in the morning, Keneda (in town for the weekend), Sensless, Okyo and I got together and play Talisman with the Cataclysm expansion– with the new board only and not any other big boards. This meant no dungeon, no city, no Highlands and no Woodlands.

We did include the REAPER expansion cards (not the reaper himself) as I feel this expansion at least is absolutely essential.  There were a few Frostmarch and Sacred Pool cards included cause we were sort of drunken by the time we started sorting to no ill effect.

Cataclysm, being a new main board an all, has some surprises.  Gone are the standard places visited for healing, FATE and buying stuff. Instead there are areas where you draw new cards called “denizens” who represent effects from the old board, but randomized around.  If the denizen originally belonged in the space you drew her, she will stay, otherwise they are one-shot cards.  For example if you draw the BARMAID in the graveyard, she won’t stay but she’ll stay if she’s in the Tavern or Village.  Cool stuff.

We also played with the new crown of command as the goal rather than the random center cards, which is more deadly for everybody as the person on the crown can be killed using it as well.

We played at first with only Cataclysm characters (draw one rather than the usual three and choose), then when one would die, replacements were randomized from the whole deck of characters as normal (draw 2 and choose, die again, draw only one, die again and you’re out!)


Pyssed up again.
Pyssed up again, post pestilence, pre shart.

Here were the first set of characters:

Sensless: MUTANT

Me: Black Knight

Okyo: Arcane Scion

Keneda: Scavenger

This was a LONG game, about 1.5 hours per player.  Why?  We got drunk and were at least slightly drunk the whole time– with the game initiated via a shot of Jeppsom’s Malort for all and then beers.  There was a lot of side saddle talk and wandering outside.  Luckily no pinners or it would have ended prematurely with unconsciousness.

Despite the drunkeness and length, there was some excitement at the table.  I’ve ripped on 4th edition despite it being my preferred edition of Talisman on account of it’s lack of deadliness,  mostly due to FATE points saving the day all the fucking time, but we had more characters driven into the mud this game than any recent games I can remember.   Cataclysm has some nastiness and by the third turn or so, an event came along and ripped all the fate from all players,  so things were very risky risky.

After fate was gone, there was TOADAGE.  The mutant met the wizard denizen and was promptly toaded. He lived long enough to land on his ‘stuff’ space and encounter the wizard again– and get TOADED again.  There was another wizard that finally put the hapless toad-mutant to rest–and was replaced by the Barbarian!

More Toadage ensued as my black knight was toaded by the same Wizard denizen as the Mutant and didn’t survive; becoming toad-meat for a giant spider.  A lucky draw got me the ELEMENTALIST.

Without FATE, we were all running weak and lifeless with no easy access to the chapel or city and naughty instead of nice denizens about.  Pestilence came at just the right time and took out the Barbarian and Scavenger for their trouble. Keneda was on her last character–the Assassin.

The mid-game was long– maybe 3 hours long and the arcane scion was slowly building up, but refused to go to the middle.  I got pumped quick with the Elementalist (not hard to do) and made a run for the middle, got lucky making it up but suffered badly at the Lich (replaced death on the STRENGTH side of the center region) and had only a single health going into the crown of command.

The command spell destroyed the Assassin and another character I can’t remember that replaced the Scavenger, but it wasn’t enough for my Elementalist, especially after the sharting.  Right before the final turn to get to the middle, Okyo gambled and lost and had to run to the bathroom.  He came back and despite the Elementalist at the crown of command, despite the humidity and Malort and Schlitz and underwear in the outdoors trash can, the Arcane Scion made it to the crown of command with a single life left as well and won the combat handily vs the Elementalist for the final win.

It was a good, albeit slow game.  Cutting out all the expansions was a really good idea for this one, as there was a ton of new stuff in Cataclysm. I think I’d like to play it a few more times with just that set, the base adventure deck plus

Since in Cataclysm, no one knows where to go to get stuff until the denizens come out, it’s tough to get healed, get fate and buy weapons/armor.  This is quite a shift from the old board where you know just where to go to get refilled.

a winner is you.
a winner is you.

Tobal 2 and Virtua Fighter 5

We played a surprising amount of both VF5 and Tobal 2.  I just couldn’t get the hang of Tobal again, even with Ill Goga and Gren and failed miserably.  My timing was WAY off.  Matt, however, was all over it with Epon whopping ass.

Despite my love for Tobal, VF is the better game, with a shocking amount of incredibly nuanced characters and simply the best fight engine there is.  It still looks GORGEOUS and caused a lot of yelling (same with Tobal) when the physics or throwing engines showed something spectacular (guaranteed throws and some of the reversals in VF are amazing to watch).  Fighters are a million times more fun when you are all sitting around playing, on a console or arcade machine.  This is why EVO and all those cons have such a strong following.  Playing online is OK, but face to face with the crying out and yelling is where it’s at.


I’d like to imagine this day was like a typical Saturday in 1996-2000 or so, before everything changed.  Those four years were (sad as it seems now) formative madness to the extreme.

Gamehole Con!

Matt and I made the trek to Gamehole Con yesterday in Madison, WI and it was a fine time.  Due to no planning on my part, we didn’t get into any scheduled games, like the bolt action tournament or any of the 5E or other OSR RPG games. However, for me this was just a ‘check out’ year to see what it was all about, so walked around and painted stuff and I busted out BLOOD RAGE and got a few games of that in.


It is not a huge con, maybe twice the size of say Plattcon or Hooplacon.  Yet it is a huge OSR con–there were tons of Dungeon Crawl Classics, Swords and Wizardry and other OSR stuff going on.  If you count 5E as in the OSR style, the entire con was mostly OSR RPG’s.  Absolutely there were Pathfinder games there, but they were in the minority.

We spent about 3 hours at the free painting table where I found an old Talisman Rogue and just had to paint the fucker.  They had BOTH of the Kevin Dallimore painting books there was well, so I was able to pour over those.  Matt got stuck on painting some sort of samurai and though he spent awhile on it, it was still not finished.  The lady that runs it had a ton of great tips so highly recommended.

Matt about to explain why he had already lost the 5 player Blood Rage game.
Matt about to explain why he had already lost the 5 player Blood Rage game.

Stuff I saw:

  • Tom Wham.  He was running Feudality and Dragon Lairds at the con.
  • Lots of Bolt Action.  The tournament brought at least 20 people playing. I should have brought my shit… (and painted it beforehand…)
  • Rob Heinsoo.  One of the designers of 13th Age.  He was running a game that we didn’t get into– needless to say it was sold out months ago.
  • One really fucking hot girl.  No joke.

Otherwise it was extremely well run and organized. They really have their shit together and I will be definitely attending again.  Likely I will run something next year as well.

TALISMAN – How much is too much?

This past weekend we played a long 4 player game of talisman in real life. One of the players, let’s call him Matt to protect the guilty, was new, and being a 4 person game, it took a long time. During and after the game, there was remarking about how much of a monster Talisman 4th edition has become and while 2nd edition became ‘fixed’ in about 1993 with the final Dragons Expansion, the Fantasy Flight version keeps going and going and going. This is a good thing but the question out of last night’s game was how many Talisman expansions are too much, not to own or to exist, but in actual PLAY during a single session?  There’s nothing wrong with having and Fantasy Flight creating tons of expansions, but like Cosmic Encounter, we don’t play with all of them all the time and over time, with about 75 games of Cosmic under my belt, I can tailor the playset to what group of players I have*.

First, let’s talk about the boards. The boards are big and beautiful and take up ALL your table space. You cannot physically reach across the boards to move your character without being Kareem Abdul Jabar, and most tables can’t even fit the entire five-part board upon them. In terms of gameplay, the worry that I had with the release of the Highlands expansion; that players would be all over the place and not interact or attack each other, has come to pass in spades with both the City and the Woods boards added to the Dungeon and Highlands. The main board simply does not get much attention except in the beginning of the game or when someone is going for the win the standard way. What’s more, since the means of getting to the middle can be so crippling the normal way with the Vampire on one side and Dice with Death on the other, players nearly always opt to go through the dungeon board which means you can get to the middle WITHOUT a Talisman!

Due to the size of the world, spell casters (Wizard for example), with their ability to reach out and touch someone, have really gotten a boost because it’s easier for them to hit and not get hit back since the strength characters have to give chase all over the regions. One of the main strategies to win is to try to kill off players that may be a threat (like the Wizard, Prophetess, Alchemist as some examples) as an early high-strength character (like the Warrior or the Troll), but when players can run to all sorts of different boards from the outset, some of which are more balanced to the character’s power levels than the main board is, it’s tough to bring a character to ground without the correct items in hand.

Comparing this to 2nd Edition where there is a main board, a dungeon board, a city board and the Timescape board all off to the side and not connected to the main board (physically at least) a lot of the action still occurred on the main board. The city had brutal cards in it so was a get in and get out sort of place, and the Dungeon was so stringent with what you can take in there (no horses, horse and cart, horse FOLLOWERS and the like) that it was usually only used for escape. Timescape is very difficult to get into early game since there is only one way in via the enchantress in the city. Once the adventure cards start dropping, there are typically gates all over the place.

What I want to do is look at the most basic Talisman needed for fun play and see what can reasonably be added to that to make a fun game and not a huge chore to play.  The only required sets are the base set and the Reaper expansion (whether or not you actually use the reaper in play is irrelevant, the cards that come with this expansion are essential), everything else I consider non-essential, not that I would ever play with just the reaper expansion and the base set!  I’ll do a series of posts in the next month or so on what expansions add and which detract and dilute.

*(with some n00bs at the table, I use 4 planets per player, all the aliens and Hazard cards and that’s it, with experienced players we go 5 planets, throw in tech, satellites and everything else).

A Cracking game of Talisman

While reluctant to play with more than three, due to length, we got in a cracking four man game of Talisman last night– well cracking for some and a descent into madness and death for others (including myself).

This was the first time for the Firelands and print on demand Nether Realm expansions, so we picked one of the alternate endings from Nether Realm: The Hunt.  The idea behind this on is that you have to destroy (and turn in as trophies) four Nether Realm creatures and then make it to the crown of command space in the middle.  Seem easy?  Unlike the very easy Warlock Quests, the Nether Realm cards are absolutely brutal.  There are multiple cards that will kill you on certain turns of the dice, and man– the Goblin Baby is one of the best Talisman cards I’ve seen in a long time.

Needless to say, the game last night had the highest death toll of characters I’ve ever seen in a 4th Edition game– and that was with very little PVP.  Monsters had much to do with these deaths, which is pretty rare due to fate points now in the game.

Late game, Scott had already lost 3 characters and was out of the running, Matt had lost the Magus and restarted as the Gladiator, and John had a very powerful Bounty Hunter gearing up for the win.  At this time, I had a suped-up Valkyrie and just happened to land on the space where the Goblin Baby had done his work (ALL monsters from all regions go to that space).  I defeated one of the monsters (the Lord Efrit who didn’t mix with the others we ruled) and then took on the strength stack (at strength 14).  I had a pretty good chance of winning with some tricks, but in the stack was the basilisk.  This is a strength 2 creature who rolls 2 dice for his attack.  If it comes up doubles, your character is killed outright!  Of course it was ruled that the whole 14 stack got to roll 2 dice and guess what came up?  Box cars.   We called it a night as the rest would have likely been John going to the middle for the win (he was at 10+ strength and craft).  Great game.  Need to play more!

The death toll: Barmaid, Sage, Magus, Valkyrie, Warlord.
The death toll: Barmaid, Sage, Magus, Valkyrie, Warlord.


Interesting: revised version of Dungeon Quest coming Fall

new cover
new cover

Fantasy Flight makes some excellent games and they keep alive many of the games that are the best ever made, such as TALISMAN and Cosmic Encounter.  They have done right by these two certainly because they themselves know what players want out of those games.  There have been a couple reprints/revisions of classic games that missed the mark.  Warrior Knights, so beautifully created with such awesome pieces, was saddled with a terrible version of Wallenstein/Shogun’s action system and amounted to the players playhing VS the game system itself rather than each other.  Another beautiful but flawed revision of a Games Workshop classic released just a few years ago was Dungeon Quest.  The main issue with the revision being that the combat, extremely simple and deadly in the first version of the game by GW, was rebuilt heavy– very very heavy.  Well, there must be life in this game since there is a revision of the revision coming this Fall that I will definitely pick up.  I got to play the original only a couple of times at a convention and it’s a rush in and grab the loot before dying game.  Since DQ is elimination, the key to such games (such as King of Tokyo, Love Letter and Epic Spell Wars: Duel at Mount Skullsfire) is that they are extremely short and simple–which does NOT mean bad.  Simple (that is also good) is also very difficult to do in terms of game design.  Take Warrior Knights (new version) vs Shogun.  The first is very difficult to learn and especially to play, where Shogun, after the first turn of action selection and resolution, is easily grasped by players and it becomes about who can WIN the game against each other rather than who can learn to play the game system better.  I’ve got high hopes for the new DQ.

Oh and there’s the final BOARD PIECE for Talisman.

What have I been playing?

I had a busy busy couple of weeks and didn’t get much gaming in, but in my idle moments I have been trying (actually trying) to win FTL: Faster than Light and have failed again and again, which is the point I guess. It feels like an SNK fighting game. You get the hang of it and can beat the computer opponents with relative ease– and then you hit the boss and you are fucked forever (see Samurai Shodown 2 or King of Fighters 97 as examples). I’m waiting to see if anyone I know that has it has actually won it– because on easy– well, it ain’t. While the AAA titles can be awesome, FTL is case in point that almost all the PC gaming gold resides almost solely in the camp of the indy developer.


That said, I’ve finally uninstalled Rome Total War 2 (my box has my games on a small SSD so I have to free up space), because it just crashed too much– blue screens, other crashes and I just really do not like the direction they’ve gone with the fights. Even the biggest battles are over in 5-7 minutes and it all just turns into a big mob. It has some great things about it and the graphics look really good but I just ended up going back to the Napoleon expansion to Empire Total War, which if you haven’t played, is fantastic. I expected to be playing Rome Total War 2 for months and months, but that was not to be unfortunately.

Sure BF4 looks really good, but I just didn’t end up buying it. I feel like just playing Bad Company 2 would scratch that itch just fine (and it’s on Steam).

Talisman. Maurice!Bastard gifted me Talisman on Steam and I got in a game last night. It was– interesting. I think it’s a completely viable means of playing the game, and interface wise they did a fine job, but is Talisman the type of game that you want to play on the computer rather than face to face? I really don’t. I’d rather just bust out the boards and cards and go to town. Even if we only play once or twice a year that way, it’s OK.

The bad things about the game are that it’s a computer version of Talisman first of all, and second the art is terrible. Given that the 4th edition art was not great in the first place (I would be great if Fantasy Flight put out a new base set with new art so it could match the quality of their later expansions), the computer version is even WORSE in some areas– some of the pieces look like they took a photo of an employee and ran some photoshop filters on him and slapped it in the game. Pure garbage. Overall I’m going to give it a go. Since I’ve played hundreds of times, the base set is really not that exciting. If they get some expansions, that may be cooking with gas– but of course that will lengthen the game.

One thing that came up last night to haunt me is that I drew the Monk and the bastard asked me what I would do to fix it in 4th edition. Here I go to great length about it, but short version is that since the new version of Talisman allows players to collect CRAFT trophies as well as Strength (2nd edition allowed only Strength trophies to be collected and traded), there is no way to fix the Monk as he was originally– he would simply be the most powerful character in the game. So what did FF end up on? A guy who can’t use weapons and armor and adds +3 to his rolls in combat. Really you have a 5 STR character who can have a spell early on. Granted they tried to make up for this character’s weakness by piling on the FATE counters, he’s still one of the craptacular characters in the game (like the Elf and Dwarf).

Now what have you been playing?

Weekend nerdifications and Talisman ruminations

Excitement!  Battleblock Theatre was released onto a very expecting public recently and I had the good fortune to NOTICE it on XLBA in order to que it for download.  Needless to say, anything related to the Castle Crashers team is likely to be pure gold– and it is.  I had to peel myself off the TV to stop playing (due to crying and screaming of childrens).   Unfortunately, the game is too difficult for young kids without any experience with Contra or Mega Man– but the skills built in Battleblock will carry a child through a lifetime of side scrolling gaming.  While my daughter said she will never play the game again due to her failed jumping at all times, I will likely build a level just for them in the level editor to ease them into the genre.

That said, the height of nerdery this weekend was (finally) a game of Talisman 4th edition with the City expansion.  While the city was the worst of the 2nd edition expansions, Fantasy Flight has done good work bringing the board into the 4th edition paradigm.  Essentially, if you have a lot of gold, you go to the city to buy stuff or get transport to where you need to go.   It’s much easier to get around in and still has a jail as well as three guilds that can be joined (no Sheriff).  Just a few games back I was complaining that there were ways to accumulate tons of gold but no good place to spend it that was readily available.  Sure you may have gotten lucky and pulled a trainer and the like from one of the decks, but until City came around, gold was only used for healing up lives lost and buying a horse when available.  With all the expansions, the Adventure deck is so gigantic it’s rare that you will see the same cards at all in many games.  We have not, since the second expansion or so, flipped the Adventure deck– and this happened quite a bit in the older versions of the game.  This makes games more surprising, but you certainly can’t count on some of the core items (Wand, Ring, Unicorn, Runesword, Warhorse) coming up.  With City, you now have more control over your item build for your character.  It will be easier to say” ‘for this game, I would like to get X and Y objects to help me win’ and go and get them rather than just hoping they will come up.  The new full plate is pretty cool (4+ armor save and +1 strength).

after four hours of talisman!
after four hours of talisman!

Comparison with 2nd edition’s City brings up the question of “advanced” careers in Talisman which were not included in the new City expansions.  As Talisman was a GW game and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has a career advancement system, 2nd edition Talisman added in the idea of advanced careers that can be purchased to upgrade your hero. There were not a lot of choices here but there were two in particular that were a bit of rapening if used correctly.  First was the High Mage.  Any high-craft hero could become the high mage by simply depositing a magic item in the city.  This gave a character two (!?) spells per turn and added and additional 2 craft.  Remember, unlike the new addition, players could not turn in defeated monsters for Craft so that 2 Craft is pure gold in 2nd editions. What’s more since 2nd ed. Talisman Dragons added a ton of magic items to the game, it was an easy thing to get some shitty magic trinket and suddenly be the most powerful spellcaster in the game with a quick trip to the city.  Most underpowered/low tier characters would immediately attempt to do this as their first set of moves in the game.   While still not on par with the Monk (who is laughably underpowered in 4th edition), Astropath or Prophetess, the High Mage was boss of almost all the other characters since the 2 craft bonus put him above all of the craft-attackers like the Ghoul, Wizard or Sorceress.  All that said, I do not miss the advanced characters.  It was a neat idea for the game, but wasn’t built into the entire system (I could easily see a talisman clone where the entire character leveling was choosing new careers) so felt like a bit of a shoddy addon– a much loved shoddy addon mind you.

I hope to get another Talisman game in this year– the next purchase in that line is Talisman Dragons which seems a bit overly complicated for what it brings to the table.  What next for 4th edition?  It’s got to be Timescape.  There’s no other place to go!


Our year in board gaming 2012

This year I didn’t get a ton of gaming in compared to previous years.  That said, the games I want to play have narrowed quite a bit as what we don’t have is TIME, so faster games are getting played more.  Gone are the weekends where we could conceivably play something for two days in a row or for even 8 hours straight.  Anything over 4 hours is really never going to hit the table again unless it’s either really good or there is some exceptional circumstances.

End of the summer and Fall was slower for gaming as usual, but there was some fervor for a few games that made people really want to get out and push some wood on cardboard.   Mostly, that fervor was around Eclipse, which is the clear winner for best game (and most played)  over the course of this year. I got in 18 games of it, and seeing as most Risk-like strategy games I own have been played maybe 3-5 times ever, that’s saying something.   The game is almost perfect for the 4X space genre and really, my complaints about it are the mediocre alien art rather than anything to do with the game itself.  The first expansion is also excellent.  While Eclipse games can sometimes be a bit boring if all the players turtle up or get a bad draw (or are eliminated)–it’s due to lack of experience on how to rack up the points.  While totally dominating the 4X space genre (bye bye Twilight Imperium), Eclipse by no means takes the place of Cosmic Encounter as both the best sci-fi board game and best board game ever made but shit– it’s close.

Other than Eclipse, Glory to Rome is my second favorite for the year.  While an older game, it had a reprint this year and it kicks ALL sorts of ass.  It’s what we all wanted Race for the Galaxy to be and just didn’t know it at the time.  There are just so many paths to victory, and while you are trying to set up your own stuff, like Race for the Galaxy, there’s much more interaction with other players.  I think this will get played an absolute TON in 2013.  Easy set up, easy to play, difficult to win and a Knizia level of nastiness makes for a total winner.

Second tier games that I liked but got pushed out by the two above:  King of Tokyo is the first of the equals here.  I love this game and will play it any time but it’s really light, doesn’t have  much strategy and I can see some people not liking the randomness of it.  There are some tough decisions to make in the game, but at it’s surface, it seems all about just rolling dice.   The dice are a factor however, so this is why I like to play 3-4 games in a sitting to even all that random out.  Secondly is the Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre.  This is a fun little game but with too many players, say 5+, the turns take forever and because you have to win 2 rounds the game can take 3-4 HOURS to get through.  Sitting down to just play a single round is well worth it.  While light and not very strategic, the art and getting to yell out the spells makes it a solid game to play when you don’t have a ton of time.

The last two are games I wanted to like, but am not sure about.  First is Blood Bowl Team Manager.  While a solid concept, I became frustrated in two four-player games where I was the last player to go on the first season of each game, limiting my play options.  It seemed impossible to catch up in either game and made me think that this is a serious design flaw.  While I love Blood Bowl, and Team Manager is a cool concept, I can’t see this hitting the table due to this balance issue.  In contrast,  In Nexus Ops, the players after the first get a bonus to their cash to balance out the power of the first turn.   Team Manager has no such fix and from my few plays at the wrong end of the table, it needs it.  Secondly: Feudality by Tom Wham.  This is also a fairly light game with a lot of randomness to it.  I’d describe it as Catan with fighting.    While enjoyable to play, the same dice issues that I have with Catan creep up in Feudality and it doesn’t seem like you can knee-cap the player closest to winning easy.  I don’t expect it to hit the table all that much.

Games that fell by the wayside this year a bit.   First off is Warhammer Fantasy Battle. I hate to say it but I only got in a few games this year while painting a lot more than I usually do.  I assume I’ll get in another game before the end of year, but this SHOULD have been played a lot more than it was.   Sure I could have packed up my shit and gone to the GW store any given Sunday for a game, but it’s tough when you have a basement set up with a table.

Secondly, I only got to play Cosmic Encounter FOUR times this year.  That’s a crying shame and has to be rectified in 2013.

I did get in some old stuff this year that proved to be pretty awesome.   The first was Epic 40K, the third iteration of the Space Marine rules– yes the ones that TANKED after 6 months of support from GW. I was surprisingly pleased with the rules and wish now that I had played it a lot more in the heyday (if there was one) for this ruleset.  Bolt Action uses these rules (essentially), so if you are looking at a modern iteration, that’s where to go.  Following the old GW vein, I was coerced into playing 40K, a game I rather loathe since the new ‘mass close combat’ style rules came out, but in it’s 2nd edition which still has some tactical depth for the scale with individual models rather than moving globs of models en masse (which is ok for EPIC scale, but 28 mm skirmish? No).

Shockingly, Advanced Space Crusade got raised out of the dust and played.  This is one of Games Workshops pinnacles of design with both a campaign game and tactical game wrapped in one.  While not something I could play a lot of, it’s a solid experience and one of GW’s best 40K offshoots.

So that was 2012– what is there to look forward to in 2013?  First off is Talisman City.  Fantasy Flight is tackling one of the more difficult to design expansions to Talisman.  If the success of Dungeon is any indication, I have a lot of confidence that City will be excellent.  Talisman has a ton of expansions at this point and I’ve played with all of them but Dragons, which looks like a lot more work than integrating the rest of the expansions.   Moongha Invaders is the next on my list for 2013– and a kickstarted I’ve supported.  Other than that, there’s not too much that’s coming out next year for board games that I know of now.  I’m sure there will be something to grab at my hard earned cash and if not, there is always Eclipse…