A digital version of Games Workshops adventure game has certainly taken a long journey to reach us. An initial version based on the third edition board and rule set was in development for various console digital services and featured a 3D board and a number of other technical tricks. Sadly it never materialised and the idea went quiet. Now Nomad games have delivered us a faithful visual recreation of the fourth edition version of the game.
For the uninitiated Talisman is an adventure style board game for up to four players. Each player must move around the board encountering enemies and gathering followers and items so that they can make their way to the centre of the board and take control of the crown. Once there they can cast the command spell to force the other players out of the game and win.
In terms of presentation the game hasn’t got any spectacular bells and whistles but it does recreate the board and cards excellently. There aren’t any real animations or visual effects though with effectively being a digitised version of the board, cards and rule set. We would have liked the option of a bit more animation but in our experience gimmicks are often turned off quickly as they begin to repeat themselves. Carcassonne and Catan certainly never felt the need to add them in either.
The board is split into three regions. Players start on the most outer region and gradually make their way into the middle by overcoming various obstacles. To make it to the second region you need to cross and river and can do this via a teleport, raft or battling a giant sentinel. To then reach the inner most region to need to get through a magic door and a have a talisman in your possession. As you move through the regions the squares get more dangerous so wise players will spend time building their strength and craft in order to survive.
Stats can be built up in three main ways. You can find objects, recruit followers of trade-in battle trophies. Every time you fight a monster on the board and defeat it you take its card as a trophy. Once you have enough cards based in either strength or craft you can then exchange them for an increase in that stat. Each of the characters has their own strengths and weaknesses and their own unique abilities so you have to change your strategy depending on who you are playing. For instance, the Warrior roles two dice in combat while the Minstrel can gather animals he encounters to boost his strength.
The rule set is fairly easy to understand as well. Every square lays down what must be done on it and how many adventure cards need to be drawn. The cards themselves also explain what needs to be done or what they do. The game engine fills in many of the gaps for you and it seems a pretty solid rule set. One thing we really don’t like is that only some characters can choose to fight others with craft rather than strength, this seems to unbalance things a little as building up a high craft can be somewhat pointless depending on who you are.
We also found at times, especially when playing against AI characters, that the game did begin to drag in its later stages. There were a few times we managed to get all the way through the card deck without that much progress being made and this can lead to frustration. To be fair that’s all in the random nature of the game. Getting the wrong cards or rolling the wrong numbers can be a pain and without human opponents to taunt you it does begin to feel a bit dull after a while. We couldn’t test online play as we couldn’t find any games (which is worrying at this early stage), but you’ll be glad to hear that there most certainly is a four player local option.
A number of expansions are on the way which changes elements of how the game plays and are based on what is already available for the table top version of the game. There isn’t anything which adds more regions yet but we would love to see this in the future to further open up the world and add some more variety.
Overall, there may be a few issues and the game does tend to suffer from problems that other board games have had when they make the leap to a digital format. That said the rule set here is solid and accurate and the game is a much cheaper way of the playing what is an excellent table top game. It’s a faithful recreation and any Games Workshop or Talisman fan shouldn’t be disappointed with what they find. It may be a harder sell for the regular PC gamer but invest the time and get a few friends involved and this is a deep and rewarding adventure that you’ll return to when you want something which requires a bit more thought.