Let's be honest, Talisman needs a gothic horror expansion like Jar Jar Binks needs more screen time in the Phantom Menace. However, I'm a Talisman fanatic. So when FFG pours gothic horror flavored slop into my feeding trough I gorge myself like the gluttonous Talisman pig that I am.
Fighting dragons, goblins, ogres and their ilk can leave adventures in a wearisome malaise. Sometimes you want to flay the skin off a werewolf to make a fur coat for the Misses. Or perhaps you need to slake your thirst for pumpkin macchiato by pulverizing a demonic pumpkinoid creature. To help you achieve these goals, Blood Moon comes with new spells, characters, and a themed adventure deck to help sprinkle some horror into the typical fantasy hijinks of Talisman.
So let's get the big guy out of the way: The Werewolf. Much like the Grim Reaper from the aptly named, Reaper Expansion, the werewolf stalks the board by activating each time players roll a one for movement. During the daytime (more on that later) the wolf has to land exactly on a character to attack. However, during the night if he happens to move into your space you must encounter him. I've heard complaints about the Wolf not having much bite and I've found these claims to be false. Early in the game, especially at night, the wolf can easily pounce on players. It's MUCH more common to get attacked by the werewolf than to have the Reaper pay you a visit. A werewolf attack usually results in the loss of a life, the death of a follower or getting cursed with lycanthropy. Becoming a lycanthrope cursed adventurer is kind of awesome. You get a bonus to combat rolls and you're forced to attack other players. It's a sweet gig, just don't run into an angry peasant mob or they'll murder you. Seriously.
All in all the Werewolf feels very Talisman-y. He does mostly bad stuff, but, like everything else in the game, there is a tiny chance he helps you out. This makes the Werewolf kind of like a drunk uncle that you constantly run into around town. He might sucker punch you in the ribs or give you a ride to Dairy Queen. I recommend using the Beast in conjunction with the Reaper to create a fearsome tag-team that would make Vince McMahon proud. The werewolf is awesome and will remain a permanent fixture in my Talisman box.
I mentioned "daytime" and, yes, this expansion brings a Simon's Quest style day/night cycle into Talisman. A small double-sided card signifies whether it's the sunny, safe, daytime or the damp, dangerous, night. During the day, all creatures are weakened receiving a minus one to their attacks. While at night, the monsters grow stronger and add one to their combat rolls. Nice and simple. Each time an event card is drawn the time of day changes. Some of these are "Lunar Events" that will dictate the time of day and add "remain in play" effects. For example, the "Vampiric Thirst" event allows all players to heal a life after butchering a foe. These effects will last until the time of day switches and they can have a big impact on the board. The day/night cycle is my favorite part of Blood Moon. There are so many weapons, enemies and encounters that tie into this little mechanic. This makes the expansion really pop with fun cards to experience, but it makes it difficult to integrate this set if you don't want to use the day/night cycle. There were a few grumbles about having to remember to change the time of day or the consequences of a Lunar Event. I think it's worth the meager extra effort required.
Blood Moon adds three new lambs that the game will likely slaughter: The Grave Digger, The Doomsayer and the Vampire Hunter. The Grave Digger and Vampire Hunter are a perfect thematic fit for this expansion. They're like having Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in a Terrence Fisher film. The Doomsayer feels like the odd man out. With so many classic horror options like a Mad Scientist, Witch, Invisible Man, Hunchback etc...it seems like a wasted opportunity. Of the three characters the Grave Digger is quickly becoming one my all time favorites. I will almost never pass up the chance to play as his portly, creepy, ass. Players need to be careful what they discard because this mangy fella can draw from the top of the discard pile. He can also go search for shiny objects in the Graveyard. With a little luck he can quickly run away with a game. I like the Mina Harker aspirant, The Vampire Hunter. She can go hunting for adventure cards and gets a bonus to every combat roll. The Doomsayer can easily cycle spells, gain fate and choose adventure cards. So despite not fitting in with the horror setting he is still a formidable character. Honestly, all three characters are enjoyable to play, so you can't complain about that. Still, I wish all three of them fit the Gothic horror motif. I guess FFG wanted to please non-horror fans and toss them a bone. Oh well.
Finally, we have the MVP of the Blood Moon, THE HORRIBLE BLACK VOID! This alternate ending will be the sole reason many folks gobble up this expansion. For the uninitiated: when revealed at the Crown of Command you get sucked into a void and automatically lose. It's like drinking from the wrong Grail at the end of Last Crusade or picking up the wrong Necronomicon in Army of Darkness. You made it to the end destination, but you weren't worthy. Adios you filthy animal! Kiss the last three hours of your life GOODBYE. The only bummer is that you need several hidden alternate ending cards to use the Void. So you, um, might want to go buy all the other small box expansions. To counter balance this insanely mean card FFG has included a PURE CO-OP mode which is just as horrible as it sounds. If you're like me, you'll douse this card in gasoline and reduce it to a pile of ash n' cinder. Also included is the standard expansion themed boss ending that lets you fight a werewolf at the Crown. Yaaawn! Sorry, I was imaging how pissed my friend would be after getting VOIDED!
So where does Blood Moon fit in with the rest of Talisman's brood? I think it should be one of the first expansions that new players pick up. Sure you won't be able to use the H.B.V. right away, but that card is for more experienced players anyway. The rest of the expansion is too good too miss out on. It not only adds horror flavor to the adventure deck, but many cards spice up your adventures in interesting ways. Scarecrows will only show up in fields, headless horsemen will give chase, and vampires drain life. Every card seems to do something different and unique. This is great since the base game's enemies are mostly no frills Strength or Craft encounters. The Blood Moon cards in contrast feel MUCH more dynamic and fun to experience. It really makes the adventure deck a treat to explore. Without adding tokens, rules or bloat the game gets better. You can't really ask for much more from an expansion.
For those out there that hate Talisman, this will do nothing to change your mind. For everyone else, this should already be in your collection. Crank up some NES era Castlevania music and get adventuring.
What does the Scale-o-Matic 6500™ say?
On a scale of Howling III: The Marsupials to An American Werewolf in London
Talisman Blood Moon rates as The Curse of the Werewolf
"Seasons of Talisman" Variant
The way I use these small box expansions is to inject different seasons into my games. Like some perverse God that controls the world of Talisman, I swap small box expansions in and out for maximum seasonal pleasure. I use the Sacred Pool in the spring, Firelands in the summer, Blood Moon in autumn, and Frostmarch during the winter months. Besides giving the game a some seasonal flair it also let's you get the most out of these small expansions. By using one at a time it really allows the theme of the expansion to come through. When it's snowing outside I like to have my adventurers fight ice bears, cryomancers, and the Ice Queen. It just feels right.
Designer: John Goodenough
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Year Published: 2012
Player Count: 2 to 6
Length: 90 mins to 120 mins+