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Flashback Friday - Talisman - Love it or Hate It? Do you Still Play It?

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Talisman board game

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Talisman the Magical Quest Game, desgined by Bob Harris was published in 1983 and has been a much loved and a much loathed game ever since. I once asked Mr. Harris if he had a choice, would he rather be remembered as "Robert J. Harris, the author," or "Bob Harris the designer of Talisman?"  He answered that although he didn't expect to be remembered at all, that one of his great pleasures was recieving letters from children all over the world about the fun and happiness that Talisman a had given them. 

Does Talisman bring you fun and happiness, or bordom and misery? Love it or Hate It? Do you Still Play It?

There Will Be Games Talisman board game

Talisman board game
Shellie "ubarose" Rose  (She/Her)
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Plays boardgames. Drinks bourbon. Writes code.

Articles by Shellie

Talisman board game
Shellie "ubarose" Rose
Managing Editor & Web Admin

Articles by Shellie

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Legomancer's Avatar
Legomancer replied the topic: #285143 02 Nov 2018 11:37
I played the shit out of Talisman in college and enjoyed it a bunch. I still have my copy, but I haven't played it in ages. I like Talisman, and it will always have a place in my heart, but it's not a game I really want to give time over others these days.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #285148 02 Nov 2018 13:07
Same. Played my copy of 2nd Ed (everything but Dragons) from the mid-80s to the 00s and loved it, but finally decided I'd had enough, so I sold it to a guy in the UK who made a huge order for me at an online retailer that included Runebound. From that point, I've never looked back, even as GW and then FFG and then GW have reprinted it. If I want an adventure game, I have a lot of options, so Talisman really isn't a consideration anymore.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #285154 02 Nov 2018 13:32
I’ve had a strange journey with Talisman. I’ve had great times with it and I’ve had times that were disasterous and completely unfun for all involved. I have a reputation for hating the game, which was true for a long time.

Yet as I play more bad adventure games, like Runebound 2e, which all copies should be forcefully collected and burned, I find myself respecting Talisman more. I prefer Relic because I like the 40k universe better than generic fantasy and, while less wild and freewheeling, is by far less prone to producing the kinds of games that turned me off to Talisman. I wish any version of the game was shorter. I like silly fun, but I top out around the 1 hour mark.

So there it is. I don’t hate Talisman. I’d rather play Runebound 3E, but I certainly don’t hate it.
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #285156 02 Nov 2018 13:57
Played it last night and had a blast. It's the perfect hang out game. Fun, not too involving, can shoot the breeze while playing a d always has a laugh out loud moment or two.

Al's ghoul killing off my Priest at the Crown of Command with his finger of death just when I thought I had won was priceless
Colorcrayons's Avatar
Colorcrayons replied the topic: #285157 02 Nov 2018 14:22
It's a good app game for mindless grinding.

It's also a good game to play with kids to get them into the adventure type genre.

Outside of that... I dunno. I do think want to slag the game, but I don't find myself seeking it.
engineer Al's Avatar
engineer Al replied the topic: #285160 02 Nov 2018 15:34

repoman wrote: Al's ghoul killing off my Priest at the Crown of Command with his finger of death just when I thought I had won was priceless


I AGREE! It was more than that though, the entire game was a blast! You and me and Mike all battling it out in the center ring at the end was just exactly what Talisman is all about, and reminded me why I have so much affection for this game. It's more than just nostalgia for a time when it was a groundbreaking game that me and my buddies lost ourselves in. It's that it is a genuinely FUN experience where winning is part luck and part strategy, but the strategy is not so intense and demanding that it takes you away from the fantasy. As you mentioned it also allows players to have a good time together WHILE playing. I LOVE THIS GAME!
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #285165 02 Nov 2018 15:59
I played old school Talisman once. I was pretty neutral on it. Decision-making was pretty much limited to left or right, and everything else was about rolling the dice well.

A couple of years ago, I played Relic. It was probably more or less the same game, but I found it long and unenjoyable. I kept drawing tough encounters and then rolling badly, so I was permanently stuck on the outer edge of play while other players slowly advanced. We called it quits after four hours when it became apparent that only the owner of the game was still having fun.
engineer Al's Avatar
engineer Al replied the topic: #285166 02 Nov 2018 16:04

Shellhead wrote: I played old school Talisman once. I was pretty neutral on it. Decision-making was pretty much limited to left or right, and everything else was about rolling the dice well.


I feel that this is only true when you don't know the game well. Knowing all the cards and all of your options opens up more choices.
mtagge's Avatar
mtagge replied the topic: #285173 02 Nov 2018 19:54
Played it twice with the kids then gave them my copy. Two boys currently 7 & 9. They love it. Of course they cheat blatantly (together) to increase their fun. And they don't try to win. For them it is more of an activity than a game. And they ripped the dungeon board in half when putting it away improperly :(

Me, if I'm playing with them I'll pull out something else. Runebound, Imperial Assault, Warhammer Quest ACG, etc.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #285175 02 Nov 2018 21:36
Talisman is one of my great gaming loves. For just plain old adventuring, it's exactly what I want from a game. It's long enough to be somewhat epic, but it's simple enough to not make me ask why I'm not playing a D&D one-shot. I have all of the FFG expansions, and there isn't one that I would do without. I love trying different combinations of expansions, I love setting it up and just goofing off around the table, I just love it.

I think one of its secret advantages is that it was created with an eye toward mainstream audiences. People can instantly understand how to play because it does such a good job using common boardgame language in a fun way. It's not a deep game, but I don't need depth with stuff like this. I just want a game that actually feels adventurous, and Talisman does that really well.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #285190 03 Nov 2018 12:21
Oh, I love this stupid game but I’m also kind of OK with not playing it anymore. I do think Relic is “better”, but this is the original and it’s still really kind of unique despite its many imitators and descendants.

My favorite Talisman memory remains this game of 2nd editon I played around 1996. It was everything with like 10 players. It was insane. We started at like 2 or 3 and it went almost 12 hours (lots of drinking and goofing off). I think we did like 3 respawns each or something and everyone was playing to be as nasty as possible. My friend Anthony won, at last, and the guy that owned the set gave the entire game to him. I drove Anthony home and he gave me the set because he didn’t want to keep it. I later sold that full set at my shop for like $400 around 2005.
Ah_Pook's Avatar
Ah_Pook replied the topic: #285192 03 Nov 2018 12:43
I love Talisman but it's not a game I need to play very often. It just goes too long to play very often, but when were in the mood for it it's great. My wife has a winning streak going where she turns evil and then becomes super powerful and crushes everybody. Sometimes this involves alien brain parasites.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #285193 03 Nov 2018 12:44
I have never actually played the actual board game. I have the digital version and pretty much never touch it. I have Relic, which I do enjoy quite a bit, despite its ridiculous play time. If I had the right crowd, I would not hesitate to break out Relic.
Ah_Pook's Avatar
Ah_Pook replied the topic: #285195 03 Nov 2018 12:56
For us a lot of the charm comes from the art in 2e. I don't think we would enjoy it nearly as much with modern FFG fantasy art (yknow, competent and bland) or Warhammer 40k themed or whatever.
stoic's Avatar
stoic replied the topic: #285207 03 Nov 2018 20:31
I still play it, and, only with the Reaper expansion. It's an old school roll-and-move design. But, this allows social interaction and beer. You can teach it to anybody--most like it. And, it creates great stories! It plays too long, but, I house-rule it to shorten the game by allowing easier level-ups and shortening the end-game at the Crown of Command. I just 3D-printed architectural elements to add to the board and will paint them.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #285208 03 Nov 2018 20:49

Ah_Pook wrote: For us a lot of the charm comes from the art in 2e. I don't think we would enjoy it nearly as much with modern FFG fantasy art (yknow, competent and bland) or Warhammer 40k themed or whatever.


With the fourth edition, the board is terrific. You can tell that a GW subsidiary made it originally. There's a marked change in the art after the base game toward a less compelling FFG style.
SaMoKo's Avatar
SaMoKo replied the topic: #285219 04 Nov 2018 00:04
Talisman never really did it for me. I never seem to get the narrative that others do from the game. I just move a dude around to gain xp, items and gold until I can hit the centre.

In most ways it doesn’t have a huge difference than the Bauhaus blowing apart some mutants on some stairs, but it just seems to fall short. I honestly get more tension and narrative from a game of Claustrophobia
cfmcdonald's Avatar
cfmcdonald replied the topic: #285319 05 Nov 2018 13:25
I owned 3rd edition way back when in high school in the mid-90s, but never really found anyone to play it with.

I just picked up 4th edition to play with my 5-year-old, and found that I've fallen in love with it and started playing solo games where I control multiple characters. Sure it's random and basically 'dumb', compared to more recent fantasy board game designs. But its very simplicity and stupidity is its genius. It is like a little fantasy world generator, where the random pull of the deck generates a different board each time, with little micro-stories every turn. In my current game the Ruins ended up with both the Cave and the Shrine, making it catnip for every adventurer on the board - until the sneaky Minstrel cast a spell to shift time and space and pull those cards halfway across the board to his location.

Despite all the randomness there is real strategy there, especially with certain characters (Particularly characters who can manipulate movement, peek at decks or redraw cards, or really any spellcaster who gets to refresh spells).

Now I'm looking to acquire all the expansions, which is a very expensive endeavor, unfortunately.
RabidWookie's Avatar
RabidWookie replied the topic: #285451 06 Nov 2018 15:21
Relic obsoleted Talisman, and then Runebound 3e obsoleted every other adventure game.
cfmcdonald's Avatar
cfmcdonald replied the topic: #285457 06 Nov 2018 16:33
I can't agree with that.

Relic might have better mechanics than Talisman in a number of ways, but the aesthetics and theme kill it for me. In Talisman I can adventure in a lighthearted Tolkienesque-fantasy realm with an elf, dwarf, or wizard, battling dragons and searching out lost tombs. In Relic I'm a weird little character bust in a grimdark, low-contrast future of endless war. No thanks.

Runebound 3e was a total bust, IMO. The characters are very samey. Worse, all the enemies also feel pretty much the same. There is no progression from easy to epic threats, no "Ah ha, now I can finally take on that dragon!" And the combat tokens add a huge amount of overhead with no payoff - the decisions are always obvious so why not just have a dice roll off? The co-op expansion was half-assed and failed to address a bunch of cards/abilities that were not designed for co-op. And no allies!
Sevej's Avatar
Sevej replied the topic: #285463 06 Nov 2018 18:33

cfmcdonald wrote: I can't agree with that.

Relic might have better mechanics than Talisman in a number of ways, but the aesthetics and theme kill it for me. In Talisman I can adventure in a lighthearted Tolkienesque-fantasy realm with an elf, dwarf, or wizard, battling dragons and searching out lost tombs. In Relic I'm a weird little character bust in a grimdark, low-contrast future of endless war. No thanks.

Runebound 3e was a total bust, IMO. The characters are very samey. Worse, all the enemies also feel pretty much the same. There is no progression from easy to epic threats, no "Ah ha, now I can finally take on that dragon!" And the combat tokens add a huge amount of overhead with no payoff - the decisions are always obvious so why not just have a dice roll off? The co-op expansion was half-assed and failed to address a bunch of cards/abilities that were not designed for co-op. And no allies!


Lol, I can't believe you confirmed every concern I have about Runebound 3e.

But, yeah, Talisman is so effortless, still my favorite game. A story I love to tell is that I bought it after watching Game of Thrones, the unexpectedness of things.
dysjunct's Avatar
dysjunct replied the topic: #285476 06 Nov 2018 22:35
I guess I’m in the “don’t get it” category. Never played it back in the day. Got the app when it came out to see what all the fuss was about. It was confusing and not fun. Deleted it after about 10 minutes. Would rather play about anything else.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #285506 07 Nov 2018 13:28
I never played it in the day either, doing lots of other shit in the 80s & 90s and games would not have got a look in even if I had bumped into some, and when I got into gaming post 2000 Talisman wasn't a game that I or groups were into.
Even now I wouldn't get it out over any other game in my collection although I would play it if at someone else's place (a couple of Warhammer/RPG guys in my group play it as a replacement if numbers are low at their meets), and I have actually bought the electronic version this year when it was on special but just haven't felt compelled to play it - it's just not part of my history and has no theme/mechanic pull on me either.
Sevej's Avatar
Sevej replied the topic: #285541 07 Nov 2018 19:24

dysjunct wrote: I guess I’m in the “don’t get it” category. Never played it back in the day. Got the app when it came out to see what all the fuss was about. It was confusing and not fun. Deleted it after about 10 minutes. Would rather play about anything else.


Even I wouldn't play the app alone. Tried once, deleted it.

My first game of Talisman was in late 2000s? Me and 3 other guys used Vassal to play a 2nd ed Talisman. It was funny as hell, mostly we just laugh at each other. I think that first game took 7 hours over 2 or 3 different sessions. But again, yeah, it's random. Some turns could pass before something happen. But the sense of place... how there can be NPC, new locations... etc, stupid things happening, 2nd turn dragons... that's whack, and that's what I'm playing Talisman for.
MunroMike's Avatar
MunroMike replied the topic: #289740 10 Jan 2019 18:07
Talisman can be lighthearted or blood thirsty; for me I got exposed in the mid/late 80s while an impressionable teen. I don't play it enough now with my kids - but - I had always dreamt of a diorama board and did it a couple of years ago as a fully playable minifig scale based on the 2e game/graphics. Am now working on the City expansion.

Doing this takes it to a new level - my character can pick up the sword, put on the helmet, ride the horse or travel around the board with followers in tow. That added a whole new dimension.