Chaotic, crazy, fantasy-themed, random insanity! May not be perfectly balanced, but it's a bunch of silly adventuring fun. This new edition looks really nice, with the cool gold coins, awesome board and card art, and little plastic pieces for stats (they aren't very readable, so I'm just using all of them for '1'). Great for casual gamers who like fantasy stuff (though it can run kind of long if you don't use any time-saving variants).
The 4th edition is nearly identical to the 2nd edition in gameplay, which isn't a bad thing. It's not mentally taxing, doesn't have downtime, is heavy on theme, feels like an adventure, and is an endless source of dramatic situations that can cause feelings in players all over the emotional spectrum.
The old expansions were good (for the most part). The extra card expansions and the dungeon were great for variety. The city and timescape kind of took away from the cutthroatness and player interaction, which I didn't like.
At first glance, there doesn't seem to be much choice or opportunity for strategy (just roll a die, move that many, draw a card and do what it says), but there's a bit more decision making than people give it credit for. You feel like you are both choosing your own adventure and simply going along with the story. Still, there isn't *a lot* of strategy here, and this is a nice game to play when you want some light fun after a long day, or when you're with a bunch of friends and want to play something light, fun, thematic, and cutthroat.
Life is hard and the Gods are cruel; we toil for their amusement and even our best, most heroic efforts are but castles in the sand before the rushing tide. The Crown of Command dangles as a carrot on the end of a very beaty stick, existing only to see who will neck-stab whom for the illusion of control. We go now, doughty adventurers, hopping across this stage as toads to make the Gods—and perhaps ourselves—laugh. In the end, some lucky bastard will "win"—though he or she will most likely be consumed in capricious flames whence the curtain falls on this pointless shadow play.
This is NOT a nostalgia rating—I never got a chance to play this as a kid, teen, or college student. Though I probably would have spent an awful lot of time doing so if I'd had the chance...
This is a GREAT nerd party/time-waster/beer, pretzels & potty-mouth game. It has clumsy, outdated mechanics, "unfair" amounts of luck, and the ancient, tired and beaten-to-death Lord of the Rings/D&D rip-off theme.
And I love it.
This is, in many ways, the Ultimate "Gone-Stupid" Game. You can pull your brain out of gear and just coast along; it's one for those times when you would like to play a game, but life has hammered you down to the point where you just want to go "guh."
So roll a die, pull a card, read the result aaand...
UPDATE: Many people decry the random, binary movement system (roll a die and choose either right or left) but this simplicity is part of what makes Talisman great—it's the only game of its ilk in which downtime is not an issue. While Runebound begins to drag at 3p (and becomes intolerable with any more), Talisman can support the full compliment of players and the turns literally whiz around the table. Roll, pick, do the thing, pass the dice. It's almost a party game, it's so fast.
The only minor downer is that what makes this game fantastic is also the one thing that can kill it. The utterly random element, so brilliant as a jumping-off point for spit-takes—like when the Leprechaun gets the Princess as a follower and ends up being lugged around in a front-facing baby carrier with a boob on each shoulder—can make the game excruciatingly slow when the cards don't come out in a useful manner. After a couple of games of watching others level up ferociously while I got in multiple fights with a Royal Decree, three Horse Stables, several Bags of Gold, and a New Age strip-mall (the Mage, Healer and some dude hawking tie-dyed bedsheets decided to clog up the Hidden Valley), I've come to realize that more than anything else this game requires stamina.
With all the Adventure Cards from all the expansions, I'm thinking I might need to go through and trim the deck down to tighten up the game... though I'm conflicted, as Talisman really is about embracing pure chaos and not every story should follow standard Fantasy tropes. Sometimes it's okay if the Ogre Chieftain's saga is one of administration, finances and horse-trading.
Recommended for Faster Play:
- Start the game with +1 Strength or Craft
- Gain Strength/Craft for every 5 points of trophies
- Remember that mechanically it's a push-your-luck race game without a timer—so push your luck and run that race as quickly as you can. Go for the inner region as soon as your Strength or Craft is 9+. On average this drives the game to a satisfying conclusion in about 90 minutes.†
†Of course, True Fans see the lack of timer as a bonus, making Talisman a fantasy bubble bath—complete with your favorite beverage and current love interest—to luxuriate in as you will. Time means nothing if you love what this does.