The board game “Talisman” has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best fantasy board games ever made. I have been a die hard fan ever since picking up the Second Edition boxset back in the late 1980s, and I couldn’t even imagine how many hours I have spent vying for the Crown of Command. I still have all of the Second Edition expansions, from the Dungeon and City up to the Timescape and Dragons, including the cut-out special characters from Games Workshop’s “White Dwarf” magazine.
Because I love the original so much, (I ignored the Third Edition, which tried to updated things to make the game more in-line with RPGs including things like “Experience Points” and connecting Talisman even further to the Games Workshop “Warhammer Universe.”) it took me awhile to give this Fourth Edition of “Talisman” a try. I finally gave it a chance at a local gaming convention and was hooked again.
This Fourth Edition takes a basic “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to this classic boardgame, keeping the Second Edition essentially intact but introducing some of the better fixes from the Third Edition. The board itself is identical, although enlarged and with updated artwork. The card text is almost unchanged (including characters who “plod off to the discard pile”) although none of the original art was retained.
Probably the most notable change was making “Life” a variable starting number, just like Strength and Craft. Some of the characters start with five (Warrior) or even six (Troll) life instead of the standard four. The Prophetess, one of the most powerful characters in the Second Edition, has been de-powered a bit. She can now draw one card, and then chose to either keep that card or discard it and draw another, which she must encounter. That was a nice edition as in the old version The Prophetess was so powerful she was boring to play. An additional element called “fate counters” has been added which allow for the re-rolling of a single die if you pay a counter. Craft-defeated monsters can also be cashed-in now in the same way as Strength-defeated monsters.
Fantasy Flight games has done a tremendous job with the production values of this version of “Talisman.” Aside from the updated artwork, the counters are all hard-plastic with the Strength, Craft and Life counters being colored cones that come in 1-count and 5-count versions. The cards are on laminated cardstock which will last through repeated shuffling and drink-spilling. Really, everything has gone through a major upgrade.
If I had any disappointments with this Fourth Edition they are minor. The game board itself is too huge, taking up my entire kitchen table, which means that when I pick up any future expansions (of which I hope there will be many after Reaper, The Dungeonand Frostmarch) I will have to move to the floor in order to have a space large enough to play.
I also would have appreciated it if Fantasy Flight had balanced out the gender ration of characters when commissioning the new artwork. This was something I wouldn’t have noticed except when I was playing with my wife she wanted to play a female character and all that was available was The Sorceress and The Prophetess. Several characters, like the Assassin, the Thief, the Warrior, the Elf, etc…could have easily been made female in the artwork without changing the game-play in any way.
I have great hopes for this new Fourth Edition of “Talisman,” and hope that great things are forth coming. I would love to see some old favorites appear, like the “Champion of Chaos” and the “Horrible Black Void,” along with some new ideas and expansions.