Game: Talisman v14.5
Developer: Nomad Games
Category: Board Game
IAP: $0.99 - $2.99 per item
Talisman is a digital replication of the popular and expansive high-fantasy board game, originally designed and produced by Games Workshop, now published by Fantasy Flight Games. The core concept and mechanics of the game were invented by Robert Harris, then later published by Games Workshop, to first appear at Games Day 1983, which is a major annual gaming convention held in the United Kingdom. Since the first edition of Talisman, 14 exhaustive expansions have been released to currently conclude with today's fourth edition rules and modifications. This makes Talisman one of the most massive board game experiences ever published with almost endless possibilities with each gaming session. With the advent of popularity of physical board and card games among today's generation, and the wealth of content provided for the core game, it was a natural decision to digitize the experience for our beloved devices.
Nomad Games has been consistently updating Talisman's digital content over time, which is currently boasting ten expansions that are very faithful to the physical sets. As the actual board game supports between two and six players, the digital edition provides a rather diabolical AI opponent to arrive at adventures suitable from one player up to six total. It's worth noting that with every added expansion and/or player included within a single game, the time investment to finish a game increases exponentially, making Monopoly seem like a quick game of Tic-Tac-Toe. It's not uncommon to have six player games with multiple expansions in play that can span an entire weekend, creating a living epic fantasy tale that unfolds before your very eyes. With general rules that are easy to teach and simple to grasp, Talisman has become a plausible alternative to more complex tabletop games such as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, lending a similar social environment without the chore of studying tomes of confusing rules and information. Without further ado, we set forth into the realm of Talisman digital edition to unearth the mysteries of this arcane phenomenon.
A Quest Of A Lifetime
The underlying story of Talisman begins with a mighty wizard who ruled the land with a powerful magical crown that was forged in the Valley of Fire by spirits bound to it through arcane magic. Centuries passed of his supreme reign, only one day to realize his mortal coil would soon perish, leaving his precious crown unattended to creatures unknown. His resolve was to hide the Crown of Command in the Plain of Peril, the most rigorous and dangerous region in the land, proclaiming that only a champion of great strength, wisdom and courage could possess such a potent relic in his place. Players are charged with the daunting and difficult task of traversing the Outer, Middle and Inner Regions, obtaining a Talisman to travel through the Portal of Power, passing through the Plain of Peril to the Valley of Fire, then obtaining this mystical Crown of Command to defeat all opposition to ultimately win the game. Sounds easy, right?
Through bounties of decisive events, legendary creatures to battle, magical items to aid or stifle progress, followers to help or hinder your journey, along with other opponents racing against you, the quest is indeed one of epic proportions. The prospect of victory is rarely obvious until the very end of the game when a single character finally obtains the Crown of Command through the many trials and tribulations of the game world. At this moment of ultimate glory, all other characters will have perished through your actions, and the world is yours to rule as your alignment dictates; malevolently or benevolently. Decisions are plentiful in Talisman, starting with fourteen characters to choose from with unique abilities and attributes in the core base game, dictating different strategies and goals per each. The more expansions that are added to the core game, the easier it is for best laid plans to deteriorate into survival from random events; rendering initial strategies into alternative gameplans. Also, some expansions offer additional tile sets to the core board that will increase the boundaries and play time exponentially to where it becomes an entirely new robust experience. Seasoned experts and novice apprentices may compete on nearly equal ground as luck and opportunity is the primary combination to success, though patience and determination can prevail as well. After all, Frodo didn't take a cab to Mount Doom, so some perseverance is required for the long game with Talisman.
Strangers In A Strange Land
Delving into the fundamentals of Talisman starts with the player characters that have two primary attributes for resolving conflicts; Strength and Craft. Strength symbolizes might, stamina, and fighting ability, which is used in physical battles. Craft determines intelligence, wisdom, and magical ability, inherently used in psychic combat. Characters will see these default numbers rise and lower within the course of the game as events unfold throughout. Due to the nature of probability in Talisman, it's not entirely rare to have a Warrior with higher Craft than Strength, or a Wizard bursting with Strength over Craft. The good news is that these two numbers will never go below default values, thankfully. The Fate counters allow players to re-roll dice to chance a better result, which can be replenished at key opportunities. Gold Coins are used to buy Purchase Cards that are items to bolster a character's stats, and are also used for certain transactions through game events. Each character also has a default number of Lives that are exhausted through various means such as failing combat encounters, or however the game dictates. Normally, when a character exhausts all Lives, it is removed from the game and the player draws a random character to start afresh. Though, Talisman allows for options to kill off the player completely, or start over with the same character with all default counters reset. Remember, folks; dying is unpleasant, so try to avoid it!
Each character has different default values for these various counters as they start the game, and need to be monitored to make logical decisions within a turn. Along with the core default values each character possesses, they also have unique mechanics and abilities that are very distinguishable, and can greatly alter how your game will be played. Some are obvious perks that are inherent with their particular archetypes, others can be diabolical in nature to where you'll want to avoid encountering them completely. I'm looking at you, Assassin! There are so many available character classes to choose from with all expansions loaded that it can take time just trying to decide how you want to play the game. If you are an avid roleplaying type who loves to get into character with your games, you will have a field day with the massive selection of archetypes that offer a multitude of different game mechanics.
A Brave Old World
Talisman's core game board is closely akin to Monopoly with tiles around the perimeter, peppered with special locations in the corners, which normally have you roll a die against a list of set results. In these special places, one can buy Purchase Cards, alter attributes, change alignment, obtain spells, restore Lives and endure various other pleasantries and anomalies. Players normally roll a six-sided die on their turn to determine the amount of spaces to travel in any chosen direction. The core game world consists of three areas that become more difficult venturing towards the center; the Outer, Middle and Inner Regions. Players start on the easier Outer Region that separates the Middle Region by the Storm River, which can be negotiated naturally by the Sentinel Bridge. It is aptly named because it is guarded by a high level creature named Sentinel that has relatively high Strength, and guards the path to the Middle Region well from weaker players. Encountering the Sentinel will either strip you of a Life with a loss, or let you pass with a victory; though, there are also other ways to cross the Storm River as crafty methods prevail.
The somewhat tougher Middle Region hosts creative ways to challenge the player with interesting mechanics to strip those valuable Life points and Gold, and access beyond is blocked by the Portal of Power. No player should pass this gate without possession of the infamous Talisman, which the game is named after, as you will be denied access to the Crown of Command. There are various ways to obtain a Talisman, but more notably through a completed quest in the Middle Region which can range in difficulty from instant success to engaging an assassination of a character. Once one has the Talisman at the Portal of Power, one must roll a choice between Strength or Craft to arrive at a deduction to open the door to the Plain of Peril, which is absolutely no joke. Once in the dreaded Plain of Peril, players will need to negotiate the board one tile at a time through various intense challenges that will usually teleport them to other Regions with a failing roll of three dice. It can be a true test of patience and meddle to persevere this realm as the odds are staggeringly against you to pass unscathed. Once a player traverses successfully through the Valley of Fire, they ultimately reside on the Crown of Command tile where they roll dice each turn to obtain successful numbers. This fortunate player then continues to roll the dice each turn that will strip all other players of a Life point upon each successful roll, which cannot be replenished during this final event. After all players have exhausted their Life points, the victorious champion at the Crown of Command is deemed the winner, and the game is finally over. It's just that simple, folks.
It's All In The Cards
The true star of the show with Talisman is the astounding amount of variation through the vast array of possible cards that indirectly dictate the course of the game. In your dutiful travels, and in addition to board events, you will draw, encounter and deal with Adventure cards, Spell cards, Purchase cards, Character cards, Enemy cards, Gold Coin cards, Runestone cards, Follower cards and Talisman cards. There will probably be more card types with future expansions, but this is a good starting point for a review. Most are self-explanatory in nature as they present the players with options, quests, items, money, spells, weapons, helpers and other various sundry things that make the Talisman world go round. Cards are usually drawn as a player lands on an empty space, though if a card resides on that space already, one needs to encounter it without a draw. The board will dictate whether you need to draw a card or not, but the cards ultimately modify and take precedence over all rules and complete flow of the game. If a card states something that contradicts normal gameplay, you must always abide by the cards; they are just that vital to one's destiny.
Enemy encounters break down into four basic food groups; Strength-based creatures such as Animals, Dragons and Monsters, and Craft-based creatures called Spirits. Each creature has a default value number, and defeating any of these creatures adds them to your trophy collection. When values of either Strength or Craft has reached seven with any combination of foes, one point is added to that relative counter and those cards are then discarded. This inherently bolsters a player's stats to become stronger to face more dangerous adversaries, including other player characters. Followers will also join a player's party over time, lending valuable perks and abilities to aid in various ways. Each player can hold limited amounts of cards due to encumbrance considerations, and some characters fare better than others. Getting the Mule Follower card will allow one to carry way more items than normal, which is a glorious find in Talisman. A player that possesses more cards has more options and abilities; thus, gaining a favorable advantage over others. As one cannot dictate or predict what comes their way, gaining an edge in any way possible through the cards is the optimal strategy.
Pitfalls Of A Player's Plight
As fun and engaging as Talisman can be, it's also no bed of roses at times with some extremely severe penalties that can be imposed upon unsuspecting players. The most notable of these events would be throwing a bad roll and ending up turning into a defenseless toad for three turns. As hilarious as it is for other players, this is a ruthless and frustrating game-changer that can result in serious injury to all players. As a toad, all your items, spells, followers and even pants are dropped on the space of incantation. A toad may not possess anything, and movement is then limited to one space per turn. This means that as you are hopping around for three turns, other players will make a blazing path to claim your goods. The best you could ever hope for is that somehow you will reclaim all your cards on the fourth turn, while everyone else has four turns worth of advantage. I have never recovered from this in a game, it's just that nasty. However, this is where Runestone cards come into play that can alter rules to make things more streamlined to speed up the game, and to reduce extreme hair loss. An optional three cards may be selected per player before the game to give perks, and this can thwart that pesky toad problem once and for all. Another fun event is drawing the Hag card as she is bound to you like glue until you drop her off at a specific location on the board. Her negative effect is that all Followers a player has must be dropped immediately until you dump her off to her satisfaction. Again, a mad race ensues from players to land on this treasure trove space to make pals with all your followers, never to be seen from you again. This is just one example of opportune leverage, and how others can gain it over you in the literal blink of an eye.
More speculation and debate can be had regarding the AI's adherence to true random rolls it throws, especially at the most key opportunities possible. Being turning into a toad will almost certainly have the AI rolling perfect numbers to claim your items within three turns, and I've never seen the AI draw the Hag card. Sure, the AI will endure unsavory cards, but upon close monitoring, one will witness suspected divine intervention from the developers at certain vital moments. The AI is no slouch at Talisman, and will challenge players with ruthless behavior comparative to backstabbing human players forming a coup against you in a physical social session. This can make the game a bit frustrating at times since it refuses to cater to your feelings or any apologetic form of humanity whatsoever. However, in all honesty, if we wanted buddies, we'd be on Snapchat instead, right? Some of the horrendous events explained above can throw online opponents into a pouting stupor resulting in quitting the game if it doesn't go their way, but this happens in every game with online multiplayer. It's not an easy game to win by nature, even with all odds in your favor. Arguably, the real fun is in the journey itself that tells a story as you go along; that is the strong suit of the game and should be the primary focus of the players involved.
The Devil Is In The Details
As Talisman digital edition does boast online multiplayer and local hotseat modes supporting up to six players, the social setting and romantic feeling of the physical board game isn't quite there. There is a huge difference between playing strangers online in lieu of your pals around the table, and pressing a button instead of throwing the dice. Nothing beats the sarcastic rhetoric and social engagement more than a heated contest playing a complex board game such as this, but the physical sets won't fit into your pocket very well, either. In defense of the digital version, it costs a fraction of the physical sets that can add up easily past $500. There is a wealth of IAP in Talisman to be had for certain, but it is relatively a much better deal in the end for what you get. Some of the expansions add more tiles to the actual core board that will stretch the game out for as long as you could possibly desire. There is a lot under the hood here, and the programming, art and production values are absolutely top notch in execution.
One complaint I do have is that you cannot personalize the character name whatsoever; being stuck with "Player 1" isn't as friendly or warm as "Shardz the Toad Slayer". Just a little attention to detail there would have gone a long way to preserve any roleplaying narratives anyone might desire. In contrast, the programmers included a detailed game log with filters that lists every step of the game, which is the best I have seen on Android. After each game, there is a nifty stats screen that lists your performance with progress meters for personal achievements and bragging rights. Great attention to detail went into this tremendous effort, yet there is no way to name your character, much to my chagrin. Also, rumor has it that Fantasy Flight Games relinquished licensing of the board game as of February, which will increase prices of the physical sets with uncertainty of a future publisher. Hopefully, this will not affect the current license Nomand Games holds to reproduce the entire set of expansions as there are four more to go yet. Weighing in with the optional high definition graphics download, the game is a bit under 300 megabytes to install, and certainly is more convenient than carrying around 15 heavy boxes of materials. As a plus, a detailed PDF file can be downloaded of the Talisman Manual that covers the basics in full color, for those who are interested in delving deeper. In summary, if you enjoy board and card games, especially in a high-fantasy setting suitable for Lord of The Rings, Talisman is king of the hill with enough content to satisfy even the most hardcore gamer.
- Exceptional reproduction of the board game.
- Very beautiful art and high production values.
- Six different languages are supported in options.
- Online & hotseat multiplayer supporting six players.
- Attempts to bring all Talisman expansions to your device.
- Absolutely a lot more fun than you can shake an angry toad at.
- Unlocking all the IAP can be very pricey.
- Games can last an exceptionally long, long time.
- Online players might not stay the course of the game.
- Some cards and events could launch your device airborne.
- Inability to personalize or name your character whatsoever.
Device/OS used: Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note 3, Nexus 7 2012, Nexus 10 / KitKat v4.4.2, KitKat v4.4.4, Lollipop v5.1.1
Purchase at Google Play
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Mobilism: Talisman v14.5 [Unlocked]