Sci Fi Genre Gems: Nuggets from the worlds of science fiction and fantasy that may have slipped under the radar or faded from our memories but that are still deserving of our attention.
Original Release: 1983
Publisher: Games Workshop (1st – 3rd Editions), Fantasy Flight Games (4th Edition)
The game board represents a land once ruled by a powerful wizard. The wizard is now dead, but legend has it that if anyone can make their way through the perils of the various regions and discover the wizard’s Crown of Command, they will be granted the power to become ruler of the land. It is this legend that has drawn here the various adventurers, each of whom seeks the Crown.
You are one of the adventurers, and you will meet powerful enemies, discover friends and magical objects, and meet strange beings on your journey. Finally, when you have gained sufficient power, you can cross the last and most dangerous region to secure the Crown of Command. But no matter how powerful you have become, your journey will have been in vain unless you have first found the TALISMAN.
Why It Stands Out: This game hit right about the time that Dungeons and Dragons was experiencing the height of its popularity and offered a scaled down option for a fantasy adventure game that did not require all of the campaign prep and did not go on for multiple nights (though a Talisman game could easily go for several hours). It had similarities to D&D and other fantasy roll-playing games of the time, but everything was simplified and you followed board game rules. Each player selected a character such as a warrior, thief, elf, or mage which had specified strength and craft as well as special abilities appropriate to its class/race. Players would then move their characters around the board gaining possessions, skills, strength, etc. while encountering other characters or monsters, all the while trying to become more powerful by increasing their abilities and/or gaining magical objects. The game board itself has three regions: Outer, Middle, and Inner. Players start in the Outer Region and work their way to the inner regions with the ultimate goal of entering into the Crown of Command at the middle to try and win the game.
Talisman began with the basic set which had fourteen characters to choose from along with all of the accessory cards and the main board having the Crown of Command section in the middle. The first edition was followed by a second edition which cleaned up some of the rules and game play, and then several expansion sets quickly followed. This included a couple of expansions which added characters and accessory cards as well as revised and/or optional rules. Then supplemental boards came out like the Dungeon which offered new dangers and rewards as well as an alternate means for entering the Crown of Command and then there was the Timescape expansion which added a cosmic section to the game. Other expansions that came out with the second edition included Talisman City and Talisman Dragons.
I recall playing Talisman at the tail end of my D&D days when we had tired of the long campaigns and just wanted something to keep us entertained for the evening. And this game did a mighty fine job of that offering sword and sorcery fun with less of a demand on the brain matter (and no DM prep-time) and we played it for several years in the late eighties and into the early nineties. The second edition of Talisman, which we played, stuck around the longest and was the most popular version. A third edition would follow in 1994 which was similar to the second edition but had new artwork as well as some rule revisions and new characters and accessories. And then a fourth edition would replace all previous editions in 2007 followed by a revised fourth edition in 2008 when Fantasy Flight Games purchased the property. Six expansions to this edition have since followed, but players who have fond memories of the glorious second edition, such as myself, still prefer that version.
Interesting Facts: A video game version of Talisman was released back in 1985, but with graphics being what they were then it provided an rather unsatisfying substitution for the actual board game. In 2007, Capcom began work on a new video game version which would have been available for the PC and other platforms like PlayStation and Xbox. They determined it was going to be too expensive, though, and decided not to continue with the project.
You can read more about Talisman 2nd Ed (as well as the 3rd and 4th eds) over at Board Game Geek at this link.
You can read the complete rules for the game at this link.
Buy the Fourth Edition of Talisman and the Expansion Sets from Amazon.com: