Yesterday afternoon Matilda and Delilah were pestering me for a game of “something we haven’t played before.” Well, Matilda was, Delilah is only two and just wants to do whatever her big sister is doing. I made a couple of suggestions, and eventually we settled on Talisman. I hadn’t played it in quite a while as it is a notoriously long game, with the players just going around the board collecting treasure and fighting random monsters. For younger players, though, this “roll and move” game is very simple to grasp.

Talisman BoardgameWhen I cracked open the box I was really impressed. I had forgotten how high quality the pieces were – all the tokens are made of plastic, the cards are glossy, and the board is incredibly thick. Even the tray has a velvet-y finish, rather than simple black plastic. My copy is the 2007 4th edition, published by Black Industries, so it has no miniatures, but the card stand-up figures are large, on thick card and gorgeously illustrated. The art in general is very high quality, and of generic fantasy places, creatures and items, which is an added boon when playing with the kids as there is no sign of the dark, gritty and gruesome art pieces that often adorn Warhammer products.

Play is simple. You pick a character, grab out enough red, blue and green tokens to represent your Strength (fighting), Craft (magic) and Life, and place your character stand-up on the appropriate spot on the board. Then you take it in turns to roll the die, move your piece, and either follow the instructions on the space you landed on, or draw an Adventure card which will either have some boon (equipment, an ally, or a magic item), or a hazard (a blizzard, a ghost, a goblin, etc). Each Adventure card clearly explains what it does, so the game is very simple.

If you encounter a monster you will roll a die and add your current Strength or Craft score, while another player will roll a die and add the creature’s Craft or Strength score. Whoever rolls highest wins the combat. If you win, the monster is defeated and you keep the card – each one has a value printed at the bottom and when you get 7 points worth you can “level up”, improving your abilities. If the monster rolls higher, you lose one Life and the battle ends.

Talisman boardIn the full game the goal is to build up your character until they are strong enough to make a run for the Crown of Command, which lies in a very dangerous central section of the board. However, it can take a very longtime for you to become tough enough to do this. In our game I decided that we would play until one of the characters died, then worked hard at fighting any monster I could get to in the hopes of dying quickly! In hindsight, we could also have played until one character reached Level 2 or Level 3 and I will try that approach next time.

We played for about an hour, including set-up time, and I actually had fun. The roll / move / follow instructions was a little tedious at first, but that was because I was spending more time stopping Delilah from bending the cards than actually playing the game. She got bored after a little while, and I could concentrate on playing with Matilda and narrating the turn of the Adventure cards, and it was quite fun.