In the 1980’s, I was an avid gamer and played several times a week with friends. War games, Board games, card games, and role-playing games – We played. This was before I or my friends married and before computer gaming had advanced enough to offer similar interactions, particularly on a social level.
In this series of blog posts, I will be recording my experiences as I play many of my favorite table top games compared to the experience of playing it now, in a new and current version of the game. I’ll review some new games, too.
Talisman is up first.
About Talisman: The game board represents a fantasy land. Players chose a character from a list of fantasy types: Barbarian, Wizard, Monk, etc. The objective of the game is to travel through the land encountering event cards and gathering strength along the way, eventually becoming powerful enough to travel to the center of the board, endure the trials there and take the Crown of Command for the victory. There were several expansions released for this game.
Talisman, Back in the Day: Second Edition, Games Workshop Ltd. – As kids, my gaming group would drag this onto the table over and over. The game often took two hours or more to play, as each player rolled the dice and moved around the board, attempting to build up their character enough to make a go at the crown and win. The game has some very cruel cards or tragic effects if a critical dice roll is not made, and I remember several games being absolute heart-breakers as I risked a go at the crown, only to be sent back to the starting, outer ring. Still, we returned to play this game again and again.
We had several of the expansions but I don’t recall if they improved the game or just provided more ways to spectacularly fail.
The Components, Back in the Day: The components being OK – the characters were cardboard stand-ups, inserted in plastic bases. The cards were fine, the board was reasonably thick and the overall artwork was a step above most games of the time. It was also a more expensive game, clocking in around $40 when most games of the era were $30 or less, and many were under $10.
Talisman, Now: Revised Fourth Edition, Fantasy Flight Games – Playing this game again after so long, it was a bit of a reality shock. The game felt… well, outmoded. That’s not to say that it wasn’t fun, but the mechanic of rolling the dice, moving the number of spaces and then doing whatever the space or card said to do – it felt outdated. It felt like Monopoly with fantasy overtones.
The game plays well and is simple enough to pick up. I have played several games with my 14-year-old son, and he loved it.
The Components, Now: What a difference. The Fantasy Flight Games’ version features plastic miniatures, higher quality cards and overall better playing pieces. I did not mind the $60 price tag at all, considering the quality of these components and let’s be honest – the current, median price for most games is about $50-$60, isn’t it?
The Verdict: The game feels old. There are such wonderful games that have come out since Talisman released in 1983, one might wonder why a guy like me – with so little time to actually game – would spend his precious time playing Talisman.
I love the game for the memories – those from my childhood and those I am making as I play it again, over twenty years later. It’s not a strategically challenging game but still manages to be pretty fun. The higher-quality components in the FFG version definitely help, and I have one Revised Forth Edition Expansion and expect to buy several more, continuing to play the game for years to come.
It’s not *just* the nostalgia that is a factor, though. It’s a fun game, and one I can play with the family and not have anyone freak-out over the complexity. There is also the Crown of Control, and let’s face it – we all want control.That keeps me coming back, again and again.
Talk about control.
My final score on the Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail scale is: Retry.
I’m glad I’ve picked up a new copy of the game. I don’t think I’ll get so into it that I’ll buy all the expansions, but it’ll be a game in our rotation. It is a long game – sometimes frustratingly long, taking 2, 3 or more hours to play, so you need to be prepared for that. I dig it.