Talisman (board game)
The Talisman 2nd edition game cover.
Fantasy Flight Games
|Players||2 - 6|
|Age range||9 and up|
|Playing time||240 Minutes|
|Random chance||Card drawing, Dice|
|Skill(s) required||Role-playing game skills|
The game was first released in 1983 and has gone through several revisions. While the most recent revision is the revised Fourth Edition (2008), the Second Edition was available longer than the Third Edition. Though the game has been out of print intermittently for years at a time, the older versions of Talisman are currently out of print. The Third Edition and some of the Expansion Sets are loosely connected to Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy setting.
The game was created by Robert Harris who thought it up for the amusement of himself and his friends. In its original inception, the game's objective was to become prefect of a boys' school. Changing the theme to fantasy, he found a publisher in the form of Games Workshop and agreed a contract for royalties (Games Workshop would later buy out his remaining interest sometime after the introduction of the Third Edition). The game was renamed "Talisman" and it was shown at Games Day 1983.
The second edition of Talisman was nearly identical to the first edition, the differences between the two being purely cosmetic. The 1st edition's black and white deck cards were replaced with coloured versions in the 2nd edition. Early runs had a colour version of the folding board of the 1st edition, but this was later replaced with a 4-piece board which fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. The box art was also changed from the pen and ink drawing of the original to the painting that appeared on the second edition, which enjoyed a much longer print run. The third edition, in contrast, made numerous changes to the artistic design and mechanics of the game.
First and second edition 
The object of the game is to progress through a series of regions and reach the Crown of Command. The game contains three regions: the Outer Region, the Middle Region and the Inner Region. Players start in the Outer Region and try to progress inward. The Inner Region contains the Crown of Command, the central board position. To reach the Crown of Command, players must pass through the Valley of Fire. Only characters possessing a talisman may enter the Valley of Fire, hence the name of the game.
Each player selects a character, or "hero", at random at the beginning of the game. Each character has different special abilities and a set location in which to begin. Each character has several attributes: Life, Gold, Strength and Craft. Each character begins with four lives and one bag of gold. Strength and Craft are used for two different kinds of combat: physical combat and psychic combat. One of the main goals of the game is to build up a character so it is strong enough to venture inward, eventually to the Crown of Command. Once at the Crown, a character can cast the Command Spell causing opponents to lose one life each time it is successfully cast.
Game play consists of players rolling a die and moving about the regions. At each location in the regions, the board indicates what takes place. Some locations have set events or encounters, some are random. Many locations indicate to draw a number of Adventure cards. These cards contain numerous events. Some indicate the character has met an enemy who must be fought, some indicate that the character has found an object or magic object or received a bag of gold, etc. All these events help build up the character. One of the features of the game is that many of the cards remain on the square after being drawn.
Building up the character is one of the game's main activities. This can involve gaining followers, increasing in Strength and Craft, gaining and casting spells, gaining lives, obtaining gold and acquiring objects and magic objects. One magic object a character must eventually possess is a talisman, which allows the character to pass through the Valley of Fire.
Throughout its history, Games Workshop released several expansions for the game, each of which added new spells, adventure cards, and heroes (characters). The first, Talisman Expansion Set, was released in 1986, and was followed by Talisman The Adventure which gave rules clarifications, alternative endings, character sheets, and additional slotted bases for up to 12 players.
The third expansion set, Talisman Dungeon, was released in 1987 and added a second "dungeon" board to the game which is placed alongside the main Talisman game board. Periodically throughout play, players may encounter entrances to the dungeon. The dungeon is laid out in a spiral pattern, leading to the Treasure Chamber in the centre. Many items are not allowed in the dungeon, such as Horses and any Warhorses. Also, some spells and character abilities are nullified or altered within the dungeon. Players forge through the dungeon and its traps and creatures to reach the fabulous treasure at the centre. After reaching the Treasure Chamber, players are transported back to the main board. Where they are transported to on the board depends on a roll on the player's next turn. There is an option to play Dungeon without the main game board. In this variation, characters start at the entrance to the dungeon. They then race to the centre, the first one arriving declared winner. Unlike the normal game, characters cannot encounter one another in this variation.
Talisman Timescape was released in 1988 and adds a section which consists of futuristic regions where the player may get transported due to various events or encounters. Characters may enter the Timescape by encountering a Warp Gate, stumbling upon the Horrible Black Void, or by visiting special people such as the Enchantress or the Warlock. The "Timescape" is a linked chain of different dimensions. Characters cannot encounter each other while in the Timescape — they have been teleported to an entire different reality, not an area as on the main board. Many events and encounters do not take place in the Timescape, nor do most movement bonuses work. The player is drawn from area to area by a force inexplicable and incomprehensible to them. In practice, players roll a die and consult the table to see where they are drawn to next. Only the Warp Belt allows the player to control where he will teleport to next. The timescape can only be traversed in a clockwise manner. As players are drawn along "warp lines" from one area to the next, players cannot back up or accomplish movement in the normal manner. The characters and situations were loosely based on the Warhammer 40,000 science fiction setting.
The next expansion, Talisman City, was released in 1989, and replaces the city space in the Outer Region on the Talisman board with a "city" board. Within the new city region there are more places to visit and additional items to purchase. The city "has standards to maintain" and does not harbour moneyless people, hence characters must always have at least one gold with them at all times. If a character should ever lose all their gold, a warrant for their arrest will be issued; if the Patrol or Watch ever encounter that character, they will be arrested and taken prisoner. In addition, fighting is not tolerated and earn any participants a warrant.
The final expansion, Talisman Dragons, was released in 1993 and added dragon-related cards and heroes. Each expansion added new locations/regions, characters and Adventure cards to the game. Some added new spells, objects and magic objects. Some even allowed characters the opportunity to bypass the Valley of Fire and be transported directly to the Inner Region or the Crown of Command.
Talisman was reviewed in Issue 52 of White Dwarf magazine. The reviewer found the game enjoyable initially but noted that it went on for far too long, which left players feeling frustrated. The adventure cards were felt to lose their novelty after a time and there was a concern over the emphasis on luck in winning the game.
Third Edition 
Games Workshop released the Third Edition for Talisman in the spring of 1994. The Third Edition contained a new board which included many of the same locations as the First and Second Editions, but had a totally new art treatment. The Inner Region was removed in the Third Edition, replaced with The Wizard's Tower expansion. In the Tower, the heroes encounter a couple of traps and tests, through a set of Tower cards, before combat with the Dragon King, who must be defeated to win the game.
The First and Second editions used cards to represent the characters in the game. The cards were placed on plastic bases (called "slotta bases") and moved about the board as the game was played (paintable metal miniature figures for the characters could be purchased separately). The Third Edition did away with the stand-up character cards and instead included plastic miniatures. It removed many characters from the Second Edition and added new ones which tied the world of Talisman more closely to the Warhammer Fantasy settings games.
Third Edition also added an additional character attribute, Experience, not unlike a role-playing game to help the character develop their powers. By defeating enemies (hostile monsters, but not other player characters), the characters accrue experience points. The experience they gain is equal to the defeated enemies' craft or strength. These experience points can then be redeemed for gold, strength, craft or life at the cost of seven experience points for one. The earlier editions used a similar, but more limited feature which applied to strength.
Three expansions were released and some extra characters were printed through White Dwarf magazine. Each of the expansions used "realm dice" (a die marked from 1-4) which made movement slower in the realms. The realms were normally accessible from only one square on the main board.
The first expansion, City of Adventure, was released in 1994 added two boards: the City board (based on, but more compact than, the 2nd Edition Talisman City expansion) and a Forest realm.
Dungeon of Doom was released later in 1994 and added 2 additional game boards: a "Dungeon realm" and a "Mountain realm" which fit around the 2 corners of the original board not used by the City of Adventure expansion. It was based loosely on the expansion Talisman Dungeon for the Second Edition. At the end of the Mountain realm and Dungeon realms there were valuable treasures; reaching and defeating the Eagle King of the mountain realm entitled the player to move to any square on the board including the causeway that connected the Wizards Tower to the middle board.
The 1995 expansion pack, Dragon's Tower added a playing board, a card tower surmounted by a dragon model, extra rules, a realm die and four additional characters (including Sorceress and Astronomer). Two extra characters were printed in White Dwarf to coincide with its release. The Dragon Tower replaced the normal endgame of entering the center square. Movement through the tower is slower (a dice marked only 1-4 is used) and used its own deck of adventure cards. The encounters met in traversing the dragons tower can either impede the adventurer or give them an edge when finally meeting the dragon itself.
Fourth Edition 
On January 8, 2007, Black Industries (an imprint of Games Workshop's publishing division, BL Publishing) announced the launch of a new edition of Talisman, which was released on the confirmed release date of October 5, 2007. This new edition is based around the Second Edition, incorporating some rule revisions from the Third, as well as a larger six-piece board. The game board is about 30% larger than the Second Edition board and has an art treatment in-line with contemporary fantasy role-playing games from Games Workshop.
The game comes with 14 playable characters: Priest, Monk, Prophetess, Minstrel, Elf, Wizard, Sorceress, Assassin, Ghoul, Warrior, Thief, Druid, Dwarf, and Troll.
At the GAMA Trade Show, it was announced that there would be expansions, but no details were provided at that time.
A few copies of the fourth edition were sold at the Games Day 2007 on September 23, 2007. Numerous images of the pre-production version of the game were posted on Board Game Geek before its general release on October 5, 2007.
Revised Fourth Edition 
On January 28, 2008 Black Industries announced that they would no longer be publishing board games, including Talisman. On February 22, 2008, Fantasy Flight Games announced that they would be taking over the license for Talisman, and continuing to produce both the 4th edition and its expansions. It published the Talisman Revised 4th Edition and on December 17, 2008, as well as an upgrade pack with updated cards and miniatures for people who bought the original 4th edition.
The Reaper expansion was released in late December 2008. It added four new characters (Sage, Dark Cultist, Merchant, and Knight), more Adventure and Spell cards, almost doubling the total amount of available cards in both decks when used with the main game, and two optional game mechanics: additional Warlock quests and the Grim Reaper. The Grim Reaper is a non-playable character and adds even more random elements to the game.
The Dungeon expansion was released in May 2009 and includes a new region, an L-shaped piece connected to one corner of the board, a new deck of cards called Dungeon cards to be used in the new region, as well as five new characters (Gladiator, Amazon, Swashbuckler, Gypsy, and Philosopher).
The Frostmarch expansion was released in late October 2009. It added four new characters (Leprechaun, Necromancer, Ogre Chieftain, and Warlock) more Adventure, Spell and Warlock Quest cards. Also, the expansion contains three Alternative Endings: Crown and Sceptre, Ice Queen and Warlock Quests.
The Highland expansion was released Mid-May 2010. This expansion added a new Region to the game for heroes to explore, with 100 new cards and six new characters, (Alchemist, Valkyrie, Highlander, Vampiress, Rogue, and Sprite) each with its own unique plastic miniature. Three Alternative Endings were also included: Battle Royale, The Eagle King, and Hand of Doom.
The Sacred Pool expansion was released in October 2010. The expansion adds four new characters (Magus, Cleric, Chivalric Knight, and Dread Knight), 72 new Adventure cards, 16 new Spell cards, 24 Quest Reward cards, 12 Stables cards, 4 Neutral Alignment cards and 3 new Alternative Ending cards: Demon Lord, Judgement Day and Sacred Pool.
The Dragon expansion was released in September 2011. The expansion adds six new characters (Dragon Hunter, Dragon Priestess, Dragon Rider, Minotaur, Fire Wizard, and Conjurer), a dual-sided Inner Region board (one side featuring the original Inner Region, but with new tactics, the other side featuring the Dragon Tower), as well as new cards and tokens.
The Blood Moon expansion was released in May 2012. The expansion adds three new characters (Grave Robber, Vampire Hunter, and Doomsayer), 111 new Adventure cards, 10 new Spell cards, 3 Alternative Ending cards, 1 Time card, 6 Lycanthrope cards as well as a Werewolf character.
The City expansion was released in January 2013.  The expansion adds six new characters (Spy, Tinkerer, Cat Burglar, Tavern Maid, Bounty Hunter, and Elementalist), a new piece of board occupying the corner adjacent to the City, a new deck of City-themed cards, 18 Wanted Poster cards, various new purchase cards (for the Armoury, Menagerie, Magic Emporium, Apothecary and Stables), as well as three new Alternative Ending cards.
Video game versions 
In 2007, Capcom announced plans to release a version of Talisman for the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade and Microsoft Windows platforms. This product was originally to coincide with the release of the Fourth Edition of the board game (Q4 2007), but on October 12, 2008, Capcom's Senior Director of Strategic Planning announced the cessation of development, due to a "misfire" and the costs of transferring the project to new developers. He stated that the rights to Talisman had reverted to Games Workshop.
On November 15, 2012, Nomad Games Ltd released Talisman Prologue, a single-player video game version of Talisman. Another multiplayer version of the game called Talisman Digital Edition is in the works.
There are several active communities for the game on the Internet and many individuals have produced their own versions of the game, featuring custom expansions complete with custom Adventure cards, characters and objects.
An unofficial Talisman video game was released in July 2008 but has since been taken down after Games Workshop asserted its intellectual property rights.
In 2012, Fantasy Flight Games announced Relic, a board game using Talisman system and set in Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 universe, available in early 2013.
International editions 
Talisman was translated into several languages: Finnish (2nd Edition), French (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th revised Edition), German (2nd, 3rd and 4th revised Edition), Italian (2nd and 4th revised Edition), Czech (2nd Edition), Slovak (2nd Edition), Hebrew (1st and 2nd Edition), Swedish (1st and 2nd Edition), Polish (2nd and 4th Edition), and Hungarian (4th Edition). All save the Polish were only translations of the original game.
Hebrew Edition 
Years after Meytzuv went bankrupt, the game was republished by Lemada and is still played by many fans in Israel. During the Champions' Hall 2nd convention — ChampsCon 2006.[clarification needed]
Polish Edition 
The Polish edition, published in 1989 by BPiRF Sfera (Biuro Promocji i Reklamy Fantastyki Sfera) company as Magia i Miecz (Magic and Sword) was based on 1st edition rules, and was the only edition with new artwork for all cards (which many people[who?] consider better than the original one). All 2nd Edition expansions were translated, although some were bundled together (Talisman Expansion cards came together with the main set, and The Adventure cards with Dungeon). Furthermore, the Polish edition had one additional expansion, Jaskinia (The Cave), with a new board, cards and heroes. The Cave had some tough monsters and only very advanced heroes could think of going inside.
Magic Sword 
When Sfera lost the Talisman license from Games Workshop, they published a clone of the game: Magiczny Miecz (The Magic Sword). The main board was changed (it had four regions, and "The Beast", a copy of the Dragon King alternate ending, instead of the Crown of Command), the heroes and cards were different (although many were just copies of the original ones with changed names), and the terminology was changed (event cards instead of adventure cards, sorcery cards instead of spell cards, etc.). The Magic Sword had all new graphics (no images from the Polish Talisman were kept, except for the re-edition of Cave, as all expansions were re-released under new names) which wasn't received very well as compared to Talisman. Magic Sword also had one more board, Krypta upiorów (The Crypt of Wraiths), with some interesting innovations.
Magic Sword wasn't very well received by Talisman fans, although it appealed to many new players. Later, a second edition of this game, with improved graphics, was released (this time only the main set).
Popular culture 
In several episodes of the television show The Big Bang Theory, some of the main characters can be seen playing Talisman (4th Edition) in Sheldon and Leonard's living room.
See also 
- Dungeonquest, a similar board game with a fantasy setting and emerging playfield.
- Relic (board game), a board game by Fantasy Flight Games using Talisman system set in Warhammer 40,000 universe.
- Talisman Expansion at BoardGameGeek
- Talisman The Adventure at BoardGameGeek
- Talisman Dungeon at BoardGameGeek
- Talisman Timescape at BoardGameGeek
- Talisman City at BoardGameGeek
- Talisman Dragons at BoardGameGeek
- Paull, Alan E (April 1984). "Open Box: Dungeon Modules". White Dwarf (review ) (Games Workshop) (52): 16. ISSN 0265-8712.
- "Talisman 4th Edition Press Release". www.blackindustries.com. Black Industries. Retrieved 2007-01-08.
- Games Day & Golden Demon 2007 event announcement, with announcement of pre-release sales of the 4th Edition of Talisman
- Talisman, 4th Edition at BoardGameGeek
- Black Industries Announcement (28/January/2008) from Black Industries
- Fantasy Flight Games to Exclusively Publish Board Games, Card Games, and Roleplaying Games based on Games Workshop properties press release from Fantasy Flight Games (PDF)
- The Dungeon expansion product information from Fantasy Flight Games
- The Frostmarch expansion product information from Fantasy Flight Games
- The Highland expansion product information from Fantasy Flight Games
- The Sacred Pool expansion product information from Fantasy Flight Games
- Talisman for the ZX Spectrum information from TalismanIsland.com
- "IGN: Capcom Wields Talisman". IGN. 2007-04-13.
- "Talisman cancellation". Capcom.
- "Talisman Prologue".
- unofficial Talisman PC game
- Fantasy Flight Games, the publisher of the current release of the game
- The complete Talisman series at the BoardGameGeek wiki
- Talisman Island an extensive fan site.
- The Talisman FAQ
- An HTML version of the Talisman Second Edition rules
- The history of Talisman from its creator, Bob Harris
- A flowchart of a turn in the game
- Talisman at the Open Directory Project
- About the Polish Edition
- A full breakdown of the Contents of Talisman 2nd Edition
- A full breakdown of the Contents of Talisman 3rd Edition
- Capcom Digital's Talisman page
- A brief summary of the game
- Talisman Prologue video game