Talisman has a reputation for being a long-ass game that starts to outstay its welcome on the table. That being said, it does have tons of fans and a bunch of expansions have been released for it, so somebody must like it.
I’ve never played it on the table, but I have enjoyed the app version against AI players (once again, no asynchronous multiplayer, though I can see how it might be difficult in this case). Playing against numerous AI opponents, though, can be a bit of a drag.
Nomad Games came up with a solution to that, though: story-based single-player Talisman!
That’s the conceit behind Talisman: Origins, developed by Nomad to tell individual stories within the Talisman universe.
It’s an interesting conceit, and makes for some entertaining game play as well.
Of course, this is only if you don’t hate roll and move games to begin with.
The basics of Talisman are that you’re a character of some different race/profession (Dwarf, Human Warrior, Wizard, etc), moving around to try to get the center of the board to cast the Command spell. You roll a die, move to an area, and perhaps draw adventure cards.
These cards can be monsters to fight, events, locations, treasure to keep, followers to keep with you, or many other things.
In Talisman: Origins, all of this has been stripped down to its bones for stories based on Talisman history.
The Warrior story has you going around to save the kingdom after rescuing the Princess soon (so you’re kind of like Han Solo or something).
You’re still doing the same basic Talisman stuff, but you’re doing it all on your lonesome. No worries about one of your opponents turning you into a toad (though that can still happen in other ways).
Yep, you’re still fighting monsters, trying to get your Strength and/or Craft up so that you can deal with whatever it is you’re supposed to be dealing with. You’re still trading trophies after killing a sufficient amount of them in order to do so.
It’s the story and the single-player aspect that makes Talisman: Origins the most interesting breath of fresh air, though.
First, let’s talk about that single-player design.
It does make some of the cards and encounters a bit pointless, robbing you of some of the decisions you have to make in the base game.
For example, the Augur lets you put Events on the top of the deck in any order after you draw six cards.
In the main game, you would do that in a way to try and make sure you get a good event but maybe your opponent(s) get bad ones.
In this game, it doesn’t matter! You’re encountering them all anyway.
Let’s say you meet up with somebody who will train you (increase your strength or craft in exchange for money) and doing so will cause you to miss your next turn.
Who cares? You’re the only one taking turns anyway.
That being said, it is kind of refreshing to to not have to wait for 2-3 (or more!) AIs to take multiple turns because you’re missing yours.
Also, spells that you would normally cast on other characters (to slow them to one space per move for the next two turns, for example) you have to cast on yourself. The only reason you would do that in Talisman: Origins is to meet a “Cast 10 spells” goal within the story.
That kind of threw me out of the immersion, unfortunately.
I do really like the changes made to the UI, though. I hope that these changes make (or made, since I haven’t opened the base game app in a while) the original at some point. It’s so crisp and clean, everything is easy to read and knowing at a glance how many objects, or followers, or whatever you have is a real treat.
Most importantly for me is how easy the day/night cycle is to read compared to the base game. I always found myself surprised when it changed and it was really annoying. Here, it’s right there in the bottom right corner, and you can see how many moves until it changes again.
The game comes with 12 characters that you can play. I’ve tried a few of them so far and they’re all pretty cool. There are a varied number of quests within each story and the game does a good job of leading you along.
I also have to compliment Nomad Games on their tutorial.
It leads you through all of the Talisman basics as well as how the quest stories work. Of course, if you’re a pro, you’ll only be doing this in order to get the achievements, but still. It’s very handy.
Finally, it’s neat to see some of the base game expansion content used in the various quests. In the first couple of adventures for the wizard, you’re running through the Dungeon, the City, and the Highlands. The Warrior’s quest includes the Dragon expansion content.
There are a couple of negatives, though.
First, it’s Talisman. That can be a big negative to some people, and it might even be for me if this were a tabletop game.
I happen to really like the app version, though, so that’s not a negative to me.
Secondly, it is a roll and move game, so it can be a bit annoying at times. I was turned into a toad so dropped all of my equipment. Now that I’m human (or dwarf or whatever) again, I need to roll that 2 in order to land on my space and pick up my gear.
Aw, crap. A 6! Now what do I do?
Thank heavens nobody else can land on it and take it all!
Again, that’s a Talisman thing, so if that bothers you, you will hate this just as much.
Finally, as much as I do like not having to wait for AI turns, I do get a bit lonely playing it sometimes. There’s really not a lot of tension in the game.
You’re rolling the dice, moving around, increasing your stats in order to take out the big bad (or bads) in this particular story.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
For me, that just makes Talisman: Origins a fun game that has to be played in small doses. It can get a bit old after a while.
All in all, Talisman: Origins is a real winner for Nomad Games and is certainly a good buy if you’re not, you know, above all of that Talisman stuff.
An expansion has just come out for it, and I’ll be talking about that once I get some play time in on it.
(Many thanks to Nomad Games for providing me a copy of the game)
I’ve now reviewed all of the expansions: