Fresh off of my review of Talisman: Origins, the solo Talisman game for Steam and mobile devices, let’s talk about the latest expansion for it (discussion of the previous expansion, Beyond the Veil, will be coming later).
As with the base game, Talisman: Origins – The Legend of Pandora’s Box is a story-based solo version of Talisman developed by Nomad Games. In the game, you are basically playing solo Talisman, but using story-based “quests” that tell tales from the Talisman universe.
For those of you who don’t know (and for some reason didn’t read my original review), Talisman is a roll-and-move adventure where you are moving your character around the board based on dice rolls, drawing and resolving adventure cards, all in pursuit of some goal. In the original, you are trying to get to the Crown of Command, but in Talisman: Origins, you are trying to do whatever the quest is.
The Legend of Pandora’s Box tells the story of a Dwarf and his Leprechaun friend as they are trying to stop an influx of creatures from the Nether Realms.
You begin as a Dwarf tasked with tracking down these Nether creatures and dealing with them, reaching the Crown of Command to find out where they are coming from.
Subsequent quests have the Dwarf’s friend, the Leprechaun, trying to help out when the Dwarf disappears. Thus, you get a whole adventure with two different base game characters.
After completing four of the quests, the final one is supposed to be the toughest of all, where you have to carefully manage everything in a final showdown that will leave you with chills and foreboding, maybe nightmares for the next few days!
Or, you know, it could be kind of anti-climactic.
If you’ve read my Talisman: Origins review (and if not, why don’t you do it now? I’ve even linked it here again), you know how it works so lets just get into this expansion and whether it’s worth your time or not.
First, one thing I forgot to mention in that original review, which is a major part of all of the quests, is achievements that are opened up once you’ve completed the quest. This does add some replayability, as it doesn’t matter if you did them the first time. You have to complete the quest to open them up.
Some of them are basic (“Heal yourself with the Physician 5 times”) while others are almost impossible (“Complete this quest in 25 rounds”).
That is a nice touch, and once I’ve gone through everything, maybe I will go back and do these again.
So how is The Legend of Pandora’s Box?
It’s pretty good. Certainly a lot harder than the stories that I played through in the base game. It’s not uncommon to fail a couple of times at least (Editor – Or that could be just because Dave’s lame). Especially when you misread the goal of the Demon Baby scenario as having to defeat all of the monsters that swarm to the baby’s crying rather than just having to survive three attacks (Editor – I rest my case)
That being said, these quests seemed even more swingy than Talisman typically is.
It can be incredibly difficult on one playthrough and then the next one, the cards line up to make it way too easy.
One of the quests has the Leprechaun have to get through an encroaching fire in the Forest. I died three times.
Then, the next time I played, I happened to draw a spell that would solve the quest without even having to go through the fire at all. As soon as the subsequent part of the quest happened and the fire started, I was able to win immediately. (I’m trying not to spoil too much)
Another problem with the expansion is that the final quest is almost an afterthought in some ways. The Leprechaun has to make it to the Crown of Command as he’s constantly beset by Nether monster attacks and other events. Thankfully he starts with a Physician that will heal one life for one gold at the beginning of each turn.
“But Dave,” you might say, “what if you run out of gold?”
Thankfully the Leprechaun gets 3 gold every time he lands in a Woods space! Woo!
Thus, you’re wandering around the board, trying to get your Craft and Strength up so that you can make it to the Crown, getting attacked a lot by these creatures.
Thankfully you find a Cloak of Shadows that will let you evade enemies at night!
It all becomes a bit rote after a while.
The only difficulty is when you hit an Event that either makes you discard all of your Followers or all of your Objects.
Even then, you often get the Physician back fairly quickly, followed by the Cloak.
That’s all fine and dandy, and it can be fun wandering the Talisman universe and fighting stuff, but then you get to some of the Nether monsters that are my other main problem with the expansion’s final quest.
A few of the monsters have a power that basically says “if you roll lower than this monster for your attack roll, you die.”
That never happened to me, but the fact that it could happen kind of irks me a bit. You spend 20-30 minutes playing the quest, and then you are arbitrarily killed because your 19-strength Leprechaun rolls a 1 and the 7-strength Nether Dragon (I’m going by memory, so don’t quote me on that) rolls a 2.
BOOM! You’re dead. You have to start over.
Maybe the game won’t let you roll lower than one of these monsters? If that’s the case, what’s the point? Arbitrary tension?
Either way, it’s not a good feeling.
Some might say: “Dave, that’s just Talisman. That can happen to you in the main game (like when a Basilisk rolls doubles)!”
That is true. However, in the regular game, you just start a new character and you’re still adventuring. The same thing could happen to the other players as well. Who knows? (That could another reason why people hate Talisman, since that could really drag after a while).
In a quest-based format like this, it just rubs me the wrong way. I realize that could just be me, though (and Talisman’s many other detractors).
All of that being said, overall I really enjoyed The Legend of Pandora’s Box.
The quests themselves are interesting in a way that the base game quests seemed kind of pedestrian. There are new and interesting approaches to the Talisman universe that are just fun.
All of the good things and bad things from the base game are still there.
It’s still Talisman, for example. However, the UI is so much better than the multiplayer game. Everything I say in the original review is true of The Legend of Pandora’s Box.
If you’re a fan of Talisman: Origins, then this is a strong expansion to pick up, despite my problems with the final quest.
If the original game does nothing for you, then this won’t change your mind.
The Legend of Pandora’s Box is available on Steam ($4.65 CDN, not sure how much in US), iOS ($1.99), and Android ($1.99)
Thanks to Nomad Games for providing the Steam code for this expansion
Talisman was my first real boardgame. I have a lot of memories with endless sessions of that game. When it was released in digital version I immediately got it – however, never had chance / time to get any expansions. Sounds like that might be the time…
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Well, keep in mind that while this uses the Talisman game and world, it is not actually Talisman (with you playing against other players).
The Talisman app is awesome and I have a review of the new digital-only expansion (Clockwork Kingdom) coming soon, but this isn’t that one.
But I think it’s a great solo experience.
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