Review: Talisman: Prologue

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Ages 6 and up
Genre: Board Game
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2013
Review Published On: April 23rd, 2016
Played on: Martha

Available from:

Gamer's Gate, Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

You can't save during a game. The closest this title gets to a proper save feature is that it records how well you performed during a game (ie, it basically records your high score and that's it).

Summary of
Major Issues:

Talisman features a typical medieval fantasy world, full of magic, supernatural creatures, and lots of sword fighting. However, this is a board game and it's presented as such, so you're mostly going to be looking at cards and rolling dice.

Thus, it's more the concept of dealing with dragons, demons, witches, and so on that's the problem.


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The Demon goes after a Monk

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Dealing with the Devil

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A Warrior loses a life

Game Overview

Talisman is a popular fantasy board game. It features a large and intricate world, but at the same time, it tries to simplify things so that it's not just another clone of Dungeons and Dragons. However, even with these changes, the game is still complex enough that new players can have trouble understanding what they can do.

One of the things that makes Talisman a little hard to grasp is that each character is governed by their own ruleset. Or to put it another way, there's a basic standard for how the game is played, and every character has their own tweaked variant of this standard. This allows everyone to have their own unique abilities and weaknesses, but it can also make things confusing. Basically, players need to learn an abstract ruleset and then work from there.

For example, when player engage in physical combat, they roll one die to determine how effective their attack was, and the higher number wins. This changes if you're playing as a Warrior: in this case you roll two dice and take the higher value as your attack roll. This gives you an advantage during physical combat.

Another example is the Prophetess. Under certain conditions, she effectively gets a free Fate point, allowing her to manipulate the game in her favor almost as often as the player wants. Everyone else has to spend a Fate point to achieve these same effects, and Fate points aren't exactly easy to come by.

These complicated rules leads us to Talisman: Prologue, a digital recreation of the base game that functions as a stand alone tutorial. Instead of attempting to complete the game's default campaign, you choose your character and set out to complete various tasks. These tasks often build on each other, creating a small story as you learn how to play as a given character.

On the plus side, this game is a good introduction to the world of Talisman. Unfortunately, that's also about as far as it goes. You'll want to buy the actual board game (which retails for about $40) or Talisman: Digital Edition if you want to play the proper game. Additionally, the actual game has a number of expansion packs that give you more playable characters, new items to find, more monsters to overcome, and new areas to explore. Talisman: Prologue allows you to try some of the characters from the expansion packs, but the new areas and other features that come with these expansions are missing.

The best advice I have is to wait for a sale, get it then, and once you're ready purchase Talisman: Digital Edition to play the real game.

Points of Interest

Teaches you how to play Talisman
As this is the primary goal of Talisman: Prologue, you'll be walked through the game like any other game tutorial. The actual game doesn't feature a way to play alone, so you'll either need to play with a friend or play against an AI opponent. That means you'll need to learn the game while actively trying not to lose it, which isn't really fair in a complex board game like this. So, a tutorial mode that lets you explore the characters is definitely needed.
Every adventure forms a unique story
Most of the characters that are available have a series of tasks for you to complete. In most cases, each task continues from the task before hand, forming a simple story for each character. For example, one task has the Druid goes around collecting ingredients for a magical potion, while the next task is to deliver this potion to the village.
Doesn't run on some computers
For whatever reason, this game doesn't launch on some machines. I'm not sure what the problem is, as Talisman: Digital Edition doesn't have this issue. Judging by the claims of other players, it seems that Prologue doesn't get patched very often while the full game gets updated regularly. If so, this would mean that the bug was fixed in the main game, but not in this version.
Controls aren't the same as Talisman: Digital Edition
Considering that Prologue teaches the rules and mechanics of the game, it seems like it would've been important to ensure that it shares the functions and layout of the main version of the game. Unfortunately, they do not; The location of the various controls are not the same, nor is the art or the special effects the same. This can make going between the two somewhat disorienting.
Lacks characters and features from expansions
Talisman: Digital Edition features a lot of the expansions and new character packs available for the real board game. Prologue features only a small sample of them, and even then they aren't as fleshed out as the main cast. On the plus side, you're not paying for DLC twice, so there's that.

Concerns and Issues

Being Evil seems to be promoted over being Good
One of the quirks of the Talisman world is that nearly everything is controlled by the whims of the dice. A bad roll can ruin your day, so every character has an ability to use something called Fate. Fate allows you to re-roll any roll you want, provided you accept the second roll. Each class has a different amount of Fate, so some characters have an advantage over others in this regard.

Fate can be restored in a few different ways, but the main method is to visit the Graveyard. Evil characters can regain all of their Fate for free just by stopping in this space, but if a Good character lands on this space, they lose a Life and gain nothing.

There are also a number of different encounters that provide Evil characters with extra turns or extra lives, while there isn't always a similar encounter for the Good characters. Put simply, Evil characters seem to have more of a chance at winning than their Good or Neutral adversaries.

Note: This is addressed by some of the expansions, which provide Good equivalents for these encounters and items.
Monsters and Demons
Many of the events in Talisman involve stumbling across orges, goblins, dragons and the like, but there are a few cases where the players encounter demons. The obvious example is the Demon enemy, which is the most powerful magical monster in the base game. Other examples include devils (which aid their Evil comrades) or Mephistopheles, a powerful devil who converts the player to the side of Evil. An interesting point about this is that there's an artifact, a Holy Cross, which is able to instantly banish a magical enemy without facing them in combat. It's practically the only way to deal with the Demon.
Magic creatures and magic users abound
Talisman's world is full of magic. From faeries to unicorns, to a witch and a warlock, there's something magical around every corner. Dealing with magical beings can be risky though; both the Witch and the Enchantress can curse the player just as easily as they can aid them!
Skimpy sea bikini
One of the events that can cause trouble for players is a chance encounter with a Siren. Like their mythical counterparts, they sing a song that makes everyone in the same region lose a turn. The main concern here is that their card's picture is a bit on the revealing side, though the bikini does cover everything important. In other words, it's your typical mermaid.
Mostly bloodless
Like everything else, the dice determine who wins and loses a fight. Nobody is ever shown actually being harmed; when you are injured, the screen briefly becomes red while a sad church bell rings and your total Lives decreases by one.

That's not to say there is no blood shown at all; some of the cards do show a little blood in their picture. For example, the Axe is depicted with blood around the edge of the blade. It's not graphic, but it is there.