Ranking: Four stars


We own and play two editions of this game: the second edition and the revised fourth edition. We give both editions the same ranking, but our review of each is slightly different.

Second Edition

Everything about this game is wonderful except for the ending. There are plenty of cool items to collect, monsters and beasties to battle, and characters to encounter. The paranoia level is low (mainly because we don't usually attack each others' characters), and the choices are relatively simple (like deciding whether to move left or right around the board). The first few times you play the game, you have to debate certain ambiguous rules (like the prophetess's ability to always have a spell), and the powers are definitely unbalanced (again, the prophetess is mighty indeed), but the lack of balance isn't a problem; the game is still fun. However, we tend not to enter the endgame until we are absolutely assured of making it to the Crown of Command, which makes the ending anticlimactic.

Of the four expansions we own to the second edition (Talisman The Adventure, Talisman Dungeon, Talisman City, and Talisman Timescape), we like The Adventure best because its alternate endings make the endgame more unpredictable and, therefore, more entertaining (into the Abyss with you!). Timescape is our least favorite of the four expansions because its science fiction flavor seems jarring given the fantasy world of the basic game.

Possibly interesting note: after playing the second edition over and over and over again for years, we put it aside for nearly a decade, feeling that we had exhausted its potential. Then, one random game night, we pulled it off the shelf, just for old times sake—and rediscovered its charms. We played it every week for about a month, then bought the revised fourth edition, to see how that compares.

Revised Fourth Edition

The revised fourth edition is just as enjoyable as the second edition and, in some ways, is an improvement. We particularly like the fact that you can now collect trophies from Psychic Combat and trade them for craft in the same way as you collect trophies from Battle and trade them for strength. That's definitely cool. We also like the fact that the new edition defangs the aggravating Raiders, who now just steal your gold rather than everything you own. And we appreciate the clarification of formerly ambiguous rules, which reduces the rules-lawyering we have to do when we play the second edition. We're divided in our opinon about the addition of fate counters that allow you to reroll a die; somehow, this seems like cheating, although it's definitely a blessing when someone casts a Random spell on you.

We like most of the cosmetic changes made in this edition: the print on the larger board is easier to read, the all-plastic figurines instead of cardboard-on-a-plastic-base characters are fun, and the plastic tokens are more pleasing and durable than the old cardboard tokens. But we aren't delighted by the smaller size of the adventure and spell cards. And the weight of the new board made one of the six sections rip along its seam when lifted at an odd angle.

Of the three expansions we own for the revised fourth edition (Talisman The Dragon, Talisman The Reaper, and Talisman The Sacred Pool), we like The Dragon best so far. The mechanism for introducing dragon cards into the game is clever, and having a completely different path to the Crown of Command (the Dragon Tower) is an intriguing challenge, making the endgame—which, as you know by now, we've always fretted over—more exciting.