Talisman Prologue
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A fate worse than death? No, but bloody irritating. And very funny.

TalisOHMYGODITSTALISMANINVIDEOGAMEFORM10/10! Right, that’s the personal TalisJOKES out the TalisWAY (or is it?). You see, Talisman means an awful lot to me. An awful lot. Over the past… ooh… 25 years, I’ve probably had more games of Talisman than you’ve had fairy cakes. And I know you’ve had a lot of fairy cakes. Other than Real Things such as people or pets, I can’t think of a single item that’s more important to me than my cherished 2nd edition with all the expansion packs. If my house were burning down, I’m pretty sure Talisman would be the first, if not only, thing I’d TalisRESCUE. Genuinely. Ask Felix or Squee. Does that make me a good person to review the game, or will I be TalisBLINDED by my love for the board game? Who knows, but here we TalisWELL go. OK, that's the personal jokes out of the way and I promise I won’t mention Chasm Dave.

Talisman is a second life… sorry, board game… made by Games Workshop set in a Magical Kingdom, in which you have to get reach the Crown of Command and use it to obliterate your competitors. It’s an epic board game – single games can take hours and hours. I think 11 hours is the longest I’ve managed, with only 3 players. You see, you have to spend your time exploring, making your character stronger, finding powerful artefacts and helpful followers. You drink in the tavern, pray in chapels and temples. Fight hoards of bad guys. Buy items at various traders. All this to ensure you’re strong enough to get through the Portal of Power to reach the inner region and reach the hallowed ground that is the Crown of Command (why is it called Talisman, then? Why isn’t it called Crown of Command, or You Do Things? You need a Talisman to cross the Valley of Fire to get to the Crown of Command. See? Not so daft). It’s a game that grabs your attention and is very easy to get distracted by and fall deeply in love with. 

Talisman Prologue takes the board game, and, modifies it into a more suitable format for gaming. Instead of a single game taking days, Talisman Prologue takes several characters from the game (the board game itself has stacks to choose from) and gives them a series of missions – the longest taking about 20 minutes. These missions firstly introduce the game mechanics and character-specific traits, and then branch out into suitable missions for that character (kill all the dragons for the warrior, deliver a cross to the chapel for the monk). It’s a subtle and surprisingly effective approach to trimming down a monstrous King Henry feast of a game into an afternoon cream tea sized snack. This is very much casual gaming (I HATE that phrase – all my gaming is casual. I don’t even don a suit when playing Civ for Mephistopheles’ sake!).

Everything else is present and correct: all the spells appear to be here (although some are altered to suit the game); the adventure deck seems to be complete and all cards work as you’d expect them to; the spaces around the board are as you’d expect. In fact, it does a very good job of feeling like Talisman. Everything looks right from the cards to the characters themselves (which are based on the board game’s plastic models), and the board itself is suitably lush. Each square feels like a place on the board game, and that’s exactly how it feels here.

It’s a dangerously compulsive blighter as well. The length of the missions works perfectly and you’ll soon find hours disappearing as you blitz your way through them. You click the dice to roll them; double click where you want to go; draw cards or roll dice to resolve encounters; cast spells; and then do it all again. It’s very slick indeed – I didn’t encounter any problems, bugs or anything that would get in the way of my progress. You can replay missions to get higher scores (completing them in less turns, or by not getting killed), and you probably will do because it’s rampantly addictive. Even if you don’t need to build your character up into a Solomon’s Crown wearing, Runesword swinging, Unicorn leading, bag of gold (Baggold! B of G, yo! Etc.) amassing brute, you will. Because, just as with the board game, it’s so damn cool to see what’s going to happen next: what card you’ll flip over; what will the Mystic give you this time; will Tancock challenge you to a pissed brawl in the tavern (OK, so maybe there was one more in-joke left in me); just how much gold can you amass. You find yourself hovering around the good squares – running to the Hidden Valley from the Temple and back again, via the Oasis – filling up on treasures or desperately seeking a mule. All very Talisman-y then.

Which is good, because its main fault is that it’s not Talisman-y enough. Yes, I’m a contrary beast. You see, although the game structure works – and it really does – it’s not what Talisman is about. There should be an option to sit down and play an actual game of it but this just isn’t an option. There are no AI players, just scenarios for you to work through. I want to sit down to a marathon game against 5 AI opponents and crush them into the ruins – I want to be able to save my epic game of Talisman and come back to it tomorrow. But I can’t, as the option just isn’t here.

I mention AI opponents as the other glaring omission is multiplayer. I have it on good authority (as in the devs themselves) that this is being worked on – indeed, it sounds like it’s meant to be a multiplayer game but they decided to put out a pared down single player game whilst they were completing it, just to give us something to play with in the meantime. Which is actually very nice of them and something I’m glad they did. With this in mind, I’m not going to be too harsh on Talisman Prologue for not allowing you to dick your mates over yet (nothing in life is more satisfying than using the Acquisition spell to steal someone’s Horse and Chart and then nicking the rest of their items as they fruitlessly land on the spaces either side of their beloved possessions. Yes, horse and chart. Not cart. At least I haven’t mentioned Chasm Dave, as promised). However, it is crying out for multiplayer and I look forward to trying it out. I just hope it doesn’t make me want to stop playing and set the board game instead.

So, do I recommend it for fans of the board game? Yes, I do. It is Talisman, even if it isn’t quite Talisman, and it promises to be even more Talisman in the future. Do I recommend it for gamers? Again, yes. It is fairly flimsy and very much a casual game, but it works very well; it’s cleverly thought out and the concessions they’ve made that mean it isn’t quite Talisman as I know and love, all work well as a video game. A win then: the gaming equivalent of a boatman offering to take you to the temple on your next turn.