Talisman is a long-running fantasy boardgame, originally produced by Games Workshop. It’s had many iterations and expansions, including an app version, and now, Pegasus Spiele has brought us Talisman: Legendary Tales. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to catch up with this wonderful family-friendly version of the game.
Legendary Tales is for 1-6 players aged around 7 upwards. Each sitting takes about 45 mins to play (though it says 20-40 on the box). Whilst it takes its theme from the original Talisman, adventurers going on a quest to find the elusive Talisman, the gameplay is nothing alike. Legendary Tales is a cooperative legacy game, where players work together to assemble the pieces of the Talisman. It’s a story-telling game with several quests to be completed and is tremendous fun. We’ve had so much fun with this game it definitely warrants the accolade of “GeekDad Approved.”
What’s in the Talisman: Legendary Tales Box?
Everything about the components of this game screams quality. It is all top-notch. The solid tactile nature of the game components sets you off on your quest. I was predisposed to liking the game even before the first setup.
Inside the box, you’ll find:
- 12 Location Tiles: These are large hex tiles, with fabulous artwork on them.
- 5 Adventure Scrolls: The scenarios that you use to play the game.
- 7 Cloth Bags: With tags! There’s one of these for each of the playable characters and an additional one for the treasure items.
- 12 Hero Character Standees: Despite this being a Games Workshop spin-off there are no plastic models in the box. Instead, we have 2 standees per hero character type. One male and one female.
- 195 Tokens: In this game, tokens are everything. These are broken down (roughly) as follows:
- 24 Treasure tokens.
- 6 x 7 Hero tokens.
- 22 x 5 Adventure Tokens. These come in 5 colors, one for each adventure in the game.
- Time, health, and talisman tokens.
1 Die: But not an ordinary die, this one has a 1, two 2s, a 3, a 4 (with an hourglass motif), and a portal icon on it.
Rulebook: Always handy. This one is only a few pages long and fairly straightforward.
How Do You Play Talisman: Legendary Tales?
The overall aim of the game is to collect 5 pieces of the Talisman, by completing each of the 5 story quests. There’s a special section in the box where you can store your found Talisman pieces, giving the game a legacy feel. Each quest is a race against time. As you progress around the adventure map, finding items and overcoming monsters, the time track will be slowly counting down to nightfall. If the adventurers haven’t completed their quest before the time track reaches the end, they lose and must repeat the quest.
Each quest is set up in broadly the same way, though each one has one or two special rules that differentiate it from the others.
The game has 7 cloth bags. One for each of the heroes (as denoted by the cardboard tags that loop on to them) and a reward bag. The 24 treasure tokens are placed in the reward bag, and each hero bag starts with 7 Hero tokens. Each player chooses a hero bag and whether they want the male or female standee. The gender of the hero makes no difference to the game.
Each hero has a special ability that can be used throughout the game. The cardboard tags also denote the number of each type of token heroes has in their bag. Different characters are better at some things than others. Wizards are better at magic combat than warriors. All heroes can do everything, however.
Setting up the board and game difficulty.
At the back of the rulebook is the “book of adventures.” This has the details of the 5 adventures you can play in Talisman: Legendary Tales. These are meant to be played through in order, starting with adventure one, “The Curse of the Fairies.”
Each adventure opens with some flavor text and a picture of how to set up the board. The game board is created using the hex tiles, which are arranged differently depending on which adventure you’re playing. The heroes are then placed on the same hex. In the case of the first game, this is the Hovel tile.
Each adventure is color-coded. Curse of the Fairies is blue, so for this adventure, you’ll need all the blue adventure tokens. There are 22 tokens for each adventure which are divided roughly in half; the exact division ratio is determined by which adventure you are playing. Some adventure tokens have a border and some not. The ones without the border form the trials for the first part of the adventure. The tokens with the border are slightly more difficult to overcome and are the trials for the second part of the adventure. The setup map denotes where the adventure tokens go and you place them (randomly, face-down) according to the diagram.
Finally, you decide the level of difficulty in the game. Each adventure has a time track on it. Once you get to the end of the track, night falls and your adventure is over. If you haven’t found the talisman you have to start again. There are 3 levels of difficulty: 1, 2, and 3 Star. This denotes which piece of talisman you get, one with 1, 2, or 3 stars on it. At the very end of the game (all five adventures), you add up all the stars on your Talismans to give you an overall score. True completion of the game is to score 15!
Playing the Game: The Quest Begins.
Individual adventures are navigated using the Adventure scroll. These give you the specific tasks you need to complete in order to complete the adventure. In adventure one, you start by needing to find three herbs and return to the hovel in order for the alchemist to make a potion to help free the fairies. These three herbs will be amongst the randomly placed adventure tokens, so you won’t know where they are until you start adventuring (and they’d be in different places if you repeated the adventure).
Taking a Turn.
Play moves in turn from player to player. Each turn consists of 3 phases.
First, move your hero. To do this you roll the die and move the number of hexes given by the die roll. On a 4, you must also move the time tracker one space, taking you one step closer to nightfall. If you roll the portal sign, you can move to any hex on the board. You can move any number of spaces up to the number you rolled and you do not have to move after rolling the die if you don’t want to.
You can only move to hexes connected by pathways and can move over ANY face down adventure tokens. If you move into a hex with a face-up enemy token in it, you must stop. If there is a face-up token in the hex you start your turn in, you are allowed to move away from it. If a player’s move ends in a hex with a token in it they flip it over. This results in an encounter. If there is more than one token, you flip them all.
If you revealed an enemy token you have to fight it. Each enemy will require a score to defeat it. This will either be damage by weapon combat or by magic combat, denoted by a sword or a wizard’s hat.
Next, you draw 3 tokens from your hero bag. At the start of the game, characters have 7 tokens in their bag which have various symbols on them. After drawing your 3 tokens you must resolve the symbols on the tokens but they can be resolved in any order. If you can accumulate enough symbols to match the number of symbols on the enemy token involved in the combat, you defeat it. It is possible to defeat more than one enemy if you have the right number of symbols. It’s OK to only defeat one monster of a pair if you only have the symbols to do defeat one. You don’t have defeat both enemies at once.
The symbols in the game are:
- Sword: Weapon Combat damage.
- Wizard’s Hat: Magic Combat damage.
- Hourglass: Moves the countdown timer one step closer to the end (these are bad).
- Hourglass and Fate: Move the timer one step closer to the end, as above, and draw another token from the bag.
- Magic Bag: This symbol means you can call upon another character to draw tokens from their bag. They can draw one token which can be added to the others drawn to defeat a monster. Of course, if you draw another egg timer, the timer counts down closer to nightfall. You can choose yourself with this action.
- After the tokens have been drawn, if you defeat the monster you proceed to the next step, otherwise that is the end of your turn and play passes to the next player.
IMPORTANT: You do not put your tokens back in your bag after the combat. The only time you can return tokens to the bag is just before you are called on to draw. You may return them when called upon by another player to draw from your bag or at the beginning of your turn. You can only choose to return None or All of your tokens. Careful token management is the key to success.
Collect Rewards and Items:
If you have eliminated an enemy you can draw a reward token from the reward bag. Woohoo! Your character is getting stronger. These might be weapons that do extra damage, or enchantments that allow you to take extra tokens or maybe even turn back time. You can take one for each enemy you defeated. This can go in any player’s bag (yeah, right!).
If there are no monsters in your hex but there is an item token, you can collect it. In the case of the first adventure, this will be an herb, the things we need to collect to take back to the wizard. Items usually go on the adventure scroll rather than in hero bags.
This phase concludes a player’s turn and play passes on.
Play then continues until either night falls (and the players lose) or until the adventure chapter is completed.
Once the first side of the card has completed, you flip the card over and continue with the new chapter (chapter 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10, depending on which adventure you are doing). The reverse side has a new time track, and you transfer your time score from the first chapter onto the second. The second track is usually longer than the first, but not by much. Nevertheless, you will gain a little more time to complete the new quests.
Existing unrevealed tokens remain on the map, but the new chapter will tell you where to put new tokens (the ones you had remaining after setting up the first chapter).
This reveals the really neat bit about the game’s artwork, that you’ll completely overlook at first. The hex artwork has different figures hidden on them, and you’ll be asked to put new tokens on “pictures with fairy” on them. These little icons really fit seamlessly onto the tokens. Each hex has several in differing combinations, allowing all sorts of different uses during chapter 2 of the quests. It’s an elegant design touch and my favorite facet of the game.
The second side of the card is completed in exactly the same way as the first.
Once you have completed all the tasks, you have successfully finished the quest and you can claim your Talisman. If you reach the end of the time track, then once again, it’s game over.
At this point, you can stop playing, or move onto the next adventure. You’ll need to find another color of adventure tokens, but further chapters play in broadly the same way, except they add more difficult tasks, and a few additional rules. Certain adventures have entire new mechanics too.
It’s worth noting something that we failed to do in our first games. After you have completed a whole adventure card, any magic items collected must be returned to the treasure bag. You don’t keep them between adventures. If you do, a) it becomes a bit too easy, and b) you run out of magic items for future quests. This is a little bit of a shame, as there is no great sense of progression as you move through the chapters. But as each chapter gets a little bit harder, the game is definitely challenging by the end!
Why Play Talisman: Legendary Tales?
From the moment you open the box, you know you’re in for a treat. The components here are of the highest order. The rules are mostly very well written; there are a couple of points that could have perhaps been clearer (most notably the thing about items above) but all in all, once you have punched all the tokens out, getting up and running with a game is very quick, even with clamoring children.
With sooooo many tokens, you do have to be careful not to inadvertently lose one, which is not always easy with multiple children playing. We did lose one for the second adventure and had to improvise. There was also some arguing over who got what magic item, because well, apparently, some are far far more desirable than others (particularly the ones your brother already has), but I don’t think I can really complain to the game designers about that.
Most importantly, all three of my boys (7, 10, and 13) enjoyed playing the game and they could all access it.
The map tiles are the winner for me. The artwork is first class; the hidden symbols on them a game design treat. It’s these little details that make the game feel like it has been thought about carefully, which greatly aids immersion in the game.
The early quests are nicely pitched. They’re not a walkover, even for fairly experienced gamers, but also you shouldn’t trip up on them either. The extra mechanics introduced in later adventures keep things interesting too. They freshen each game, and also add extra complexity, once you have the basics mastered.
We haven’t quite finished our adventures yet, but it’s school holidays this week, so no doubt we’ll be heading in search of more bits of the Talisman. But then what? Obviously, you can replay, firstly to try to score the perfect 15 stars if you haven’t already done so, but also you can try different characters, and whilst each time you play an adventure it will be broadly the same, there are enough random factors found within each adventure to allow for repeat plays.
Will Pegasus Spiele expand the game? I certainly hope so. It would be easy enough to add additional adventures with some new cards and token packs. New hex tiles could add to variation in starting layouts and it would be easy enough to add new playable heroes or items of treasure.
If you wanted to take things further yourself, it would be possible to use the basic mechanics and components to make up your own adventures; the beginnings of roleplaying, perhaps?
Talisman: Legendary Tales is a great fantasy family game, that will give many hours of fun game play. It is thoroughly deserving of GeekDad Approved status.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.