Recommend
97 
 Thumb up
 Hide
11 Posts

Talisman (Revised 4th Edition)» Forums » Strategy

Subject: The Strategic Decisions of Talisman rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Aaron Tubb
United States
Fuquay Varina
NC
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Talisman is a favorite game of mine. I play the new revised 4th edition fairly often. It is, deep down, a light fantasy adventure game that can at times be quite cutthroat. It is very much an "experience" game, and a lot of the enjoyment in the game is derived from the role-playing bits, the adventuring and exploring aspect, and in seeing what happens to you and your opponents as you each take desperate risks in this harsh world in an attempt to get ahead. It is not a game of tactics or of mathy optimization. It is a game of strategic decisions, though. FFG has done a great job with the new revised edition, not only giving the game great components, but increasing the amount of strategy in the game (especially with the expansions).

Some may ask, "what strategic decisions are there to make in Talisman? You roll a die and draw a card and see what happens!" It is true that a single turn is usually dominated by luck; you roll a die to see what spaces you can move to and then you usually draw a card or roll the die again and simply watch what happens to you. End of turn. Within a single turn, your decisions will not usually make a difference ("should I move to the fields or to the plains?"). Occasionally you will draw a spell or have a combat with another player that will really change the course of the game, but you cannot usually control when this situation occurs, and it's often a no-brainer anyway (I drew the Mesmerism spell. Hmmmmm... should I take the guide or the warhorse?)

The actual overall strategy of the game is of the "push your luck" variety, and much more "zoomed out" than a single turn. How long do you stay in the outer region? When will you take on the sentinel, or will you try for a more indirect route into the middle region? When do you make an attempt for the crown? You must weigh the Risk vs. Rewards for every long-term decision you make or you thoughtlessly submit yourself to the whims of the deck and dice (believe me, having a strategy or plan is better than not). While individual turns are dominated by chance, if you have a goal or strategy and you play with it in mind then you will very likely do well (other people who don't think there is any strategy to the game will think you sure got lucky). Following is an overview of what I perceive to be the big decisions that every player has to make, and make wisely, in order to do well.

Risky or cautious?

Not specific to Talisman, "how much risk are you willing to take for the better rewards?" is something everyone must ask themselves when playing pretty much any game that isn't a total luckfest or a soulless optimization game. For example, you roll for movement and see that you must combat either a dragon or a garden snake; if you're only strength 5 you'll have to get lucky to beat the dragon, but if you do you'll immediately increase your strength. The snake is almost a sure win, but it's not a very good trophy. For another example: a cautious prophetess will only use her ability (you may discard a drawn adventure card and draw another which you must encounter) if she draws something really bad, while a risky prophetess will use it much more often in the hopes of getting something better.

This is not really a point of strategy, but it's simply the way you play the game. Riskier players will find themselves more often getting the best stuff AND getting totally screwed the worst. Cautious players, on the other hand, will only be toaded once in a blue moon, but will have a hard time catching up with everyone else if they fall behind. Of course, to be able to really weigh the risks vs. rewards for any action you take, you have to know and understand the game. Know the abilities of everybody's characters, know the board spaces and know what cards are out. I'd like to add that while a cautious play style isn't exactly wrong, you have to take risks to get ahead and you simply won't be able to keep up with your opponents if you don't take some risks.

When do you go for the Crown of Command?

This is the most important decision you have to make during a game of Talisman. The Crown is how you win the game, so to have the best chance of winning you MUST determine how strong or crafty you need to be to make it through the inner region and then GO FOR IT as soon as you can. Most of the complaints about the extreme length of the game and complaints that battles become too easy late in the game are from people who don't understand this point (it is easy for new players to get caught up in adventuring and getting more stuff and totally forget what the object of the game really is). Once you have a talisman and your strength or craft reaches about 10, you have a good chance of making it. Riskier players like to go in with 9 or sometimes even less. If you have the gnome, map, or shovel, you can make it with even less; if you have some fate you can make it with even less! If you can go for the crown before the other players have beefed up or before they have talismans, you'll have practically won the game if you can successfully make it. When going for the crown, it usually pays to be a risky player (though sometimes it can hurt BAD, but such is the nature of Talisman).

When and how do you get to the middle region?

The realm of Talisman is divided into two main areas for adventuring: the outer region and the middle region. Everybody starts the game in the outer region, where most of the "nicer" spaces are. The middle region has a good amount nasty spaces that outright hurt you, but it has both the Warlock's Cave and the Temple (the only two board spaces that give talismans). The middle region also has some crazy good adventure card spaces, like the hidden valley and oasis. The catch is:

High strength characters can beat the sentinel in combat when they're about ready to go for the crown, but if you can find a way into the middle region early in the game you can gain a definite advantage by drawing tons more adventure cards than other people and by visiting the temple (which gives mostly good stuff). If you really want to get in and you're not strong enough, consider buying or stealing an axe and building a raft. There are also some spells and adventure cards that will get you to the middle region but you can't rely on them coming out when you need them; when one of these cards does pop up, though, (or if you roll a 6 at the tavern) you will have to decide if it's in your best interest to take the opportunity or not. Cautious players will be less likely to, especially if they don't have a water bottle. If you are the knight, Priest, or the monk, you'd be crazy NOT to go to the middle region as soon as possible (they get a bonus to praying at the temple).

What do you keep? What do you ditch?

Since you can only hold 4 objects (until you get a mule or something), you have to decide what to keep and what to ditch. There are also spells, which you can hold even less of. Early in the game, this isn't an issue at all, but when your inventory is full and you pick up the Runesword, you may have a difficult decision to make. If the 4 objects you are already holding are the Holy Grail, Orb of Knowledge, Magic Ring, and a Talisman, what do you keep/ditch?

The most important and beneficial thing you can do in this area is figure out what kind of stuff is in the adventure deck, and figure out what you need and what you don't. Also keep in mind what would help the other players more than it would help you. For example, the Wizard cannot use the Wand, but he may want to hold onto it so no one else can use it.

It is understandable that new players feel like the game is very random, because they don't know what stuff is good and what stuff is merely OK, and they don't know what that next adventure card might be. If you are in this situation, the best thing you can do is just play the game, have fun, and remember what the best cards and the worst cards were.

Strength or Craft?

Most characters start biased towards either strength or craft, but many characters start with roughly equal values and you have to decide which way you're going to go at some point. If you get a wish granted by a fairy and you just choose to increase whichever stat is the lowest, you deserve to get killed by the Command spell. This kind of goes along with "When do you go for the Crown?"; keep the objective in mind and go for it. You need a high strength OR craft, not necessarily BOTH.

Moving to a specific space or away from one?

While choosing which way to move on any individual turn may not have any effect on anything, if you keep heading towards a specific space, you'll eventually reach it. Of course, you should expect to land on the spaces AROUND your destination as well, as it is sometimes difficult to land on the exact space you want (it's a bit easier if you're the Amazon or Sage, or if you have some fate to burn). Sometimes, you'll also want to stay away from a space or figure (DEATH, for example, or another player who will shake you down if they land on you). Sometimes you'll have to find a balance between avoiding all the spaces or players you DON'T want to land on (or have land on you), while at the same time staying nearby the spaces or players you DO want to land on. You also have to determine how much that specific space is worth to you; you may spend several turns trying to land on a specific space. If the spaces around your destination aren't at least letting you draw cards then you may be wasting your time. If you want a weapon, you may be better off drawing adventure cards rather than trying to land on the village if its neighboring spaces are clogged full of worthless cards.

Having short-term goals like this can help direct your movement over several turns' time, and will help you get ahead in the game if your destination spaces really help you and your opponents are simply wandering aimlessly. Some common destinations include: the Village (the Thief will want to hang around here early in the game, plus anyone with the hag will want to go here), woods spaces (the Druid and Elf like these), the Temple (the Monk, Priest, and Knight especially), and of course the Chapel, Graveyard, and Warlock's Cave (if you need life, fate, or a Talisman, respectively). You may not be able to pick your exact space on a given turn, but you can always pick your short-term goal or destination.


How do you spend your fate?

Fate is a great addition by FFG to the game of Talisman. For anyone reading who hasn't played the new version, fate is a resource (like gold) that you can spend to reroll a die. You can only spend 1 fate per roll and it's hard to replenish (though not as hard if you're evil). The effect of fate is to make the "Risky vs. Cautious" play styles even more pronounced. Cautious players will save their fate for when they "really need it" (at the witch or enchantress, for example). Spending fate cautiously, bad things will happen to you less. Risky players, on the other hand, will make even more daring attempts than usual; "well, I have some fate in case it goes wrong" they tell themselves. Risky players can have even more good stuff happen to them, though they will run out of fate long before the cautious players (if you run out, you become a target for all RANDOM spells). I usually see people be a bit more daring when they have lots of fate, but be more frugal with it if they only have one or two left. If the game ends and you still have a pile of unspent fate, though, you were probably TOO frugal with it. You are free to spend your fate whenever you choose. Keep your goals and objective in mind and spend your fate however you think it will help you the most.

Will you delve into the dungeon (all the way)?

The new Dungeon expansion is great! Not only does it add some real dungeon crawling to this fantasy adventure game, but it adds a lot more opportunity for strategic decision making in the game (partly because it is freely enterable at the ruins and does not need an exact movement roll). Now, instead of two main regions for adventuring (outer and middle), there are three. The Dungeon makes things much more interesting, because now it is possible to win the game and not even step foot in one of the regions; the Dungeon is purely optional, but if you DO enter it and manage to defeat the Lord of Darkness by 8 or more, you can skip the middle region altogether and most of the inner region! The Dungeon itself is a dangerous place, but you can get some really great stuff if you make it through, making it perfectly suited to the risky player. It is also great for the really crappy characters; if you run into the Dungeon as soon as the game begins, you'll either get some great stuff or you'll be ripped to shreds and get to quickly draw a new character. It's win-win!


If you do enter the Dungeon, you have to decide when to fight the Lord of Darkness (or not to fight him at all). Are you OK with just a treasure, or do you want to be sure you'll make it to the Crown? When to fight the Lord of Darkness is a tricky decision, similar to the decision of when to tackle the inner region. Beating the LoD and NOT going to the crown will mean getting spit out far from the Dungeon entrance; if you don't have enough strength or craft to make it through the inner region then you have to weigh this decision carefully. If you don't defeat the Lord of Darkness by 8 or more, you should choose your treasure wisely; each treasure is really good in its own way but not useful in every circumstance. If you don't have a talisman but you are strong or crafty enough to make it through the inner region, you may just want to take the Talisman for your treasure and go for the Crown.

In any case, you'll now have to decide whether you go through the dungeon or the inner region to try to win. The dungeon route relies heavily on combat, while the inner region relies heavily on non-combat stat checks. Plus, with all the combat-boosting stuff included in the Reaper and Dungeon expansions, beating the LoD by 8 before you're strong enough to make it through the inner region isn't actually that hard. Multiple paths to victory are a great thing.

What I'm really trying to say is;

I have a friend who loves to play Talisman. He has a blast. He never wins, though. He knows the rules but doesn't understand the nuances of the game. Talisman is not as skill dependent as Chess by any means, but it's far from being a total luckfest either. It's a game of risk management; you have to weigh the risks and rewards of each decision. Push your luck when you feel it's worth it. Put yourself in a position where you can benefit the most and get screwed the least from chance occurrences. Know the game and know what's going on. Remember that the game is, ultimately, a race for the Crown. If you just wander around letting things happen to you, you will be surprised when someone gets to the Crown of Command way before you thought they would and you get zapped with the Command spell (and deservedly so).

All that being said, Talisman is still at its heart an "experience" game. If you have a good plan and know what you're doing, you'll probably win... but you might not; you have to take a lot of risks to get ahead in Talisman, and sometimes you get completely screwed as a result. Try to enjoy the journey, no matter how many times it kills you. Play smart, and enjoy being the "one with all the luck"!

Originally posted on F:AT
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rauli Kettunen
Finland
Oulu
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Very nice.

I'd add couple of points that I tend to emphasise.

#1: When you move to somewhere, make sure you have an out next turn, regardless of what you roll for movement. If you're the Troll, moving to a space between Demon and Lesser Demon isn't smart (well, maybe if you have Cross) since if you roll a 1 next turn (or someone draws Blizzard before then), you're going to lose a life. If I'm playing an Evil character, I 99.9% avoid the middle space on the Chapel-City edge if visiting the City would mean rolling at Enchantress (as Chapel is lose 1 Life).

#2: Use your character's abilities. Heck, abuse them if you can (Thief + Village = Mule Army, leaving no Mules in the Purchase deck for others for example).
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Nite Wolf
Sweden
Göteborg
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Dam the Man wrote:
#2: Use your character's abilities. Heck, abuse them if you can (Thief + Village = Mule Army, leaving no Mules in the Purchase deck for others for example).


you do know there are no mules in the village, don't you? and remember you can't steal them from other chars either.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rauli Kettunen
Finland
Oulu
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Nitewolf wrote:
Dam the Man wrote:
#2: Use your character's abilities. Heck, abuse them if you can (Thief + Village = Mule Army, leaving no Mules in the Purchase deck for others for example).


you do know there are no mules in the village, don't you? and remember you can't steal them from other chars either.


Not after my Thief is done hoarding them all, no cool . Thief can steal any card from the Purchase deck, while the Merchant can only trade for any Object card in there. If I'm Thief and have all 4 Mules from the Purchase deck, I really hope I draw Mesmerism, so I can take Mule or Horse and Cart if someone else draws one of them devil . Of course, doing so will paint an ever bigger target on my back, but what's Talisman without some (or tons of) good old fashion PvP?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aaron Tubb
United States
Fuquay Varina
NC
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
mjtuell wrote:
This is a really great article!

I would like to offer one small correction, though.

Quote:
You can only spend 1 fate per turn and it's hard to replenish (though not as hard if you're evil).

As I understand it, you can only use 1 fate per die roll, but there is no strict limit on the amount you can use per turn. If you are rolling two dice (for the Temple, for instance) you can only re-roll one of the dice.
Thanks! Somehow I misread that rule I guess. blush

One game, Death landed on someone and they rolled a 1 and used a fate and got a 5 (move Death to another player). The player Death moved to rolled a 5 and put Death back on the first character. Since we thought the rule was only 1 fate per turn, they couldn't use fate again rolling for Death. I guess this changes things slightly.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aaron Tubb
United States
Fuquay Varina
NC
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Dam the Man wrote:
Very nice.

I'd add couple of points that I tend to emphasise.

#1: When you move to somewhere, make sure you have an out next turn, regardless of what you roll for movement. If you're the Troll, moving to a space between Demon and Lesser Demon isn't smart (well, maybe if you have Cross) since if you roll a 1 next turn (or someone draws Blizzard before then), you're going to lose a life. If I'm playing an Evil character, I 99.9% avoid the middle space on the Chapel-City edge if visiting the City would mean rolling at Enchantress (as Chapel is lose 1 Life).

#2: Use your character's abilities. Heck, abuse them if you can (Thief + Village = Mule Army, leaving no Mules in the Purchase deck for others for example).
Thanks! Both excellent points. Always play to your character's strengths and don't get yourself cornered.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ray Palmer
United States
Tucson
Arizona
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
This is a brilliant article.

I played Talisman (2nd edition, all expansions) twice a week my first semester college. We kept stats of who won and what character they won with. Novice players never won the game. And the winner was independant of the character they were playing.

I remember a specific game where one player was killing us. He was playing the Hobgoblin from the Dungeon expansion. He had pumped his stats, had an army of followers and a wagon train full of powerful objects. But a much weaker player luckily landed on his space, killed him with a randomly drawn Touch of Death spell and stole all his stuff.

On the surface it's easy to whine about it all being random, but a closer look reveals some interesting facts. First, the Hobgoblin player deliberately chose to acquire powerful cards and improved stats over healing his life. Second, we all knew, and in fact warned him, that running around with low life made him susceptible to many life taking events and in particular the ToD spell. Third, the guy who killed him obviously had the ToD spell because he spent the two or three turns prior to landing on the Hobgoblin chasing him around. Normally this would be an insane thing to do because he was much weaker than the Hobgoblin.

The Hobgoblin player made plenty of mistakes. He ignored warnings about letting his life drop too low for one thing. But the biggest mistake was wasting time in the outer region when he was plenty strong enough to go for the win.
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Freelance Police
United States
Palo Alto
California
flag msg tools
designer
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for a much-needed, long-awaited article. thumbsup

I think, however, it highlights a common problem with Adventure Boardgames: How strong do I need to be before tackling a boss monster? IIRC, In Talisman, you at least see the stats of the Final Boss. In Return of the Heroes and Prophecy, you don't get to look at the final boss monsters you need to fight. IIRC, in every case, the penalty for losing to a boss monster is severe.

IMO, An adventure boardgame should avoid this. In Anima, the final mission is revealed to all players, who can thus better plan for it. In Search for the Emperor's Treasure, there isn't a boss monster. In Arkham Horror, players typically avoid fighting the boss monster entirely.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Geoff
United States
Natick
Massachusetts
flag msg tools
Trust no one
badge
Scully?! SCULLY!!!
mbmbmbmbmb
Hey, my tablecloth is in this article

Thanks for posting your thoughts! I enjoyed reading them.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Aaron Tubb
United States
Fuquay Varina
NC
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
imyourskribe wrote:
Hey, my tablecloth is in this article

Thanks for posting your thoughts! I enjoyed reading them.
Hey, thanks for uploading the photo.

And thanks for the compliments everybody.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Robin REEVE
Switzerland
St-Légier
Vaud
flag msg tools
Looking for a game session in Switzerland? Send me a pm!
mbmbmbmbmb
Sam and Max wrote:
IMO, An adventure boardgame should avoid this.
Talisman expansions have alternate game ending cards, which can be held secret until someone reaches the final space of the board.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.