First Release (Starter Pack) June 2017
First Expansion (Talisman Islands) July 2017
“The Sprite was in unfamiliar territory. She had managed to pass through a Portal in the Fire Mountains only to find herself by a great Lake not seen on any maps. She could see the Valley of Fire in the distance, but what new trials lay before her?
As she explored, she spotted an equally unfamiliar figure in the distance: A Halfling leading a Pony along the water’s edge. She signalled to her loyal companion, a towering Storm Giant, to prepare for battle!”
Welcome to Talisman Destinies
This homebrew edition of the classic board game has been several years and versions in the making. It is a great pleasure to be able to share my pet project with fellow Talismanites, here on the spiritual (and virtual) home of the game, Talisman Island, courtesy of Jon New.
Fans will find that the essential game is the same as previous editions with various tweaks, additions and omissions. It’s an ongoing project, subject to future revisions. There are at least four expansions to come, with their own boards to represent the Outermost Regions. There will also be additional Characters, Adventures, Town Cards etc released occasionally to keep the game fresh.
As well as the board and cards, you will find a set of guidelines written mainly with experienced players in mind. It’s not exhaustive, but focuses on changes and additions to previous editions.
Here are a few of the main ideas I had when creating my own version of a game I have played since 1983 – in full awareness that I was tampering with a well-loved fan-favourite…
I wanted to flesh out the flavour of the Characters to have a more RPG feel, hence the inclusion of Classes and Races. I did consider having each Character of the same Race share a common ability, but this proved counter to individualisation. Class and Race also created more design space by creating different effects of cards depending on a Character’s attributes.
Some of the original Talisman Characters are considered weak or boring to play (eg Priest, Minstrel). I wanted to change this and make each Character have a least one ‘cool’ ability that would be envied by others.
It was tempting to boost the starting Strength and Craft of every Character to totals (ie Strength plus Craft) in the 7-9 range rather than the usual 5-7. This might speed up the game a little but made low-level Enemies almost pointless, so I ditched that idea.
Partly for flavour and partly to create design space, I decided that Strangers, Followers and Enemies should also have a Race. In the Starter set there is little use of this feature, but more is made of it in expansions.
I decided to give every Character specific limits for Followers, Objects, Spells and Potions, to give more individuality. The flavour for the Follower Limit is that some Characters are wealthier, friendlier, more charismatic or manipulative than others and so attract or compel others to their cause.
Who doesn’t love a good buff? Another idea about giving Characters more flavour and a chance to develop was to allow them to gain specific boosts in the form of Objects and Followers that no other Character can have. I plan to design at least one more Personalised Treasure per Character at some point.
A common complaint about Talisman is the reliance on random die rolls. I have not sought to remove the randomness from Talisman, only reduce it. I have tried to give Characters more control over their journeys around the Board. More Characters have special abilities relating to movement and there are various Followers and Objects to augment this. Move tokens were inspired by the Teleport Spell and became a new resource/attribute to be gained and lost.
Another new token inspired by a card (Fairy and Phantom), Wishes are intended to give Characters more control over how they grow, giving choice as to their rewards from successful encounters. The Chapel, Graveyard and Temple now become more useful.
Drawing a card is akin to taking a turn, so I increased the number of multiple draw spaces. There is more chance of encountering multiple Enemies in the Middle and Inner Regions, which makes them a bit tougher.
I don’t like turns where nothing happens and never liked the result ‘Safe’ in the Forest or Crags, so that had to go!
The Inner Region has been transformed – perhaps the biggest change in my version. Characters essentially have a choice of four routes to the end space, to allow for a little more planning ahead. The denizens of the Inner Region are still around though…
I wanted to make Starting Spaces more meaningful and so came up with the idea of Characters having some special boosts (Home Advantage and restoration) when they return to their base.
The Tavern and Castle inspired the idea to have Class-specific spaces (Outposts). The Castle was also considered by many players to be boring so it needed some tweaking. That left the need for somewhere for the Mystics to hang out, hence the Academy.
Now the Valley of Fire takes centre stage for the endgame. As with Fourth (Revised) Edition, there are multiple endings. I have created some cards to enable Characters to manipulate the deck of endings to give a little more control over their Destiny.
I don’t like missing a turn. I debated whether to remove this possibility entirely, but I needed to keep a range of ‘punishments’ for Characters to experience. Missing a turn is not common but feels like more of a setback.
I wanted to differentiate between fighter-type Characters and magic-users, limiting Spell use to the latter. This seemed like a huge dent in the possibilities for playing a Warrior, so to compensate I created Potions as a separate card type (not just Objects). This allowed limited Spell-like effects for Warriors without compromising classic fantasy tropes. Rogues of course, get a bit of both. Warriors also get Weapons and Armour.
Mainly for flavour again, I wanted to separate the Event cards that represented visitations by powerful beings (eg Angel, Devil) and make them distinct.
The Strange Eons software I used to create all the cards allows an Encounter Number of 0; so I thought, why not use it? It seemed to work with the idea of omnipotent beings overseeing our heroes on their adventures.
Victory and Defeat
I made the decision to remove flavour text from cards early on, to streamline the cards (though I do enjoy a good bit of flavour text as much as the next guy). This left more room for differentiating cards, especially Enemies. Apart from taking a Trophy, I wanted Characters to be able to gain additional rewards (or suffer more torments) on their heroic quest.
There are no cards or rules relating to Quests in my version, though there are Objects and Followers (‘Passengers’) that give quest-like opportunities. I may consider adding this back in at a later date. From playing 4th (Revised) Edition, I have not come across many players who make much use of Quests and Quest Rewards; also, I prefer cards with pictures on them!
Is my version of Talisman any more balanced that other versions? I doubt it, though I have tried to make every Character interesting to play in their own right. Possibly some of the Destinies are too strong or too weak, but that’s all part of the randomness that still is, essentially, Talisman! My bias has always been the storytelling aspect of the game.
|My main impetus for creating this home-brew edition was to inject more classic fantasy flavour into the game, including giving each Character a Class and Race. The Wayfarer has proven to be a powerful Character in play testing – this is a slightly tweaked version. Try buying the Stick from Fairmeadow on your first turn for even greater movement flexibility.|
|Each Character has two Personal Treasures that can be earned during the game and cannot be carried, used or stolen by other Characters.|
|The name references a 2nd Edition optional rule. This is one of several alternative endings that can affect other Characters not yet at the Valley of Fire. If only there was some way of manipulating the Destinies deck to ensure a more favourable outcome on arrival.|
|As well as the usual variety of Spells, I have introduced Potions as a separate card type (they’re not Objects). Mainly so that Warriors and Rogues have some (limited) access to magic more in flavour to their Class.|
|I had the idea of Talismans with additional abilities before The Cataclysm came out (believe it or not!) The Wand can still be used by any Character, so Warriors still get to be spell-casters after all.|
|There are many familiar faces in Talisman Destinies, though most have evolved into new versions.|
|I began by listing every single fantasy trope I could think of. Enduring Events like the Comet stay in play and affect the whole game until replaced. Strangers always react differently according to the Character’s attributes.|
|Enemies have a specific Race and many have specific Victory and Defeat conditions following Combat. They can still be taken as Trophies.|
|Another idea I had before The Cataclysm was a deck of cards specific to the non-draw board spaces. These Town cards enabled me to inject some Ankh-Morpork and Nehwon-style flavour.|
|There are a series of expansions already made for this version of Talisman. The first of these will be a homage to this very site, as you explore the seas and lands of the Talisman Islands expansion!|