First play of Talisman: Harry Potter Edition

Talisman: Harry Potter Edition is the latest licensed treatment of Games Workshop‘s Talisman IP from The Op Games and I was lucky enough to be sent over an advance copy of the game before it’s upcoming official release!

Katie (Talisman Island‘s intrepid Social Media Manager and my favourite daughter) came over for a visit and we had a free day to play the game and see how it differed from The Op’s previous offerings, and how it suited the Talisman “game engine”.

Before we started there was of course the important job of cracking the shrink wrap and sorting all of the contents out, but more importantly what was needed was a cup of tea and some suitable tunes on Spotify for ambience.
The game had been staring at me from my shelves for a week before we finally got to play, and I was a bit puzzled as the game was encased in a cardboard sleeve which had artwork unlike any other of the games in the series from The Op.

On removing the sleeve we saw that the box was more as you would have expected, and we wondered if it was down to the regular artwork perhaps being a bit ‘scary’ to put on display in a regular game shop, whether it was to keep the packaging in keeping with other items from the Harry Potter range, or indeed a mixture of both.

The first thing that you’ll notice about the actual contents of the box is that the board is somewhat smaller than the most recent ‘standard’ for Talisman board, though I’m not sure whether that’s down to the shape of Hogwarts School that sits in the middle of the board, or whether it’s something we’ll see going forward.

It must be said that it does free up a fair amount of space on the table for player areas, so I’ll be interested to see if the trend continues.

One of the biggest points that struck me from the initial news about the game was that it looked like there was going to be a distinct lack of available characters to play with as the contents listed only 8 playable characters.

I needn’t have worried though as the 8 characters that are included are double-sided and have two different sets of special abilities technically giving 16 possibilities, but obviously only one version of each at a time.

I’d also seen a few posts leading up to the release about how this character or that character wasn’t included in the game, but I guess they have to draw the line somewhere and it’s possible that certain characters didn’t really fit thematically with the supposed timeline of the game within the Potterverse.

The decks of cards are the larger size that we’ve come to expect from The Op, and to be honest I’d really like to see this size adopted in future editions of Talisman as it leaves so much more space for text and artwork that you can struggle with in the smaller cards.

Funnily enough, cute little Dobby turned up in our game but I soon found that although he adds 1 to your Magic, he also limits your movement like the Poltergeist from the regular game! I know where I’d like to stick his sock!

The dice are nice and colourful, but sadly this time around there’s no fancy logo on them and there are only 4 supplied which might be a little problematic when you play with a full complement of players. I’ll probably look to add to these in time.

The Encounter cards are divided up into two decks, one each for the Outer and Middle Regions. Oddly, the text of the card backs refers to the Outer and Middle Rings, which aren’t mentioned anywhere else in the rules, so I’m not sure what that’s about.

As with the earlier Talisman: Star Wars Edition, which in turn was borrowed from Talisman: The Horus Heresy Edition, any cards marked as Enemy or Follower that you encounter along the way will either fight you or become your Follower, depending on your (and their) Alignment.

The Spell cards in the game have illustrations of the gestures that you use to actually cast each spell. These are also used in The Op’s Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle game which is a really nice touch.

We ended up deciding to shout the names of the spells aloud when they were cast and waving imaginary wands around, which was a lot of fun. We also shouted out the Dark Lord’s name [VOLDEMORT!] every time a 1 was rolled for movement so it ended up a little noisy around the table!

Purchase cards mirror the regular Talisman deck, though you’ll find a few changes to the normal game text. It was a little odd imagining that some sweets were going to save you in the event of a lost battle, but we managed to roll with it.

Instead of Talismans, you have Deathly Hallows that you need to enter the final showdown with Lord Voldemort [VOLDEMORT!] that you can obtain from either an Encounter card, or by undertaking a quest at the Quidditch Pitch in the Middle Region.

When we played, it wasn’t immediately obvious from the rules or board space whether you are teleported back to the Quidditch Pitch after completing a quest, so we ended up just being given one wherever we were at the time.

The Ferret card you can see is the HP equivalent of being turned into a slimy Toad, but sadly only 2 cards are included. I know that it’s not a regular occurrence in the game, so having all 6 players Ferreted would be rare, but I do like to have all possibilities covered!

The plastic miniatures included with the game are finely detailed, full of character (!) and really well sculpted. I can’t wait to have my set painted up by Shane at Bear’s Miniatures Painting and added to my display shelves!

They also appear to be about the same scale at the miniatures used in Knight ModelsHarry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game should you wish to add some characters of your own making.

As you can see from the first image, the attribute dials for this version have flipped the standard Strength/Craft/Life order for Magic/Might/Life, which I suppose makes sense given that most of the characters in the game are wizards!

I do wonder what was going on with the second sheet of cardboard tokens for the game as there seems to be a fair amount of blank space. I realise that there are no components missing from the game, but it might have been useful to include tokens for when a character is turned into a Ferret, or similar.

Our characters at the start of the game which we later found were a bit light on the old Galleons as you are supposed to start with 2 each, not the single coin that you begin with in standard Talisman. Oops!

I can’t think how we ended up playing with these particular characters; a rotund, bearded man and a slightly deranged woman… “I shouldn’t have said that. I should not have said that!”

About halfway through the game we also discovered that you are only supposed to have a maximum of 3 Followers at any time, but we weren’t too worried about this as it allowed to endgame to come a little sooner than it would have done.

Bellatrix Lestrange is relieved when Lord Voldemort [VOLDEMORT!] stops short of her space and merely admires her shoes this time around.

During play, whenever Voldemort [VOLDEMORT!] was activated, we had the player that rolled the 1 make the roll for his movement, but the other player actually moved him to make it a little more ‘interesting’!

We didn’t use the rule where he can cross Regions at will as we felt that there was enough tension having your opponent move him around!

Katie amassed a large number of Objects and Followers during the game and was also a bit of a Spell magnet so she was a much better shape than I was to try and make the run for the Great Hall.

I was left to shuffle about trying to get my attributes high enough to make the dash, and in the end struggled 3 times to get through to the Moving Staircase and had to watch from the sidelines.

The test to enter the Inner Region is the same as in the regular game by rolling 2 dice under your chosen attribute, but instead of single space movement after that you use a d6/2 (rounded down) for movement, which meant that Katie only took 3 turns to get to the Room of Requirement and then onto the Great Hall.

She easily outgunned Lord Voldemort [VOLDEMORT!] and won the game!

So, what did we think?

Well, I really enjoyed the game and as normal there was a lot of chat and laughter all of the way through. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a great match for the mechanics of Talisman and there are some changes which help the game move along a little quicker.

Some spaces allow you to take a Spell in addition to Encounter cards and you can also exchange Fate tokens for Spells using one of the Encounter cards. There seemed to be an awful lot of Encounter cards similar to the Magic Stream, where Fate tokens were used as markers so that you could gain attributes and setting the Trophy cash-in at 5 points meant that levelling up was quite speedy too.

Katie particularly liked that a lot of the characters that might have been included in the game were used as Enemy, Observer or Follower cards. In our game, Neville Longbottom got his own back and defeated Bellatrix Lestrange during an encounter for instance!

We noticed a couple of errors in the rule book, but nothing we couldn’t figure out – Trophies were referenced as being on Page 7, but should have been Page 10, and there’s a little confusion between the use of British and American English in general rules and card titles, but that will only bother pedants (Me!)

As seasoned players of Talisman, we found it difficult not to try and translate cards and effects in the new version to the original, but I think we did this less as the game went on. It’s probably something to do with not actually having much physical play going on in the last year or so.

I would heartily recommend that you take a look at the Good Time Society‘s “How To Play Talisman: Harry Potter Edition(link below) video hosted by Becca Scott as it does a really nice job of explaining everything that you get in the box and takes you through the basics of playing.

As I have mentioned over on Twitter I found that Katie and I got a few things wrong as we played, but as is usual in a game of Talisman, this didn’t detract from the fun we had in any way!

In case you have trouble getting hold of a copy, or any other of the licensed games, then I’ve added a link to Meeples’ Corner who are currently taking preorders. There will be loads of places online where you can snag it I’m sure, but they are probably the nearest thing I have to a FLGS so they can have a shout out!

We also had so much fun during the game when we were shouting out the names of our spells (and scaring my wife!) that I’m investing in a set of miniature wands so that we can copy the gestures that appear on the spell cards in the game!

Perhaps The Op can find their way to utilising some of that empty space on the second punchboard in order to add some to further printings? We can but dream!

So, how much scope is there for the life blood of Talisman that is homebrew creations?

Well, it would be easy enough to add in your favourite wizards should you so wish and I’ve already been playing about with a little twist on Transfiguration which harks back to Duane Haut‘s excellent Transformations expansion that he created some time ago for the Second Edition game. I’ll be posting more about that at some point in the future no doubt.

Don’t forget that thematically, there are certain personalities from the books that won’t have been around at this particular time in the series, but it is all about magic, so knock yourself out!

Good Time Society “How to Play” video on YouTube

Talisman: Harry Potter Edition at The Op

Talisman: Harry Potter Edition at BoardGameGeek

Talisman: Harry Potter Edition at Meeples’ Corner