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Tabletop Game / Talisman

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Talisman is a fantasy American-style Adventure Board Game originally released in 1983 by Games Workshop. The game is played by moving one of a variety of archetypal fantasy characters around the board, amassing power and treasure that is used to challenge the increasingly more deadly inner regions until one character claims the "Crown of Command"... killing all other player characters in the process. In the years following its initial run, the game has received numerous revisions and edition changes, some of which have added alternate play-styles, characters, and victory conditions. The fourth and most current edition was released in 2008 by Fantasy Flight Games.

The story of the world of Talisman is as follows: Long ago, a wizard controlled the land, his rule going unchallenged for centuries thanks to the powerful arcane magic and the mighty enslaved spirits at his command. The wizard's reign only came to an end when death inevitably claimed him... however, before meeting his fate the wizard hid his most powerful magical item, the Crown of Command, deep within the Plane of Peril, where it would be forever guarded by the most vicious and powerful of the wizard's former servants. With his last breath, the wizard proclaimed that "only a person with the strength, wisdom, and courage required to take my crown will rule in my stead."

In the many years following the wizard's death, countless adventurers have attempted to claim the crown, and each of them have met a gruesome end at the hands of the crown's guardians and the innumerable deadly creatures that have come to inhabit the region. Though the lands are littered with the bones of those who have failed in their quest, the promise of ultimate power draws ever more to make the attempt... each certain that they will be the one to eventually take the crown of command for themselves and become the supreme ruler of the lands.

In Talisman, the game is played by first selecting one of numerous characters, each possessing unique abilities and varying levels of prowess in both battle and magical power. Players move their characters about the various squares of the board by rolling dice to determine how many squares the character can move in the direction of the player's choice. At the end of the character's movement, the player follows the instructions of the square their character lands on: this most often involves rolling a die to determine a random beneficial or detrimental effect, or drawing from a deck of "adventure cards" that can grant the character items or followers, cause events that apply to a single or multiple characters, or initiate combat with a wide variety of enemy creatures.

Combat is resolved by rolling dice to add to the relevant stat of both the character and enemy, depending on the type of combat that is occurring: Strength for "battle" (physical combat) and Craft for psychic combat. Once the base stat, the value of the die roll, and any relevant bonuses granted by spells or items have been tallied, the scores for each combatant are compared, with the highest score winning. If an enemy creature is defeated in combat, it is most often killed and its card is removed from the game board. If a player character is defeated, they lose one of a limited number of "lives", which can eventually lead to the character's death if their total lives is reduced to zero. Players can choose to initiate combat against other player characters that are in spaces that their own character lands on. In player versus player combat, the winning player may choose to either take a single item or reduce the life total of the opposing character.

The goal of the game is to acquire items, followers, and experience to increase the character's strength and craft scores until they are powerful enough to move into the deeper regions of the board: the middle region offering more dangerous combats and greater rewards than the outer region, and the inner region containing a series of challenges that eventually leads to the character gaining the Crown of Command at the center. Once a character acquires the crown, the player can use it to attempt to reduce the life total of all opposing player characters each turn. Once all opposing players' life totals are reduced to zero in this way, the player with the crown is declared the winner. Later edition changes and expansions have added a variety of different victory conditions that can allow a player to win the game without claiming the Crown of Command.

A PC version of the game based on the revised 4th edition rules and titled Talisman: Digital Edition was developed by a game making company named Nomad Games, and was released on Steam Early Access on October 14, 2013. The game's various expansions periodically come out as DLC after it came out of beta. Additionally, a single player version of the game called Talisman: Prologue and made by the same people can be purchased on various digital distributors. It was eventually ported to PlayStation 4, Play Station Vita, Nintendo Switch, Android, Xbox One, and iOS.

A Warhammer 40,000-themed version named Relic was released in 2013, and a Kingdom Hearts themed version was released in 2019. There was also a Batman themed edition of the game in 2019.

For the 35th anniversary the first release, Pegasus Spiele and Games Workshop developed new games set in the world of Talisman including Talisman: Legendary Tales, Talisman: The Card Game Clash of Heroes and a Role-Playing Game Talisman: Adventures The Fantasy Role Playing Game.

There's also a very similar Mexican version named Calabozo (Spanish for Dungeon) and also a sequel named Calabozo: El Escapenote . The first game was renamed in the 2000s as Calabozo: La Aventura de Los Anillosnote , cashing on the popularity of The Lord of the Rings films.

Talisman provides examples of the following tropes:

  • After the End: The Cataclysm, released in board game form on April 14, 2016, takes place on a new main board after an apocalypse ravages the land. Among the changes include the Inner Region freezing over, the Black Knight abandoning his post in the Middle Region and becoming a playable character, and the Sentinel that guards the bridge between the Outer and Middle Regions has crumbled, replaced by a demon that inhabits the crumbling ruins of its predecessor's body.
  • Alchemy Is Magic: The standard use of alchemy in Talisman is to turn objects into gold by casting an alchemy spell, using the alchemist follower, or visiting the alchemist in the City board space. The Alchemist player character expands on this with the ability to turn gold into potions, which can then be used to heal, gain fate tokens, or draw spell cards. (While nothing prevents the Alchemist PC from casting the alchemy spell and using the alchemist follower all while visiting the alchemist in the City, there is no added benefit for doing so outside of player amusement.)
  • All There in the Manual: The entire story of how the Crown of Command got to be where it is and why the world is in its current state is in the manual, and is easily ignorable for players who just want to roll dice and acquire treasure.
  • Apocalypse How: The Harbinger brings the Omen decks, which detail ways the world can end. The players choose one of the four before the game starts, and the players try to accomplish whatever ending was chosen before the deck is emptied and everyone loses. The four ways the world can end are:
    • Armageddon: A classic Horsemen of the Apocalypse scenario.
    • Rise of The Dead: A Zombie Apocalypse scenario where (even more) dead rise from their graves and destroy the living.
    • Shattered World: Reality tears apart and is lost to the chaos of an ever-shifting world.
    • Stars Align: The Cerberus Star aligns with the constellation of the Crown and the Sceptre, causing magic to surge in the land. However, this takes a turn for the worse when the Cerberus Star devours the constellation of the Crown and the Sceptre, causing magic to fade from the land. Without magic, the world withers and dies.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In the Digital Edition, the AI often makes questionable decisions:
    • Picking up an item when their inventory is full, only to immediately ditch the item when clearing their overloaded inventory. The Thief AI is particularly bad about this when using its Steal ability, though this might be an intentional annoyance.
    • AI players are particularly fond of the Axe, especially early on, and will go to great lengths to acquire an Axe, steal an Axe from another character or store, or even acquire multiple Axes.
    • The AI will only enter the Inner Region when it reaches a certain power threshold, which means that a weaker AI character will continue to wander aimlessly around the map even as it slowly dies from repeated Command Spell attacks.
  • Attack Reflector: When Character A casts a spell on Character B, Character B can use a Reflection spell to reflect the spell back on its source, Character A.
  • Bag of Holding: Having a Mule doubles the normal number of items you may have (4 > 8). Later expansion packs added carts that triple the ammount (4 > 12), other non-stable/purchase deck followers with the same number of spaces (4) and literal Bags of Holding (that even protect the items in them from being stolen).
  • Battle Trophy: When your character defeats an enemy you collect their body parts as a trophy. Every 7 trophies that you have, you can have these trophies converted into points for improving your strength or craft scores.
  • Beef Gate: The guardians of the middle and inner regions are far more powerful than enemies the players normally face randomly, and can often easily defeat most characters who have not done the requisite amount of Level Grinding.
  • Breath Weapon: Most dragon enemies have a breath weapon, which they use on attacking characters before they enter combat. There is usually a condition that determines whether the character is affected by the breath attack, be it decided randomly with a die roll, based on a character having certain types of equipment in their possession (like weapons or armor), or based on the character's strength or craft scores. While many of the breath attacks cause characters to lose additional life, others may cause them to miss a turn, lose their spells, discard their fate, or anything in between. Some dragon breath weapons even affect other cards or characters that are unfortunate enough to share the same board space as the dragon.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Each expansion adds their own threats to the game and depending on which you pick you can get any combination of the following antagonists meanicing you in game and one as a possible final boss:
    • The Ancient Beasts: A horde of Kaiju has begun plaguing the land
    • The Blood Moon: the Werewolf spreading its curse all over the land.
    • The Cataclysm: The Cult of the Damned making a bid for the crown to destroy the world.
    • The Clockwork Kingdom: Clockwork Revolution in which all constructs rise to destroy everything else.
    • The Dragon: Outright explicit about this trope with three Dragon Lords constantly fighting over the title of Dragon King, up to the point you will either need to beat all three of them or that if you do not beat Dragon King in one turn, next turn he may lose the crown to one of his rivals.
    • The Dungeon: The Lord of Darkness awaiting at the end of titular Dungeon
    • The Firelands: Vindictive Ifrit Sultan leading an invasion on the world.
    • Frostmarch: the Ice Queen has frozen the crown and threatens to freeze the whole world.
    • The Harbringer: the Beast and Horsemen of the Apocalypse or a Zombie Apocalypse or another Apocalypse How scenario.
    • The Nether Realm: Beings of Nether Realm are released to take their revenge on the world.
    • The Realm of Souls: King of the Dead who has to be fought in the afterlife.
    • The Reaper: The Grim Reaper himself walks the world to hunt player characters down.
    • The Sacred Pool: Demon Lord attempts to claim the crown for himself.
    • The Woodland: King Oberon or Queen Titania, leaders of opposing sides in The Fair Folk war.
  • Chained to a Rock: The Sacrificial Stone card from The Dragon expansion has artwork depicting a young woman chained to a rock. Players encountering the Sacrificial Stone must draw an adventure card, and if the card drawn is a dragon their character is outright killed, making them the sacrifice in this scenario. This card can be especially dangerous in conjunction with effects that move cards from the top of a dragon deck to the top of the adventure deck, drastically increasing the chances that the next card drawn will in fact be a dragon.
  • Chess with Death:
    • Playing chess is one of the random events that happen when a player character encounters the Grim Reaper NPC. In terms of game mechanics, this simply results in the player in question missing their next turn.
    • One route players can take through the inner region forces the player to "Dice with Death" by rolling dice against the Grim Reaper. If the player rolls higher, the player's character can progress further towards the Crown of Command. If the Grim Reaper rolls higher, the character loses a life and must dice with death again on subsequent turns until the player either wins or the character is killed.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: The "Lightbearers" alternate ending in the Blood Moon expansion changes the nature of the normally free-for-all game into a cooperative one, where every player must choose a character of good alignment. The players cannot fight each other, and instead can assist each other in combat against the forces of evil, freely exchange items, and work together to win the game as a group before time runs out.
    • "Cult of the Damned" ending from Cataclysm does a similiar thing, with players being now forced to cooperate to sotp six cultists from reaching the Inner Region.
  • Critical Existence Failure: This applies to Talisman, as spells and attacks that outright kill enemies and followers only remove one or two "lives" from a player character's total. True player character death only comes when the last life is removed, save for a rare few "instant death" situations.
  • Crown of Power: The "Crown of Command" is a powerful artifact, hidden in the center of the most perilous region in the game. Once it is obtained, the wearer can cast the "Command" spell each turn, which takes away a life point from every other player. Obtaining the Crown of Command, and killing everyone else with it, is considered to be the "main goal" of the game, since the easiest winning strategy involves it.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The Poltergeist curses characters by forcing them to move one space at a time until they can break the curse. Under many circumstances, this can be a great benefit to the character, allowing him to hop back and forth onto beneficial spaces rather than move randomly around the board.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Implied with the Ninja, who cannot get followers, likely as a snide reference to the trope.
    • Inverted/averted with most monsters, who add their strength together if there are multiples on one space. and
    • Inverted with the gladiator, who can bring followers into battle with him, making him stronger with more followers. Also averted with classes like the necromancer who can charm/enslave monsters and make them work for them, but they can only use one at a time and so don't benefit as sharply as the gladiator.
  • Digital Tabletop Game Adaptation: Talisman: Digital Edition is available for most modern platforms, with all the expansion packs available as Downloadable Content. The full set of DLC can cost over 20 times the cost of the base game.
  • Disability Immunity: A variation: in the computer version, the ninja's inability to have followers prevents him from having several negative followers, such as the deathstalker or the gremlin.
  • Dual Wielding: The Warrior and the Dervish can get combat bonuses from two weapons at the same time.
  • Easy Evangelism: Several encounters are with strangers who are so charismatic that they instantly change the heroes' alignment to match their own.
  • Epic Flail: A flail can be purchased from the Armoury in The City expansion for 5 gold. It is one of the best weapons to choose in terms of raw power. When used in battle, it allows the wielder to roll two dice and use them both. In addition, if the player rolls doubles, the opponent cannot roll attack dice. This allows for an attack roll of 2-12 with the possibility of preventing attack rolls. The only downside is that the flail is not magical, which renders it vulnerable to spells that ignore magical objects and the flail is not as useful against certain strength-based foes.
  • Expy: The Timescape expansion's Archaeologist is a dead ringer for Indiana Jones.
  • Extra Turn:
    • Extra turns are most commonly granted via randomly drawn spell cards (like Temporal Warp, which grants the user three turns, or Time Steal, which allows one player to take the turn of another), or quest rewards.
    • The Swashbuckler player character has an ability that grants him an extra turn whenever he wins a battle, but only once per round. If the Swashbuckler wins a second battle, his turn ends as normal.
    • Some cards grant players an extra turn when they meet a specific condition. For example, the Dragon Stalkers follower grants the character an extra turn whenever the character defeats a dragon. The Madcap stranger (who randomly changes the alignment of characters who encounter him) will grant the character an extra turn if the random alignment roll matches the character's current alignment.
  • Forced Transformation: Certain encounters may force you into the form of a Toad. You'll get better.
  • Good Versus Good: Characters of the "Good" alignment are supposed to fight each other just like everyone else, and in the endgame they HAVE to fight each other. Averted by the Knight, who can only fight other Good characters if they're both on the Crown of Command.
  • Grave Robbing: The aptly named Grave Robber character has a special ability that allows him to encounter the top card on the discard pile instead of drawing a card for their space as normal. This presumably represents the character digging up graves for their treasure, though interestingly enough the power lets them encounter any type of card, including events, places, and previously killed enemies. The character can rob graves in a more traditional sense by visiting the graveyard space, which allows them to take one item of their choice from the top 8 cards in the adventure deck.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: A recurring element of the Harbinger Expansion:
    • They might be drawn as enemies from the Harbinger Deck, each one with 9 strength and craft and with an effect that punishes players with no Talisman if the player engaging them is defeated.
    • They are also part of the "Armageddon" prophecy's lore which doesn't mention them by name but describes 4 entities riding on horseback in 4 of the Omens that will be activated as the previous ones are discarded.
    • Finally, the "End of Days" alternative ending has them being taken from the harbinger deck (alongside their Heralds and The Beast) and placed in the main game's board's landmarks as bosses.
  • Human Sacrifice:
    • One of the random warlock quests requires the character to sacrifice one of their followers to receive a talisman, an item that is usually required to progress to pass through the inner region to the crown of command and ultimately win the game.
    • A character may choose to sacrifice the lives of his followers to avoid losing his own lives when visiting the Vampire's Tower in the inner region.
    • The Dragon Priestess character released in The Dragon expansion has a special ability that allows her to sacrifice her followers when encountering dragon enemies in order to receive a random boon, with the results being the same as those for characters landing on the Temple board space. This can range from gaining stats, spells, life, and fate, to enslavement or loss of life for particularly low rolls (however, she can use additional followers to adjust the results in her favor.)
    • A Stranger card introduced in The Dragon expansion gives the player character an option to sacrifice a follower, or one of the character's own lives. Choosing the former changes the character's alignment to evil, while the latter changes the alignment to good.
  • Impassable Desert: A character will lose a life (leading to death if they are on their last life) whenever landing in a desert square, unless they have the water bottle, Holy Grail, Chalice of Shadow, Brew Stein or a Cammel.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: The Knight character starts the game with the Good alignment, and this cannot be changed throughout the game by any spell or effect that would normally change the alignment of a character. In practice, this means that the Knight can never use objects or followers that Good-aligned characters are prohibited from, they always take damage when landing on the Graveyard board space, and they are not affected by any board space, creature, stranger, event, or place card that specifically benefits or hinders characters of neutral or evil alignment.
  • Kaizo Trap: One of the hidden alternate endings available in The Blood Moon is the Horrible Black Void. The unlucky player who triggers this ending instantly loses and all their objects are destroyed, after which a new hidden ending is placed for the next character to trigger. The only way to avoid it is to let another player trigger it, but since you don't know what ending it could be, this tactic could be just as dangerous.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Talisman provides two examples of this trope, who reflect the chivalric code slightly differently:
    • The Knight character, who is always of good alignment and who cannot attack other characters of good alignment
    • The Chivalric Knight, who can aid rival characters in battle and cannot attack another character whose strength value is less than his own.
  • Licensed Game: Talisman: Horus Heresy recycles the game in the Horus Heresy era of Warhammer 40,000, with the character classes replaced by the Space Marine Primarchs.
  • Luck Manipulation Mechanic:
    • Fate tokens, introduced in the revised fourth edition, allow the player possessing them to re-roll any single die at-will, expending the token in the process. Players are given a certain amount of fate tokens at the beginning of the game based on the character they are playing, and have means of gaining (or losing) more tokens throughout the game.
    • The Warrior character has this mechanic directly incorporated. During battle, the player controlling the Warrior rolls two dice instead of the standard one, and chooses the result they wish to keep.
    • The Misfortune spell allows a player to negatively affect another player's luck, by changing the result of any single die roll to a "1".
    • The Prophetess character allows the player controlling it to manipulate the "luck of the draw" by re-drawing cards from the adventure deck if they do not wish to keep their original draw. The Orb of Knowledge object offers a similar mechanic to characters who possess it.
    • The Philosopher character can choose to re-roll for movement.
  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: The Timescape expansion tended in this direction, introducing Captain Ersatz versions of Indiana Jones and Judge Dredd, as well as the Chainsaw Warrior (who was from the game of the same name also produced by Games Workshop) and a Space Marine.
  • Necromancer: The Necromancer player character has the ability to enslave defeated enemy spirits (which include ghosts, mummies, demons, and most other types of undead) instead of killing them. Enslaved enemy spirits add their craft to the Necromancer's in psychic combat, and while each spirit can only be used once before being discarded there is no limit to how many the player can amass during the game.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The Elf character's special abilities are fairly underwhelming, especially when two of them can only be used in the Outer Region of the board. It should be noted that those two abilities are extremely useful, however, and can allow the Elf to both avoid almost anything that can hurt him, as well as enabling him to abuse anything beneficial that turns up in the Woods. Most tier lists place the Elf somewhere in the second or third tier from the top.
  • Our Vampires Are Different:
    • The Vampiress player character can treat her followers like portable health potions by sacrificing them to heal herself. She can also charm the followers of other players, and is one of the more durable character choices (reflected by having a higher starting life value than most other player characters.)
    • The vampire prince and vampiric dragon enemies drain the life of one of a defeated player's followers (thereby killing the follower.) If no follower is available, the enemies will take an additional life token from the defeated player character instead.
    • The lord of the Vampire's Tower board space demands a blood toll of any player character attempting to cross the space on their way to the Crown of Command in the inner region. This toll can be paid either by removing some of the character's life tokens, or sacrificing one or more of the player's followers.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different:
    • The Werewolf NPC introduced in the Blood Moon expansion functions in a similar fashion to the Grim Reaper, in that it's moved around the board whenever a player rolls a one for their movement and attacks any player character it lands on. This attack can result in the player losing a life, a follower, contracting lycanthropy, or (if the player is lucky) choosing from a list of beneficial effects.
    • Player characters can contract lycanthropy, which grants them bonuses to their rolls in battle and psychic combat during the night, at the cost of being forced to attack any player character that is in a space that the lycanthrope lands on. Lycanthropy can be cured by the wolf's bane object, among other means.
  • Private Military Contractors: The Mercenary is a particularly useful follower if you have the gold to burn. He will add 3 to your strength on combat, but only if you pay him a gold. He also costs 3 gold to hire.
  • Race Against the Clock: The aforementioned "Lightbearers" Alternate Ending uses the newly introduced Day/Night mechanic to incorporate this trope. The players have a number of days (varying according to the number of players) to cooperate in order to ensure that a player reaches the Crown of Command. If they manage to do so before time runs out, every player wins. However if no one has reached the Crown before night falls on the final day, everyone loses. Also in general, once one character gains the Crown of Command, that character's turn consists solely of rolling to see if everyone else loses 1 Life that turn. Now it's a race for everyone else to catch up and fight to take the Crown away.
  • Religion of Evil:
    • The Dragon expansion features cultists who worship the various dragon lords, doing their bidding in the world by attacking the player characters. These cultists invariably receive a combat bonus when the particular dragon lord they worship is the dragon king, sometimes doubling their effectiveness in battle or psychic combat.
    • The Dragon Priestess player character is implied to have a leadership position in the aforementioned dragon cults, having the abilities to automatically take cultists as followers, and to make sacrifices to dragons they encounter in exchange for random benefits.
    • Other types of cultist enemies are thematically linked to various "boss" characters, such as the Ice Queen, the Eagle King, and the Dungeon Lord.
  • Roll-and-Move: A die roll determines how many spaces you'll move, though you usually get to choose the direction, and some of the spaces give you decisions to make. Also, the Revised Fourth Edition added the fate point mechanic, which allows you to reroll a die.
  • Shout-Out: The Chainsaw Warrior character from the Timescape expansion was originally the star of his own eponymous game, also produced by Games Workshop.
  • The Unfought: Thanks to the multiple endings that expansions bring, it's bound to end up happening more than once when playing with an expansion whose plot revolves around the appearance of a new enemy attempting to conquer or terrorize the land:
    • You will never fight the Ice Queen at the Crown of Command during a game with the Frostmarch expansion unless the "ending" to the game itself requires beating her to win, that despite her being on the very cover of the expansion and the lore referring to her as taking the Crown of Command and using it to freeze the continent.
    • Likewise, you only fight the Demon Lord from Sacred Pool if the battle against him is the ending to the game you draw from 3 potential endings (and that's if you are not playing with any other expansion)...of course, the Demon Lord isn't exactly talked that much about through the game or the lore in the first place...
    • Downplayed with the Blood Moon Werewolf, if playing with the Blood Moon expansion, it will be constantly harassing the players as an NPC; of course, it's up to chance that you get to fight back (and that you win) and even that you encounter it. Furthermore, even if fighting the Blood Moon Werewolf at the Crown of Command was the ending to the game, that only happens if you reach it without being a lycanthrope as you will actually have to help the Werewolf win the game by killing non-lycanthrope characters if you reach the Crown of Command as one.
  • There Can Be Only One: The Command Spell rule which starts killing off the other players only applies if one character is at the Crown of Command. If another character makes it up there, the contending characters must fight each other until only one is left standing, and other characters can catch up in the interim.
  • With This Herring: Most characters start the game totally unequipped and with only one gold to their name. A few get to start with a standard item, like a sword.