The holidays have come around again and for us that means another all-out session of Talisman. To us, this board game is played just once a year because it’s always ridiculous… When you pile on expansions packed with every fantasy trope, it becomes a madcap race around the edge of the board with heroes, werewolves, reapers, frogs, faeries, and god knows what else. Anything can happen in this game, and any roll of a six-sider could send you rocketing into the lead or plummeting headfirst into failtown.
Last year our buddy Jim, who owns a sizeable column of Talisman boxes, devised a new style of play that was both terrible and somehow made the whole thing work: Pay to Win. These homebrew rules allowed us to stake our own cash to correct some of the random chaos that crops up in any Talisman game. It was a memorable night to be certain.
Always one to outdo himself, Jim upped the ante this year with an all-new set of Pay to Win models. However, this meant he had to step back from the table of players since he knew all the game’s secrets… Our host, our DM on this zany adventure!
Talisman: Courage and Coin
We started with a sheet of monetary rules that was familiar, but with a few changes:
- $1: Stop at any point during your move.
- $1: Add one to your Movement roll.
- $1: Re-roll any one die that you just rolled.
- $1: Discard a card you just drew and draw again from the same deck.
- $1: While in The Dungeon, The Highlands, or the Woodland, return to the entrance of the sideboard you are in.
- $1: While in The City, travel to any space in The City.
This was just the beginning though… we were then introduced to a series of achievements that would factor into the (as yet unknown) win condition. This was a nice twist to the rules since Talisman’s endgame can break down, with one player strong enough to steamroll anything, but unable pull off a win… until 2AM rolls around and you call it and go home. Since we weren’t aiming for the Crown of Command, we didn’t need the inner circle of the gameboard, where really crazy (and sometimes tedious) stuff can happen.
The initial Achievements were:
- Defeat the Lord of Darkness (complete The Dungeon)
- Defeat the Eagle King (complete The Highlands)
- Complete a Meeting with Destiny (complete The Woodland)
- Have 10 or more points of crushed monsters (turn them in instead of using them to raise skills)
- Have 10 or more gold coins
- Possess a Talisman
- End your turn on The Sentinel with a follower. Throw the follower in the river.
- Turn into a Frog, then return to normal without dying.
- Have 5 Fate tokens, then have 0 Fate tokens.
The Werewolf and Death were out prowling the board, controlled by Jim when his turn came around. We dutifully went about our early-game business, not quite knowing what was coming… A few bucks were thrown into the pool, but it all took another step forward when one player managed to die… and unlocked a secret achievement (“Be the first player to die”), earning a trophy! It turns out these trophies were worth 7 Victory Stars.
BAM! That was the moment the winning conditions were unveiled. The first person to complete each achievement earned a trophy worth 7 Stars, and some were repeatable, so they could be accomplished by others for 3 Stars. The Time of Reckoning, when all Victory Stars would be tallied, was set to 9:30PM, five hours after the game began.
Death then began to pursue whichever player had the highest number of trophies, and the Werewolf pursued whomever had the lowest number.
I was the first to Complete a Meeting with Destiny and have 10 gold coins, and each of us earned stars from completing sideboards, finding a Talisman and turning in 10 points of crushed monsters. But Talisman: Courage and Coin had more in store for us… things were going to level up.
Packages of Power Update
Now we were able to spend stars for certain actions as well, but more importantly we could unlock Packages of Power. Here were the rules:
- Purchase and unseal at any point during your turn, including mid-combat.
- You are limited to ONE per turn.
- When unsealing a Package of Power, you gain all the contents immediately.
- Objects “earned” in a Package of Power do not count towards carrying limits.
- NEW DYING RULES
- You keep all Objects “earned” from Packages of Power.
- If killed by a Monster, you may also keep one Weapon and one Armor.
- Your new Character begins with +1 Strength and Craft for each time you have had a Character die.
- You must hand one Victory Trophy to another player.
- NEW MICROTRANSACTIONS
- 1 Star: Stop at any point during your move.
- 1 Star: Add one to your Movement roll.
- $3: Unseal a PACKAGE OF POWER!
- $10: Delay The Reckoning for 30 minutes.
Out came the 10 Packages of Power, our very own physical loot boxes to waste our money on. Each whale-decorated box held untold treasures. Who would be the first to buy in?
We all dove in really quickly. These lovingly-crafted boxes contained things like fate tokens, gold coins, and even alternate minis, “skins” you could swap out your regular mini for if you didn’t like the fig you were playing. If you got an item from a box, it didn’t count against your item limits either… So naturally I bought 3 boxes. (That’s how they get’cha.)
The best items I got were some special dice, that I could swap out for any 6-sider roll (whether I was rolling for my own results or taking the role of my neighbor’s enemy!) One was a D10 with nothing but 1’s and 2’s. The other D10 had a single 1 and 2, but two results each for 3, 4, 5, and 6. Oh man.
Some of us bought more boxes, some bought less, but each of us ended up absolutely packed with crazy gear and powerful perks… We marched around the board and pushed our advantages to the fullest. Then two hours before The Reckoning rolled around and we were introduced to even more Talisman DLC:
Talisman: Legends of Balance
That moment brought out four more ridiculous boxes, each embossed with the most luxurious, shiniest whales that the craft store could provide. The cost for accessing the contents of these amazing items? 5 dollars. I don’t think I’ve paid 5 dollars for a microtransaction in my life. Dammit Jim!
There were four of us playing, and four boxes. Naturally we each dove in headfirst and bought our way into this madness… and pure, unadulterated madness was indeed within each cardboard tome. Holy Jesus… (In my case that was quite literal).
Each player that put up the cash for a box got a completely new character, each with its own miniature and utterly broken rules. We kept our stats and items, but these Legends of Balance were the very opposite of balanced… The race to victory was now on, with these four characters on the board:
Dungeonmans is the protagonist of Jim’s magnum opus (that you should totally buy right now). He certainly ruled the Dungeon and gear was his bag. I think you can guess what Stremf is.
- Do not roll to move in The Dungeon. Instead, move up to seven spaces in either direction.
- When you gain Stremf you gain an equal amount of Life.
- You may hold any number of Weapon and Armor cards in your inventory.
- If you roll a Six in a Combat or Psychic Combat where you kill the opponent, the monster or player Critically Dies and you immediately gain one Stremf.
Fairplay.ru Legit Gamer
Created in honor of a hacked Diablo character we encountered online one day. Complete with counterterrorist miniature. This dude was nuts.
- In The Dungeon, Forest, Highlands or City, you may move Up and Down in addition to Clockwise and Counterclockwise. In the City, you may move through walls.
- When you purchase an item from any merchant, you may do one of the following: Pay zero gold, if you have enough to purchase the item OR purchase the item as normal, but take every copy of the item from the merchant deck.
- If you have zero gold, and are forced by a card or effect to lose gold, you gain 2,147,483,647 gold.
- When spending Fate to re-roll a die, you may roll eight times and take the best result.
The New Ultimate Jesus
This was my character. I almost, almost, alllllmost caught someone with rule 4, but I was just a little too slow to catch him. Everyone was just a bit more careful after that. Then Legit Gamer started chasing me around with his spear… I managed to fend off a few assaults until I was able to exceed 10 Life.
- You may enter and exit The River using any adjacent space in the Middle and Outer ring, regardless of distance or direction.
- Note: The river can be entered from any square adjacent to it in one step, then exited at any other square adjacent to the river.
- If you roll a One for Movement, you may call upon Angels to carry you to any space in the Middle or Outer ring.
- When you lose Life, you may choose to not lose Life, or to gain one Life instead.
- Exception: If a Player or Monster uses a Spear of any type to make you lose Life, you lose 10 Life.
- Effects that Kill Him still work, regardless of lives He has left.
- If another Player says “Jesus”, you may claim them as your Disciple. They change to Good alignment, and at the end of the game give all praise and glory (Victory Stars) to you. This ends if they change Characters through death or MTX (microtransaction) purchase. If all other Players are Disciples, you win the game.
- You must claim a disciple within three seconds of the utterance of His holy name.
Ohhhh man, a tournament in The City… A massive row of character cards lined up along the side of the table, bristling with special abilities, all controlled by one player…? TEST YOUR MIGHT.
- Shuffle the deck of Character cards and draw six of them at random. They are now Souls under your control.
- When any other Character dies, it becomes a Soul under your control.
- While in The City, you may spend 10 Gold to Host a Tournament. Draw 4 Character cards at random. Choose one to be the Winner, they then die and are a Soul under your control.
- Shang Tsung has the special abilities of all Souls under his control.
The Time of Reckoning
The clock ticked away and we finally hit the Reckoning. Some of us spent wayyy too many turns trying to become a frog (how the hell did we finish a game of Talisman without anyone ending up as a frog?) Dungeons were delved… Jesus hit the Highlands. Legit Gamer noclipped through walls all over the place. Victory Stars were heaped everywhere.
At the end, it was time to add up our shiny, glittery craft store stars, adding in the 7 Stars we earned per trophy. As with any Euro boardgame there were additional ending criteria that modified the total, although these were secret until the final reckoning. (Jim was keeping track of some of them) Any end condition that was a tie meant nobody got the award:
- Most Weapons and Armor: 3 Stars
- Least Trophies: STEAL one Trophy
- Most Loot Boxes/Books Purchased: 5 Stars
- Most Life Remaining: 3 Stars
- Most Cards with “Dragon” Printed On Them: 5 Stars
- Most Town Bounties Collected: 3 Stars
- Most PVP Victories: 4 Stars
- Caused the Most Skipped Turns: -4 Stars (penalty!)
- Most Encounters with Reaper or Werewolf: 4 Stars
- Most Cards, All Types: 2 Stars
- Most Followers Killed: 3 Stars
The hidden trophies that we hadn’t uncovered were unveiled as:
- Roll two 1’s (snake eyes) on Talisman dice. (This was surprising that it didn’t happen).
- Try to bribe Jim during the game. (He was sure that would have come up).
In the end, the player who unlocked Dungeonmans was victorious, not because she unlocked the strongest avatar, but because she won a lot of trophies and had an amazing array of equipment at the end.
A great time was had by all, and while last year we had spent 30 dollars between six of us, this year we spent over 70 between four of us. We still haven’t decided what to do with the money (and last year’s take was still in the jar). Did we win or lose? Since we all shared a great evening with comrades it’s impossible to consider this as anything but total victory.
Once again I think we took a game that has its systemic faults but loads of flavor and made it into something better. Adding monetary transactions introduced an additional layer that allowed us to smooth over the weird runs of bad luck that tend to sour people on Talisman games. Adding this DLC stuff allowed Jim to have fun as a host, play a bit of a Dungeon Master to all these goings on, and create a tremendously memorable evening.
Could this model be used for other games whose systems don’t hold up, but have great flavor, items and moments within? I’d like to think so, although Talisman is a bit of a unique animal if only because of its massive amount of published expansions.
My only regret is that so much of this year’s awesomeness isn’t really repeatable… We still have the boxes, the cards and the special dice, but the secret stuff is secret no more. Regardless, whether it’s more from Jim or someone else’s doing, I have no doubt that next year will bring bigger and better things for Talisman, and another spectacular evening will be had.