Talisman is a superb board game that conjures forth innumerable fond memories. The vast multitude of characters to choose from, each more unbalanced than the last. The hundreds upon hundreds of Adventure Cards offering something new to see on every play. Spellcasting battles leading to pure salt from the eventual loser. It’s an absolute classic, and Talisman: Digital Edition is a worthy, content-rich adaptation.
The central premise of Talisman is a quest to acquire the Crown of Command, an artefact guarded by a powerful and fearsome dragon. To defeat the dragon and claim the Crown, players must journey through an expansive world building up their character (chosen from a variety of fantasy archetypes and each with different skills), exchanging the experience earned from defeated monsters for additional “strength” and “craft” tokens. You’ll pick up useful items that enhance your abilities, gain followers who can assist in battle or carry your belongings, and learn devastating spells to help turn the tides. Most importantly, however, is the titular Talisman, which allows you to bypass an otherwise devastating obstacle on the way to the dragon. So basically – gain power, get Talisman, kill dragon, wear Crown, win.
It’s impossible to dance around the fact that Talisman is very much a game of luck. There’s a lot of stuff bolted onto it, sure, but most situations are still resolved by dice rolls and crossed fingers. All combat is resolved this way, ditto traversal. We’ve had sessions with the physical version of the board game that came down to a simple “roll a 5 or 6 to win the game”, and that’s not ideal. However, it’s a problem endemic of Talisman, so it would be churlish to criticise this digital version for accurately representing its source game.
And it certainly does represent it accurately, all the way down to its absurd number of expansions, offered here as expensive DLC. The base game comes with three additional expansions as standard (The City, The Sacred Pool and The Frostmarch), but it’s a little bit galling just how much more there is to buy and how much it’d set you back to have a fully decked-out game. That said, it’s still an order of magnitude cheaper than any given physical board game of its nature. Whether or not you indulge in the DLC, you’re getting plenty of game for your money here.
The presentation of Talisman: Digital Edition is very good, though its UI is a little complex at first. This is understandable when you’re converting a game with as many pieces as Talisman, where any information you may need in the physical version is more or less available to you at a glance. Here, on Switch, navigation is a little less intuitive, but once you pick it up you’ll be soaring along. Gameplay is pacey and as attractive as it needs to be without sacrificing accessibility or obfuscating essential information; the state of the board is always clear and everything you need to make informed decisions is available at the touch of a button.
“Hot seat” style play is available, with you passing the Switch between your friends, alongside the more traditional multiplayer gameplay with everyone using their own controller. In a welcome addition, there’s also cross-platform online play, so you’ll be able to play with friends on the Steam, Android and iOS versions. Ultimately, it’s an extremely well-made conversion of a beloved board game to a system that’s pretty much perfect for it. The only real caveats are the excess of DLC and – let’s face it – the fairly unbalanced gameplay of the original Talisman. It’s a wonderful version of a game we love, but if you demand an absolutely level playing field in your entertainment, you may want to knock a point or two off this score.