Talisman Review

Talisman is a board game that most “serious” board gamers either seem to love or hate. Its polarizing nature is due to its combination of traditional RPG elements such as character stats and hit points, mixed with random elements such as rolling dice to move and drawing cards for encounters. 

Talisman has had a murky history in the digital realm up until Nomad Games created Talisman Prologue, a single-player introduction to the board game. Now they’re back with Talisman for iPad, with an iPhone/iPod Touch version in the works. Does this conversion do the board game justice?

There are several reasons why digital conversions are as popular as they are among board game players. These include portability, automation, and multiplayer. In the first two categories, this app excels in providing Talisman fans what they’ve been waiting for ever since digital boards games have existed.

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The presentation is clean and attractive, the controls are intuitive and responsive, and the rules of the game are implemented quite well. The developers have even provided some options called “house rules” that let you tweak how the game plays a bit to your liking, and they’re planning to release many expansions (via in-app purchases) to add to the experience.

One slight downside is the AI. It’s relatively competent and all indications are that Nomad Games are still working to improve it, but right now it feels like you’re playing against those friends of yours who never quite understood what they needed to do in order to win the game. But that doesn’t mean single-player is a total cakewalk, either, since you’re playing against the game as much as you are playing against the other players, and the AI does manage to eek out a win now and then.

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Another aspect that puts a damper on the whole experience (and it’s a big one for many people) is the multiplayer. I am mainly referring to online multiplayer, as you can play offline via “pass and play”, which is fine if you have all of the players right there with you. But many people like to get these board game apps to play online, either with people they already know or total strangers via random matchmaking.

The issue is the lack of an asynchronous (or “asynch”) option. If you want to play this online, you have to get everyone together beforehand and invite them, or hope that there is someone else out there right at that moment who just happens to want to spend the hour finishing a game, which will probably never be the case. It certainly was not the case any of the times that I tried to get a game going online.

If you’re looking for a way to play Talisman online with random opponents, then this app will surely disappoint you. However, if you’re looking for an excellent single-player version of Talisman to pass the time with, then this app will mostly satisfy you. And if you are looking for a way to play the game in-person with friends with all the streamlining and automation that a digital version provides, then smash the buy button right now.

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