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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #100: Talisman

As we hit the benchmark of one hundred profiles on this list, we come to a board game I've probably played just as much as any other, and enjoyed just as much: Talisman, the Magical Quest Game.

Some background, I think.

When we were young and left to our own devices for hours and hours at a time, my brother and I would indulge our imaginations in the creation of our own board games. These generally took the form of a magical quest, where the player travels various pathways with spaces that direct certain actions. Fight a monster, find a weapon, traverse a swamp, that sort of thing. And we'd make stacks of cards for the creatures, magic items, and other categories of encounters and equipment. As we got older, the games grew more elaborate, as we developed our own combat and movement systems. It's no exaggeration to suggest that we produced dozens of iterations of these homemade games, refining, honing, experimenting.

Then, in 1990 or so, we discovered Talisman. Hoo, boy. This was as though someone had read our minds and generated exactly what we were looking for, and with sufficient budget and skill to make it immersive and delightful to play. In Talisman, you play as a character with certain strength and craft scores, but also with abilities specific to that avatar. The Elf might be safe in Woods spaces, the Dwarf starts with an axe, etc. etc. Explore the Outer Region defeating goblins and dragons and building your powers and inventory before braving the tougher Middle Region. Find or earn a talisman before ascending to the Central Region and then the Crown of Command. Once there, blast your foes from on high as they scramble to catch up. Simple, yet endlessly complex and never, ever, the same. With that second edition we played for hours on end, doing two-man tournaments among all the characters. We inhaled the expansion sets: the Dungeon, the City, and others.

Years later a fourth edition would improve upon some aspects of the second while in other ways making it more cumbersome. Still, we play that now, as do my boys. It's a game that required cunning, strategy, luck, and some willingness to hurt other people's feelings. It deserves this place of honor marking the century point of this exercise. It's that good, and that important.

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