Relic & Talisman: The Board Games

Right around Black Friday, Talisman (the board game) went on sale for IOS (read: ipad) for $.99.  One of my friends (who ironically has absolutely no interest in WHFB or 40k) fell in love with this game and insists on playing it every chance he gets.  I don’t get to play games with him very often and, as a result, I’ve never played Talisman before.  But since it came so highly recommended, I figured I could blow $1 on it.

I should also mention that I got to play Relic recently as well, and I’ve been told that it very closely resembles Talisman.  After playing both, I can agree with that statement whole-heartedly.

Some of the few differences I noticed (beyond a thinly veiled skin are), in Relic:

  1.   RelicYou have multiple decks of bad guy cards that are thematic.  I only played it the one time though, so I can’t say whether they’re functionally all that different, or if it’s just a skin.
  2. There is an “exploding dice” mechanic (when you roll a 6, you can keep rolling).
  3. There are more stats (I think there were five in 40k, but only 4 in Talisman)
  4. There are fewer different classes/races, but they generally fall into the same archtypes.

Keep in mind that I’ve played Relic all of one time now, and Talisman a grand total of three times through (and another two times part-way through).  Despite not playing them much, I think I can reasonably say that I don’t like either of them.  I’m going to put forth some sweeping generalizations here, that may not fully apply to one or the other game, but since they seem so similar (and I have such extensive knowledge of both), I’m going to assume I know everything.

Now they’re not all bad.  Some of the things that I did like include:

  1. Talisman(Relic) The sculpts of the models are fantastic.  They’re easily on par with the rest of the 40k line, and I’d love to see a set painted up.
  2. (Both) The theme of the game is pretty spot-on with the table-top game.
  3. (Talisman) The amount of options available are just crazy.  Granted, the game has been out for MORE THAN 30 YEARS, but it’s still impressive.

Some of the things I don’t care for–that seem to be inherent in both games are:

  1. They both have a time commitment.  This is probably more of a neutral comment, since games of 40k often take 4+ hours, but a four player game of either of these is not going to finish in under 2+ hours–and learning games take much longer.
  2. There is an inherent grind built-into them that is akin to most MMO’s.  In part, this is part of the charm, but in both the process seems to take too long.  Every time I play, I seem to bounce around between squares that give me little to no benefit (or perhaps even hurt me).  It takes a while to get to the point where I can “farm xp.”
  3. Luck plays a big part.  I’d say too big a part.  From the start, there’s very little strategy involved, aside from “rolling good,” and “hoping you get a good encounter card.”  The next level of complexity involves deciding which items to keep and which to discard–though that doesn’t happen quickly.
  4. There is an inherent imbalance between the characters.  I guess this is true with any game where players aren’t carbon copies of each other.  Perhaps they are balanced, but luck plays too big of a roll between them?  I tend to think that some are just plain better than others though, and part of the luck is getting the right piece before the game starts.

Both do have elements of fun, and I found myself drawn to play Talisman again, even though I look back with disdain upon the hours I spent playing them (yes, hours, as the fastest I managed to finish even a 2-player game with the AI set to full speed was 45 minutes–and that was with the house-rule set that just reaching the center wins the game).  The fact is that they take a long time and have a moderate level of fun–in the same way that World of Warcraft was fun when I got sent on a quest to kill 10,000 spiderlings.    Conceptually it sounds cool, but after a while, you realize that you’re just wasting time.  That’s why I don’t play MMO’s anymore.  They’re work that tricks me into thinking it’s fun–but when I take an objective look at it, it’s not really.

Of course, mileage may vary.  You may love one or both of the games, and I won’t begrudge you that.  Hell, if you had one and wanted to play it with me (one time), I could see myself playing either again.  Both have an allure of fun, but (at least for me) they miss the mark.  I haven’t played it 10,000 times yet though, so maybe I’m not smart enough to walk away…


11 comments on “Relic & Talisman: The Board Games

  1. Pretty much my opinion of them as well. They are complex versions of Candyland and not the type of game I enjoy. Relic is pretty but I prefer game mechanics over pretty and not just grinding. That being said I am off to play some candy crush.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one. It’s sad too, because some folks that I know really like both games (in fact, one friend of mine swears that Talisman is the greatest game ever invented and he almost refuses to play other games). It’s just not my thing.

      Perhaps I’m not broken after all?

      On Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 11:51 AM, Warhammer 39,9999 wrote:


  2. Nah you aren’t broken. Your summary is pretty spot on. Our group came to the same conclusion, that it is a long game, with a lot coming down to luck. That applies to both Relic and Talisman. I feel I should love the game more, and it can be fun, but it is just missing something.
    When we reviewed Relic, we came to the conclusion that the expansion, Nemesis, was almost a necessary purchase. It adds a fair bit to the game and helped liven it up for us.

      • The expansion, Nemesis, essentially adds enemies of the imperium (bad guys). These bad guys are also player controlled and their job is to complete their own mission, while actively thwarting the players/ heroes. There are 5 bad guys with at least one reflecting one of the games basics ‘stats’.
        In addition the expansion also add new heroes and allows combat/ conflict between heroes.
        My gaming group found this ‘player v player’ addition and interaction a welcome addition. The core gameplay remains, with all their problems, but the expansion does liven things up a little.

      • Player interaction is one of the things I didn’t like about Talisman. It’s already problematic when someone gets a better character, or gets lucky with levels/gear early on. Giving them the ability to also land on another player to beat them up (or take their items) seems to exacerbate the situation.

        On Wed, Dec 10, 2014 at 3:28 PM, Warhammer 39,9999 wrote:


      • I can understand and appreciate that. In which case the expansion may frustrate you more than provide an improvement.
        In either case (with or without the expansion), it really is a case of just waiting until one character is all but unstoppable and decides to go for the end tiles.
        Like icthelion says in his comments, we definitely find it a beer and pretzels game, but for me it starts getting a bit long in tooth.

  3. I love both those games, and if you are playing the original talisman with all the expansions, the board just becomes insanely huge. I like them for the fact they are random (I play with randomly choosing your characters). I will be the first to say that gaming for me is more about chilling with friends. It’s cool if you win, but it’s not the point of the game for me. If you haven’t already, try picking up chaos in the old world. That’s a goodun too.

    • I have Chaos in the Old World, and I rather like it–though I like that for different reasons. Certainly there’s an element of luck to it (as there is with almost any game), but there’s also a level of skill involved.

      I’m all for sitting around and having fun with friends, but I’d just prefer to be accomplishing something, rather than spending 2-4 hours on what’s essentially a coin flip.

      • They are radically different games. Chaos in the old world is competitive while Talisman/ Relic is beer and pretzels. Both quite enjoyable for different reasons. The biggest failure for Talisman and Relic for me is they have a limited shelf… After you have played it a few times, it becomes predictable. I think that one of the reasons Talisman had sooooooo many expansions.

      • Interesting take. From first glance, both of these games seem to have a lot of replay ability (assuming you like either of them) because they do have so many cards and characters to choose from. I’m used to board games where you have 4-6 choices or so, so having 12 from the start is a nice variety and, as you said, there are sooooo many expansions.

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