Talisman - Personal Thoughts

Note: These comments are given on the 2nd edition. I would love to hear comments !

December 1998

Finally I have deicided to add a bit to this page with my own rules variants, showing you how I am playing Talisman these days. First off, you will read of my "Dragons"-Board below, but I have decided to discontinue using it due to reasons of playability. Furthermore, a year ago I tried to to add quest-cards to the game to give the players some tasks to perform before they actually are allowed to enter the inner region. This, like the Dragons-Board, only gave the game a longer duration, so I finally removed the Quests from play again.

Just now, I have mostly returned to the basic rules of Talisman with only a few exceptions. Most important, I am still using the limitaion on the playerīs skills, which means that no player may have more then 8 Strength, Craft or Lives. This nor only forces the players at some time to enter the Inner Region, it also keeps the game more interesting since the Super-Hero type with 18 Strength becomes virtually impossible. In addition, this limitation gives the items a player may own a much stronger position, since now these items are the only means to get the attributes higher than "8". I discovered that this option make the game much more interesting, since now players again take interest in a Potion of Strength or other objects which a strong Hero would normally discard. Hand in hand with this limitation goes the experience rule of the 3rd edition, which means that Strength-enemies and Craft-enemies may be kept - and if the player reaches a total of "7" or mor points, he may raise Craft, Strength, Lives or Gold by one.

Otherwise, I have changed the compiosition of the Adventure Deck slightly. So I am still using the Dragons, but I have removed some of the Doubles and the really tough items. This keeps the Adventure Deck more balanced, and itīs still usable if you play for the Crown of Command and not for Killing the Dragon King (but the Dragon King variant seems to has emerged as a favourite of mine). Otherwise, I am using some of the cards available at my webpage, and normally I am playing on a 2nd edition basic game. Sometimes I add boards from the third edition, or sometimes I even play the third edition, but I am only using the characters of the old game.

Otherwise I havenīt given many changes to the cards or rules. The only thing worth to mention are my increased attributes for a horse. So a Horse now may carry up to 2 objects, and it may also carry at one follower together with the playerīs character. I think that these slight changes make the Horse card an interesting alternative to the Warhorse.

Thoughts from about 1996

Game Duration

A major problem with Talisman is the average duration a game of Talisman takes. If you have 4 players and all thee expansion-boards are used, a game may surely take about 5 hours. Thatīs not too much for an evening, but it prevents the game from being played at shorter occasions. For this reason, I decided to introduce a limit of "8" for Strenght and Craft. Players may not raise these skills above this value by means of killing monsters, but they still may collect any items which make them stronger. This limitation goes hand in hand with the possibility to raise Craft by "normal means" (i.e. killing Craft-Enemies) as well. This rules variant worked out well, since the players reached their maximum during acceptable playing time, and because they could hardly get stronger, they were forced to take on the final trip into the Inner Region. By the way, the "experience rules" from the 3rd edition fit into this concept quite well.

Game Strategy

Much criticism found the "Random-Adventure-Card-Engine". Many players say that this removes the slightest strategy from the game and that the players actions become reduced to rolling the dice. To my mind, the random cards are the core of the game, to remove or change them would mean to give Talisman itself a major change and a new appearance. For this reason I decided to add a small element of movement-strategy: The players had to tell in which direction they wanted to go BEFORE rolling the dice. This meant that they had to calculate where they could come before they knew their movement allowance. I also treated the dice as a maximum movement allowance, which meant that the players could move LESS spaces than indicated. Since this rule would normally make the players take the good things and leave the bad places, the bad places (Desert, Crags, Wood) had ALWAYS to be encountered (when moving through them), whereas good item cards or places of power (River of Strength etc.) had still to be reached by EXACT roll. I like these rules since they really allow a little bit of strategy without changing the game much. It also seems quite logical that you lose a life while moving through the desert, even if you donīt stop there.


It was suggested that quests should be introduced into the game, and I worked out a system of quests which could be received at the Wizardīs Cave or the Royal Castle. The major problem here was connected to the random card-deck: What sorts of quests could the players receive ? Quests for slaying monsters, to bring items or anything totally different.

I decided on building quests for killing Monsters, killing Dragons and for retrieving an item from the Dungeon or the Timescape. Before play, I seperated the Followers and the Items from the Main-Adventure-Deck and I placed King Salomons Crown at the Crown of Command-Space. Each player had to complete 2 quests, and for completing a quest he was allowed to draw a number of Followers- and Item-Cards. After the 2nd quest the player received a "Final-Quest-Card", stating whether he had to slay the Dragon King or to retrieve the Crown of Command (This option is only available for owners of "Talisman - The Dragons", which decide to build a "Dragons-Board", or for owners of the "Dragons-Tower" (3rd ed.)) The player who first had completed his final quest won the game and became the Kingīs Heir.

First I was quite taken of the idea of introducing quests into "The Magical Quest Game", but I must confess that quests have a negative influence on the playing-time. It took really long to get 2 quests completed (because of the random cards). Thus I can recommend quests only to the hard-core Talisman players.

The Dragons

Concerning "Talisman - The Dragons", I soon discovered that they would make the adventure-deck really tough. For this reason I decided to build a seperate gameboard for these cards. The gameboard consists of 9 spaces, and a player may move forwards at one space a turn. These spaces are:

Before play, the Item Cards must be sorted out of the Dragon-Cards. The Item cards will only be drawn at special occasions (see above). Concerning movement, a player may always decide to go back. From now on he may roll a dice for movement and he has to ignore the Bridge and Dragonstone-Castle (treated as safe-spaces), but he may not go back in direction of the Dragon King before he has left the Dragons-Board. If another player reaches the Dragon King after he was defeated, he will find a new Dragon King that has taken his place.


Concerning the gameplay, I am using a mixed set to play Talisman. I sometimes use The Mainboard, Cards and Expansions from the 3rd edition, but I have included Adventure Cards, the "Dragonland-Board" and the "Timescape" from the 2nd edition. Most important, I still use the old charcters.

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Copyright © 1997 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Trier, Germany