Published on September 25th, 2013 | by Luke Turpeinen
The Talisman Review: The Expansions
The Final Say
Summary: The expansions really do a lot to make Talisman a more enjoyable game. It never fixes base mechanics but it makes it a lot more fun!
Earlier in the week I published a review on Talisman Fourth Edition, but I didn’t go into too much detail about what the expansions were like. Hopefully this article helps give you a better idea of what is inside each so you can make a better decision about which you might like to purchase.
The Nitty Gritty
If you buy the base set to Talisman and enjoy the experience you really need to do yourself a favor and try picking up some of the expansions. Some of them only add new characters and the ability cards that go with them, with maybe a few extras like additional encounter cards. Other expansions are larger and include additional areas of board to discover and crawl through. I personally feel like the board expansions add a lot to the game, as I feel the transition between the different circles of the board is one of the weakest parts of the game. The board additions help with what is otherwise a kind of jarring increase in difficulty between the circles, and it helps add variety to a board that can get somewhat stale after going around it a couple times. Here’s a list of the expansions, their contents and a couple thoughts on each:
The Reaper: So named because it includes an optional Grim Reaper figure that players can move occasionally in an attempt to disrupt the other players. If you like player-versus-player action then the Reaper is a great addition to the game. The expansion also includes the Dark Cultist, Knight, Merchant and Sage characters, additional Adventures, Spells and Warlock Quests. The Dark Cultist is my personal favorite character in the game.
The Dungeon: This is one of the board add-on expansions and it gives you a large Dungeon area to explore. This area uses its own Adventure cards that can’t be encountered anywhere else on the board, and has a boss fight at the end that gives you fabulous prizes if you can beat him. The Dungeon also adds the Amazon, Gladiator, Gypsy, Philosopher and Swashbuckler characters to the game. This is the expansion that adds the most to the game in terms of balance, in my opinion.
The Frostmarch: In this expansion the focus is on alternate endings. Instead of the Crown in the middle, you don’t know the Inner Circle mechanics until someone gets to the center, then you flip the card to reveal this game’s goal. There is an Ice Queen to fight, one that requires Warlock Quests and another one called Crown and Scepter that I’ve never actually played. It also includes more Adventure, Spell and Warlock Quest cards as well as the Leprechaun, Necromancer, Ogre Chieftain, and Warlock characters. This is personally one of my least favorite expansions. The alternate endings are nice for a change of pace but not really needed and most of the classes don’t do much for me.
The Highlands: The fourth expansion is a lot like the second one, in that it adds a new area to explore called the Highlands. Whereas the Dungeon helps bridge the Outer to Middle circle transition, the Highlands help you get ready for the Inner Circle (and has its own Adventure cards as well). Extra characters for this one are the Alchemist, Highlander, Rogue, Sprite, Valkyrie and Vampire. There are also three alt endings: Battle Royale, Eagle King, and Hand of Doom. Like I said before, the expansions with extra board tend to be my favorite and this one is good, though not as good as the Dungeon.
The Sacred Pool: Another smaller expansion, it adds three new endings (Demon Lord, Judgment Day and Sacred Pool) and four new characters (Cleric, Chivalric Knight, Dread Knight and Magus). It also has new spells, adventure cards, a new neutral alignment and stable cards. Unless you really like alt endings or you want these specific characters, this one is pretty standard.
The Dragon: This one brings back the Dragon Tower from the Third Edition of the game, and also includes variant rules for the Crown of Command, which is kind of cool. It also comes with the Conjurer, Dragon Hunter, Dragon Priestess, Dragon Rider, Fire Wizard and Minotaur characters. This one is pretty high up on my list. After Dungeon and Highlands, this is probably my favorite expansion because I think every single one of the characters is 110% awesome.
The Blood Moon: Also known as the Ravenloft expansion, this one adds a Day/Night mechanic to the game (which is as gimmicky as it sounds, but, Talisman) as well as a werewolf character that is similar to the Grim Reaper. The alternate endings are the Blood Moon Werewolf, Horrible Black Void (which, when you reveal it, insta-kills your character) and the Lightbearers. Characters included are the Doomsayer, Grave Robber and Vampire Hunter.
The City: The third in the corner expansions, the City is exactly what you think- an entire zone that gives you a ton more squares in the base game’s City corner. Not everything in the City is safe though- there are intrigues and back-stabbings there as well. The game adds more shop cards, wanted posters that let you claim bounties for gold, pets that are followers, and three alternate ending cards: Assassins’ Guild, Merchant’s Guild and Thieves’ Guild. There are also the Cat Burgler, Bounty Hunter, Elementalist, Spy, Tavern Maid and Tinkerer characters available. This expansion adds a lot of things that are pretty different to the rest of the Talisman experience, so some might not like it. I thought it was full of cool ideas and expanded Talisman in a direction that was new but interesting.