Yaarg, the troll, stands amidst a glade of ancient trees in the evening sun slowly scratching the side of his over-sized head. “Last fight hurt Yaarg, not feel good…” he ponders. Luckily for Yaarg, trolls have an innate healing ability. After mustering the energy to regenerate, the troll turns toward the plains in the South and begins a long, lumbering stroll through the woods. No sooner did the dense forest give way to the open savannah than had Yaarg spotted a glimmering object in the tall grass. Cautiously approaching – well, as cautious as a troll can be – he realized he’d found a chest! Yaarg hastily ripped the wooden chest in half only to discover a small, worn leather belt. With a deep “thud”, the troll fell to his knees to investigate the object – which was clearly too small to fit around his barrel-shaped waist.
Board game geeks rejoice, for Talisman has finally arrived to Android! By all accounts (and I’ve never played the actual board game), this is a straight port from the original – which received a 6.5/10 on Boardgamegeek.com. With 10 unique “classes” to choose from and five quests per-class (that’s 50 quests for the mathematically un-inclined), Talisman: The Prologue should keep your fingers busy for quite a while. Sadly, what truly makes a board game successful is the inclusion of other players – a feature that this “prologue” doesn’t currently support.
What… Is Your Quest?
The gist of the game is this: Choose a class, pick a quest (must do them in order), and start roaming around the board in search of magical items, followers, and enemies to destroy. Each quest has one or two objectives, some with turn limits, and the faster you complete the quest the more “talismans” you gain at the end. Completing a quest unlocks the next in the series as well as other classes to play. You’ll receive one talisman for a dismal performance (30+ turns) and three if you tear it up in short-order. Of course, you can replay quests if you’re one of those OCD types who absolutely has to perfect every single quest.
A Varied Landscape
Gameplay is mostly randomized using digital dice, with exceptions being casting spells and choosing which items/followers to equip. The board is divided into three spheres – outer, middle, and inner – with the inner sphere being the least rewarding and most hostile. Depending on the nature of your quest, you just might have to suck it up and meet Death at the inner-sphere for a quick cup of tea. From the beginning of a quest, you’ll roll a die to determine where you can move; each square sporting different events and features. Most squares have you draw one or two “adventure” cards which either give you an item or follower, or send you into combat. There are a few special squares on the map, like the City or the Crag, that present a wider spectrum of options such as buying equipment or gambling for perks. The longer you roam around the countryside accumulating adventure cards, the stronger you’ll become… but remember, the goal is to complete quests as quickly as possible. Most quests take anywhere from 10-30min to complete, depending on how lucky you are.
Of Risks And Rewards
As mentioned earlier, each class has unique abilities. For example, the warrior gets to roll two dice in combat, the wizard gets special “spell” cards to alter the game in his favor, and the troll gets to regenerate life on a natural-six. It’s this variety that almost makes the inability to play against friends bearable. Almost. The class you select will determine what type of combat you excel (and fail) at, since some are more slanted toward “strength” while others are more about “craft”. You’ll want to fight enemies that use the same stat as yourself, since you can gather and redeem “trophies” of your kills for more points in that stat. If you manage to kill a dragon (strength of 7), you can redeem the dragon’s trophy for a point of strength. This is one way to grow your power, in addition to collecting items and followers. Combat isn’t risk-free, however, and since this is primarily a game of dice you’ll probably die a few times on the path to victory. Each class has a number of lives which are lost when you die (obviously), and can be re-gained in a variety of different ways. You can also spend “fate” points to re-roll dice if you’d rather not take a dirt nap.
Over-all, Talisman: The Prologue is a welcome change from all the cartoony, action/RPG games on the Android market but it comes at a somewhat steep price for not supporting multiplayer. If you’re on the fence about this type of game and the $5 price tag puts you off, I’d wait until the multiplayer version is released. The gameplay is fun and rewarding, and you’re constantly learning new strategies between classes and quests, but I can really see how other players could make this game shine. It should be mentioned that some of the mechanics within the game are a bit confusing at first, and the built-in help system doesn’t really explain much. For example, if you have an axe, you can make a raft which will take you between the outer and middle spheres. In order to make a raft, you have to be on a forest square, but the raft works on your next turn as an alternative to a move. So, you have to make the raft after your move, then use it before your next move. Another example is spell timing – it’s not always clear when, exactly, spells can be triggered. Some things you’ll just need to get used to as you play.