Talisman: Legendary Tales review
Few games offer a better example of why you should ignore the age rating printed on the box than Talisman: Legendary Tales. Despite declaring itself as a 14-plus title, this co-operative fantasy quest game is aimed squarely at players below that age. So much so, you could call it My First Co-op Campaign Game.
Legendary Tales is the first of four Pegasus Spiele spin-offs to the 35-year-old Games Workshop roll-and-move “Magical Quest” epic. It no doubt hopes to bring together parents – who have a nostalgic urge to revisit the world where they once scrapped and scrambled to gain possession of the Crown of Command – with their offspring, who are lucky enough to be coming-of-age in a far more sophisticated era of tabletop games.
To be fair, Talisman lends itself well to the co-op format, with players here uniting to find five fabled talismans before a Dark Lord-style bad guy grabs them and snatches the aforementioned power-bestowing tiara himself. The artwork is bright and fairytale cartoonish, and the characters on offer (warrior, wizard, prophet, elf, dwarf or troll) each come with a single special ability and no actual stats to speak of.
When battling monsters, no dice are rolled and no cards are played. Instead, designers Michael Palm and Lukas Zach have concocted a rather slick little bag-building system to handle character progression and combat. When a monster is revealed (by flipping over a token on the modular game map) it will display a combination of sword and wizard’s hat icons. In order to defeat it, you’ll need to match those icons on three tokens drawn from your character’s bag, which might come from their base token set, or from rewards you’ve picked up along the way.
In a neat twist, you also might draw a special token that allows you to draw an extra token, either from your own bag or from one of your fellow players’. Perhaps your warrior desperately needs a wizard’s hat to defeat that pesky cave troll, and you know they’ve already pulled out all their limited supply of those. So what better tactic than to delve your hand into your wizard buddy’s sack and enjoy a good chance of pulling a hat out of the bag? On the downside, you might draw tokens that instruct you to move the time tracker on, with time being this game’s equivalent of health. While you never get hurt as such, you can have your time taken away from you – if you get to the end of that track, it’s quest over for everyone.
It’s all very nice and gentle, and designed to create minimal frustration for the littler players at your table, even if they do get turned into a toad. Unsurprisingly, however, that means there’s little depth to it, and with only five easy-to-complete adventures included, it won’t hold your attention for long, no matter how fond you might be of Talisman’s world.
But then, as we suggested, this game’s not really for you. It’s for the kids in your life who you might want to introduce to the co-op (or solo) tabletop quest experience. And with its light narrative arc, it may even work as a kind of prep school for RPGs, too.
PLAY IT? – MAYBE
This Talisman spin-off is far more friendly and innovative than its clunky old source game, but is best appreciated as a play-with-kids experience.
Designer: Michael Palm, Lukas Zach
Time: 30 minutes
This review originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.