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Board Game Choices: Which Talisman Variant Is Right For Me?

The Talisman board game has a long history. Debuting in 1983 from Games Workshop and later trading hands to Fantasy Flight with its Revised 4th Edition, it now has a home with The OP (formerly USAopoly).

And The OP has had some fun with the property!

Originally a sword-and-board, high fantasy flavored game, The OP brings Talisman to the table in brand new Kingdom Hearts and Batman variants that honor their roots while offering completely new packaging.

So which variant rules the roost? Well, unsurprisingly the answer is likely to favor your favorite flavor, but there are some mechanical differences that might swing your opinion one way or the other. Below I compare and contrast the three latest editions (Revised 4th, Kingdom Hearts, and Batman) so you can choose the right adventure for your table!

The Basics of a Talisman Board Game

For all the words you’ll find in the rulebooks, Talisman is a remarkably simple game. You:

  1. Roll a die,
  2. choose a direction in which to move, and
  3. resolve Encounters at your destination space–be it another character or the space itself.

Along the way, you’ll collect Followers, Objects, Magical Objects (or Legendary in the case of Batman), and Spells (Feats in Batman) that’ll boost your character’s ability points.

Combat is carried out by rolling a d6 and adding the appropriate ability score plus any bonuses gained from Objects and/or Followers. The higher of the two scores wins, and ties result in a stalemate.

The basic goal of each is to reach the center of the large board first, and characters will need theme-appropriate cards in order to reach that space:

  • A talisman for 4th Edition,
  • a keyblade for Kingdom Hearts,
  • and a security key card in Batman.

In any given game, these items can be obtained via Encounters or by completing a mission on a special space on the board.

The end game conditions vary greatly from edition to edition (more on those below). Play time for each is listed at about 90 minutes, but don’t be shocked when games run closer to twice that long. Fear not, though: Rules exist that allow you to stop and score the game whenever you need to. They are conspicuously missing from the Batman rulebook, but I’m sure that was an accidental oversight. The scoring rules for the others can be used just fine as the games are similar enough across the board.

And all of the Talisman games have KILLER components, too! From the boards themselves to tokens to the unpainted minis, everything is top shelf whether you’re talking what Fantasy Flight delivers in 4th Edition or what The OP brings to the table in Kingdom Hearts and Batman. No complaints to be found here! You’re buying something quality regardless of which edition you pick up.

Talisman: The Magical Quest Game

Talisman: The Magical Quest Game Revised 4th Edition (woof, what a mouthful!) is all about killing your opponents. All of the basics are there, but the center of the board, The Crown of Command, is designed to reduce the number of players to one: the victor.

Upon reaching this space, the player casts the Command Spell and rolls a die. On a 1-3 nothing happens, but on a 4-6 all other characters lose a health point. If two or more characters are on The Crown of Command at the same time, they must use their turn to engage in combat with another player. There can only be one!

4th Edition‘s standard rules prolong gameplay by making gaining ability score increases a lengthier process. Kingdom Hearts and Batman adopt the faster play rule variants of 4th Edition as the new norm while being sure to include the traditional rules in the back of their rulebooks for those jonesing for a longer game. A nice touch.

Talisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition

The Batman version of Talisman is all about defeating Batman, of course! Instead of fantasy classes like Rogue and Wizard, you’ll take on the role of one of the characters in Batman’s massive Rogue’s Gallery. Instead of a fantasy setting, you’re roaming the halls of Arkham Asylum.

As with 4th Edition, PvP (player versus player) encounters are possible and even advantageous. The winner can either force their opponent to lose a health point, or they can take an Object or a piece of currency from them.

The centermost space is the Security Control Room and it is there that you will have a climactic battle with the Dark Knight himself to win the game, but that isn’t the only time you’ll face the Caped Crusader.

Borrowing a mechanic featured in the 4th Edition Blood Moon and Reaper expansions, he is an enemy on the prowl at all times during play. When a player rolls a 1 for movement, they carry out their turn as usual and then roll a second die to determine how far Batman will move – choosing his direction as well as his opponent (if there are multiple choices on a given space).

At times you’ll move Batman away from yourself and towards an opponent in the hopes that they’ll lose a point of health, but at other times you’ll feel strong enough to best him yourself and earn a reward!

Talisman: Kingdom Hearts Edition

Talisman: Kingdom Hearts offers much more opportunity for cooperation than the other editions, but there will still only be a single victor. This feels very appropriate given the Disney theme, for sure!

PvP is nowhere to be found. Instead, if two characters find themselves on the same space they can opt to trade or sell items and even aid each other in combat. You’re in this together to a degree, which fits the IP well.

The trip to the centermost space, The Door to Darkness, is as perilous as ever and still requires each character to grind up some ability scores, Objects, and Followers through encounters across the regions of the board, but only promises to give the first player there an additional 5+1d6 victory points. It’s not nothing by any means, but it might not necessarily guarantee victory.

Final Thoughts

4th Edition shines because of its longevity and expansions. The already large game board itself grows with the expansions, as do many of the mechanics…but you’re talking about hundreds of dollars to unlock its fullest potential.

It also treads in a high fantasy realm that’ll make any Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder player feel right at home.

There are A LOT of expansions.

I like the Batman edition of the game better than I do the Kingdom Hearts one myself, but that is only partly due to my level of familiarity and affection with them both. The additional mechanic of the roaming Batman was super fun and added something to the game that the Kingdom Hearts game lacks, but that is by intentional design and makes total sense within its theme.

Talisman: Kingdom Hearts flexes its licensed properties quite a bit more than Batman though, and that added an appreciable element of fun. We’d flip over Encounter cards and reminisce about, quote, and even sing a tune or two from the movies and stories they featured. That’s the difference between drawing only from Gotham’s setting and drawing in stuff from Pride Rock, Atlantis, Agrabah, and many others!

I’d guess it is unlikely that either Kingdom Hearts or Batman will see any kind of expansion in the future, either. They’re likely standalone one-and-dones. Not necessarily a bad thing, but something to consider when talking about longevity.

Both honor the classic Talisman gameplay while packaging the experience in such a way as to entice those who’re wholly unfamiliar with the fun that gameplay offers them. And the Talisman gameplay is definitely worth checking out – regardless of the coat of paint it wears.

You can grab the 4th Edition, Kingdom Hearts, and Batman variants on Amazon. Between the three variants, you’re sure to find one that’ll suit your tastes!