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The Confession of a Talismaniac

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment

I discovered the board game Talisman back in the 90’s, when it was just coming out with its 3rd edition. I had a bunch of friends – henceforth known as “pushers” – who initiated me into the ways of that game with its 2nd edition. We only played once or twice but that was enough to engender a deep and sometimes disturbing addiction.

I eventually got a hold of the 3rd Edition of Talisman, which most of my friends had never seen before. It wasn’t long before we were having regular games of it over at my house once a week – sometimes more often than that. We couldn’t get enough of it. It was like a drug that had grabbed hold of our brains and wouldn’t let go.

Two of the things that made this game so horrifyingly addictive – and still do – are that 1) it’s easy to learn and 2) it has expansions. The game is very accessible and appears to have infinite potential right from the start! For someone like me, that kind of game is nigh-impossible to resist. That’s especially true when you consider its D&D-like fantasy setting and the fact that you’re all playing characters who you can choose to move in any available direction when you roll the die and whose stats you’re trying to improve enough to make it to the final challenge at the center of the board. All qualities that sucked me in like a tornado.

And then of course you have the expansions – separate boards you can enter, whenever you like, to fight different kinds of monsters and earn rewards that help boost your stats in different ways. When the 3rd Edition came out they started making those expansions L-shaped so that they could fit together with the main board – with the exception of a 3-dimensional tower that you could put at the board’s center. That little innovation only served to make the game look that much cooler and, naturally, that much more addictive.

Now, in reality, while the game IS very replayable, after you’ve played a few times you pretty much know what’s going to happen. The players are going to try to build themselves up as fast as they can. The process will inevitably take at least a few hours and will continue until one of the players calculates he or she can’t possibly lose and decides to charge to the center and end the game.

I’ve just described almost every Talisman game I’ve ever played.

Of course, by the time my friends and I discovered that little fact, the game already had its hooks in us, and knowledge of the endless cycle we were now facing didn’t really matter. We still played in marathons that seemed to last days on end as late nights would bleed into early mornings. Then we discovered Drinking Talisman, and it was all downhill from there.

There were no real rules for Drinking Talisman – not the version we came up with, anyway. We’d take a drink whenever somebody won a combat… or was turned into a toad… or crossed into a different region… or pretty much whenever we felt like it. We would all begin chanting “TOAD! TOAD! TOAD!” whenever someone was possibly about to be Toaded – a chant that would only become louder and more elaborate the more inebriated we were. One night after nursing a particularly large bottle of Scotch for a while I started going and lying down in the next room between turns and, despite my drunken stupor, always managed somehow to figure out when it was time to come back and sit down to take my next turn. I’m told that, disturbingly, the only thing different about me on each occasion was that my hair had become wilder and more chaotic every time I returned to the table.

2nd Edition Talisman in play. Photo by Wikipedia contributor "Frecklefoot."

This kind of addiction doesn’t seem to fade. Even though I’ve moved twice – and the game has gone out of print twice – since falling prey to it, I’ve continued to play whenever I can convince my friends to do so. I still wander around online every now and then looking for fan-made add-ons to the game (I highly recommend the Talisman Island site for that, by the way). I try going cold turkey every now and then, but sooner or later I always find myself breaking out the game board in a cold sweat and caressing it lovingly until I can rope someone into playing. There is no hope for me.

The game is now in a revision of its 4th Edition and is currently available from Fantasy Flight Games. I have the original 4th Edition, but I haven’t had a chance to buy anything for the revised version as of yet. Fantasy Flight has already put out three expansions for it and there may be more on the horizon. As you can imagine, I’m chomping at the bit to get a hold of them. Especially if the revisions help with some of the afore-mentioned predictability issues I’ve come to know and loathe over the years.
In the mean time I’ll continue applying house rules and fan material as needed. And alcohol, when desired.

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