Cardboard Children: Talisman Prologue HD

By Robert Florence on May 7th, 2013 at 5:00 pm.


Hello youse.

Listen. I’ve escaped from the jaws of Apple. If an apple can have jaws, that is. My household went a bit Apple-mad for a while there. I had an iPhone, my girlfriend had an iPhone, we bought an iPad for the living room table. I mean, we didn’t go INSANE or anything. It’s not like we did anything totally stupid like buying a Mac. But still, we were on board the Apple train like a couple of silly pips. That’s all changed, though. The iPhones are gone, because they were shite. We now never ever again have to use iTunes, a piece of software so hopelessly awful the timer programming on my microwave laughs at it.

But we still have the iPad. And it was on that iPad I played Talisman: Prologue. Why is this relevant to you? Why is this relevant to the Rock Paper Shotgun PC Master Race Gatekeepers Of Joy And Light? Well, it’s also a PC game. And Talisman: Prologue will be followed this summer by a game called Talisman: Digital Edition. And that’s coming to PC too, probably on Steam. And in this way we “do an introduction” to our “column”.

TALISMAN PROLOGUE HD (iPad)

Yeah, so I played this on the iPad. Here’s what I was looking for – a clean UI. Talisman is one of my favourite board games, and I always think of it as a good time. An unfussy good time. No heavy rules to worry about, no fiddly processes, just a smooth and light ride. The most important thing that any digital port of Talisman has to get right is that feel of “smooth play”. Roll. Move. Draw card. Combat. Roll. Win. Take trophy. Turn in trophy. Arms moving over the board in complete smoothness, faces smiling, voices laughing.

And Nomad Games SMASHED it. I can honestly say I couldn’t imagine a better digital interpretation of the mechanics of Talisman than you’ll find in this game. After fifteen minutes with the game, playing it is second nature. You can get all Zen about it too – there’s something relaxing about those efficient little taps on the screen and the light decision-making. You never feel like you’re making more taps than you need to make. That might sound like a silly observation, but seriously – digital versions of board games fall down on this all the time. When you touch even once more than you feel you need to in these games, there’s the potential for everything to collapse. In Talisman: Prologue it’s like this – TAP (die rolls) – TAP (choose destination) – TAP (Confirm/Move) – TAP (Draw card). It’s super-tight. I mean, I’ve been playing the PC version of Blood Bowl this past week, and that’s a game that could use some elegance in how the processes have been translated. It’s fun, but it CLUNKS hard.

The way Talisman: Prologue is structured is lovely too.

It’s all broken up into smaller quests. These serve to teach you the game, and teach you how to use the characters. Now, this is Talisman, so what you are getting taught is some BASIC SHIT. Let’s take the Warrior, for example. He’s allowed to use two weapons in combat, okay? So an early quest is to FIND TWO WEAPONS and the USE THEM IN COMBAT. You start the game, go looking for weapons, kill something and YOU WIN. But it’s actually a really elegant way of teaching you how the different character powers work. It’s much better than throwing you into a full game of Talisman and constantly reminding you about your special powers.


The game is opened up to you in a very relaxed way. You’ll learn about how it all works as you’re completing these little stories. And the quests are the perfect size for a quick session before bed or while something terrible is on TV, which is all day, usually.

So it’s single-player only. Yes. I know. Yes. I thought that too.

But. Yes. Hang on.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who knows nothing about board games, and tried to imagine what their experience of this game was like.

“Okay. Cool. Ooh! Lovely map. That’s really beautiful. Oh, and all the characters are like little HD photos of little miniature toys! That’s lovely. And look at the art! All these cards have such beautiful art. Hey, this might be good. Okay. Let’s do this.

Roll die. Okay. Choose where to go. Well, it’s either THERE or THERE. I’ll try THERE. Draw a card. A monster. Cool. I’m fighting a monster! Roll my dice. Ooh. A five. Now they roll. Ooh. A two. I won. Excellent.

Roll die. Okay. Choose where to go. Well, it’s either THERE or THERE. I’ll try THERE. Draw a card. A monster. Okay. I’m fighting a monster! Roll my dice. Ooh. A three. Now they roll. Ooh. A one. I won again. Cool.

Roll die. Okay. Choose where to go. Well, it’s either THERE or THERE again. I’ll try THERE. Draw a card. A gold coin. Okay. Okay. Gold’s cool. Okay.”

And I’m wondering to myself if they’re going to think – is this it?

I mean, this game really works for me. I love Talisman, and I love the roll-and-move simplicity of the adventuring. But man, when you play alone as you do in this version, you really feel the claws of frustration dig in when you need the perfect roll to complete your quest. Quite a few quests end with your character easily strong enough to finish the fight, but struggling to get the right die roll to land on the monster that will get you over the finish line. It’s the only point at which things stop being relaxing, and it’s a pity.

But this is an impressive, beautiful little game. It’s got me really excited about the full release this summer.

DUST TACTICS

You know I love this game, right? Read all about it.

Well, Fantasy Flight have dropped it. They announced it this week.

And I am worried. And I want you all to put my mind at rest about the game’s future. I love that game.

Cheers.

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31 Comments »

  1. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    What, the XCOM post wasn’t enough? ;)

    Also, isn’t this the same game that was already witted previously?

  2. Smashbox says:

    Earlier, I was sure it was tongue-in-cheek. This time it’s a bit rant-ier.

    Carry on.

  3. mgardner says:

    Having last played Talisman as a teen in the 80s, I was skeptical that a solo version would hold any interest to me now. I am glad I picked this title up, it’s a blast and brings back a lot of memories. Talisman was never about balance, challenge, or deep gameplay, but always about the fantasy theme. I was surprised how much extra theme has been introduced by this version’s mechanic of 10 characters x 5 quests each. Sure, it’s a simple concept but it works really well and is highly engaging and encourages replay-ability (will be a while before I 3-star all 50 quests).

    One thing that caught me by surprise with this version is that the individual quests not only have specific goals, but the adventure deck is usually tailored to match the character / quest, and some cards are set up on the board in advance. Nice touch.

    Prophetess is still OP and still my favorite character, by the way :)

  4. guygodbois00 says:

    “We are now continuing our Apple “There is no such thing as bad publicity” promo campaign.”

  5. SirKicksalot says:

    Prologue will never come to Steam because Greenlight is broken and Valve refuses to sell it if a publisher backs it:

    “Talisman Prologue has now been available on PC through our own web site for six months. Two publishers have offered to back our product on Steam, but Valve has made very clear this is not an option.

    Prologue on its own will never be available on Steam. The length of the Greenlight process erodes the value of the product when it is available elsewhere.”

    http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=97489182

  6. qrter says:

    That’s funny, I just started playing Talisman Prologue today (the PC version).

    I don’t completely agree with the game UI using the right amount of taps/clicks – I wish the game would show the two possible fields instantly, in a sort of side-by-side comparison. Now I have to zoom in on one (click), zoom out (click), zoom in to see what the other one says (click), and if I then decide I’d rather have the previous one that’s another three clicks.

    The randomness of the game is both fun and annoying – it tends to really draaaaag the game down, I’ve abandoned several quests, they just took too long. Why no save function?

    I did enjoy myself, I have to say. Up to a point.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Oddly enough, Prologue saves card placements on the board. I’m not sure whether this is triggered by finishing a successful quest or by something else, but there have been several occasions where I started a new game and found that cards were still laid out where I left them.

      So I guess it does have a save function, just not the kind you’re looking for.

    • Martel says:

      This almost exactly my experience.

  7. nimzy says:

    I wonder if we can get you to do an interview with FFG about this? It took years of fan-made VASSAL modules to convince them that there was a legitimate market for this kind of thing.

  8. Discostar says:

    Not many people know, but Robert also prefers Red Vines to Twizzlers, Original Ray’s Pizza to Famous Ray’s Pizza and Dark Angel to Buffy.

    KNOCK OFFS RULE! (^_~)<

  9. Bostec says:

    As long as your not using itunes anymore, the world is a happier place. I made the misfortune of updating to the latest version. Words can not describe how shitty it is. I don’t know why they make it so ball baggingly bad on windows? How is it on a Mac? i’m looking for a change for my 5 year old ipod.

    • tossrStu says:

      I’ve only had a Mac for a couple of months but I haven’t had any problems with the latest iTunes, outside of the usual restrictions anyway (phones can only take music from one specific computer, music can’t be transferred back off your iDevice without third-party freeware, etc.) — for day-to-day music playing and iPhone/iPad management it seems just fine. Then again, I can’t say I had much trouble with previous versions under Windows anyway. Maybe I just have a high tolerance for shitty software, who knows.

    • suibhne says:

      Curious – what’s your problem with the newest version, specifically? I think iTunes remains a frustrating application – cumbersome interface, long loading times, etc. – but I nevertheless find the new version greatly preferable to the previous one. Load times in particular seem greatly improved, at least on the Windows version.

      • Bostec says:

        I spent 15 mins, yes thats 15 mins trying to find my connected ipod and put music on the fucking thing. At least the old version you just dragged, dropped and played it. I just could not work it out. I thought I did it the first time but apparently I put the music on a itune playlist? Why would i use itunes to listen to my music? it doesn’t even play .ogg files for godsake . And its about as basic as a digestive biscuit to boot. Plus it has fucked up two Radiohead albums. Unforgivable stuff here. For some reason it plays The Bends first…no no no, the whole flow of the album gone to pot. Thats about it really, probably lots more but my rant is big now and justified.

  10. Syra says:

    And in this way we “do an introduction” to our “column”.

    I see what you did there.

  11. finbikkifin says:

    I bought this despite not liking Talisman. iOS, played it on my phone. The first Troll mission, which you pretty much have to do to unlock the rest of the game (unless I’m missing something?) took over 50 turns. All I had to do was roll a fucking 6 for movement. Just once. And yes, I was using fate points and doing my best to get more fate points to give myself a better change of rolling a 6, but no.

    Fucking RNG’s worse than Nethack sometimes, I swear.

    It’s pretty and now that I’m through that particular hell I’ll go back to it some time – it is fairly entertaining aside from that, but I’ll never buy a hardcopy, and I’ll think long and hard about how much I like the group if anyone invites me to a game of it.

  12. vanosofmanos says:

    About Dust Tactics: it was dropped by FFG, but promptly picked up by Battlefront Miniatures which is a huge improvement IMHO. FFG’s never been that great when it comes to miniature games, their focus is nearly entirely on board games, which a slight dip in to RPGs. I would be willing to bet that part of the split comes from the fact that Dust must have a lower return on investment in comparison to their board games.

    On the other hand, Battlefront is a very solid miniatures producer. Their Flames of War stuff is phenomenal: great minis, excellent rules. Even better, they’re the owners of Gale Force 9 which means we’ll get some fantastic terrain and counters for Dust in the near future. I’m very eager to see what they’ll do with Dust in the future.

    Talisman is a game I used to love greatly, with marathon 12 hour plus games back in the day. Now, though, it’s a very boring game to me. I think it’s the limited roll and move mechanic that nixes the game for me. It feels too much like fantasy Monopoly to me, if that makes sense, which makes it a pass. Interestingly, there’s other games out there that have a roll and move mechanic that I actually greatly enjoy: Runebound, for example. I suspect that in that case it’s because there always seems to be more options than “Move Left/Move Right”, though it might also be because it feels more thematic there.

    • gfrenz says:

      And don’t forget that Gale Force 9 also make a nice wee game by the name of Spartacus.

      • vanosofmanos says:

        Indeed, a game I’m a proud owner of. Not to mention that they’ll soon be putting out a game based off Firefly that looks to be just as fun. Love me some GF9!

        • suibhne says:

          OMG, Firefly? Seriously? Not meaning to make a vapid fanboy post here, but…uh…yeah, that’s pretty much all this is.

          • vanosofmanos says:

            Yep, Firefly. Not sure how many posts they have about it on their website, but the rumor I heard was that it’d play similar in some ways to Spartacus. Lots of intrigue mixed with action. Pretty much a must have purchase for me!

    • malkav11 says:

      You know, Runebound does a fair number of things arguably better than Talisman, but good lord is the movement system not one of them. It is easily the worst thing about the game and in my estimation, combined with the limited encounter spawns, renders the game functionally unplayable.

      • finbikkifin says:

        Runebound is wonderful!

        As a solitaire game with Mr Skeletor’s Doom Track rules (not the official variant), or at most two players. Never play it with four. Ever.

  13. spectone says:

    So far Talisman Prlg iOS is heading towards being my game of the year.

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