Skip to main content

Cardboard Children: Relic


Hello youse.

You all know how I feel about Talisman. If you don't, you can read my giant Talisman piece here.

You back? What do you mean you didn't even go? Okay, I'll recap here for you. I love Talisman so much and I want to kiss it. That's pretty much the size of it. So let's look at Relic, the new Warhammer 40K-themed Talisman from Fantasy Flight. You know how I feel about Warhammer stuff, don't you? What? You don't?!

You really don't know me at all, do you?


Here's how Fantasy Flight describe Relic:

“Relic is a board game in which two to four players each assume the role of a powerful hero from the Warhammer 40,000 universe and bravely venture forth to shield the Antian Sector from certain doom. By completing missions and defeating enemies, characters compete to gain rewards and experience, furthering their chance of being the first to defeat whatever evil lies beyond the Warp rift.”

Wait, what? Heroes in the Warhammer 40K universe? That's hilarious. Sure, there's a collection of characters here for you to play as, but they're all dickheads, as they should be. From the Space Marine, a machine of slaughter, to the Rogue Trader, who can just buy all your cool shit from you and travel around with about fifty fucking weapons. They all have different powers, and they all level up differently.

Wait, what? Level up? Yeah, like in Talisman. No, wait, hang on. Not like in Talisman? When you turn in your trophies in this game, allowing you to level up, you consult a little chart on your character sheet. This chart tells you what improvements your character benefits from as you level. The Rogue Trader, for example, grows in Influence more easily. The Space Marine is awarded “Completed Missions” as he reaches certain levels.

Wait, what? Completed Missions? Yeah, you know how there's Warlock Quests in normal Talisman? And how there's the Bounties in The City expansion? Well, Relic has something similar. Every player always has some kind of mission on the go. The mission card might tell you to go hunt down some Orks, or win a battle in a certain section of the map, or visit certain places. Once you've turned three missions in, you can take a Relic. And a Relic is kinda like a Talisman, except it's an object. A very powerful object.

Wait, what? So the Talisman in this game is a Relic and it's an actual thing you can use? Yes, and the Relics are amazing. Like, VERY powerful. And you can have more than one. You can get yourself extra tooled up with amazing relics, and march your way to the middle of the board with confidence. Bones of a Fallen Saint is my favourite, maybe. Because it lets you balance your corruption. Or try to, at least.

Wait, what? What do you mean “corruption”? Well, things will happen in this game that make you take Corruption cards. Hell, you can even choose to take them at points. And corruption can cause mutations. And these mutations can sometimes even HELP you in your journey. But if you end up with too much Corruption on your character? You are lost to the influence of the Warp forever. And that hurts. But sometimes it's tempting to let yourself go a little bit corrupt to give you a leg up against whatever enemies you're choosing to face down.

Wait, what? This is Talisman. What do you mean “enemies you choose”? Well, the Adventure Cards in this version of Talisman are colour coded. Each colour represents an enemy type. So if you visit an area with a RED threat symbol, you'll draw from the RED deck, and will be more likely to find enemies of the type normally associated with the RED deck. It's a nice system. If a mission wants you to find some Orks, you know you'll have a better chance of finding them in RED areas.

Wait, what about the board?

Okay, stop asking questions. You know there's a video that shows you EVERYTHING in the game. I'm just here to tell you what I think about it. That's all. Now, watch the video.

This article contained embedded media which can no longer be displayed.

Okay, you back?


I love Talisman. That's what I think about Relic. And this is still Talisman. If you hate Talisman, it's unlikely you'll find much to enjoy about Relic. It's unlikely you'll find much to enjoy about life, to be honest.

The extra stuff in the game (and there's a lot of it) allows for more decisions, more risk, more path-setting. But at its heart, it is still Talisman. You are still at the mercy of the dice to a great extent. Sure, even the dice-play has been tweaked. You now have Power Cards that can be used in place of die rolls at crucial moments, and sixes “explode”, allowing you to overcome impossible odds with a lucky enough roll. But you will still get fucked over by those dice, and you will still scream and moan about it, and everyone else will still laugh. And it will still be fantastic.

Thematically, the game is a triumph. Warhammer 40K fans will love visiting some of their favourite horrible locations (“Come out to the Space Hulk, we'll get together, have a few laughs!”), and will thrill at having their characters pummelled by their favourite vile creatures. Talisman has always been a game that tells a story – Relic tells a great Warhammer 40K story, in a game that you can learn how to play in minutes.

In my most recent game, my Space Marine moved from sector to sector shaming his Emperor, by getting hammered in almost every battle. The dice were against me. My Mission choices were poor. The enemies I uncovered were brutal, terrifying. I started making risky moves, taking lots of Corruption Cards, thinking myself safe because the Space Marine in the game never mutates. He just accumulates the cards, without feeling their effects. Until it's too late. And yes, as I watched my Rogue Trader opponent push towards the middle of the board with two Relics in hand, I PUSHED MYSELF TOO FAR. My Space Marine was lost to Chaos, as a Level 3 character. My Rogue Trader opponent, a Level 9 character by that time, waltzed past every threat and mocked me.

It was great fun. I had NO chance of winning. I could see that I had no chance of winning for about an hour before I finally fell to Chaos. But I was lost in my own story. I was fighting for some pride, for the Emperor.

What else is there to say? It's Talisman, with a bit more choice, taking place in one of the greatest fictional settings people like us have ever known. It won't replace the normal fantasy-themed Talisman in my affections, but it's the perfect change of pace for a night when you want to feel the cold grip of a dark and unpredictable far future.

Talisman + Warhammer40K = Aye!

Read this next