WBG Score: 6.5/10
Player Count: 2-6
Published by: The Op
Welcome to the wonderful world of Talisman!
Talisman: Harry Potter has a few differences from the original Talisman game, but you can play a version of Talisman with this box that is very similar to the original with a few minor rules tweaks provided in the rule book. Whether you are a fan of Talisman or not, the main appeal of these games will be the IP associated with it. With choices ranging from Star Wars, Disney, Batman and many more; you have a lot of choice. But is Talisman itself any good? Has this Harry Potter version been executed well?
First, lets talk about Talisman itself. Talisman was first published in 1983. It quickly became a cult classic. A board game in the 1980's about fighting dragons with swords? Come on! What did you expect?
Since then, Talisman has gone through various editions and upgrades, with the current 4th edition released in 2007, seen as the definitive one to own. Since then, various editions have been released based around different intellectual properties. The game itself lends itself well to a make over in this way, and I can see how it can be easily adapted to suit many different films and themes.
With The Op working with the Harry Potter crew before with the brilliant Hogwarts Battle in 2016, a Talisman Harry Potter was always on the cards. 2021 saw it literally put on the cards, with this fine release. Working with beloved games such as Talisman in this way, it is always going to be tough to please everyone. Incorporating something as well known as Harry Potter adds exponentially to the potential for an angry internet. But initial reactions to this release have been positive.
They have not done anything significantly new to the Talisman game itself, more add the Harry Potter theme to it, so I would say this game works for three groups of people. Those who love Talisman and want every version. Those who love Harry Potter and want everything associated with it. (These two alone guarantee a few million sales!) And finally, those who maybe don't own a version of Talisman yet and are considering this version to be the one they try. I will focus my attention for the rest of the review on those people, seeing as the first two groups have probably clicked "Buy Now" already!
Let's talk about the reason you may want to try this game.
First up, check out this board! It's stunning! It looks full of adventure right? Well, it feels like that when you play too. I won't go over the rules here, but the basic premise of Talisman is simple. You start off as a fairly low powered character. You need to move around the outside part of the board a few times, gathering items and upgrading your characters powers and abilities. When you are ready, head to the middle section to continue your development but now with more rewards, and of course, increased risks! Before heading to the central part of the board for the final battle.
Exploring the rooms and locations as you move around this board is brilliant fun. It feels exciting and there is a real sense of discovery as you do this. Even if it is your tenth play or beyond, there are enough rooms here to make moving around this beautifully crafted world exciting. What happens at each location feels thematic, and there is an ordered progression you can take in order to calculate the risks in the development of your character.
Another thing that may appeal with this game is the range of characters. Though not as many as the original Talisman, and of course all the expansions available for those now, you start with eight characters out the box to choose from. Seen here are those eight plus Voldemort, with whom you must do battle in order to win the game. There are four Death Eaters and four characters from the Order of the Phoenix. Goodies and baddies for those not familiar with the story! You must defeat Lord Voldemort at the end, either in order to gain his trust so you can join him. Or to stop his evil reign if you are playing as one of the hero characters.
Each character has its own minor asymmetry to go along with these beautifully crafted miniatures. The character cards are double sided with different options of powers and starting abilities to increase the games variety at set-up. The powers seem well thought out and balanced, and link to the story in a suitable fashion. I would prefer a little more asymmetry myself, but that is just my own personal taste.
As you move around the world of Harry Potter you will draw encounter cards. These seem varied, plentiful, and eventful. Most games I found I was cycling through the deck at least one and half times, but as you don't see every card yourself I think there are enough cards. There will be a mix of followers to add to your crew, items to collect, and events to undertake. This game certainly does feel like an event. A story will be told. An adventure will be had.
As you develop your character, advance your powers and abilities, and travel into the central part of the board, there is a genuine and highly satisfying sense of progression. It really does feel good to increase your characters abilities and get better at this game as you play it. However, and this brings to me to the reasons you may not like this game, there are no guarantees in this game. As in life, what goes up, must come down! This game can become a little backwards and forwards, in that for every ladder you climb, there are many snakes waiting for you to fall down!
Time to ride your luck!
There have been a few games where I or another player have felt close to being ready to take on Lord Voldemort, but then with a few unlucky dice roles or event cards, have found ourselves losing most of our powers and abilities. Having to grind our way back. Invariably, the other player in this time will take their chance and win the game. Now, this is the luck of the draw. Any game with dice has some chance and luck in it.
In one game against my son where I was transfigured into a Ferret there was one particularly unlucky series of events. When you are involuntarily shape shifted, it only last for a few turns, but you must drop all your items on the space this happens. Ferrets don't have pockets obviously! The issue was that on my next turn, I was sent against my will to the far side of the board. Without my items, I was then at the mercy of the die to get back and gather back my belongings. This took eight turns! In doing so, my son advanced to the final battle and won.
You win some, you loose some. This happens in a lot of games, but it is common in Talisman. You must go into this game knowing there is an element of luck. However, you can re-roll bad rolls using your fate tokens, and when moving around the board, you do have a choice which direction you go. Some characters have the ability to avoid certain events, and as your powers increase you can navigate the more difficult events in a more controlled way. But, dice are dice after all. It wont always be in your control.
Playing Talisman is a mixed bag of fun, adventure, luck, frustration, grind, and character advancement. It is light enough for most people to play with relative ease, but does take 1.5 to 2 hours to play. So, this is not a quick game. If you get a few unlucky rolls and lose, I doubt you will think about setting up and going again. With a game that is luck dependent and due to its game length usually played only once at a time, it needs to deliver something special to make you come back time after time. Talisman: Harry Potter does this for me. It comes from the theme. I love Harry Potter and the world this game transports you into is magical and full of wonder.
If you don't like Harry Potter then I would recommend you look at the many other versions of this game. I feel that Talisman is one of those games everyone needs to play. And is worthy of everyone's consideration to own. It's a classic and a very important game from the last 40 years. worthy of a place in anyone's collection. The multitude of IP versions opens this wonderful game up to many more people. So, the question remains, which Talisman is for you?