As you may know, I'm playing Talisman solo every month to evaluate what every expansion box has to offer. Earlier posts in this series are:
an expansion came out that added a whole new board to use in the end game (which before then had been a stack of cards to encounter). And not just any board, but one in 3D!
And on top? Now that's a Dragon King you want to beat.
Alright. There is still a tower included in the 4th edition expansion, but it's a flat board and the Dragons have been reduced to cards. At least it's three cards, as this time there are three Dragons striving to be king. This brings changes to the gameplay in all regions. I was a bit disappointed back when I bought this: no 3D tower, no huge "mini". Then I heard it was all very fiddly and I was never really in the mood for new rules so this expansion has been unopened on the shelf for years 😳
Time to change that! What's in the box? The three Dragons, each with their own decks and tokens, a double sided board for two variants, six new characters and three alternative endings.
Every turn starts with the player drawing a dragon scale. If it has the colour of one of the Dragons, you put it on its card. Once it has collected three, you discard them, putting one on the game board. That Dragon gets to be King for a while. When a player next lands on a space with a dragon scale, a card can be drawn from that Dragon's deck. Those decks contain powerful artifacts but also very strong dragons to fight. That's about all. 😁 I understand that this is more "fiddly" than roll and move, but come on. There was absolutely no reason to delay getting this expansion to the table.
Oh well. First, set up.
There are still some boards to add in the next months plus loads of cards. I must start saving up for a new phone as this is as wide as I can get my pictures.
Of course I had to be the Dragon Rider! My opponent would be the Minotaur, a foul creature with a foul mood and a large club, ready to hit anything that... well, to hit anything period. Not very smart though. It stormed into the Temple of Varthrax in one of its first moves and had to lose a life in an offering ritual. Then it was outsmarted by a wyvern, then it had to face Varthrax's rage and was down to two lives. It had just begun and was already trying to get to the Village to heal.
While I was distracted and amused by the Minotaur's misfortune, I kind of fell through a magic gateway and ended up lost far off in the Highland. Oops. I did find some armour, which was nice, but then I had to go all the way back to the entrance. I was not levelled up high enough yet for this region.
The good thing is, I captured a dragon in the Highlands and was now riding a Nether Drake!
The bad thing was, I was down to two health and things were not looking good in the Outer Region. After a Dragon Decree the board was filled with dangerous places, dragons and cultists. Fortunately both the Minotaur and I could heal at the Tranquil Glade, and not a moment too soon because just one turn later all safe places were removed from the board.
🥱 Two hours into the game, not much progression so far. After being thrashed by a joint attack from a Plague Dragon and an Amathyst Dragon, the Minotaur unleashed all its rage on me. It stampeded towards me and hit me hard.
But now I knew how to play the expansion. I had been very curious about the Dragon decks so I had been drawing way too many encounters from those piles. Better to level up a bit first by drawing from the ordinary encounter deck. Better. We slowly started gaining experience now, growing stronger and smarter. The Minotaur had no way to heal though and stayed at one life for a long time. Every turn could be its last.
Just for laughs I sent the Grim Reaper at it. Unfortunately he was satisfied with the life of a follower, letting the Minotaur live another day.
While I figured it was time to enter the Dungeon, preparing for the end game, the Minotaur managed to lose its last life to a puny cultist.
Enter the Dragon Hunter (when your character dies in Talisman, you just start playing another character on your next turn). Looking for riches and for dragons to kill. With a keen interest in the Nether Drake that I was flying. But first, being new on the board, he had some levelling up to do. Turned out he was especially tuned to the Dragon decks. First turn he found a Dragonfire Skull. Second turn he could use that to defeat a huge dragon. Not much later he found the Minotaur's remains. He killed the cultist, rescued the followers, equipped some weapons and stashed the other objects. This was more like it!
As I had played for so long, I'd managed to empty the draw bag of dragon scales. Time to put the discard pile back into the bag.
My journey through the Dungeon was pretty uneventful. Some tough fights but I'd come prepared, and had some luck as well. In the Treasure Chamber I beat the Lord of Darkness and stole a Book of Lore, to study some spells.
I crawled through a tunnel and ended up in the Temple. Time to climb the Wizard Tower and face the current Dragon King: Cadorus. In one of the rooms I was stopped by a Shrine Priest who demanded the life of one of my followers. Though I did not need them any more at this point, I could not get myself to sacrifice one of them so I gave up one of my own lives instead.
Meanwhile the Dragon Hunter made amazing speed and had also entered the tower. He could not catch up with me any more though.
The end fight with Cadorus was very anticlimactic. I had levelled up my craft so high that I did not have to roll the dice anymore.
This expansion amplifies a problem that can pop up in Talisman. It adds a lot of enemies of 7+ strength or craft. You can turn in 7 points of strength or craft of enemies you beat to get stronger or smarter yourself. So at first the board will fill up with creatures you can't attack. You'll lose some lives, have to recover and will level up slowly. Then there's a turning point after which you can beat these dragons and every fight will have you level up again. So after a very slow start you'll be overpowered real fast.
Now this can lead to a shorter playtime overall (if you don't draw encounters from the Dragon decks just to see what will happen, like I did). And you might consider this an improvement. But then you'll be playing a game that's only about killing dragons. I did not go on a Warlock's Quest, I did not need a Talisman. Playing this expansion, you can go on a killing spree and race each other to the top. The Dragon Hunter was able to go into the Dragon's Tower when he was at a level that I would normally send him to the Highlands - a low to mid-game board. I think you can best play this without any other expansion boards to make the regions on the main board more exciting.
Placing the tokens and taking note of which Dragon was King did not feel fiddly to me. The cards form the dragon decks and some of the new characters are very thematic. I had some cool followers and magical objects. Still, I'm not going to play with this expansion again. I want to do quests, I want to travel all over the world, to visit every extra board. I want more memorable encounters and not just fight after fight. One last look then:
And bye. Back to the shelf.
👍 Thematic new characters and objects and followers in the Dragon decks
👍 Not nearly as fiddly as I was lead to believe
👍 Changes the game into a faster kill-all-dragons kind of game, no need of other expansion boards
👎 I wasn't looking for that kind of game
👎 no 3D tower, no huge dragon "mini"
Disclaimer: Talisman is not a solo game. Don't try this at home.