It's that time of the month again. A bloody solo session of Talisman in which I evaluate what yet another expansion box has to offer. Earlier posts in this series are:
Tonight it's a full moon. The Blood Moon is an expansion I had not tried before, as I am not interested in the theme. So after buying it, I only added the extra characters to the base game, plus one of the alternative endings. Every expansion of the 4th edition comes with some alternative endings. Some "revealed" that you pick before you start and which change gameplay or end conditions, some "hidden" that you shuffle and then put on the Crown of Command, so you won't know what you're going to face at the end of the game. It might be a strong end boss, it might be a battle to the death with all other players, it might be some dice rolls against the Hand of Doom to have the other players or yourself get killed every turn.
The absolutely wonderful hidden ending that comes with The Blood Moon is The Horrible Black Void:
Yes. The player that thinks they won the game after four hours or more of gameplay, finds out they actually lost. Surprise! 😆
But this month I was going to find out what else this expansion has to offer.
Three new characters, thematic cards for the Adventure and Spell decks, three alternative endings, a Werewolf, lycanthropy condition cards and a Day/Night card. When you play with this expansion, creatures will be stronger during the night and weaker during the day. The Day/Night card is flipped when a character draws some event from the Adventure deck, so you never know when Day ends or breaks. The Werewolf is roaming the land and when it ends on the same space as your character, you have to roll a die and maybe get turned into a werewolf yourself.
Okay, that could be fun. Hoping to run into the Werewolf a lot, I did not use any side boards this time, making a nice small board. I also shuffled the new cards into just the top part of the existing Adventure deck, going for a thematic game.
Talisman: the co-op
Then I picked the revealed alternative ending "The Lightbearers", turning Talisman into a cooperative game. 😲 My three characters would be able to exchange objects and followers, and then have six days to reach the Crown of Command. This was going to be a very different game of Talisman then I ever played. No killing other characters, no laughing at each others misfortune. 🤨
Meet the cast.
The Vampire Hunter can discard an adventure card and redraw, looking for monsters. Of course there's a risk she'll draw an event and speed up the timer, but it gives her better opportunity to level up. Her first encounter was with a Witch Finder, who joined her as a Follower and had the ability to draw an extra card from the Adventure deck. Well, that settled it. This was going to be my high risk, high profit character. We were going to trade all objects and followers her way.
The Valkyrie can ressurect her followers. She would be the backup character then. If she'd level up faster, we'd just give her all the fun stuff. However, she encountered the Werewolf right on her first turn and lost a life. Then she entered the Twilight Forest and night fell already. This could turn out to be my shortest game of Talisman ever.
The Swashbuckler will get another turn if he wins a battle. I forgot this ability most of the time. So he was just strutting around and looking pretty, I'm afraid.
One of the first cards drawn from the Adventure deck was Portent: all characters may accept a Warlock Quest. Wow, sweet. We were already on our way to getting a Talisman - as that's a possible reward for fulfilling these quests. Vampire Hunter had to collect three gold, Valkyrie had to discard two followers, Swashbuckler had to miss two turns. Like we would miss him. No problem. Portent is an event though, so the clock was ticking.
After two turns the characters all met in the City and exchanged possessions to have everybody fulfil their quests. One Talisman should be enough. So in the Warlock Cave the Swashbuckler got a Talisman (and gave it to the Vampire Hunter), while the others got a random quest reward. The Vampire Hunter got some nice armour, the Valkyrie entered a Magic Door and found herself in the ruins. The exact same place where she had started her adventuring. Oh well.
While both the Vampire Hunter and the Valkyrie were slowly gathering experience, the Swashbuckler managed to get himself turned into a toad. He hopped around for a few turns. No harm done. The guy was useless anyway. Then the same thing happened to the Valkyrie, a few turns later. Normally this would lead to a lot of laughs around the table. But there's no gloating over misfortune in a co-op. Or, why not. Now you're a toad! Na na na na na.
Moving on. When the Valkyrie discovered the Lake of Visions, she went on another Warlocks Quest. As a reward for sacrificing one strength, she was told the names of four ancient spirits. Each spirit knew the secret of a spell. Ooooooh. That might come in handy (spoiler: it didn't). Adventuring was rather uneventful. Though at one point the Swashbuckler managed to kill a Flesh Golem with a wooden stake. Er, creative.
After some last exchange of possesions, we had to get the Vampire Hunter to the Inner Region, to win the game. That meant getting to the Middle Region first (those regions in Talisman have very inspired names). But there was no way she could pass the Sentinel guarding the crossing. And I could not be bothered to build a raft. There were however still some Warlock Quests to be taken at the Lake of Visions. And when you complete one of those quests, you get teleported to the Warlock Cave, that's conveniently located in the Middle Region. So I could do that, then walk towards the Portal of Power from there, enter and survive the Inner Region and win the game. Easy.
The quest involved losing a life. I decided to fool the Warlock by having a self portrait lose a life. Good old fashioned magic for the win.
Done. Right. Now. To survive the Inner Region I was going to need a little more craft. Preferably before we'd run out of time. Which would be soon as we entered the final 24 hours with the Night of the Living Dead. All monsters we'd beaten but not buried in the discard pile yet suddenly came alive again on the board. And worse, all potential XP from beating them the first time was lost. 😟
But my luck turned. The Vampire Hunter defeated a Zombie Dragon and improved her craft. She had to take risks and draw extra cards during her turn. Next turn: another dragon. Leveled up in craft again. Yes!
Well, as I had no way of knowing when the last night would fall, I decided to enter the Inner Region. Not having much craft myself, which could be a problem in the Mines. But with no less than 8 (!) followers, some of which offered very nice bonuses. Meanwhile the Valkyrie and the Swasbuckler tried to move across the board without drawing Adventure cards. As daytime had come rather quick and when the next event would turn up, the game would be lost. So we decided to leave Red Riding Hood behind - and basically clog up the board with useless cards. You don't have to draw a card from the Adventure deck when there's already a card in your space. Clever little trick.
I had to roll with three dice and stay below my craft of 10. I had two fate tokens for re-rolls. ⚄ ⚃ ⚂ 12. One step back.
Next turn. ⚁ ⚄ ⚁ 9. Phew. Close one.
Lose three lives or lose three followers. Bye then.
Fight 4 Pitfiends of 4 strength each, one by one. I had a total battle strength of 10. So let's see (counts on fingers) even if a Pitfiend would roll a ⚅ and I would roll a ⚀ ... Yes! This encounter was won before I'd even started.
Valley of Fire
Last stop. You must have a Talisman to enter. No problem, I've come prepared.
Still no events drawn.
Crown of Command
The Lightbearers have saved the day. It's a win.
Of course I wondered when the next event would have been drawn, for the last nightfall. It turned out to be 16 cards down. It could have been the previous one though, or the next. It could have been the 50th. This timer is a bit too random to my taste.
Here are my thoughts on Talisman as a co-op game, playing by the official Lightbearers rules. Not on Talisman as a (multiplayer) (PvP) game. Because then the rating is as high as the amount of alcoholic beverages you've had while playing.
👎 It's too easy to avoid the Werewolf in co-op.
👎 The timer is way to random.
👎 The winning condition is rather boring. Co-op play is just about survival until you're strong/smart enough. The game's threat is random, so there's no feeling of going against a pending doom or increasing odds.
👎 The game shines in PvP or at least having fun at each others misfortune (or is this just me?). Some of the spells can't be used in co-op, some of the events just fall flat.
👎 The Day/Night effect that make creatures stronger or weaker is a bit complex for this game. You almost have to think. 😜
👍 I'd still buy it for the Horrible Black Void secret ending alone.
👍 Some of the Adventure cards are fun. If you are into the themes of this expansion (werewolves, witches, folk tales) that is. I find that I am not enough into it, but it's a real thematic expansion.
Next month: The City Expansion where we return to the fun of this game and the joy of capitalism. You don't have to be strong when you're rich.
Disclaimer: Talisman is not a solo game. Don't try this at home.