Tabletop Tales: Talisman The Woodland review

Talisman Final Cover

Welcome to HITC gaming’s new feature series where we share our experiences of card, board, battle, skirmish and pen and paper role playing games.

First off we wander amidst the twisting paths of fate in Talisman’s dark Woodland realm

The Woodland, the fourth and final corner extension for 4th Edition Talisman has recently come out, bringing final symmetry to the lay-out.

For those uninitiated in the ways of Talisman it’s a long-loved, ever-expanding fantasy boardgame that wins at being super-easy to pick up while giving games that can be truly epic, especially so the more expansions you collect.

Up until the Woodlands, Talisman (in the current revised 4th Edition) had three extra board pieces that add to the corners of the main board, The Highlands which gives a mid-game challenge with an end boss you can fight to get a prezzie. The City, a one-way fly-through to head to for uber items if you’ve gained a good stock of gold and the Dungeon, a higher-level challenge that can give you the potential to jump ahead to the middle of the board, which is when the end game and the winner is decided (and we can all finally go home after 6 plus hours of random number generation (RNG) fantasy goodness).

With The Woodland comes a richly imagined new journey through intertwining paths of fate in the dark forest of the fairies. Upon entering you must choose one of three face up Path cards that add a condition for as long as you remain in the Woodland. Paths can add a buff but can also be something pretty nasty, such as being unable to heal. The Paths also offer a challenge that varies in difficulty when you reach the Meeting with Destiny space at the end

Getting through your meeting with Destiny grants you a Destiny card. For those that have played the Sacred Pool expansion, Destiny cards can be thought of as a bit like Quest Rewards in that you can keep getting them and they add buffs that you can keep that can’t be stripped in the way items and magic can.

This makes the Woodland an enticing place to keep moving through, building up a collection of Destinies to level up your character. The fact the Paths you get to choose from are face up when you enter also makes for a bit of competition as players race to get a good one, the Wyrd Path for example which gives you a Destiny card straight away.

But this is how the Woodland gets you! It’s very easy to lose the path you’re on in the Woodland and be forced to draw a new (unseen) one from the deck. This works really well at creating the sense you’re meandering, lost in a magical forest at the whimsy of the fae - being made to change a Path can screw you bad, leaving you racing to get back out of the Woodland to get rid of it. Familiar fairies: Oberon, Titania, Queen Mab, Puck and others can make appearances which adds to the flavour of the merry dance.

The experience is a great addition to Talisman thematically and adds to the role play fun (if that’s how you like to play it).

Talisman (use this) full expansions

The veritable cardboard plateau of Talisman with all the expansions bar The Dragon. I realise technically this can't be included succinctly as a 'tabletop' experience as we didn't have a table big enough so it's a 'floortop', but hey! (breadsticks are optional and have no inherent bonuses upon consumption)

 

 

Mechanically The Woodland adds new rules that govern Fate. Previously characters have a stack of Fate counters that can be spent once per turn to re-roll a die. Now players make use of the different black and gold sides of their Fate counters to declare two stacks of either dark or light Fate.

Light Fate works as before allowing you to re-roll, Dark Fate however can be spent to make another player re-roll on their turn. So, say an opponent triumphantly rolls a six for whatever reason, you can make them re-roll (hopefully resulting in something nasty such as a ‘toading’ or loss of life in battle). This adds a brilliant player vs player (PVP) aspect back to the game. Playing with many expansions out can make PVP pretty hard to come by, as players nip off into other regions to avoid your attacks, spells and abilities, now you can snipe back at someone from anywhere if you go dark-side with your Fate counters.

Having your two different Fate stacks also puts your character in one of four states: Unbound if you have even numbers of light and Dark; Dark/Lightbound if you have a predominant number of either and Fatless if you’ve got no Fate left. These states affect encounters and buffs from items and make you think a bit about what side you’re taking, and also adds an extra dimension to your character that sits above you’re alignment. You could be a good character, with a Darkbound Fate, making for some interesting combos.

We houserule picking characters at random and on they plays I’ve had the only new character to come out so far is the Spider Queen. She is nasty though, a board controlling character, she places spider’s webs on spaces with a player on. Anyone moving through a space with a spider’s web has to stop in that space. The web token then gets flipped over to its crawler side and the Queen can alter the player’s die rolls on that space. I managed to get someone turned into a toad by making them stop on the Witch card and subtracting 1, like dark Fate, the Spider Queen is great for remote PVP snideness.

While on the subject of toads there's lots more opportunity to get turned into one if you wander through the Woodland, but - if you're lucky - also an item in the deck that makes you 'untoadable'.

All the other new characters come with their respective counters. And all look fun, if fiddly to play, The Leywalker, placing portals he can move to around the board when players cast spells.

The Scout who can place Hidden Path tokens on any enemy, stranger or place he draws, meaning only HE can encounter them and also choose not to, which looks great for both levelling up or avoiding nasty enemies.

The Totem Warrior puts his counters down on his character card if he takes out enemies. He can stack 3 which can add + 1 in fights or be discarded for life, spells or fate. Looks powerful, but you’ve got to kill things to buff up, he does come with an axe though.

The Ancient Oak looks like a slow brewing late game steamroller if a player can get him to win enough fights against enemies in the early game. When he hands in trophies (defeated enemies) he places a growth token on his card which increases his base life by 1 and can be flipped to either add 1 to strength or craft (he can stack 5 of these). He can’t use weapons though, so a bit of luck could well be needed in early fights, he can heal up on woods spaces to stay alive however.

The style, background and new Fate mechanics all make The Woodland one of the most memorable expansions I’ve played on Talisman 4th Edition so far and for fans that play with extra board pieces out, I’d say it’s well worth having as it ties the game back together a bit and makes PVP less disparate. The weaving fated paths of the fairies don’t make the expansion a straight walkthrough and it adds an extra mid-game option with some very worthwhile rewards.

If you’re a Talisman player do leave us a comment about your experiences. Have you been seduced by the song of the Fae in the Woodland realm? Where does Talisman go from here, upwards - Dark Tower style?

We’ll be back with more tabletop adventures soon, stay tuned

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