Nov 19, 2017 Last Updated 1:43 PM, Nov 17, 2017

Talisman: The Horus Heresy Review

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Sometimes a project is flawed before the first finger hits a keyboard.

I'm not going to beat around the bush here. Talisman: The Horus Heresy is not worth your money, or, more importantly, your valuable time. To be more specific, Talisman itself is not worth your money or your time. I may not have played absolutely every great board game (honestly, who could), but I consider myself somewhat of a board gaming enthusiast. Some of my favorites include: Through the Ages, Puerto Rico, and Diplomacy, among many more. Those are well designed board games with deeply strategic game design that actually makes the player think in order to achieve victory. Talisman is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Talisman is about as “on-rails” as a board game can get. By design, it barely asks the player to make any choices beyond, “which overpowered item do I take to steamroll even harder.” When you make the choice to sit down and play a board game like Talisman, you are making a conscious choice to sit there for several hours while it literally plays itself. On top of that, it's so horribly balanced that whichever player gets the early lead has essentially already won because the power level of your character snowballs immensely.

Talisman: The Horus Heresy has taken Talisman, exactly Talisman, and slapped an official Games Workshop logo on it. This release is nothing more than a re-skin of an existing product. I struggle to even call it a game, as that by definition requires SOME level of actual interactivity of which this has so little it is effectively non-existent. Essentially, Talisman plays via a sequence of rolling dice and reading cards. Up to 4 people select their own hero character. Each hero has some slightly unique stats or abilities that makes them unique. On your turn, you roll a die to see how far you move and choose which direction to move in. Each location provides the chance for the player to encounter whatever that location says to do; typically, it will involve drawing some cards and choosing a few to encounter that turn. Eventually, when certain requirements are met, players will advance into the next ring (there are 3 rings total) until they reach the final location and win the game. As players progress they will acquire new cards, which grant them new possible actions to use for future encounters. Some cards may give you stat bonuses, some may give you free re-rolls, and others may give you some money, which you can spend at certain locations for other stat boosts.

OK yes, before you other 40k nerds start on it, technically this isn't Warhammer 40k. This is more along the lines of Warhammer 30k, as The Horus Heresy takes place about 10,000 years before the “present.” If that mattered to you to hear that, then you might be one of the few people who might get whatever small satisfaction this title could possibly elicit. The 40k artistic license is actually used pretty well here. You might get a tickle out of playing as one of many famous characters out of 40k lore, or commanding one of the 18 original space marine legions. Honestly, that's about it. So, you have a decent re-skin of a poorly designed board game, something Games Workshop fans are all too used too.

They changed some words around, added a 2v2 mechanic, and slapped a bunch of Warhammer 40k artwork on it. Voila – Talisman: the Horus Heresy.

I am not alone in my distaste for Talisman and others of similar design. Talisman has had many vocal detractors for years now. In fact, some creative individuals have already gone through the trouble of reworking Talisman into a slightly better state with less of a snowball effect. They even used a 40k art-style. It was called Relic, and the fine folks at Fantasy Flight Games released it in 2013. Now, I still don't think Relic is all that great of a board game, but its unquestionably a marked improvement over Talisman. If you must have your “slightly” RPG-esque 40k fix, go play Relic instead of this. Talisman: The Horus Heresy was literally an obsolete design on launch. Who thought investing into a product that has already been built and improved upon was a good idea?

The art style, 40k lore, decent space art, and the fact that it at least RUNS are about the only positive things I can say about Talisman: The Horus Heresy. So if you are a die hard 40k fanatic who will simply consume anything Games Workshop related, refuse to play a physical copy of Relic, and see no real value to engaging your brain for as much as 4 or 5 hours at a time, then Talisman: The Horus Heresy is for you!

3

The Verdict

The art style, 40k lore, decent space art, and the fact that it at least RUNS are about the only positive things I can say about Talisman: The Horus Heresy. So if you are a die hard 40k fanatic who will simply consume anything Games Workshop related, refuse to play a physical copy of Relic, and see no real value to engaging your brain for as much as 4 or 5 hours at a time, then Talisman: The Horus Heresy is for you!

Ben Krol

Ben is a writer, cinephile, chemist, and amateur filmmaker. He has been in love with the potential of gaming as a storytelling medium ever since he first played Baldurs Gate II: Shadows of Amn. He mainly plays competetive skill based multiplayer games, story rich RPG's, and grand strategy games. He also has experience with tabletop games like Warhammer 40k and Warmachine. He has far too many hobbies for his free time.

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