Quick impressions: Talisman: Prologue

Talisman Prologue

 

Talisman: Prologue is a recently released Android/iOS adaptation of an old board game (which I have not played), Games Workshop’s Talisman. TP is a solitaire game in which the player controls a single high fantasy adventurer (a warrior, troll, assassin, etc), who moves around a board, attempting to solve a “quest” (kill X monsters, bring the princess to Y castle) chosen at the start of the game.

 

Note my choice of words: the character moves around the board, not the player. That’s because almost everything in TP – how far the adventurer moves, the monsters he/she encounters, whether s/he defeats the goblin, whether the enchantress turns him/her into a frog – is determined almost entirely by chance. Never mind strategy or making interesting decisions; in TP, there are very few decisions at all, and in mechanical terms, that makes it a lousy game.

 

So what’s the point of TP, then? Its theme, which I think you will enjoy to the extent that (a) your imagination can construct a story from card art and random numbers (TP‘s high production values help), and (b) you like ‘80s high fantasy. The last time I played, my assassin stumbled on a mischievous imp (drew an Imp card), who teleported him to a cave (I rolled a certain number), where he slew a serpent (drew a card, rolled a die, and compared his die roll + strength against the serpent’s) and discovered a rich hoard of gold (another die roll). There is a cool and exciting, if brief, story in there, even if I had to fill in all the details in my head.

 

The last thing I should note is that the game’s own designers seem very aware that it lacks the depth for sustained play. The game’s quests – and hence, its play sessions – don’t last very long. However, finishing each quest unlocks both new quests and new adventurers, which is what provides the incentive to return.

 

Overall, I can’t recommend TP for gamers in search of a meaty ruleset, a tense challenge, or even much in the way of player agency. However, for those who don’t mind being spectators while the dice do the work, TP is worth a look as a coffee-break-length ticket to Fantasyland.

 

A technical note: while the game is playable on my 7” device (Nexus 7), the font is too small for my liking. People with larger screens may find the font more appropriately sized.

All aboard! Ticket to Ride: The Verdict

Ticket to Ride PC: clean, colourful, and attractive
Ticket to Ride PC: clean, colourful, and attractive

 

The railroad must get through. Chicago must connect to Santa Fe. But I’m almost out of locomotives, my rivals are muscling in, and can I get three cards of the same colour?

 

Welcome to Ticket to Ride, the PC adaptation of a highly regarded board game (which I have not yet played). In Ticket, players claim train routes by playing cards – six yellow cards to connect Seattle to Helena in the above screenshot, for instance, or five blue cards to connect Atlanta to Miami. Long routes are worth more than short routes, but are correspondingly harder to claim. Furthermore, each player begins with a certain number of “tickets” – routes (Chicago to Santa Fe, in my above example) that reward the player if they are completed, and impose a penalty if they are not. Again, long-haul tickets are worth more – both on the upside and on the downside! – than their short-haul counterparts. Lastly, each route can only be claimed by one player at a time (although the game does provide some duplicate routes). So for example, I couldn’t go Denver -> Santa Fe in the above screenshot, but neither could the other players go Denver -> Omaha, or Chicago -> Pittsburgh, or Pittsburgh -> New York.

Continue reading “All aboard! Ticket to Ride: The Verdict”

Another sign of gaming’s acceptability: Board Gaming with the FT

Several months ago, I talked about one indicator that games are becoming mainstream: seeing flagship franchises such as Mario, LittleBigPlanet, Medal of Honor, and Red Dead Redemption being advertised in train stations and on the sides of buses. (And since then, I’ve seen train station ads for LittleBigPlanet 2, though their slogan isn’t quite as memorable as the “On my planet, the stock market isn’t so scary” used to advertise the original game two years ago.)

 

This weekend, I saw another indicator, this time for board games. No less august a publication than the Financial Times ran an interview with Michael Lewis, of Liar’s Poker/The Blind Side/The Big Short fame. Were Tim Harford, the FT journalist and economics correspondent, and Lewis chatting over a good meal? (Lunch with the FT is an interview series published every weekend.) Were they chatting over the cricket? Nope, they were chatting over a game of Saint Petersburg.

 

Of course, one swallow does not a summer make. I understand that Tim Harford is a board gamer*, which is probably why he embarked on this project in the first place, but I don’t see journalists all around the world rushing to their nearest board game shops in order to obtain props for their next interviews. But the FT’s willingness to run with this*,  and Lewis’ willingness to be interviewed over a board game, seem to be encouraging signs of gaming (at least, in non-electronic form) being “socially acceptable”. Who knows? Maybe in ten or twenty years’ time, we’ll see “RTS with the FT”.

 

* He mentions this in an article he previously wrote about Spiel, the German board game convention held at Essen.

 

** Not for the first time. The FT ran a “Monopoly with the FT” story in December ’10, where the interviewees were a pair of property developers.