Friday, June 27, 2014

Talisman: Digital Edition

One of the games I'd had on my Steam wishlist for quite some time was Talisman: Digital Edition. It finally went on sale during the first day of the summer sale and I decided to give it a shot. Talisman is a board game from the 80s which is probably best described as a fantasy Monopoly with slightly more player choice than actual Monopoly. (You can move clockwise or counterclockwise each turn and you get a small number of rerolls to use over the course of the game but it's still just a roll and move game.) It has a lot of RPG elements where you level up and fight monsters and the like. I'd played it once or twice in high school with the Soulieres and have fond memories of the game. I'd also played it once or twice in University once I discovered that Watsfic owned a copy of the game but my memories of those were not nearly as good.

I suspect the difference is I was playing with a group of people who were used to playing strategy games where your success or failure depended a lot on the decisions you make. This isn't so much the case in Talisman, where if you go to town and roll a 1 you get turned into a frog which is a lot like being eliminated from the game except you have to sit around and pretend to keep playing. Also the characters were 'balanced' around making sense thematically and not at all around giving each player an equal chance of winning the game. So one of us got an overpowered character and won while Pounder got turned into a frog.

I definitely think there is a place for games where you roll dice and silly things happen. Tales of the Arabian Nights is exactly that sort of thing and I very much enjoy playing that game. But you need to recognize what you're getting yourself into and that particular gaming group was not looking for this sort of game at that time.

Anyway, the video game Talisman claimed to be a reproduction of the board game with AI so I wanted to give it a try. I have now given it said try and I regret the decision. The problem is the AI is both slow in taking their turns while not giving me information about what they're really doing. They'll draw cards and I won't be able to follow along what they're doing easily. Part of the fun of a game like this is the theme and the world and I just can't experience that against the AI. I also can't taunt the AI when bad things happen to them.

So really I'm left trying to play Talisman as a good game and it's really not a good game. If the AI randomly gets assigned the troll I might as well just quit since the troll is very likely to win even with the bad AI decisions. I can make what I feel to be good decisions but since there's so much randomness going on it ends up feeling like nothing I do matters. I'm sure if I played over and over I would win far more than my share of games against the AI because I am making marginally better decisions constantly, but it just isn't fun.

And when I have so many games waiting to be played it just doesn't make sense to keep playing something that isn't fun.

I probably should have seen this coming. I should have been able to remember enough about Talisman to know that I wasn't going to enjoy the game much against the AI. But I didn't really remember our games with the Watsfic copy until I'd played a couple games. (The troll showed up in game 2 and won easily.) Oh well. Live and learn! Not every game buy can be a winner, after all.

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