We had the opportunity to review Talisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition published by The Op. The artwork by Ross Taylor is superb and immediately sucks you into the world of DC. The theme for the game is obviously dark and brooding, as all modern Batman things are and the game does a fantastic job of setting the ambiance. In this version of Talisman, you play as characters from Batman’s rogues gallery and try to escape Arkham Asylum while trying to stay clear of the Dark Knight. Simply reading the rulebook will get you excited to thwart Batman.
The setup for the game is fairly simple, thought it does have many steps. Your play board has three concentric rings of rooms. The outermost ring is the ground floor, the middle ring is the second floor, and the innermost section is the tower. You have three sets of encounter cards, each of which corresponds to a specific floor and are numbered I, II, and III and correspond to the ground floor, second floor and the tower respectively. Encounter cards have items, bonuses, heroes and other villains which you may encounter as you make your way through the corridors of Arkham Asylum. You also have purchase cards which contain weapons, armor, and security items that can be obtained throughout the game. Feat cards give you powerful bonuses to protect yourself or give yourself a powerup. Finally security key cards are won by completing a job for Falcone and will allow you to enter the tower without problem.
There are 12 characters to play as and each character has unique abilities that help or hinder in some instances. After choosing your character you will grab a stat board and set the dials to their default stats of strength, cunning, and health. Each character’s stats vary and each character will also begin with different amounts of fate tokens and one coin (except Mr. Freeze who begins with 5 coins).
Gameplay is simple and, for the most part, consists of rolling a die, moving that many spaces and following the instructions on the space you land in. To begin you roll your dice and move in either direction (but you cannot double back in the same turn) and then you follow the instructions on either the space or the characters that have already been placed there. If you decide to follow the space you follow the instructions on the space which requires rolling the dice, drawing encounter cards or exchanging objects or coins. Rolling the dice can have beneficial effects such as increasing strength or can have detrimental effects such as losing strength. Drawing encounter cards can get you coins, weapons, items or may result in fighting a hero such as Robin. Exchanging objects or coins can be a good or bad thing as sometimes you can purchase a weapon or health or you may encounter a corrupt guard and be forced to pay a coin to avoid losing health.
Should you roll a one (or a Batman symbol on the custom dice), Batman is alerted to your activity and will move after rolling the dice once more for both you and Batman. Batman has increasing stats as he goes through the floors of the asylum. Should you encounter Batman (or another hero) you fight. Fighting is a big element in Talisman and it can feel very unbalanced at times. Your strength stat is added to your roll and any modifiers (such as weapons). Another player rolls for the character you are fighting against and the two numbers are compared. The higher number wins the battle and the losing character is defeated (or in the case of player characters a health point is lost). Players fight each other using the same rules with the results of battle being up to the winner. Options for winning a battle against another player are causing them to lose their health point, stealing an object they own, or stealing a coin they own.
In order to progress through the floors you must meet specific requirements. To get to the second floor you must fight a guard with a fairly high strength or get guard keys to sneak past. Getting to the tower requires a lucky roll or doing a favor for Falcone and acquiring a security key. These tasks seem easy but they require a lot of time and losing these items adds a substantial amount of time to gameplay and is utterly disappointing when it occurs. These tasks can get very frustrating as you progress through the game and getting sent back to the first floor can easily add another hour to gameplay. The final task to win the game is to get to the final space and defeat Batman in battle who has very high stats. If you are lucky enough to beat him in battle, you win the game and become the leader of the Arkham escapees.
The game does a great job of immersing you in the lore of the comics but the gameplay can get repetitive and stale after playing for such a long time. The time estimate for the game is 90+ minutes and is definitely greater than that time frame. After losing items for the third time and essentially having to start over from scratch, the game almost seems unwinnable and we found ourselves giving up after characters died simply out of not wanting to continue with the game. The game has a lot of aspects that are fun but the length of time it takes to play the game is a big commitment that does not seem worth it.
Language Barrier Playability: Very low. The game requires the ability to read and if people playing do not all speak the same language this game is unplayable. If someone can translate every card then it is possible at the expense of revealing your hand to other players and with the understanding that this already lengthy game will be even lengthier.
Replayability: Very low. This is not a game that can be played multiple times in quick succession. It requires a lot of time and commitment to play. It does however, offer a variety of characters to play and each character does play slightly differently.
Artwork: Phenomenal. The artwork is the glue that holds the game together. If not for the artwork and theme the game would be rather disappointing in terms of gameplay.
Quality: Excellent. Each character has their own card and miniature that is well detailed. Cards are textured and the board is an enormous sprawling map. The dice are black and yellow and the custom Batman side is both thematic and serves as a reminder that he must move when rolled.
Strategy: Low. The game depends so much on dice rolls that it’s hard to really strategize. You can choose which direction you or Batman move to improve your chances but that’s a stretch. You can try to accumulate strength or cunning but again, this is very dependent on dice rolls.
Instruction Manual: Great. The rulebook is very well written and explains everything very well. It even comes with a handy flow chart on the back of the book to help you see what to do next!
Organization: Great. For having so many minis, cards, tokens and other components, the game fits very well into the box. One downside is that the game takes up a very large amount of table space. This is definitely not a game that can be played on a coffee table or a smaller dinner table.