A well-executed solitaire board game on iPad
Talisman Prologue HD is a solitaire-only take on a popular multiplayer board game for iPad, a prospect exciting to those of us who enjoy the opportunity for some mess-free solo board game play on the go. While it may seem odd to play an electronic board game, especially alone, there is something about the way mechanics are laid bare in board games that is refreshing.
Talisman is no exception in this respect, and its mechanics are simple without being shallow and can be learned after a few sessions. While easy to learn, I don’t know that Talisman can ever be mastered. The reliance on luck in the form of dice rolls can easily swing against the player’s favor, but never in a way that outright ruins the game.
Players starting a game of Talisman Prologue first pick their class from a list of ten, and then a quest. Quests often require players to travel between specific points on the game board, defeat certain enemies, or perform a given task pertaining to their character class. The board is navigated by rolling the die and traveling a number of spaces corresponding to the number shown on the die. Some tiles on the map require the player to draw a card from the adventure deck – these cards can contain items, enemies to fight, followers, or even special events. Other tiles will always contain the same events, requiring the player to roll the die yet again to determine their fate. Certain locations on the map allow for the purchasing of items, healing, transportation across the map, alchemy… the list goes on. The rule set may come across as complex when scrawled across a page of text, but the game’s elegant tutorials will quickly bring you up to speed.
I find so many things in Talisman to be creative- such as the different methods and consequences of traveling between the outer portion of the map and the central region. I enjoy the quest system, and the combat. The visuals are cheery and do a good job at mimicking the physical board game (although the characters look like unpainted figurines). I even like the music- which was an unexpected surprise in a board game.
What I don’t like in Talisman is the movement system. The crux of solo play is the scoring system, and the player’s score is equivalent to the number of turns it takes to complete a given quest. Like in golf, coming out of a game with less points better. It becomes aggravating, then, when the player just can’t seem to land on the right tiles. The game provides a chance for a re-roll, but those get used up quickly unless a special companion is found. Allowing the player to move to any tile at or under the value of the die roll would afford the player more options, but it would also allow them to easily avoid the ‘trap’ tiles. Perhaps offering a small chance at an even greater reward at the trap tiles could incentivize their use.
The movement system adds another layer of luck onto a system already reliant on chance (combat, cards, etc.), and often forces the player to shuffle about the board’s perimeter just waiting for the right card or die roll. It isn’t enough to stop me from recommending the game, though.
Talisman is a great representation of board gaming on the iPad. While I think there are still a few balancing tweaks that could be made to better suit the game to solitaire play. Because it is solitaire, though, your score isn’t as significant as it would be in a multiplayer title. The variety of playable characters and the subtleties between how they play is enough to keep one engaged for hours. The random events and dynamic nature of the gameplay reminds me of Conquest of Elysium, and each playthrough of a single quest will generally play out differently. I thoroughly enjoy Talisman’s overall design and presentation, and encourage fans of board games and role playing games to give it a shot.
Talisman Prologue HD is available as a Universal app for $4.99, this app was tested on a 4th gen iPad.