Robert Harris' Talisman first appeared in 1983 in an edition published by Games Workshop. It's proved to be a popular format and it's been taken on since by several different publishers. It's also been through numerous revisions, rethemes and reskins. The 4th edition, published in 2007 by Fantasy Flight Games, is perhaps the best known, and its revised rules form the basis of most of the reskins that have appeared since, including this cool Batman villain-themed game from The Op.
The basic format of Talisman games involves characters with asymmetric specs and abilities wandering around a board made up of three circuits, usually representing three levels of a building or structure. It's a roll & move game, so the mechanics are super-simple: you roll a die and move that number of spaces either clockwise or anti-clockwise. When you finish your movement you have an encounter, either by taking the action indicated at that location or by interacting with (usually fighting) any other character on that space. The purpose of your wandering is to find tools, weapons, armour, followers and suchlike that will bolster your character's specs so that you are better equipped to succeed in a final boss battle in an encounter on the central circuit of the board.
Co-designed by Patrick Marino, this Batman Super-Villain edition of Talisman follows the same well-trodden path but with the added appeal of some great minis and art from DC Comics' 'New 52' era. The 2-6 players each control one of 13 iconic Batman Super-Villains. You're moving around the three levels (two floors and a guard tower) of Arkham Asylum, rendered by Ross Taylor in comic strip art. You're collecting items and battling guards and the DC heroes that turn up on the encounter cards. All the while you're trying to buff up your character to prepare you for a final battle with Batman when, with a security key card, you are able to access the security control room at the top of the guard tower. You may also encounter Batman earlier in the game - he's a non-player character patrolling the Asylum and he moves any time a player rolls a 1 - but the Batman you encounter earlier in the game has lower stats than for the final battle (oddly, his stats on the first level of the Asylum are lower than those of Robin, who is on one of the encounter cards). The encounter cards will more often than not give your character a benefit: on the first level there are more than three times as many cards that gift you equipment or a follower (ie: one of the Batman villains who didn't make the cut as a playable character) rather than a confrontation with a guard or hero.
Your Super-Villain's special abilities are likely to affect how you play, and you will also have regard to your character's 'alignment'. Yes, I know they're all villains but some are 'Chaotic', some are 'Righteous Evil' and others are 'Indifferent'. Certain of the encounter cards differ in their effect depending on your character's alignment. Characters can also become deranged... Arkham is, after all, a lunatic asylum. Deranged characters have temporarily reduced stats and special rules that apply for three turns before they recover.
Tho' Talisman's familiar roll & move mechanic is showing its age, this is nonetheless a beautifully produced edition that will certainly appeal to Bat-fans and those who crave a light family-friendly board game. At Board's Eye View we've especially enjoyed playing with 4-6 players as those games tended to have more player interaction as our Super-Villains traded blows and stole from one another on their perambulations around the board.
(Review by Selwyn Ward)