This last Friday saw an unusual occurrence: I had no games to review, and I was able to easily get six people together. I suppose I could have used it to play Dune or Cosmic Encounter, neither of which would have been a waste, but instead I used it for a kitchen-sink game of Talisman. This was partially because I haven’t played in a good long time, and also because it’s such an easy game to teach. Even with all the expansion stuff thrown in, it’s the sort of game you can start and just teach as you go.
Talisman has the reputation for being a little long. It’s not entirely unearned, but I’ve had great success keeping it in the two hour range by just knowing when to go for the next region of the board, and by allowing people to bump up their craft or strength with five craft or strength of monsters, not seven as written in the rules. But that’s only ever been with four players max. This time we had six, and it made a big difference.
Downtime in Talisman is never really an issue, since turns are so simple. But it was noticeable when it took two minutes to get to your turn instead of 30 seconds. Besides that, the hidden nature of spells means that more spells in the game can take people to the brink of victory, only to have an ill-timed card set them well back of where they were. This happened to at least two people, including myself. I was making the final push to the inner region when that jerk the Thief played a spell that destroyed my talisman. So then I had to go back to the middle. I settled his hash though, by turning him into a toad and attacking him. Felt good too.
Anyway, after four hours it was becoming obvious that it wasn’t going to resolve any time soon. No one was quite strong enough to just plow through, and those willing to take the risk had all been smacked down by either bad luck or the other players. So we called the game at midnight, with no one having won.
It can be very frustrating to call a game early because of time, especially when there isn’t really an obvious winner. It happens from time to time, and more often now that we’re all getting a little older and we’re less inclined to stay into the wee hours to figure out who won. I was disappointed that we had to quit, but I must say I don’t wish we had played something shorter or less epic. We had a heck of a time adventuring and going on quests, and since it’s a simple game we were able to chit-chat in between turns without slowing much of anything down. We laughed, groaned, and generally spent the whole night cutting up. It feels like it was worth the time it took.
Even the most experiential gamers wants the resolution of knowing who won. It’s a very rare game that can go for four hours, not end, and still manage to be a satisfying experience. Talisman managed to do it though, again proving that for as stupid as it is it’s a pretty remarkable game.