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The Vagaries Of Fate


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Posted 04 December 2008 - 11:56 AM

In the following weeks, FFG will be releasing a series of articles that explore the new Talisman Revised 4th Edition. In this week’s article, we will take a closer look at the highly speculated on and anticipated fate tokens.


Fate tokens are a new component and game mechanic. I’ll first explain the mechanic –how players use fate. For players who are curious about the development process, the last half of this article explains why fate was introduced in the Revised 4th Edition.


How Fate Works
Each character has a fate value listed on the right side of the character sheet. This number shows how many fate tokens the character starts the game with. During the game, a player may reroll any of his character’s die rolls (such as movement or attacks) by discarding one of his fate tokens. This is done on a one-for-one basis – spend one fate token to reroll one die. It is important to note that a character may only reroll a die once; he must accept the new result and cannot reroll the die again by spending more fate. Another important note is that if a character rolls more than one die, such as praying at the Temple space, he can only spend one fate to reroll a single die. He cannot, for example, spend two fate to reroll both dice.


Players must use fate wisely. Not only is it a limited resource, but also because rerolling a die does not guarantee a favorable result.




Developing Fate
The following section discusses the benefits of fate and how it affects the game.


More Control
Talisman has always been, and always will be, structured around randomness. Players roll to move, roll to attack, roll to resolve card or board encounters, Adventure and Spell cards are drawn randomly, and even which character youuse is determined randomly. The benefit of this randomness is that it promotes variety and an incredible amount of replay value.


However, one side effect of all this randomness is that it can feel like the game is playing you instead of you playing the game. If a player finds himself with a long streak of bad luck and feels he has no control over the outcome, he tends to slip into a state of complacency. The player feels like he is simply standing by and watching what happens to his character instead of actively participating in the game. Fate was introduced as a resource that allows you to try turn your luck around and break out of the rut. Managing fate gives you more control over the character’s development during the game and leads to greater player immersion.

Greater Diversity and Flavor
Another benefit of fate is the ability to create greater diversity in characters. Some characters have a higher fate value, giving them greater control over their destiny, while other characters, like the Troll, are left to the mercy of ol’ Lady Luck. Adjusting fate values is also used as a tool to maintain greater balance between the different characters. Some characters just need a slight boost to balance them with the power level of other characters, and giving them an extra point or two of fate is often more balanced than giving the character another special ability.


More fate themed cards will be featured in upcoming expansions, adding to the story and immersion of the game. The image at top of this article shows that fate has a light side on the front as well as a dark side on the back of the token. Although this makes no difference in the core game, future expansions will add significance to the light and dark sides and turn fate into both a blessing and a curse.


Memorable Moments
When I look back on past Talisman game sessions, I have many fond memories of players being devastated by “whammy cards,” like watching a player get cursed by the Hag and losing all of his followers right after he just bought a Mule. This type of bad luck leads to much jesting and smack talking around my gaming table. As much as we enjoy a good dose of misery, the most exciting and memorable moments were created when players triumphed over desperate situations by turning them into a positive outcome. To use an American football term, fate acts like a Hail Mary play, and can create the greatest gaming moments of all.


Exciting Decisions
Let’s pretend for a moment that you just rolled the die for your move. If you move clockwise, there is a fire-breathing Dragon that will surely defeat you. If you move counterclockwise, there is a Demon waiting to teach you the true meaning of pain. Fate gives you the option to try to overcome situations where you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Keep in mind, there is still a chance that rerolling the die for your move could land you on some other dangerous encounter, but at least fate offers an interesting decision on how you want to push your luck.


Shorter Playing Time
Many players, including grizzled veterans that have been playing Talisman for 25 years, often feel the game takes too long to complete. I looked into this issue very closely and found that character deaths are one of the main causes behind extended game length. Character deaths also lead to the most frustration for new players. Imagine the response new players have when their first impression of the Talisman revolves around getting slaughtered three or four times in the same game.
The biggest challenge new characters face is the first few turns, when they are the most vulnerable to attacks.  If a character lives long enough, he can gain Objects and experience to rise above the average Enemy encounter, and then move on to face even greater challenges. Fate helps to increase the survival rate of characters during these crucial first few turns, leading to faster character advancement, which in turn leads to shorter playing times.

Thank you for joining me on this preview of fate tokens. My next article will take a closer look at the game board.


Until then, happy gaming!
John Goodenough






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