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As has been discussed many, many times before, there is a more or less eternal quest for the ultimate fix that will make Talisman playable in all its room-and-weekend-filling glory. Needless to say, I own all the expansions and, let's be honest, using all of them while sticking to the official rules is borderline masochistic.
Hence this thread to share ideas about 'making it all work' and iterating on them.
The forums here are full of attempts at this, varying greatly in nature, purpose, scale, and premise. Therefore, I think I should say something about the intended direction of this particular thread. First off, the premise is that we love the game as created and should stick to it as much as possible. That means that the nature of any fixes should not be invasive; i.e. no custom cards, altering the game board, adding expansions and whatnot. There's an entire subforum dedicated to that. Secondly, there is no specific purpose to strive towards. Instead, it would make sense to label suggestions with their intended purpose; think of 'reducing game time', 'reducing complexity', 'decreasing or increasing difficulty', 'retaining a certain game element', or 'using as many game elements as possible'. The scale of required fixes likely closely corresponds to the intended purpose of the fixes.
Let me now pose some ideas. Some are tried and tested, some are hypothetical. I've tried to state the fixes and their intended purposes as clearly as possible.
--- Standard house rules I pretty much always use ---
A 'standard' game for me includes all expansions except the Cataclysm board, the Dragon board flipped to its dragon inner region side (so not the dragon tower), played with 2-6 players. The ending is usually drawn at random from all non-open ones once someone reaches the crown, but we sometimes play with revealed endings that don't change the game too much as well.
The main purpose of the following fixes is to 'use as many game elements as possible'. The secondary purposes are to 'reduce game complexity' and 'reduce game time', but they rarely compromise on original game elements and never on game content.
Fix 1: Characters are drawn at random from the entire pool, and players get to choose between two options offered to them. When a player dies, one new random character is drawn that they must accept.
This is to give players some choice, but also to give weak characters a chance to get played. With three options to choose from there is almost always a strong one to pick. Dying gives you no choice for your new character because dying is supposed to be horrible.
Fix 2: A character can only cast as many spells as they had at the beginning of the turn, with a minimum of 1.
This is to prevent the Wizard and such from chaining through spells. There might even be an official rule a bit like this, no?
Fix 3: Warlock quests always give a quest reward, never a talisman.
This is because our games always had plenty of talismans which resulted in people dropping multiples on the ground and turning them into a commonplace item. To make them a bit more special again, we removed this one very certain way of obtaining them while boosting the underused quest rewards.
Fix 4: Entering the portal of power with a quest is possible. Doing this immediately deletes the quest.
This is because quests were a horrible way of getting stuck outside of the portal while carrying a talisman and being totally beefed up and ready to go. Now since they don't provide talismans anymore, this seems like a very reasonable fix.
Fix 5: A dragon token is only drawn when you roll an even total for your move.
This is to limit the amount of dragon tokens that otherwise quickly swamp the board. The 'even' requirement sets the probability to 50% and works with a Riding Horse and the likes. The Dragon is a controversial expansion and a tough one to get to work, but I like it very much so I try hard to keep it as intact as possible.
Fix 6: At most three scales of each color may be used when fighting an Enemy from a Dragon deck.
This is to counter the snowball effect of accumulating dragon tokens. We had an especially unfair game featuring the Dragon Hunter that brought about this rule. Recently I've come to consider removing this rule, as it takes away one possibility of reaching the crown quickly and thus reducing game time.
Fix 7: The dragon kings exist for game mechanics, but have no effect on the game's ending.
This is so the Dragon expansion can be played in conjunction with almost any open or closed ending.
Fix 8: Day/night exists for game mechanics, but the +1/-1 to creatures is ignored.
This is to reduce complexity, avoid mistakes ("What, 8 strength? Oh it's night!"), and reduce game time (every fight you have to recalculate your stats). Recently, though, there have been pleas in our group in favor of bringing back the eb and flow of risk that day/night brings to the game.
Fix 9: Runes spaces don't add 2 to attack rolls of Enemies encountered there. Instead, if it is night, players encountering the space draw from the Nether deck. During the day these spaces simply read "Draw 1 card".
This is to have the Nether deck see some play. Since it is usually exclusively used with an ending from the Nether expansion, this seemed like a nice and flavorful way of including them in the game.
(Fix 10): At the beginning of each player's turn, that player rolls the 'event die'. This replaces the original mechanics for triggering the Reaper, the Werewolf, the Harbinger, day/night, and dragon tokens.
This fix is between brackets as it obsoletes fix 5 and I've only used it once so far. The 'event die' is a six sided die that corresponds with 1: Reaper, 2: Werewolf, 3: Harbinger, 4: day/night, 5 and 6: dragon token. The upside is that many fiddly mechanics are tied into a single object: the event die. Also, triggers can no longer be influenced by players using fate to reroll movement rolls and influencing when events are drawn. Lastly, dragon tokens are further reduced to a 33% probability. The downsides to the event die are that it adds an extra game element, and that at least one extra thing is happening every single turn. Both of these increase game complexity. It appeared as if the Harbinger was moving around more often than usual, but I don't know what the ratio of events in the various decks are so I can't say if 1 in 6 is a higher probability than usual.
--- A minimalist game ---
The purpose of this idea is to create a game setting that can be played as a relatively quick game or as a game suitable for introducing new players to the game. I would personally add all the relevant fixes from my standard house rules.
The main purpose of this setting is to 'reduce game complexity' and 'reduce game time'. The purpose here is very far from 'using as many game elements as possible'.
Setting: The original main board with the Highland expansion added, as well as the Reaper and Frostmarch expansions. In principle all spells, characters, and endings from all expansions can be used as long as they do not require specific game mechanics.
Having an extra board greatly increases options, and I think the Highland is the most accessible one. Having some extra expansions to feed the adventure deck is great, but too many results in a salad of unsynergistic cards.
--- Ultimate Talisman ---
The purpose of this idea is to use absolutely everything, while hopefully also reducing the unsynergystic mess that the adventure deck becomes. Maybe there even is an opportunity to reduce game time for many players here.
Fixes 1 - 9 : All 9 fixes from the standard house rules.
Setting: The original main board with the Highland and City expansions, including one half of the Deep Realms expansion attached to the City. The Reaper, Sacred Pool, Highland, and City adventure cards are added to the main adventure deck. The Cataclysm board with the Dungeon and Woodland expansions, including the other half of the Deep Realms expansion attached to the Dungeon. The Frostmarch, Blood Moon, Firelands, Dungeon, and Woodland adventure cards are added to the Cataclysm adventure deck. The Dragon board is flipped to the dragon tower and placed in between both boards. The Reaper starts on the original board and the Werewolf starts on the Cataclysm board.
Mechanic 1: Whenever a player is sent specifically to a named space (i.e. "Move to the Chapel"), that player may move to that named space on either board.
This allows travel between the two boards, enabled by many adventure cards and spells.
Mechanic 2: Players can move from one board to the other by crossing the bridge between the City and Dungeon boards.
This provides an always present option for travelling between the two boards.
Mechanic 3: Both crowns must be visited. Once a player reaches the first of the two crowns, that player teleports to any space not in an inner region. Reaching the second crown teleports the player to the Plain of Peril on the dragon tower board. Reaching the crown on the dragon tower board triggers any effects referring to reaching the Crown of Command.
This makes the journey to the crown effectively a triple journey.
Mechanic 4: Any effect that sends a player to the Crown of Command instead sends them to a Crown of Command they haven't visited yet, on either of the two boards.
This, in combination with mechanic 3, fixes any problems with having three crowns.
Mechanic 5: Spells and events only affect characters on their board.
This splits the world in two. Only day/night and the Omens are true for both boards.
(Mechanic 6): Players on either board take turns independently from the other board. Turns must last a minimum of 30 seconds. When a player travels from one board to the other, that player is placed in the turn order right behind the currently active player there.
This optional mechanic has huge implications. The main purpose of using it is to greatly decrease game time when playing with 4-8 players, as it can potentially cut game time in half. It will become beneficial for characters to evenly distribute over the two boards since being on a less crowded board means more turns taken in less time. The minimum turn length is to keep players from rushing too much, although they will likely still play feverishly. This too is potentially an effect that reduces game time. There will be some awkward situations with the Harbinger moving or day/night flipping, but that may be a small price to pay for an epic game that remains fast paced throughout.