Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Bob Harris &
John Goodenough

Heidelberger /

No. of Players:
2 - 6



20 years ago GAMES WORKSHOP released Talisman Dragons, the last expansion set for the first and second editions of Talisman. In fact, the expansion had been designed as a trial balloon, since GAMES WORKSHOP wanted to see whether the popularity of Talisman still remained unbroken 10 years after the initial publication of the original game. Talisman Dragons sold out rather quick, and eventually this resulted in the release of the 3rd edition of Talisman, but due to its low circulation-numbers Talisman Dragons quickly became a highly sought after item for Talisman players all over the world. Over the years, the price of the expansion has reached astronomical dimensions of 500 US$ and more - making it impossible for normal gamers to obtain a copy of Talisman Dragons.

The modern 4th edition of Talisman in many aspects resembles the aforementioned 3rd edition which was launched by GAMES WORKSHOP due to the success of Talisman Dragons, but whereas Talisman Dragons just contained a set of approx. 80 overpowered Adventure cards and 4 new characters the Talisman - Dragon's Tower expansion which was available for the 3rd edition then contained a new approach to the topic of dragons. That expansion contained a three-dimensional tower which was placed on the board in replacement of the (empty) Inner region, and now the players had to fight their way through the tower to reach the Dragon King on top of the tower. During their way through the tower the players had to draw cards from a specific Tower deck, and upon reaching the top of the tower the players had to face the Dragon King for a final battle. In comparison to the older Talisman Dragons, this new expansion did fit better with the rest of the game, since the players had a choice when to enter the tower and face the harder enemies found in the tower deck. However, as it seems the introduction of dragons has remained a popular topic for Talisman>, so that FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES and HEIDELBERGER now again have released an expansion called Talisman - The Dragon Expansion.


Those of you who have followed my reviews of the already released expansions for the 4th edition of Talisman probably will remember that all expansions of the 4th edition share the common trait that they have been overhauled and improved in comparison to their 3rd edition counterparts, and indeed the new Talisman - The Dragon Expansion shares this common trait with the other expansions. In a way, this new expansion is based on some of the ideas found in both of its predecessors, but these ideas have been enriched with new mechanisms which are meant to compensate for the shortfalls of the older editions.

So, the centrepiece of Talisman - The Dragon Expansion now is a two-sided gameboard which is placed on the main gameboard, thus replacing the Inner region by a new region of its own. This new region either is a spiralling dragons tower which is similar in function to the tower found in the 3rd edition Talisman - Dragon's Tower expansion, or it is a new Inner region, depicting a two-way "Dragon Kingdom" which the players must cross in a fashion similar to the normal Inner region. However, regardless of the gameboard side used by the players, the Crown of Command has been removed from the game, and instead the players will have to face a cruel Dragon King for the final battle.

The older versions of this expansion featured just one Dragon King with Strength and Craft values of 12 points, but now the game actually features three different Dragon Lords, all with different characteristics and special abilities, and one of these Lords will be faced by a player who reaches the final space. The players know which Lord they will have to face, but during the course of the game the three Dragons will take turns becoming the Dragon King, and so a player may well have to face a Dragon King different from the one who was present on the final space when he entered the Inner region some rounds ago. The mechanism on which all this operates is a bag/cup/bowl full of Dragon tokens which has been shuffled at the beginning of the game, and each turn a player has to draw one token from this bag and deal with the consequences as shown on the token. In most cases the Dragon tokens will show a scale of one of the three Dragon Lords, and this scape then is placed on the matching Dragon Lord's card. If enough tokens have been accumulated this way, the Dragon will become the new Dragon King, and all but one of the Dragon tokens from his card will be discarded. The last token is placed on the space of the active player, and from now on players visiting this space will not encounter the space in a normal way, but instead they have to draw a card from the matching Dragon Lord deck. Each of the Dragon Lords comes with his own deck of Adventure cards composed of enemies, items etc, and when a player who encounters a Dragon scale defeats an enemy from the corresponding deck, he will receive the Dragon scale as an additional benefit. Later on, these scales will increase the player's combat value if he should encounter this specific Dragon Lord in the final battle, and in addition a scale also can be discarded to avoid the special ability of this specific Dragon Lord.

The two sides of the gameboard differ in so far as the Tower side requires the players to face cards from the deck of the current Dragon King, and in addition the players' movement is not determined by rolling a dice but by the cards encountered in the tower. The "Dragon Kingdom" side on the other hand is quite similar to the Inner region, offering one way for characters with a preference for Strength and one way for characters with a preference for Craft. However, the events found on both ways are influenced by the varying amount of Dragon scale tokens on the three Dragon Lord cards, and as a rule the events get more dangerous the more tokens are in the game.

A lot of criticism had been aimed especially against the old Talisman Dragons expansion on the basis of its arbitrariness and missing balance. As it seems, this criticism was taken quite seriously by the designers of the new Talisman - The Dragon Expansion, because once again the expansion set has been given a major reconditioning to fit with the improved playing experience found in the new edition of Talisman. As a matter of fact, it must have been quite a challenge to come up with ideas how Dragon decks could be introduced to the game, but here the use of the Dragon tokens has proved itself a clever way for implementing this task. The gameboard slowly changes by the sporadic placement of the Dragon scales, and only on the spaces with scales the players will encounter events from the Dragon decks. This gives the players a much higher degree of control over their own fate, since the traditional Talisman-expansion-philosophy of shuffling more cards into the main Adventure deck has been replaced by a more sophisticated approach.

Quite interestingly, many players who had paid hundreds of Dollars to getTalisman Dragons ended up playing without this expansion due to its undeniable shortfalls. However, this story now stands in dramatic contrast to the introduction of Talisman - The Dragon Expansion, since this new expansion really fulfils its task: it expands and enhances the playing experience found in Talisman!

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Copyright © 2013 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany