I have been a fan of Talisman The Magical Quest Game since first discovering it back in 1983. I am also a long time fan of DC Comic’s Batman. When I heard that The Op had mashed these two things together and created a Batman version of Talisman called Talisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition, I knew I needed to try this game.
Talisman Batman Super-Villains Edition is a re-theme of the Fourth Edition Revised version of Talisman where you play popular Batman villains like Joker, Penguin, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, trying to escape from Arkham Asylum
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this game from The Op Games, no other compensation was provided. Some links in this post are affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support this blog and podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What do you get with this Batman themed Talisman?
Talisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition was designed by Robert Harris and Patrick Marino and features art by Ross Taylor. It was first published in 2019 by The Op. Talisman Batman plays from two to six players with games taking from forty-five minutes to up to two hours.
To get a good look at what you get with a copy of this new re-themed version of Talisman, check out our Talisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition Unboxing Video on YouTube.
The instructions are large and feature a ton of examples using actual game components. The book contains thirteen pages of rules as well as some alternate rules, an index and an encounter flowchart.
One of the most impressive components in this version of Talisman is the board. It’s huge! This is one of the largest board game boards I’ve ever seen. It features some evocative but rather dark artwork that looks like a number of photographs arranged on a whiteboard forming a map of Arkham Asylum. This board is at least twice as large as my original Talisman game board.
There are only a couple of punch boards here and most of what is on them are six player stat trackers that you have to punch out and assemble. The punch boards also have a number of fate markers, some numbered bat symbol tokens and four alignment tokens.
The twelve villain characters in Talisman Batman are represented by unique, very well sculpted, miniatures as well as cards. The cards are a bit thinner than I would have liked, but they work. Each card features some great, but rather dark, artwork. Between the board aesthetic and the art of these cards, I would say this is not what I would call a family-friendly game. This is very much the Dark Knight style of Batman. Each character is totally unique and the cards provide starting stats and special abilities. The cards are two-sided with the rules for becoming “Deranged” on the reverse. There is also a card and a miniature for Batman.
The game comes with six custom D6 dice which feature a Bat Symbol where the one would normally be. These are really nice dice that I’m tempted to steal to use in other superhero themed games.
A number of plastic coins are included which I have to assume match those in the current printing of Talisman. They are gold coloured and feature a talisman symbol on them.
Finally, we have a number of cards split over multiple decks. There are twenty-four Feat cards (replacing the spells in the original Talisman), four Security Key cards (these are your Talismans), twenty-eight Purchase cards, and one hundred and two Encounter cards. The Encounter cards are split into three decks one for each floor of Arkham Asylum.
All of these components come in a serviceable plastic box insert, that only really works if you store your game flat and not vertically.
How do you play Talisman: Batman Super Villains Edition?
To start a game of Talisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition each player is dealt two characters from which they pick one to play. Then they grab a stat dial and place it above their chosen character card and set the dials to the values indicated on the card. They also take a number of coins and fate tokens as indicated on their character card. Character miniatures are placed on their starting spaces, as indicated on the character cards, and the Batman miniature is placed on the guard post.
Each turn players will roll one die and move that many spaces. The board is separated into three floors. Movement between floors is restricted and only happens through encounters or by encountering specific spaces. After a player moves, they will encounter the space they land in. Most spaces just have the player draw one or more encounter cards. There is one deck of cards for each of the three floors.
Some spaces on the board will have the players do other things. For example, you can fight the Security Guard to move up to the second floor, buy gear off the corrupt guard in the Supply Closet, get lost in the Dark Room, make a deal with Don Carmine Falcone for a Security Key and a ton more.
Encounter cards are a big mix of objects, strangers, enemies, followers and places. Each card is numbered and when you have to draw more than one card you encounter them in numeric order. Objects are picked up and carried by the Villains and can improve their basic abilities. Similarly, followers will join up with a Villain and give them some form of bonus. Strangers and Places stay on the board and can be visited multiple times, offering a wide variety of different effects. Enemies must be fought or avoided.
Fighting in all versions of Talisman, including this one, involves rolling a single D6 for each side, adding the applicable stat (Strenght or Cunning) and adding any bonus for items and/or followers. Another player rolls a D6 for the enemy and adds it to the stat listed on the enemy card. Whichever side rolls higher wins, with a tie resulting in the enemy being placed on the board to be encountered later. Defeated enemies are kept and can be traded in to level up your villain.
If a player ever runs out of health they are not eliminated from the game but rather create a new character and get to keep most of what was collected by their original character.
When moving, if a player rolls a one, represented by the Bat Symbol, in addition to moving their character they also move Batman. If Batman moves onto a spot with a villain a fight happens, with Batman’s stats being determined by what floor he is encountered on.
Similarly, if a villain lands on another villain’s square they can choose to attack their opponent with the winner either causing life loss or stealing an object from the loser.
Play continues until one of the players gets up to the third floor, turns in a security key, and defeats Batman in the final room.
What did I think of Batman: Talisman Super-Villains Edition? How does it compare to other versions of Talisman?
I have been a fan of Talisman for almost as long as I can remember. It was pretty much my first hobby board game experience way back in the early 1980s. To this date, I think I have probably played more games of Talisman than any other game due to the sheer number of times I played it growing up. The thing is that over time I began to find Talisman to be less and less fun and now I only break out the original for purely nostalgic reasons.
The thing about Talisman that players need to realize to enjoy it is that playing any version of Talisman, including this Batman-themed version, is all about the experience. This game series has very little to do with player skill or system mastery and everything to do with the story you tell as you play. Embracing this is the key to enjoying any Talisman game.
The other main problem with the Talisman that I grew up with had to do with the game length. There were a number of factors that could make the original game go on for way longer than it was actually fun to play. One big factor was with the winner being the last person standing, while the Crown of Command at the centre of the board did give an advantage getting it did not assure victory.
So you ended up with the chase the leader problem that you also find in games like Munchkin, where whenever one player gets close to winning everyone else gangs up on them and beats them down, thus extending the game. Another big factor was that there were issues with the roll and move mechanic where you needed the exact number to land on the right square and be able to progress in the game.
What I am very pleased to report is that all of these issues have been fixed in this new Batman-themed version of Talisman.
Some of the fixes greatly improve the game playtime and enjoyment, including: not needing exact rolls to land on important spaces on the board including the Guard Post and the Security Door, getting to increase one of your statistics by one at the start of the game, requiring only five experience to level up your character, a refined Feat (Spell) deck which removes some of the more powerful spells, a completely redesigned Third Floor (Inner Realm) that works like any other floor instead of punishing you every step of the way, plus the splitting of the Encounter deck by floor (though I do have a complaint about this, see below).
Along with these improvements, I’m certain there are some other tweaks to object powers and character abilities. I don’t personally know how many of these changes are specific to this Batman edition of the game and how many are carried over from the currently in-print Fourth Edition Revised Talisman.
What I do know is that a huge amount of this game is a direct port of the fantasy version of Talisman with the names changed. While playing I couldn’t help but compare the two versions. I kept calling things by their original Talisman names. Anyone who is familiar with Talisman at all is going to recognize the majority of what’s in this box for what it is, just a retheme.
Now this’s isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just is what it is, and it’s also exactly what I expected. With this, you get all the things that are great about Talisman as well as all those that are bad. Talisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition is still a better experience than it is a game. It’s still a roll and move and sometimes the dice just don’t cooperate. It’s highly random, both due to the dice and the vagaries of the encounter decks. Often one player will get left behind due to bad draws, while another will be rushing for the end way earlier than expected. Again I reiterate, you play Talisman for the experience not to win.
Unfortunately, there is one major problem with Talisman: Batman Super Villains Edition and that is with the Encounter deck. Specifically the floor three encounter deck. I don’t know what happened here but this deck makes no sense at all. By the time you get to the final floor of the game, you expect to face the hardest challenges yet. That would match up with the previous editions of Talisman, as well as making thematic sense.
Instead, the third floor encounter deck has you facing some of the weakest enemies in the game. You will also encounter a stranger that greatly rewards one specific alignment, while the matching stranger for the opposite alignment is encountered on the first floor. The most egregious of all is the EMT card which rewards you for bringing it to a spot back on the second floor!
My only other complaint about this game is how dark a theme they went with. This is Dark Knight Batman with references to things like psychotherapy, drug use, violence and police corruption. This isn’t a Batman game I want to play with my kids, which is a shame as they are huge Batman fans, but of the 60s Batman or the Batman from the Animated series. I would have loved it if this game was based on the cartoon or was more slapstick like the classic TV show I grew up with.
Ignoring these two complaints, I think there’s a ton to like in Talisman: Batman Super Villains Edition. As long as you realize that you are in for an experience and not a test of player skill. I was amazed at being able to get a full Talisman experience in well under two hours. The Batman theme is very well done, though not really kid-friendly, and the components are top-notch. The miniatures are brilliant and for a collector, it might be worth the price of admission for those alone.
If you are a Talisman fan and a Batman fan you really need to get this game. If you are just a Talisman fan I’m not sure if there’s enough new here to justify picking this up, you will have to make that call yourself. If you are someone who has given up on Talisman over the years and hasn’t tried a modern version, you should give this a shot.
However, if you’ve always disliked Talisman I don’t think this version is going to win you over. This leaves the Batman fans, who I think might really enjoy this game. Talisman has always been a very approachable game with simple mechanics that you can easily learn to play as you go, which means this could be a great gateway game for a comics fan looking to try out a hobby board game.