Talisman: Horus Heresy – Early Preview

Talisman: Horus Heresy is a digital board game set in the Warhammer 40K universe after the events that transpired during the Horus Heresy. The game uses the traditional Talisman rules system with some adaptations for the Warhammer 40K theme. This adaptation is beautifully crafted with some amazing visuals of planets, solar systems, and space anomalies.

You take on the role as one or more of the galaxy’s bravest heroes or malicious villains, with up to three others in direct head-to-head or team-based gameplay. Choose your allegiance between loyalist and traitor and have your Warlord command Space Marines, spacecraft fleets, and even battle tanks. Make your way across the galaxy to either defeat the Emperor or Horus, depending on your chosen faction.

Can Talisman: Horus Heresy live up to the acclaim of the original Talisman? Read on to find out…

Different-effects-for-different-factions

The highly detailed interactive game board gives the Talisman engine a modern feel. You really get a sense of traversing large expanses of space as you roll-and-move your Warlord around the board.

Gameplay

The digital version of Talisman that I reviewed not so long ago managed to score decently. The game was created to look like its original tabletop counterpart, though this did make the visuals look like they had come from a mid-’90s game. Talisman: Horus Heresy fixes the visuals complaint immediately with a highly detailed and interactive game board.

Zooming in from the standard view reveals different levels of details with the best visuals appearing when you are zoomed right in on a set tile. The game will automatically bring you to this view when you choose to interact with the tile you landed on. The zoomed out game board contains all the basic information you need to know, whilst still looking amazing.

The gameplay certainly feels as though you are playing a Talisman game, except there are a few tweaks that differentiate this title from being just a Talisman clone. However, the game still relies on RNG (random number generation) for a huge chunk of the player interactions with the board or against one another, be they on specific tiles or in battle. This may be a breaking point for some prospective players who like to remain in complete control.

Complete-obliteration

Combat can be close or ranged. If you manage to get either of these stats high enough you will be able to obliterate any encounter you face. Though doing so makes the game far less challenging.

Talisman: Horus Heresy keeps some of the basic statistics associated with your chosen character, but makes a couple of thematic changes for continuity. Instead of a health pool, you have Resolve, which works in the exact same way as health — lose it all and your character is eliminated from the game. Fate received no changes and still works as a re-roll mechanic in times of need. The same can be said of Resources, which replace Gold.

The way in which combat resolves has had a decent rework that makes much more thematic sense. Strength and Craft stats have been replaced with two different combat statistics: Close and Ranged Combat (making much more thematic sense for the W40k universe). All characters start with a base value that can be increased throughout the game. There are tiles that can increase one or more of these values with an RNG roll or you can gain experience points on them by winning encounters.

The experience points mechanic replaces the trophy method used in the original Talisman, where you could hold on to defeated creatures and then discard them to increase one of your statistics. Now you earn experience for each defeated encounter, which in turn increases the statistic once enough experience has been earned. What I love most about this new approach is that it feels so much more realistic and immediate, giving a strong sense of character growth as you play the game.

The Strategy stat is used to hold Strategem cards. These are essentially spells. Just like your combat statistics, this stat will need to be leveled up in order to increase the maximum number of Strategem cards your character can hold. All of the statistics start at base values depending on your chosen Warlord and all of these cannot be depleted beyond their starting point, except Resolve and Resource.

Pray-to-the-Dark-Gods

Random number generation (RNG) still features heavily. Most of the encounters on the board or in combat require you to roll a die to determine the outcome. You’ll want to pray to RNGesus to ensure you get the rolls you need!

Gameplay Continued…

All of these changes make sure that Talisman: Horus Heresy feels distinctly different to the classic Talisman game. The core mechanic of a die roll to move is still here, though — the old-fashioned movement mechanic seen in many tabletop games and even some digital board games. In this game, you can re-roll using Fate if you feel you get no benefit from or want to avoid particular tiles.

The usual encounter deck is filled with Dataslates which consist of combat encounters, special characters, equipment, resources, and other special event cards. Some tiles require you to encounter one or more Dataslates at a time, which will either be of great benefit or a significant hindrance. Some Dataslates will remain on the tile and will reduce the number of new encounters you may have there if any.

Another difference from Talisman that I like is that encountered Units are divided into loyalist or trailer camps, adding another dimension to combat. You can try to rejoin a Unit to your side which avoids a combat and any subsequent penalties if you fail. Some Warlords have abilities that use or somehow interact with collected Units, such as sacrificing one before combat to get a +3 to your roll.

Just like in the original Talisman game there are tiles that have their own text effects. These generally don’t have any Dataslates to encounter, but will have their own RNG roll events or encounter requirements, such as passing to the inner ring. You can encounter anything from shops to buying equipment to your home planet, where you can roll for a number of different positive (and negative!) effects.

Good-old-RNG-encounters

More often than not, you will be playing to increase your character’s statistics. This often has the effect of making you feel as though you are playing a solo game, as opposed to playing against other players.

There are a couple of minor issues that have been carried over from the original Talisman game. The biggest one is player interaction. If you’re playing on one computer, one person will usually be clicking on the screen for all players. This will often feel like watching one player participate in the whole game while everyone else watches. It really brings out the core weakness of the Talisman system, which is that it is nearly entirely random where you go and what you do most of the time.

The lack of interaction continues online where you can only really interact with your opponents via Strategems and direct conflict, which will often be avoided until you know you can win the fight. Most of the time each player will be playing their own game trying to increase their statistics through random encounters and successful die rolls.

The only way to ensure you are continually interacting with another player is to make decisions together by playing in a team-based game. However, if you end up disagreeing on what actions to take you will once again fall into playing your own game.

None of this is at the fault of the remodel. It is symptomatic of traditional roll-and-move mechanics and dated board game designs. These types of games often leave players without the means to interact with one another on a regular basis and certainly can’t keep up with the way modern games thrive on interaction between players. So with that in mind, we can almost forgive this shortcoming and focus on how great it feels to play a beautifully designed game set in the Warhammer 40K universe!

Get-a-look-at-all-the-Dataslates

The ‘My Collection’ tab on the main menu allows you to access all of the Dataslates you have from the core game and its expansions. Though why would you want to ruin the surprise of not knowing what you may encounter?

Features

The basics are covered when you encounter the main menu of Talisman: Horus Heresy. Play lets you set up a local game consisting of solo or team-based play. You can do this with other people or have the A.I. fill the open slots, which can be a decent way to learn the game before you want to try your luck online. Everything in this mode will provide all players with a perfect information scenario. All of the Dataslates and Strategems you pick up will be known by all players.

Online Multiplayer is where the developers wish you to spend most of your time and you really wouldn’t be getting the most out of the game if you decided against doing so. This mode features the same options as the Play mode, solo or team-based options. However, this will mean some of the Strategems you can pick up will remain a secret from the opponents until they are played.

The fact that the game can support up to four players should encourage you to participate in some team battles. Not only is it more fun to play with another human being, it’s also a great way to find new friends online as you share a similar bond through your love of either Talisman or Warhammer 40K games.

Signing in to your profile will allow you to earn profile and Warlord experience at the end of the game. This will happen whether you win or lose as there are multiple awards for achieving certain milestones in the game. This will unlock Steam achievements along with showing everyone your prowess with particular Warlords. I love this sense of meta-progression between games and it will make the game vastly more replayable for me.

There will be expansions that you can buy as the shop page is already set up inside of the game. These will increase the longevity of your game and offer up new Dataslates and Warlords to play with. A true fan of Warhammer 40K will not pass up the opportunity to own more Warhammer 40K themed products! All of your purchases and associated material can be seen in ‘My Collection’.

Horus-fights-the-Emperor

If you make it all the way to the center of the board, you will face off against your faction’s main enemy. For the loyalist, this will be Horus, and as a traitor, you’ll face the Emperor himself! (And yes, it does feel totally blasphemous to destroy the Emperor at the end of a game…)

First Impressions

Talisman: Horus Heresy allows you to experience Talisman with a modern, sci-fi flavor even if you’re not into the Warhammer 40k universe. The traditional Talisman may not be to everyone’s tastes, especially aesthetically. However, Talisman: Horus Heresy drags it into a new era with improved visuals and a theme that will see fans of the Warhammer 40K franchise flock to it.

The improved interactive game board makes the gameplay much more immersive. You really get a sense of traversing vast expanses of space while encountering enemies and fleets of spacecraft that you can call upon to aid you in battle. The split between Close and Ranged Combat will often determine how you approach a battle and can often result in numerous defeats at the beginning of the game.

There is plenty of replay value to be had here. The additional content only extends this further, as you already have access to plenty of different Warlords that have their own unique powers to explore. Playing online multiplayer games is by far the most productive use of the game and should be able to hold your interest for a long while.

If you can look past the lack of player interaction – where the fault lies with an archaic game mechanic, rather than the title itself – then you should enjoy Talisman: Horus Heresy. It is certainly far more modern than its traditional counterpart, and if I dare say, a lot more fun as a result.

For more screenshots, click here.

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by
Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.
  • Wolfgang Lueger

    wow – love this style!

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