So I'm relatively new to the board game scene and love talisman, but a common complaint from the people I'm introducing it to is that the game is too luck based and lacks any kind of strategy. I love the fantasy theme and building up characters from scratch each time, any other tabletop games you guys would recommend to players looking for a game with the fantasy lite-RPG vibe that involve a little more player thought?
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- Runebound: Adventure game where you roam the map trying to be the first to kill the big bad boss. Some character customization and still some luck involved in the game though. Never played but look cool. From what I heard it's best played with a max of 3 players to reduce the downtime between the turns.
- Runewars: Heavy game heavy fun! Not much character customization but you have - Armies to manage and conquer with, solid mechanic with cards, no dice at all in this game so there's some luck involved but it's a little more "controllable", Heroes with which to quest and gather treasures and the all mighty Dragon Runes for your camp, exploration, ressource management, negociation and bidding, lots of strategy...simply awesome. Can be played from 2 to 4 players where the more the merrier.
- Descent: Dungeon crawler at it's best I heard. Lots of character customization. There's one player who has the role of the Overlord, controlling the baddies and the others are heroes. So you have to be ready or find someone willing to be that person. there's a 2nd edition coming which I would wait to see what it has to offer. Looks like a lot of fun!
What I would recommend would be to read the rules for each of these games and see which one would fit in perfectly with you and your group. It give you a great overview of the mechanics and gameplay.
You could also check the D&D series like Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon and Legend of Drizzt. I owned the 3 for a while and sold Ravenloft and Ashardalon just because Drizzt was more fitting and I love the theme. But all the 3 games are really fun and played in an hour or so. Your characters can reach level 2 and get items and treasure when they kill monsters.
In all this series my favorite are in order: Drizzt, Ravenloft and Ashardalon.
Theres luck again in this series and the mechanic can be a little weird at first. On your turn you move/fight, explore new tiles and activate monsters and villains. But monsters always attack you first when they first appear. It's weird at first but you realise that this game is a test or brawl heheh. It's hard (especially Ravenloft and Ashardalon) but it's fun. A D&D Lite in some ways. Plays from 1 to 5 players and no need of a DM or Overlord or anything. Each player has a Sequence Card which shows every steps to do in your turn. Each player moves his hero AND the monsters he spawned in his turns.
There a new game that was released early this year. It's called Dungeon Run. Looks like another dungoen crawler with character levels, items, bosses and exploration. It looks like it's on the light side too but from what I read gamers seem to enjoy it. I almost bought it but having Drizzt in my collection I passed.
You should check all these games, i'm sure there's something for you and your group to enjoy!
The complaints you're hearing about Talisman are all valid from one perspective; you have to be in the mood for something rather silly and nonsensical. I believe most true fantasy enthusiasts want that in their gaming diet. But there's times it just doesn't satisfy, like a favored candy eaten too much and too often. Or better yet, a box of chocolates with no labels telling you what's inside of them. Their sweet, and there's fun in taking a chance, but sooner or later you bite on that puts you off the box for a while. Talisman is like that box sometimes for some people; we might love it, but how many people who are shown their first box of unlabeled chocolates like the though that blind taste testing? Not many.
I'm also an advocate of Runebound as a small step up from Talisman. It's not as complex in play as some people think, though the rulebook needs a lot of work in my opinion and has occassionally scared off a new player. It's probably less complicated than most games leaning on miniatures and tactical "position" combat, though I haven't played much of those. It has thematic tie ins, such as Runewars and Rune Age and the new Dungeonquest (though the latter is only superficially connected to the same shared setting).
There's plenty of room through FFG (and other) games to expand your fantasy boardgaming menu. The only challenge will be the cost and figuring out which one to invest in first. Overall, for a smaller step up in complexity, Runebound is a reasonably safe investment; it's no more pricey that others mentioned here. However the current edition is on the wain with no further development, so grab it while you can. The big box expansions (which change the setting and some mechanics and win criteria) provided the greatest variation and are readily available. Many of the small box expansions are sliding out of print, but there's a set of six called the Essentials pack that is a good buy as well.
For something definitely different with more [real] "story" focus, you might also look into Tales of the Arabian Nights. It has a bit more "strategy" on the large scale, but it is also very random in the moment during play. And most of all, of course, spend some time over at BoardGameGeek.com to look a little deeper into ANY game before you buy.
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