News for August 2009
Something New 4
An interview with the founder of!
Talisman | Published 06 August 2009

Ages have passed since a mighty and mysterious wizard, now long dead, placed his powerful Crown of Command beyond the Plain of Peril and the Valley of Fire, daring the bravest adventurers of the realm to seek it out. Over the years, many would-be conquerers have sought the Crown, but now their bones lie bleached and broken, and their names have faded into obscurity. But there is one who stands out – a hero who has devoted his life to studying the dangerous path to the Crown of Command, and is willing to share the fruits of his years of study. He is Jon New, keeper of Talisman Island.

Since its original publication by Games Workshop in 1983, Talisman has inspired some of the most dedicated fans in all of hobby gaming. Over the decades, numerous reprints of four unique editions have drawn in players from all over the world, and Talisman has been translated into multiple languages to accommodate them. For almost as long as Talisman has existed, Jon New has been one of its biggest fans, and for the past decade, he has maintained his personal tribute to this classic game of quests and treasure, the fan site called Talisman Island.

Easily the most comprehensive fan site dedicated to Talisman, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and Jon honored FFG’s own John Goodenough, resident Talismaniac and game designer, with an interview. We thought we’d return the favor, and give Jon a chance to discuss Talisman’s many changes over the years, as well as his insights into its long-lasting popularity. Enjoy!

Q: When and how did you start up the Talisman Island website?

Earlier this year Talisman Island had its 10th Anniversary and I still can't believe it has been so long!

The site started out as just a couple of pages to display an expansion that I had been encouraged to “reinvent” for the internet following discussions on the Talisman Yahoo Group.

Over time I helped some members get their creations online and was kindly offered some server space by one of the group members and the site grew some more. After a couple of site redesigns it became clear that the storage needed for the files had just about maxed out the donated space, so I bit the bullet and moved to my own host which is where Talisman Island now lives.

Just as a point of interest, the first incarnation of Talisman Island was around 4MB in size, whereas now it is somewhere in the region of 3GB!

Q: Most of the new content seems to take the form of home-brewed expansions. What new features will you introduce to the Talisman Island site in the following months?

I'm always thinking of things that people might find interesting about the game, unfortunately there is only a finite amount of history to trawl for articles, so the majority of things on the site are based around expansions. I still have a large number of files that require sorting out and adding to the site. It's slow work, but I'm getting there.

I have been asked about making a series of features on my collection of Talisman goodies which should be fun to do as I have a couple of unusual bits and pieces. I'm hoping to feature a bit more of the artwork used in the game as I think that it is such an important part of Talisman that is very often overlooked.

Of course, if anyone has any good ideas for features they can always get in touch!

Q: You’ve been an active participant on Talisman message boards and forums. How has the fan base changed over the years?

I think the fan base has become much larger with the advances in communication that the internet has given, especially in the last few years. Contact used to be limited to the classified adverts in White Dwarf magazine and PBM Fanzines, but now there are a number of ways people can find information at the touch of a button (and I remember when it was all fields around here...)

The various forums are a melting pot of ideas and this has really helped improve the overall quality of content in expansions produced in recent years. There is certainly no shortage of opinion on the boards!

Q: When playing what is the card that you hate to draw? Love to get? Just plain think is hilarious when it comes out of the deck?

I really like cards that encourage character interaction, but absolutely love cards that encourage player interaction. If there is a good example of a card that can lead to “good natured bad feeling” it would be the Random spell.

I also have a soft spot for cards that can change the game instantly, like the Raiders or the Granddaddy of them all – the Horrible Black Void!

As for hilarious cards, I think any of the examples above would work, provided that they are affecting someone else!

Q: What is your favourite moment from your years of playing Talisman?

I think some of my favourite moments with Talisman were whilst we were involved in demoing the 4th Edition during 2007 at various conventions. It was just really satisfying to see so many different people enjoying the game whether they won or lost.

There was a tremendous buzz around the tables. Everyone who got Toaded was ridiculed (quite deservedly!) One chap decided to role play his Dwarf and made a point of accumulating gold at every opportunity, even though he could have powered his character up! Alliances were forged and broken with much gnashing of teeth. It just showed that all you need to do with the game is allow yourself to have fun.

Q: Despite being out of print for so long, why do you think Talisman has continually grown in popularity over the years?

I get a lot of emails saying how people have come back to the game after a number of years away. It seems that people generally discover Talisman whilst at college and university when there is plenty of time available for playing the game between studying and sleep. They then get on with a bit of real life and after a while rediscover the game, be it because of the new printings or because they have found their copy in the attic. Some mail is from people who are now playing the game with their own children and the cycle begins again.

Once you are bitten by the game, you are never truly free!

Q: What other games do you enjoy playing? 

Back in the day I used to play a few fantasy games put out by Games Workshop like Dungeonquest and Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (Note to FFG – please publish these!!!) but never really found anything that was quite as satisfying to play as Talisman.

I don't really have any other traditional games that I play often these days, but I did enjoy a few games of Zooloretto when it first came out. I am hoping to remedy this at Gencon Indy when I'll be trawling the open gaming areas looking for something that takes my fancy. I'm even booked for a beginners session of D&D with my kids!

I tend to graze whilst gaming by playing in short bursts and have rather a short attention span, which is odd I know given that Talisman is my weapon of choice! I used to play a lot of RTS video games, though never actually completed any and play a few FPS games, mainly Counter-Strike Condition Zero. I'm currently enjoying Assassin's Creed on the Xbox 360 and can't wait for the sequel!

Q: How did you get involved with Talisman? Which version did you start out playing? How would you compare the other versions with each other?

I've always enjoyed fantasy books and films, but had never really found any games that really captured my imagination. I was never struck by role playing and tabletop gaming always seemed a bit complicated, not to mention expensive, but I always enjoyed nosing around Games Workshop stores at the miniatures. One day I was looking around Games Workshop Manchester and noticed a game with a cool looking dragon on the front and after quickly reading the blurb on the back of the box I decided to buy it.

That was in 1985 and it was Talisman 2nd Edition with the Chris Achilleos artwork on the box, so I was actually a couple of years late to the Talisman party. You could say I have made up for it in the mean time though!

When Talisman was out of print I was always in the 2nd Edition camp, however, I used to play a few games of 3rd Edition with the kids when I wanted a quick game because it had been simplified, though perhaps a little too much. I didn't really mind which version I played as Talisman is Talisman is Talisman, but 2nd Edition was closer to the game's roots and had less of a skull fixation.

I am pleased that Black Industries and now FFG have gone back to the earlier edition of Talisman, but there is the added advantage that they have access to the best of both worlds. I think the use of corner boards in 3rd Edition was a touch of design genius!

Q: What is your favourite and least favourite character to play?

I'm afraid it's going to be rather boring, but I don't mind which character I am dealt to play with. Even if you find yourself battling against the odds, there is always a chance that the game balance might change because of a die roll or a particular card being drawn. A character that is perceived as “weak” can offer a nice challenge rather than using the same strategies over and over.

As for a favourite, it would have to be something which people might be surprised at given my stance on technology in Talisman! I used to love playing as the Cyborg from the 2nd Edition Timescape expansion. How can you not love a character that starts with 5 Strength and has built-in abilities for movement, combat and defence? I used to stomp around the board many a time with him, and in fact my video gaming nickname was chosen in his honour.

Thanks Jon! Be sure to check out Talisman Island for the most comprehensive collection of Talisman content on the web... Or as Jon describes it, “a humble fan site dedicated to the best Fantasy genre game ever produced!”

Talisman is a classic game of adventuring. Your character journeys through the lands in search of the powerful Crown of Command.Take control of one of 14 different characters from a powerful Troll to a magical Druid.

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Comments (4)

Published: 8/20/2009 10:52:17 AM

Nice article, and I love the info that's been posted over the years at Talisman Island.   Now, go forth and make new expansions Fantasy Flight ;)

Published: 8/7/2009 10:13:35 AM

A great interview to have online with one of the key figures of the community. Hope to see more with other notables outside the production house, possibly for other games and their fan sites, to help further enthusiam for the games and enrich and (re)connect gamers to their communities.

Published: 8/7/2009 6:41:44 AM

Its nice to see ffg posting intresting interviews and articles!

Senior Cardinal Ignato
Published: 8/6/2009 2:57:27 PM

 The Senior Cardinal Ignato is glad to see anything news worthy from the greastest all ages game of all time  (The Conclave is in a heated Dungeon expansion game and will not leave the board to attend to Holy matters, I worry the game has corrupted a few of my followers).  I don't know what the forum thinks of interviews but I thank FFG for them they give such black book and game bible background it is wise to bring the light of insight to the forum in Ignato's opinion, although faith without works is dead so roll Cardinal Izzo, I lost my turn to be able to write a comment.  Forges warm, let the Emperor guide your life and lead. 



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