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Game review: Talisman Harbinger and Cataclysm are 2 excellent game-changing expansions
Here's a look at some of the new components found in the game. There are five new characters, four new endings and a host of new cards. This may be Talisman's biggest expansion yet. - photo by Ryan Morgenegg
Talisman is a classic fantasy board game by Fantasy Flight Games with a strong fan following. Two to six players travel a fantasy realm trying to reach the crown of command in order to destroy each other. The game has spawned a quiver full of expansions (14 to date). This review takes a look at the two most recently released: Harbinger and Cataclysm.

Talisman Harbinger is themed around the horrible events associated with the end of the world or Armageddon. There are new Harbinger adventure cards, spells, omen decks, new characters and two new alternate ending cards.

This expansion introduces three new characters to the game. There is the celestial, the possessed and the ascendant divine. The celestial and the possessed have craft or strength skills tied to life and fate levels and start the game with higher stats than the average character. The ascendant divine starts the game with four divine gifts in the form of spells. She can replenish her spells whenever she gains strength or craft.

To start, players must decide to use one of four omen decks. Each deck contains seven omens that count down the seven events before the end of the world. When one of the seven omen events is triggered, a negative effect usually takes place across the world. It's not good when all of the omens have been released, the board totally transforms!

There are new terrain cards that come into play too. These cards transform the board spaces they occupy. For example, the crater terrain card causes players to roll a die when encountering the space. New and unusual discoveries are now possible.

A neutral figure called the Harbinger enters the game when an event card is drawn. He occupies a space on the board and causes any character in that region to draw adventure cards from a separate Harbinger deck that is much deadlier than the standard adventure deck. Players can receive cursed weapons or be attached by the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

If a player actually lands on the space of the Harbinger figurine, he or she must roll on a special table to see what happens. The result could be an extra turn or progression of the omen deck. The great thing is that the Harbinger can then be placed by that player anywhere on the board except for the inner region.

For those who want to change the game in new and explosive ways, this expansion is awesome. The Harbinger expansion is one of the best small-box expansions to date. Instead of just new cards, spells or characters, players now have an expansion that will completely transform the game in new and exciting ways. Check out more here.

The recent release of Talisman Cataclysm brings a big box full of goodies to the world of Talisman and continues the storyline of the Harbinger apocalypse. As the name suggests, a cataclysm has occurred in Talisman and many things have changed. This is the first expansion that provides an entirely new main game board to replace the one in the original game.

There are five new characters in this expansion: the black knight, the scavenger, the mutant, the arcane scion and the barbarian. The black knight is great in battle and threatens other characters on the board. The mutant starts with random powers and can mutate throughout the game. The scavenger is great at finding items in the realms and can stash an object where no one can get to it. The arcane scion is a master of magic and magic items. And the barbarian is extremely good with a sword, can't use magic but is magic resistant.

The giant board features brand new art, mutated spaces, different challenges and unique mechanics separate from the original game. Be aware though things are not completely different. To keep continuity to the game, many of the board challenges are similar and encourage the drawing of adventure cards just like the original. Terrain cards are back in this expansion and most spaces can be altered with new conditions.

One of the most significant changes is the addition of a brand new adventure deck. There are a ton of new cards, but it is highly recommended that the original cards be mixed into this deck for a wide variety of play options. Some characters, magic items and realm effects allow a player to look through the adventure decks and burn through cards. A healthy amount is important.

Another significant change unique to this expansion is the addition of denizens. A separate deck of cards contains tons of new people who can be encountered. Most of the time a player has to roll a die and consult the denizen card to see what happens. Some denizens hurt players and some grant great powers. Sometimes they disappear after the encounter, sometimes they stick around and sometimes they resurface on other parts of the game board. This new feature keeps the crazy randomness going that Talisman gamers love.

Remnant cards are fun to collect as they populate the board and beckon players to discover their secrets. These are events, objects or things that are left over from the world before. A few new spells are available as well that add flavor to the cataclysm theme.

A cool feature in Talisman Cataclysm is the collection of new Talismans offered. Instead of the standard effects of the card allowing passage to the crown of command, Talismans have individualized powers created by the cataclysm. Some grant strength and craft bonuses and others cause curses or protection from the elements. There is also a whole new set of market items that manipulate the game in new ways. The map can help players get through the confusing mines in the inner region.

There are four alternate endings in the game that surround the cataclysm theme. In one ending, the crown of command has been warped by great power and is even more dangerous and deadly to use. Another ending card rewards characters for going on adventures. The first player to collect 12 specific cards and make it to the crown of command wins.

Needless to say there is a lot going on in this new expansion. There are some significant changes so Talisman players will want to explore all of the options. The new board, denizens and remnant cards are a favorite, but the adventure cards could have contained more variety like the original set.

If gamers are tired of the same old Talisman experience, this expansion will open up a brand new world. The timing of this release is perfect as the Talisman brand begins to age. Many things have been tried in different expansions over the years but nothing's been done like this before. Check out more here.
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