Arkham Asylum, a supermax facility housing the most dangerous criminally insane people in Gotham City is under attack from a cadre of supervillains hell bent on releasing the remaining inmates in order to take control of the city. Batman is on the scene to assist but the numbers are not in his favour as whilst many don’t play well together, none of them like the Bat. Can they defeat the Dark Knight? It’s time to find out in Talisman: Batman Supervillain edition.
CoiledSpring’s Talisman is already an established series having been released in October 2019 for the 4th edition, several expansions have been released since but it was clear sooner or later splinter versions focused and designed around strong established characters like Batman could be possible. Rather than focus on the Dark Knight and the extended “Bat Family”, Talisman: Batman instead puts players in control of the most famous super villain rogues gallery in all comic history.
For those not familiar with Talisman or Talisman: Batman; the game board is split into concentric rectangles with rooms of the Arkham Asylum depicted around each side. With three concentric rectangles depicting the three floors players need to brave to reach the final confrontation within the Security Control Room. Players move in any direction around the floor based on a single dice roll and then execute actions based on their final position. Locations around the board depict either card encounters which range from enemies to weapons or chance opportunities where the dice is rolled to determine an outcome.
Travelling to specific points on each floor allows players to move up or down a level within the asylum but must pass a test to make the transition. Floor one to floor two finds players against a guard of a specific strength whilst moving from floor two to three requires a statistics check. Other areas also require specific cards to be in play but ultimately all of this falters if by the final room you are not progressing enough to best the Dark Knight himself in combat.
Moving up toward the top of the Arkham Asylum also presents a difficulty challenge given you draw encounter cards from floor specific encounter decks with more difficult enemies hidden within. Some locations also have players draw multiple cards with either the result being very bad (multiple enemies drawn) or very good (multiple weapons, followers, or strangers drawn) as a reward depending on your luck. This translates to many players sticking to the lower/easier floor until suitably strengthened to essentially sprint to the finish.
Where’s the Bat though? As players take their turn, Batman also exists on the game board. Rolling a one; depicted on the die as a “Bat Signal”; enables Batman’s “turn”. A dice is rolled for his movement but Batman (given his tools) can traverse floors at will allowing him to quickly hunt down players in proximity with the right die roll. Batman also has preset statistics per floor and as such you are aware how difficult any encounter with “The World’s Greatest Detective” will be.
Although you would expect most of the playable characters to be equally balanced from the get go and before you start upgrading them it’s clear that some feel more powerful strategically from the off. The Joker specifically felt easier to play as given he always had a feat available to him and his ability to utilise cunning for almost every situation meant you no longer had to worry about spreading your focus across both strength and cunning in order to progress.
The biggest challenge with Talisman: Batman comes with the random delivery of benefits or potential negatives based on the shuffle of the encounter decks. In one game; our party pulled a Robin and a Batgirl hero card from the encounter deck within three turns, both heroes well outmatched the starting statistics of our rogues gallery and kept us away from potentially positive board locations as well as quickly depleting our villains health. In another session; we didn’t encounter any Stranger cards until well into our second hour of play and as such struggled to strengthen our characters enough to pass the initial guard post leading to an extended overall play time.
Talisman: Batman also depends on the party as to how effective Batman is as an opponent. If your party chooses to; they can simply direct Batman away from the party at any time making him very ineffective although the shuffle can already make your journey pretty difficult.
The quality of the presentation of Talisman: Batman is great with some amazing artwork on offer for those who appreciate it. The board is fairly large and you will need plenty of space for both the board and each player’s card stock and character card in addition to the decks you draw from throughout play. Character and encounter cards are well illustrated and everything speaks of quality in production you will have come to expect of CoiledSpring’s other products.
As a nice touch; the final page of the rule book outlines a very concise flow diagram for the activities and actions taken within any turn. You obviously have the option at any time to break out the rules and check any specific scenario to double check you are in fact playing within the terms the designers meant but once you have the swing of things it helps massively to just remind players of the flow of things and keep moving on without game breaking delays.
Turn length for players is around two minutes long but can be complicated somewhat by either having to move Batman if a bat signal is rolled or if any feats or actions require additional roles or actions on other players. Game length however is massively affected by the previously mentioned random shuffle of the encounter decks. Depending on whether specific stranger cards, weapons, legendary objects and hero encounters are dealt early in the game time it alters the speed at which your chosen character can be powered up enough to be confident that you can move between floors and eventually defeat Batman.
The Batman mythos has evolved over the years since its inception and the strength of the characters; both good and evil; adds additional weight and focus to an already interesting premise. For those without knowledge of the Batman villains it’s at least more recognisable but for those familiar with the characters it’s easily one of the selling points of the Talisman: Batman.
Talisman: Batman is available on Amazon.