Published by The Op, Talisman: Kingdom Hearts is a beautifully designed game that is as varied as it is colourful. Fans of the video game will be very happy with both the selection of characters and locations. Whilst this is a franchised version of Talisman, at least four of the characters and a host of locations. These should be recognisable to anyone. You can crack this out at a weekly games night without worrying that your friends won’t follow along.
The first thing you notice about Talisman: Kingdom Hearts is the board. It may be overwhelming at first due to its size. However, every square inch is covered in the gorgeous artwork of Ben Zweifel. He's one of the designers for the Fallout board game. There’s so much to enjoy it’s hard to know where to look first! Despite the beauty of the board, its size does mean that in smaller groups you may find yourself more independent from other players. Though, you should find yourself occupied with combat or gaining the power needed for later in the game.
Talisman’s board is joined by the eleven unique character figures, player mats, tokens, and a host of cards featuring items, allies, spells, and more. The familiar characters shown on the Adventure Cards along with the player figures make gameplay truly enjoyable. You see some of your favourite characters brought to life.
At the start of the game, each player selects one of the eleven character sheets at random, along with its matching figurine. Each character holds unique abilities which the player can use to try and gain an advantage over their opponents, battling using Magic or Strength, or cards collected from the different locations.
Once this selection has been made, your hunt for the keyblades can begin!
As the game gets underway, players enjoy the Outer Region’s cutesy-but-not-too-cutsey locations while they get to grips with the game’s simple mechanics. With multiple ways to move inwards, players can explore at their leisure but aren’t forced to interact with one another, especially in smaller groups. As you move in, however, things begin to change a little.
Progressing inwards, the happy-go-lucky Outer Region is replaced with the more challenging locations of the Middle Region. Here players need a little more luck as they try to get their hands on one of the six keyblades, an item crucial to complete the game and one synonymous with Kingdom Hearts. While this move is a crucial step in completing the game, the task you must complete to get one is randomised so obtaining the keyblade feels noticeably less…momentous than expected.
This is made worse as, aside from being needed to win, the blades don’t really do anything, despite their exciting designs. This may come as a disappointment to die-hard Kingdom Hearts fans and I believe The Op has missed the mark by making one of the video game’s most recognisable elements so impotent.
Once the task has been completed, players may move inwards again to the Inner Region, where they make their final slog to attempt to seal the Door to Darkness and their victory.
While the difficulty of the changing regions provides a nice change in tempo, this balance is seemingly lost in the Inner Region, which can be a slog for even the most ardent Kingdom Hearts fan. The laborious challenges standing between you and victory test your luck and, in the worst case, can push you back so many times that the once-sweet Outer Region’s locations become repetitive and frustrating.
However, in larger groups, this test of luck and the repeated pushbacks can be the very thing that makes this game entertaining. If you’re as competitive as I am, watching your friends have their meticulously organised plans scuppered just as they were about to clinch the win is made even sweeter when you know first-hand how annoying the knockback is.
Talisman: Kingdom Hearts is a delightful board game and fans of Kingdom Hearts will find a lot to love. The artwork is perfectly suited to play and beautifully fluid across all Regions, getting darker as the challenges get harder.
Not knowing too much about the Kingdom Hearts universe before playing I still greatly enjoyed the charms this game has to offer and found the mechanics relatively easy to understand.
However, I must say that even for players who have played the video games before, the final slog may well deter some of the less committed as the ever-building frustration can prove more irritating than expected. Victory can come to feel more like a relief than excitement. The initial joy of replaying reminds you of the fun of the video game, however as the game drags, and you find yourself visiting Disney Castle for the umpteenth time, this fun begins to wear off and you’ll be reminded why you don’t bring this board game out all that often.
Played with good company, however, even this frustration can be overcome, and players can find themselves truly getting into the spirit of it all and the charm of this game is clear to see.