Talisman: The Isles

By Reedstilt, in Talisman Home Brews

Now time for some of the new Treasures!
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I bet you know what my next comment will be about. 😀 I'll try not to disappoint expectations. Piracy quests look rather intimidating, all being Cft/Str of 7. At the stage of when characters would be sufficiently strong to comfortably beat those creatures, they'll be already frequently looking up to Crown of command, calculating the number of turns to breach through Portal of power. Piracy quest tokens would not be such a valuable items to have anymore, thoughts would be focused elsewhere. And at this stage of game, despite its usefulness in early/mid game, Wavecutter wouldn't be so powerful weapon anymore. Ship in a bottle is a great idea but only if one gets it early during exploration of the isles. And if one want's to travel and do questing around the isles, he/she definitely wants to have a ship at the start! I actually tried to move around your board without any modifiers by just rolling a die. Believe me, I was getting nowhere up to the point of getting frustrated. If somebody wants to venture into the Isles, having a ship is a must I dare to say. So getting another one isn't such a benefit (Do they stack and one can get several benefits from various ships for the same movement?). If Treasures would be drawn randomly, I would be disappointed to get such a reward after staying there for a long time and before planning to leave the region.

Maybe it's a bridge too far, but considering the difficulty level of Piracy Quests, I would incorporate a shortcut to Middle / Inner region somewhere on the board, similar to the Dungeon Expansion. Or at least offer an easy way to leave the region once a character reaches its distant places. Offering exit to the Deep Realms, at least through a Denizen, would also help by establishing attractive movement options. (My wish is to play Alternative Ending Realmwalkers from Realms Untravelled expansion, once when I get it.). I am aware that Talisman is a luck based game and I am embracing the fact fully. But some help in moving around would be helpful and also balancing. It's just a guess but maybe some of the followers and/or objects, which enhance character's movement in other regions, would not be so usable in the Isles. I wasn't thinking about this issue thoroughly, but if it is true, maybe the Isles cold use some more compensation on movement department.

My group is using Bludgeon's Wanted posters from Great Talisman Project. For many reasons we prefer using those instead of original ones. It is actually the only home brewed expansion we use in every game. These is the only set of Wanted posters that look like worth spending 1 gold on. They don't cost you trophies to get gold. (I was never fond of spending trophy points for gold and never did it.) Using them, one can get gold relatively early by doing other stuff around the table, while not being forced to do them 'as soon as possible' like Warlock quests. We play them in a way that a character gets the money immediately upon completing the quest and is not teleported. In addition, they make some of the less popular spaces more popular (for example Forest). And most importantly (I am getting to the point now 🤠 ) by having always three of them available, they offer a wide variety of levels of difficulty. So players get to choose difficulty and reward in accordance of what they are capable of. (We usually take two to three between us during each game and complete around half of them on average.)

Unfortunately it seems like I can't find a reference regarding where characters would be acquiring Piracy quests. I think that making them in different levels of difficulty and allowing players to chose difficulty would make them (and the region itself) more popular.

Edited by player1592559
5 hours ago, player1592559 said:

Unfortunatelly it seems like I can't find a reference regarding where characters would be acquiring Piracy quests. I think that making them in different levels of difficulty and allowing players to chose difficulty would make them (and the region itself) more popular.

You raise some excellent points all around. I think I might lower the Strength and Craft on the piracy quests that require you to attack specific locations - probably to around 5 - but also drop the auto-reward of +1 Strength or Craft. I initially had them in the Strength/Craft 7 range since the only official way of getting Treasures is fighting a Strength/Craft 12. Since you have to wander around a bit to complete these, I didn't want them to be as difficult as that in the final fight.

Bumping a few of them down might help other issues as well. I could add in new Piracy Quests by adding in variants of the same locations, just with different levels of base attack - say (Strength/Craft 4-7), with varying levels of rewards. The higher ones might guarantee a Treasure. Following Bludgeon's wanted poster model, there could be 3 visible Quests, plus I'd also let the player draw from the top of the deck if they don't like any of those options. I'll have to review Bludgeon's wanted posters though.

Also, to answer some of your other questions: The main way players get Piracy Quests is to go to the Pirate Cove and choose to take one instead of fighting the Pirates. There's also a Denizen that gives them out, and a Letter of Marque Object that lets you get them from visiting Port Royal (as well as protecting you from the Law while you have it).

The movement bonus on ships doesn't stack; it's a +/- as long as you have any number of Ships. It does stack with navigational equipment though. Using the Compass, you can get another -1. The Sextant currently gives you a free re-roll on your Movement die. I'm considering adding the Astrolabe as another piece of navigational equipment, but haven't decided what it'll do yet. The Astrolabe that's currently in the game (added via Frostmarch) would shift to becoming the "Golden Astrolabe" Treasure, because choosing to ignore any Event is a powerful effect. It might be a simple matter of giving the new Astrolabe a +1 to your movement to balance out the Compass. Or giving that to the Sextant and letting the Astrolabe have the re-roll bonus.

There's also a Follower - the Navigator - that lets you roll 2 dice for movement in the Isles and choose one. Though, obviously, not everyone will have him.

I'm still working out how to handle movement enhancing Followers and Objects from elsewhere. Obviously it wouldn't make much sense to use a Riding Horse in the Isles, and its bonus isn't particularly applicable here anyhow. Same goes for the Highland's Walking Stick. So if you have any suggestions here, I'm happy to hear them.

So after taking @player1592559 's advice, I think the Piracy Quests are much improved. Overall, they are pretty similar to a hybrid of Warlock Quests and Bludgeon's Wanted Posters. There are currently 25 of them; 16 of those are in the Strength/Craft 4-5 range, while the others are mostly 6s and one S/C 7. Most Piracy quests require you to visit a specific location: Port Fortune (x 3), Port Resolute (x3), Lemuria (x3), the Shrine (x3), the Desert Island (x2), the Island Paradise (x2), the Maelstrom (x2), or any Reef (x4). The other three require you to travel along any Trade Route of a specific color.

Incidentally, this allows me to tidy up the map a bit since I can how drop the extraneous bits that the old Piracy Quests were targeting.

Anyhow, here's a sample of how they look now:

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Incidentally if anyone can find a good image of a ship with green sails, I'd appreciate it. I haven't found a good one yet, so I had to manipulate an image to give a ship green sails instead. It could stand to be improved.

Edited by Reedstilt

Would anyone like to weigh in on character suggestions? I'm hoping to have 5-6 characters here, plus 3 that will be in the FCotW bonus set. I've avoided a direct "Pirate" character since there is one in the Digital Edition already. So as it stands, here's what I have:

  • Castaway: (Strength 3, Craft 3; Neutral) - An ill-fated survivor who makes the most of bad situations
  • Deep Priest(ess): (Strength 2, Craft 4; Evil) - A cultist serving the dreaded Deep Father who gains power from sending Objects and Followers down to the depths
  • Merling Tidecaller: (Strength 2, Craft 4; Good) - An ocean-dwelling fae who commands the waves
    • I'm moving her to the FCotW set because she requires a Terrain from another Expansion
  • Privateer: (Strength 3, Craft 3; Neutral) - A pirate who has sided with the Royal navy to defend ships from other pirates
  • Sharkman: (Strength 6, Craft 1; Evil) - A ravenous monster always on the hunt for its next meal
    • This one is currently slated for the FCotW set, mainly because all the Sharkman cards got shuffled off to bonus territory rather than making the cut for the main deck
  • Tempestarius: (Strength 2, Craft 4; Good) - A mage who specializes in weather magic
    • Right now, this manifests as more generalized Event-manipulation, rather than being focused on specific Events like the Storm or Blizzard; in practice, he ends up being a bit of a hybrid of the Gypsy and the Doomsayer.
  • Trader: (Strength 3, Craft 3; Neutral) - A merchant who sells exotic goods from far-off lands
    • They might get moved to the FCotW set because they benefits from having more Adventure decks in the game

Other possible options include

  • Buccaneer: Basically a way to get a more straightforward pirate character with being a "Pirate;" plus some more Strength-oriented characters in this Expansion would be good
  • Cecaelia/Sea Witch: Think Ursula from The Little Mermaid
  • Duelist: A more PVP oriented character; this one wouldn't necessarily have to go here, but the art I have in mind is thematically appropriate
  • Fisherman/Fishwife: If I include this one, it'll be a bonus character with the Isles/Hearth & Harvest update. They'd make use of the new maritime-oriented Properties included there
  • Navigator: This character would start with one of the new navigational Objects (Compass, Sextant, or Astrolabe), and effects based around movement
  • Sea Elf/Sea Nomad: This guy just wants to live in peace, but all these pirates, sailors, and cultists are spoiling the mood! I haven't quite figured out what I'd want to do mechanically with this character yet though. I'm imagining evasion effects and the ability to ignore things that would impede his travels.
  • Siren: Basically a mermaid. While it's easy to explain how she can move through the Isles, Outer and Middle Regions, it's a little trickier to justify her existence elsewhere. That's something I'd need to explain before I decided to add her in. She might be best suited as part of the Bardic Inspiration update for the Isles.
  • Slaver: An evil character that can sell Followers for gold. Since this has some mechanic overlap with the DE's Pirate character, I could see the Pirate being split into Buccaneer and Slaver
  • Treasure Hunter: A character that'd be particularly good at acquiring Objects left around the board

Here's the initial draft of the possible Sea Witch character. At the moment, I feel she's a bit wordy. Any opinions?


The Isles is pretty much done at this point. I've got extra bits of testing to concern myself with, which I'll hopefully get to this weekend.

The tally of new material currently stands at

  • 1 Isles Board
  • 140 Isles Cards
  • 25 Piracy Quest Cards
    • 30 Piracy Tokens
  • 20 Shipyard Cards (5 types of Ships)
  • 6 Shipwrecked! Cards
  • 6 new Characters (plus 2 bonus characters based on the DE Pirate character)
  • 3 new Endings
  • 16 new Adventure Cards
  • 15 new Denizen Cards
  • 20 new Purchase Deck Cards (7 types of Objects)
  • 15 new Spell Cards (13 types of Spells)
  • 10 new Treasure Cards
Edited by Reedstilt

I was arranging sheets of cards to print out for testing and had quite a bit of space left over. So I decided to toss character markers on at the end for all the potential characters. The Privateer has been recast, and the old Privateer image has become the Treasure Hunter. I'm going to be using her in the Gunsmith expansion, so she can make proper use of those pistols.


I got to play around with the Isles a bit this weekend. Some of the things I've learned:

It's a lot more challenging early on that I thought it would be, especially if you're the only person in the Isles. I played two test games. In the first, the Castaway started in the Isles from the beginning. In the second the Pirate Captain did. Because you usually only move one space per turn in the Isles, you're generally not too far away from an Enemy you were unable to defeat. So those characters would usually end up surrounded by some S/C6+ enemies they couldn't reliable defeat after a few rounds.

The Pirate Captain had a slightly better time at it, since she starts with a Ship. She missed her first turn to earn a gold at the first Port, then used that gold to buy a Sextant as soon as possible (the Trader started on that Port so it didn't take long). The Ship + Sextant meant she could adjust her movement roll by up to 2, which gave her a lot more flexibility on where to go. As long as you have some way to manipulate your movement in the Isles, it wasn't so bad. The Caravel proved to be a great a Ship to have for that reason. Since it lets you move two spaces instead of just one, it really opens up a lot of options for you.

I've considered altering the movement rules for the Isles, allowing for more choice when determining movement, but I haven't come up with a satisfying alternative that doesn't require a severe overhaul of the board (which I'd like to avoid). Couple options considering are

  • Red: 1,2,3
  • Green: 3,4,5
  • Black: 5,6,1


  • Encounter your current space: 1
  • Red: 2,3
  • Green: 3,4
  • Black: 4,5
  • Any: 6

The first option has issues with "looping back" to 1, which I think is a bit sloppy. The second option has issues with not having an exclusively green number. Both have issues when utilizing Ships and navigational equipment, with it being much easier to move along any route with just a +/- 1. 50% of rolls in either system can end up moving along any route with just a +/-1 ( any of the even numbers in the first option; 3,5,6 in the second option).

The region also suffers from a common flaw in the game, and that's the difficulty of replenishing fate. I burned through a lot of it to either manipulate my movement die as a character lacking a ship or to avoid being Shipwrecked. I'm not sure how to handle this specific issue since it's a chronic problem throughout the game (unless someone knows of an easy way to replenish fate that I'm missing). I've got some of Isles card that I'll be removing from the main release (they were tougher on the characters than I wanted them to be), so I might add in some more fate-replenishing cards in their place.

How does the movement currently work?

You could roll 2 dice which gives you more options

Edited by Rodfather2212
2 hours ago, Rodfather2212 said:

How does the movement currently work?

Right now, you roll 1 die, as normal, but you one space instead of the number rolled. Each space is connected to three others by "trade routes," which are color coded.

1-2: Red

3-4: Green

5-6: Black

Your movement die can be modified by various Cards you can purchase from one of the Ports. If you have a Compass, you can subtract 1 from your roll. If you have a Ship or Sextant you can add or subtract 1 (2 if you have both). If you have an Astrolabe, you can re-roll your movement die for free.

Rolling 2 dice might work and choosing one could work, but then we're back to "move along any route" quickly become a regular thing with even one of the bonus items. You might spend 2g to get the Sextant and be set for the rest of your time in the Isles. Or treat yourself to a Ship (3g+) and get the same bonus as the Sextant plus some unique bonus from the ship itself. But rarely would you want to have both. While I'm happy with each item being valuable individually, I'd prefer if they had added value in combination.

Maybe this will be too complicated but how about something like this:

if you have a fate you could flip it (like you would flip a coin) without spending it. if it lands on the light side you can add or subtract one to your die roll. Then you can implement it with your original rule of 1-2 Red, 3-4 Green and 5-6 Black.

If you roll a 6, adding would give you 1 and if you roll a 1, subtracting would give you 6

Just a thought but it keeps the chances equal while allowing choice between 2 routes

Flipping a fate token every turn would likely slow things down more than I'd like. It does give me an idea for a Follower who could help manipulate your movement through the Isles.

At the moment, I'm thinking I'll stick with what I have currently. I'm probably just second guessing myself too much. While navigating without some ship or equipment is challenging, it's not that hard to acquire these items. You an easily get a Compass or a Sextant within your first few turns, if you want to to head into the Isles right away. Otherwise you could wait a bit longer until you have 3+ gold saved up buy a Ship when you enter the Isles.

But I'll also throw in some additional Isles adventure cards (replacing the few I've decided to remove) that can assist with this. Some extra Followers, Objects, and a way to get a Ship out in the world rather than at port.

Really interesting and intriguing challenges we have here. I think I also have some ideas and will have some more in future. I wish this conversation could be taken somewhere else after the forum shuts down.

7 hours ago, player1592559 said:

I wish this conversation could be taken somewhere else after the forum shuts down.

I've started using my Board Game Geek account a bit more lately. That might become my new Talisman home after this month. In any case, I'll definitely be posting about this there soon, but I'm hoping to save that for a release notification rather than a work-in-progress thread like this one.

Edited by Reedstilt

Here are three new Followers to help you navigate through the Isles.

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The Pirate Helmsman (Helmswoman?) might get pushed to the FCoTW bonus cards, since I already have quite a few cards that interact with Piracy effects.

Edited by Reedstilt

A quick and simple way to solve the fate issue would be placing one Fate token on each isle during setup. First character to land there gets it. I'm sure getting fate this way could be justified within the Isles lore.

An idea occured to me for an expansion to the expansion, placing Hidden treasure tokens instead of Fate tokens. Upon landing, player could try to find the hidden treasure. If successful, the token would be turned over and a reward would be revealed: gold, fate, random treasure...

On 1/27/2021 at 12:43 PM, player1592559 said:

An idea occured to me for an expansion to the expansion, placing Hidden treasure tokens instead of Fate tokens. Upon landing, player could try to find the hidden treasure. If successful, the token would be turned over and a reward would be revealed: gold, fate, random treasure...

This could be a fun little bonus element. If no one else does it, maybe I'll add in something like that for the FCotW expansion to the Isles.

In the meantime, and in the final moments of the forum, I've finished the Isles. I just sent it off to Talisman Island, but if anyone happens to check this thread before the forum goes down, you can also take a look at the full Isles expansion here. I hope you enjoy it!