Relic, by Fantasy Flight Games, is a re-theme and reworking of the Talisman game system. Relic is set in Games Workshop's Warhammer 40000 universe and tasks players with exploring the Antian Sector in order to gain power, obtain one or more of the titular Relics, and be the first to complete the objective outlined by the chosen Scenario.
What is Relic?
Being built on the Talisman system means that Relic sits smack dab in the middle of the 'love it or hate it the realm of board games, although it does change the formula up in a number of fun and thematic ways. Relic uses the bog standard roll-to-move mechanic, although there are quite a few ways for players to alter their movement to get to where they want to go rather than spending turn after turn moving everywhere but where they want to go.
Power Cards offer players options that can be used during the game to help mitigate the luck of the dice, move a certain number of spaces or use a special ability if played at the appropriate time. While not abundantly available, it's a nice option to be able to use Power Cards as an Ace-in-the-hole for when you really need to get to a certain spot on the board or desperately need to succeed at a combat or skill check.
Corruption is a fun and super thematic mechanic in which players may be forced to or offered the choice to, draw from a deck of Corruption cards. Corruption cards each have a number listed that shows when that particular Corruption card will activate and a special rule that the player must follow when the card has been activated.
Corruption cards are often negative, but some of them grant additional abilities to the Corrupted character or increase the character's power in some way. It can be tempting to gain Corruption in order to activate a powerful and helpful card but players need to balance that desire for more power against the threat of their character becoming fully Corrupted. Each character has a Corruption limit and if that limit is ever reached or exceeded, that character is removed from the game permanently, forcing the player to begin anew with a brand-new character.
Another big positive for Relic is that it comes with multiple end-game Scenarios. Each Scenario has a specific win condition, and a few have special rules that affect the way the game is played from the start. Not only do the number of Scenario cards increase re-playability, but the Scenarios are varied enough to allow players to tailor the game's ultimate objective, and even playtime, to fit their preferred play style.
Players can further tailor the game to their liking, thanks to the good variety of different characters on offer. Each of the characters has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each is represented by a highly detailed plastic bust of the character. The characters are different enough from one another that the game can feel significantly different from one character to the next but are balanced enough that one character isn't always the single best choice. Some characters do have an advantage in certain scenarios, but it never feels like that advantage is insurmountable.
While the gameplay is relatively simple, with players rolling to move to different spaces and then drawing Threat cards to represent the challenges to be faced, Relic offers a ton of thematic fun. Because it is easy to teach and the components absolutely sell the theme, Relic scratches the dice-chucking adventure game itch wonderfully.
A Few Notes on Relic
A Note on Player Interaction
Direct player interaction in Relic is very limited. A few of the characters and Missions allow players to interfere with each other in minor ways, but there isn't really any way to directly do battle with the other players. For the most part, Relic is simply a race to complete the Scenario objective first.
A Note on Game Length
Games of Relic can take quite a while to play, especially if a player sees their character eliminated due to Corruption. Losing a powerful character to Corruption can feel like restarting the game from scratch. We usually play with the house rule that eliminates a player from the game if their character is lost to Corruption once another player has entered the center tier, regardless of the Scenario being played.
A Note on “Chrome”
All of the components in Relic are top-notch, especially the busts used for the characters. The cards, board, and tokens are all very good quality. The art is all excellent and thematic, although, when viewed at any distance, it all blends together and makes the board look like a busy mess. There are quite a few neat details to be found on the board, but you have to be pretty close to notice them.
The bottom line
As long as you don't absolutely hate the Talisman system, then you should have a lot of fun with Relic. It takes Talisman's foundation and improves upon it in nearly every way. The Warhammer 40k theme fits wonderfully, and the different Scenarios and characters add a great deal of re-playability. Nearly everything hinges on the roll of dice in Relic, and deep thinking and strategy are not necessary which, like Talisman, makes it a great 'beer and pretzels-style game. Players seeking a strategic game where clever play is more important than the fickle hands of fate need not apply.
The copy of Relic used in this review was purchased by the author. This review was originally published on 03-24-2015. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions and for historical context.