It can be exciting when two things you like do a crossover. Whether it's Mario and cereal, Lord of the Rings and video games, or even baby Mario and a threshing machine, collaborations can bring a lot of joy if they're done right. When it comes to board games, they don't happen too often outside of the 4 million versions of monopoly released each year. That's not to say that they don't happen, as the subject of today's release proves. Talisman: Kingdom Hearts brings together the classic fantasy board game series with the world's most obtuse video game series in hopes of striking gold, or at least pleasing some fans.
How to play Talisman: Kingdom Hearts
If you've never heard of Talisman then you've probably not been playing board games that long. Just ask that relative of yours that looks suspiciously like Gary Gygax and he'll probably be able to tell you about it. Failing that, it was a fantasy board game that had you taking control of standard high-fantasy archetype characters in a battle to be the first to claim the crown of command and murder everyone else. Obviously, that wouldn't scan for a Kingdom Hearts board game, so instead your goal here is to reach the Door to Darkness and seal it to end the game, with the winner being the person with the most victory points.
If you're already familiar with the gameplay of Talisman then this Kingdom Hearts crossover will be pretty easy to understand. The board is still split into three regions that get harder the closer you go into the center, and your main goal is still to get enough upgrades to give your character more chance of surviving inside the inner region. The main difference, other than not killing everyone at the end, is in the Kingdom Hearts theming. Instead of characters like 'The Wizard' or 'The Orc', you control Riku, Sora, and even King Mickey on your journey around the board. Instead of a fireball, you cast fira, and the places you're visiting are locations from the video game.
How Does Talisman: Kingdom Hearts Feel To Play?
Otherwise, the gameplay mostly consists of taking it in turns to move around the board and run encounters. You simply roll a dice, then encounter a certain number of adventure cards based on the symbols on your space. Weirdly, this translation from high-fantasy to Kingdom Hearts works really well. It's basically exactly what the gameplay of the video games was at this point. You're adventuring from world to world, fighting heartless, and gaining followers/stats to make yourself stronger. It's slightly simplified compared to the JRPG roots, but honestly taking the gameplay from 'grinding to increase 8 stats' to 'grinding to increase 3 stats' is a change that I can get behind.
Unfortunately, there are a few problems with the Talisman: Kingdom Hearts. The rules are the main thing you have to deal with. The basics of the gameplay are pretty well explained, but there are a few omissions that could leave you reaching for a Google search mid-game. For instance, it's not made explicitly clear that you have to put adventure cards down onto the board when you draw them. Unless you already know that's how it works from previous Talisman experience, you have to infer it from other rules or from images in the rulebook. There's also very little clarification going on. The back cover of the rulebook does feature a flow chart of how a turn works, but there's no glossary, so if you're confused about how a specific mechanic works you just have to flick through the actual rulebook which is a bit of a shame.
How Does Kingdom Hearts Change Talisman?
There's also just a general low-effort feeling with the adaptation on this one. The art is mostly quite nice on the board and cards, and the sculpting on the miniatures is decent as well. However, that's about all you could say about the effort put into making changes. None of the enemy encounters feel all that themed around the characters they're supposed to represent, they mostly just do generic villain stuff. Another note is that the character sculpts might be decent, but the actual character choices just seem strange. Most of the character spots make sense, with Donald, Goofy, Sora, and Mickey all being obvious inclusions. For some reason though, the team decided to go with Mulan as another Disney character, despite the game featuring no Roxas or Axel, but still featuring Xion. Even if they really had to pick a Disney character, why pick Mulan who has only been in one game properly, over someone like Hercules who has been featured in all 3 main Kingdom Hearts titles?
That aside, there's not much else to the game. It's a slightly less violent version of Talisman with a Kingdom Hearts skin wrapped over the top. If you enjoyed Talisman and Kingdom Hearts you'll probably enjoy this too. Even better, the rulebook does go to the bother of including some extra rules that make the game feel a bit more like the original Talisman in case you don't own a copy of the original game yet. Having said that, you still don't have to try and murder everyone at the end of the game, but I dare say you could probably homebrew those rules to let everyone get their revenge on Donald.
Should I Buy Talisman: Kingdom Hearts?
If you're a big Kingdom Hearts fan who doesn't own Talisman yet and wants to get their hands on some extra memorabilia from your favorite JRPG, then this is probably a perfect package for you. If, however, you're a hardcore Talisman player who is looking for a definitive experience or just a high-effort crossover, then you should completely avoid this one.
The copy of Talisman: Kingdom Hearts used for this review was provided by the publisher.