Game Reviews

Talisman: Horus Heresy - Fittingly chaotic

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Talisman: Horus Heresy - Fittingly chaotic

Take a deep breath.

Once there was a fantasy board game called Talisman, made by Games Workshop. Then Fantasy Flight Games bought the licence to republish it.

Then Nomad games bought the licence to make a digital version. Then Fantasy Flight made a sci-fi version called Relic.

Then Nomad made a digital sci-fi version that wasn't Relic but their own invention. They called it Horus Heresy, which is also the name of a completely different board game by Fantasy Flight.

Clear? Good. So, this isn't a version of any board game, by any company. It's Talisman, re-skinned.


For those unfamiliar with that venerable title, it's a roll and move adventure game. You wander round a board at the whim of a dice.

Landing on a space sees you either following relevant instructions or drawing from one of the colossal stacks of cards that accompany the game.

The goal is to gather enough experience and loot to get to the center of the board first. It's low on strategy, and high on story.

It's very much a game you either love or hate.

Talisman: Horus Heresy uses almost identical mechanics. Sure, you have Stratagems instead of Spells, and Fleets instead of Followers, but in essence the game play is pretty much identical.

It will, again, be a game you very much love or hate depending on how you feel about your experience being dictated by the whims of six-sided fate.

If you like lots of depth and strategy, you may be disappointed, no matter how much fantastic narrative you get in exchange.

To tempt in the naysayers, this version does make one substantive change. Many encounters are tuned to one of the warring sides in the titular Heresy, either Horus or the Emperor. So are the characters you can choose to play.

When you encounter a card of the opposite side you have to fight it and, hopefully, destroy it. If you pull a friendly encounter from the deck you can try and recruit it, based on a die roll plus the new Strategy stat. Doing so buffs the stats of your character.

Failing on either leaves the card on the board, with the potential for the opposing side to come and get it.


This new mechanic adds no strategy to the game. It does, however, make it faster by offering more chances to build your stats, which is no bad thing.

The original had a terrible tendency to rumble on past its welcome. By making it quicker and tighter, Horus Heresy feels more approachable, more likely to give you some worthwhile tales and thrills for your time.

It also ties in to the theme of the game. Surprisingly enough for what was originally a swords and sorcery romp, the switch to the 41st Millennium actually feels like a better fit.

Your character tours war-torn systems, recruiting friendly units and dispatching enemy ones. You can also investigate a number of named planets and participate in events from the war.

It's still all down to the roll of a dice, but it suits the mechanics well.


That sense of plausibility is aided and abetted by some cracking presentation, some of the best yet seen in an iOS board game adaptation.

It's stuffed with cracking art, highlighted against fitting backdrops of stars and planets hanging in the vastness of space.

While the interface does have occasional niggles - mistakenly re-rolling the dice when you want to accept the result is a particular pain - it's generally clear and usable too.

The tutorial might confuse players wholly new to this family of games, but the rules are listed in full on Nomad's website.

Talisman: Horus Heresy won't win over anyone that's not a fan of the original. But if you're prepared to ride the random storms of fate across the warp, it does a great job of immersing you in Games Workshop's bleak vision of the far future.

Talisman: Horus Heresy - Fittingly chaotic

A fine looking revamp of a classic board game, but it's still too random for serious strategy gamers
Matt Thrower
Matt Thrower
Matt is a freelance arranger of words concerning boardgames and video games. He's appeared on IGN, PC Gamer, Gamezebo, and others.