Talisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition Designer Talks Gameplay Changes and Using the New 52

Fans will be able to enter the world of the Dark Knight in USAopoly's new game Talisman: Batman Super-Villains Edition, though you won't be playing as Batman. Instead, you'll be trying to take Batman down with a variety of his most iconic villains, villains like Bane, Poison Ivy, The Joker, and more. Of course, you'll have to make your way through the corridors of Arkham Asylum to get to the center chamber that Batman resides in, which will be quite a challenge in itself. The Talisman series is one that has been around for quite a while, and we had the chance to speak to Lead Game Designer Pat Marino all about using the New 52 era, the game's amazing roster of villains, and how the game has been updated from the original version.

It's quite surprising to see a Batman game where players don't actually play as the Dark Knight, but using the villains here gave DC a perfect opportunity to spotlight their villains in fun and interesting ways.

"The team has a lot of appreciation for the depth and variety of characters among the Batman villains, and we wanted to take this opportunity to let everyone experience their side of the story," Marino said. "Because we work closely with our partners, we also knew that DC Comics was celebrating the year of the villain for Batman’s 80th anniversary, so it was conducive that we could align with the larger franchise as well."

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(Photo: USAopoly)

In fact, they've already got a few favorites that stand out amongst the roster.

"Each starting villain has unique abilities, which were inspired by their New 52 backstories," Marino said. "This allows players to choose their starting character based on the villain itself or have their selection influenced by his/her unique abilities to match their preferred Talisman playstyle. I personally like to play as Mr. Freeze or Clayface, but our 3D designer Darren Donahue prefers to play as the Joker, while our graphic designer Pam Weirich leans towards Poison Ivy."

Talisman: Batman Super Villains Edition is actually set during the New 52 era from the comics, a time where DC redesigned and changed up many of its characters. Since the Rebirth era has taken over in the comics, but the New 52 era was the one that appealed to the designers when it came to Batman's villains.

"We knew we wanted to create a game centered around Gotham’s most notorious criminals, and the dark, gritty art style and villain-focused story arcs featured in the New 52 era provided the perfect opportunity to spotlight Batman’s adversaries," Marino said. "The world feels like it was made for the twisted psyche of the villains, and our 3D team had a lot of fun integrating that into our version of Talisman."

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(Photo: USAopoly)

Marino also said that they don't have "any expansions planned for Pre-Crisis or Rebirth", but they "would be excited to explore" those eras in the future."

The team wanted to highlight the strongest aspects of the New 52 era, but they also wanted the game's aesthetic to reflect its villainous characters.

"On the art side of things, one of the most rewarding challenges faced was designing the graphics to reflect the mind of a scheming villain," Marino said. "Our graphic artist team decided to implement a found object look across the cards and gameboard, pulling things that would already be inside Arkham Asylum, like scraps of paper and clipboards, to create this aesthetic."

"Additionally, we worked with gameboard illustrator, Ross Taylor, to incorporate things like mad scribblings across the gameboard to give it that gritty feel," Marino said. "It's also reflected in our playable villains, whose carefully crafted look and poses capture the New 52 tone and style as well as the character’s personality."

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(Photo: USAopoly)

The original Talisman is set in a fantasy-style setting, so they had to make some tweaks and changes to allow the game to reflect Batman's more grounded world.

"We reimagined the game’s core mechanic to fit within Gotham City and the DC Comics universe," Marino said. "For example, magic spells were changed to ‘feats’ and Magic as a character trait became Cunningness. Additionally, all the cards in the Encounter Deck were adapted to fit the New 52-inspired narrative to create that authentic Batman experience. Beyond this, we adapted the game mechanics from the “Reaper” expansion to allow Batman to become an NPC (non-playable character), creating an ever-looming presence and threat to players."

Those changes continued in reflecting the original version's small hubs, cities, and other locations that players can obtain items and abilities from on the board, though the central elements remain the same.

"Similar to the original Talisman gameboard, the Arkham Asylum map is separated into different regions," Marino said. "Players start on the first floor and must either obtain keys from a guard to unlock a route to the second floor or fight their way past the guards. Once on the second floor, a security key card is needed to access the central guard tower.

"Players have a variety of ways they can earn these cards using strength and cunning character abilities," Marino said. "They can even fight another player to steal one! To ensure continued moving forward, we’ve separated the encounter deck by each region, making the challenges encountered on the first floor a bit less difficult than those on the second floor and in the guard tower. Common spaces such as hills and woods became inmate cells and offices, while more specific places, like the market space and tavern, evolved into a supply closet and a kitchen space, respectively."

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(Photo: USAopoly)

Some things needed a more drastic change, including the handling of magic items. The designers looked to the villains and their unique arsenal for a solution.

"Magical items were another challenge because they don’t fit the Batman narrative," Marino said. "Ultimately, these items were removed and replaced with cards that represent the legendary items carried by major characters, such as The Joker’s lapel flower and The Riddler’s signature question mark cane."

The original Talisman contains a fair amount of depth, especially when you start adding the expansions. This version of the game has the opportunity to bring in new fans, perhaps ones who don't often give tabletop games a try very often, and that's why it was important to make it a bit more new player friendly, including the time commitment needed to give it a try.

"We wanted to develop a game that was approachable for fans of Batman and create an experience that resonated with hobby gamers, so it was important that we found the right balance between celebrating the tradition of Talisman and accessibility," Marino said. "We adapted the quick-play rules of 4th Edition Talisman and implemented some significant revisions to the rulebook with an emphasis on streamlining areas where we found play-testers were getting stuck or needing to continually reference the rulebook. This made the game more new-player friendly and reduced the playtime to roughly 60-90 minutes, which is a more manageable gaming session for many people."

If you prefer the longer version, the team has you covered too. "For the diehard Talisman fans who want the all-afternoon epic gaming experience, we included the original Talisman rules as a ‘long-play’ variant," Marino said.

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