Thursday, April 18, 2013

Relic - a review

Dale asked for a more detailed review of the Relic game we played last weekend, so here it is...

Relic is, in a nutshell, Talisman in the 40K universe. In its original form (and later incarnations, really), the game is about different characters (of various races and professions) traveling around a board fighting monsters, gaining experience points, allies and artifacts, with the aim of upgrading one's stats so one can eventually find a Talisman and confront the final challenge and win the game.

The game board consists of three circles or levels: the outer one where the encounters are easier, a middle one where challenges are, well, more challenging, and the final circle which one can only enter if one holds a Talisman. In the first two circles the players roll a d6 each turn and may choose whether to move their character clockwise or counterclockwise, thus choosing which space it would land in. In the final circle the progress is in a single direction, and characters have to overcome a series of challenges to reach the final space and then win the game.

In the first two circles, landing on a space usually results in the drawing of an encounter card from a deck, which may require the character to fight a monster, gain a prize, or sometimes an ally. With each monster defeated the player gains experience, which may be traded for improvement in stats.

Each starting character has its own starting stats, equipment, and special rules. When you feel your character has gained enough experience and improvement in the first circle, you move on to the second circle; and when you feel your character is powerful enough to take on the final circle, you likewise move on to the final circle. The thing is, all this time the other characters are doing the same thing, so the balance between gaining experience and making a move on the goal before the others do so is the key to winning.

Now replace the word Talisman with the word Relic, and you have a pretty good idea of what Relic is about.

The fluff aside, Relic is basically Talisman deluxe.

The game components are much more luxurious than the original cardboard standees of the first edition Talisman, and the character cards now feature dial instead of the coloured chits that tend to get jostled out of place when someone bumps the table.

picture from Board Game Geek
There are also some refinements: character advancement is fixed: what stats you increase is determined by the career track of the character, and not up to you. This is similar to the Dark Heresy RPG that we also played, and ensures that characters stay in character and you don't end up with an Ogryn that has Cunning as his most powerful stat.

What are new to me are the power cards and missions. The first are the familiar Chance cards that a player may hold and play when he chooses to. These also come with the numbers 1 through 6 on them, which the player can use in lieu of rolling a die. The second are "missions within the mission", little side-quests which the character must fulfil which will give them a little prize at the end; completing three of these missions will give you a Relic card, which allows you to enter the final level.

That, by and large, is what I recall from our game.

In terms of gameplay it's very much like Talisman. The challenges are more powerful, with some demons having stats of 13 (vs. yours of maybe 3 to 5 at the start), but the exploding d6 rule allows the occasional heroic victory.

Luck certainly plays an important role here, and if you fall behind sometimes things can get a little depressing as you see your fellow players surge ahead, leaving you with no chance of winning the game.

There is also little inter-player interaction here, meaning there is a bit of a down time between your turns, and there is very little you can do to directly impede your opponent, since player-vs-player combat is forbidden in Relic.

I did enjoy the game, partly because it is Talisman, and partly because it is 40K, and mostly because it's a relaxing way to spend an afternoon with friends rolling dice and having beer and pretzels. That said, I personally prefer a boardgame where play is more antagonistic, or more co-operative, like a dungeon bash where are the players are on the same side.


Dale said...

Thanks for that review; it was really helpful. Now I have a much better sense of what the game is about.

I was listening to a podcast lately and they gushed about Relic's components and felt that saying "it is Talisman for 40K" was sufficient. (Having never played Talisman, it wasn't for me.)

captain arjun said...


I guess it's the same as telling people how "West Side Story" is "Romeo and Juliet in New York". :)