So I have owned Relic from Fantasy Flight Games for a while. I tried playing it a couple of years ago, but my kids were a little young to understand it at the time. So fast forward to this past weekend, and with the boys home for Good Friday, and me on a new work schedule, I decided to pull it out and give it a go.
For those who are not aware, Relic is based on the game Talisman, currently published by Fantasy Flight Games, but originally created by Games Workshop, producers of the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 miniatures games. The games are very similar, but while Talisman has a fantasy theme to it (supposedly the Warhammer World, but it feels more generic) Relic is quite obviously skinned and themed around the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
In Relic, each player (1-4 players with the base game, more with the expansion) takes on the role of a Warhammer 40,000 hero. From the Imperial Guard Commisar, the Calidus Assassin, to the Deathwatch Space Marine, there are eight different character choices. Each character has it’s own special abilities, character progression track, and starting stats. There are three stats available to each character, Strength, Willpower, and Cunning. These stats are used in the encounters with the various threats within Relic, from a Strength test versus an Ork Warboss, a Willpower test with a Chaos Sorcerer, and a Cunning test against an agent of Tzeentch. As you encounter Threats, you will gain wargear, allies, and have encounters to help power up your character for your assault on the Eye of Terror and your chance at winning the game.
The game board is divided into three rings. The outer ring is the easiest section. Typically only a single threat card is drawn at a time and typically only a single color. The middle ring is smaller, but the spaces are usually tougher and have either two threat options or more, and those threats can be all one color, or multiple colors. The inner ring is the final path to victory. Each space has specific instructions as to what is encountered and how to proceed to the central space. One great feature to Relic, that does help with replayability is that at the beginning of the game you place an objective card in the center of the board that tells you how to win the game. For the first time playing we selected the option that just ended the game when the first player reached the center of the board.
What – Relic is a classic Roll and Move board game. As it is based on Talisman which originally released in 1983, it has a feel of those games I grew up with. Sadly, I don’t think that’s a good thing. My youngest definitely had some issues with this as he was used to being able to pick his path and where he would want to move to. He seemed to get rather upset when he was limited in his options as to where he could go based on what he rolled. He’s always a more cautious player in that he hasn’t quite grasped the risk versus reward aspects of some games, but you could tell that he didn’t like being forced to move where he didn’t want to go.
Why – In the “grim darkness of the far future” someone has to do the thing. Honestly, I didn’t really feel like there was much of a purpose here. You just keep going around and around the board until you complete three objectives and gain a relic. This allows you to move to the inner ring and start moving towards winning. While this does give the game a sort of RPG in a box type feel, I would much rather just play an RPG in a box.
Who – This game played great with my boys and I. From 9-38, the rules were easy to understand (even though I didn’t read the rules for corruption correctly) and we soon got into a groove of rolling and moving, rolling and moving, rolling and moving.
Where – The game fits pretty well on our kitchen table, but I could see running out of room pretty easily if you add the expansion. In addition, the board is pretty big and at times my youngest would need to get up and walk around the table to either read something in very small print, or just move his player piece to where he wanted to go. It wasn’t a bad fit, but it would get tight pretty quickly.
Components – This is a game from Fantasy Flight. Short of how to store everything in the box when it was done (they have a HORRIBLE track record with this), the game is simply gorgeous. The character busts are all well detailed and I’ve seen some great paint jobs. While the cards are small, half a playing card basically, they are easy to read and give you a good sense of what the card is supposed to represent. And the board is absolutely gorgeous. It’s full of typical Warhammer 40,000 imagery and obviously created by a talented artist.
Pluses – The game looks great and feels like a simple game of Dark Heresy, the Warhammer 40,000 RPG. It is also a typical well produced game from Fantasy Flight Games.
Minuses – While I WANT to like this game, I just had a hard time getting into the game because of the mechanics. I still have some fondness for the Warhammer 40,000 universe from my time as an Outrider for Games Workshop, I’m just burned out on the whole “grim dark” setting and the depressing feel to anything related to Warhammer. On top of all that, the 1980’s mechanics just grate on me and made it hard for me to enjoy the game.
Final Thoughts – While this is not a “bad” game as it were, I honestly don’t think I can recommend it. I’m not tossing it out of the pile just yet, I feel I should give it at least a couple more tries and also get through a complete game. But I’ll admit, I am not holding out a lot of hope. I think the way game design has progressed in the last 15 years (since I got married and really got into games) really amplifies the flaws in this game and shows the age of it’s mechanics. I’m not really blaming Fantasy Flight Games on this one as making a game like Relic was almost a no brainer because of the popularity of Talisman over the years, but I think Talisman suffers from the same flaws. I don’t think all this makes it a “bad” game, but I don’t think it’s that “good” either. I’ll post an update when I finally try again, but don’t wait for it…
Laser – I could easily replace some of the tokens with laser cut versions, but there aren’t that many tokens anyways so I’m not sure how necessary it is. That and Fantasy Flight always makes the tokens look good anyways.
Where to Buy – As always, check with your local game shop, or if you want to help support the site, you can buy it from Amazon here.