The 4th (revised) edition of Talisman from Fantasy Flight Games will soon be unleashed upon the Hebrew speaking crowd:
The Israeli publisher is Monkey Time (who also publish D&D, Pathfinder, Citadels, Game of Thrones the Board Game, etc), and I’m the translator (and I also did D&D, and Pathfinder, and Citadels, and you get the idea).
Talisman is probably the most popular fantasy board game in Israel – it’s also probably the only fantasy board game ever translated to Hebrew, so that might explain the situation. It also helps that Talisman is easy to get into, easy to teach, and even though I personally see it as one of the least playable adventure games, it does handle the “adventuring” feel pretty well, and that’s a great sell, especially when there’s no comparable competition.
The First Translation
The 2nd edition was translated some time during the 90’s by Kod-Kod, and is still available today, although the current print run is pretty lousy, with a small board and poor quality carton stands. Monkey Time’s print is being supervised by FFG, so it’s going to have the same great production values as everything else the board game giant does.
The first translation reads kinda “old”, with archaic language, and some terms that might seem strange to today’s players. For example, “elf” was translated as “Zed”, something more like a “pixie” or “demon”, while these days the common and well-known translation is simply “elf”. You can’t really blame anyone – the game was translated during a period when spoken Hebrew still didn’t really have a fantasy lexicon. Only later on, thanks to the rising popularity of D&D, epic fantasy book series and blockbuster fantasy films, we slowly settled on some agreed-upon translations for some common words (and we’re still missing a few, like sorcerer).
The Current Translation
When I’m translating a term in a game, I have to consider several factors: keeping the meaning, keeping the theme, easiness of use, etc. Commonly accepted words are one such main consideration – if everyone is calling an elf by a certain name, I probably should go with the flow, and not against it. Again, this is only one consideration out of several, but in the case of Talisman, it was more important than usual, because of the nostalgic factor. Israelis really like their Talisman, and if this new version doesn’t use the at least some of the same terms, or even the same “old sounding” wording, they might not see it as their Talisman any longer. Therefore, I sometimes chose to keep a wrong-meaning, but highly recognizable term, over a newer or more accurate translation. Accuracy is important, but it’s another consideration, not the ultimate law.
Let’s take the main example: Life. Lives in Talisman were originally translated as “Neshama”, literally “soul”. Probably because the concept of lives in games still wasn’t a thing in Hebrew – this was when computer games were just starting to get into the public scene! Today, we should translate it as “Cha-yim”, literally, well, life, as is commonly accepted. However, everyone knows that characters in Talisman have souls – it’s a bit strange, but that’s part of the charm of Talisman, they’ll probably say – and so, the new edition keeps this old term.
I don’t really play Talisman myself, and I currently don’t even live in Israel, but I think it’s a good thing that a new, better looking edition is hitting the stores there. Board games, as representing leisure activities in general, deserve more respect in Israel, and the high production values of Talisman – a game everyone knows and loves – might push the public opinion ever so slightly in the right direction.