A Review of Tainted Grail, Part II. Final Thoughts.

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You’ll notice here at Co-op Gestalt, we sometimes split a review into two parts:

  1. Part I: Unboxing, Solo Rules, and Unboxing.
  2. Part II: Final Thoughts

We frequently don’t do a “Part II” for several reasons:

  1. We can’t get it to the table with more people.  The “Part I” represents me getting and playing the game solo for get initial impressions.  Sometimes, I can’t get my game groups interested in a game, so there’s no new info for a “Part II”.  This isn’t a bad thing, just a fact!  There are so many tastes and people that sometimes a game just doesn’t get to the table after my initial run through.
  2. There’s no need for further impressions.  I may get it to the table, but my impressions don’t change.  There’s no substantial changes, so I let the initial “Part I” review stand.

When we get a review “Part II”, it’s usually because we want to add to our initial review.  For example, we still loved Marvel United after the initial review, but we wanted to talk more about the cards and components (and give out trophies) in Part II.  

So, with that in mind, we head into Part II (below) of our thoughts on Tainted Grail.  See initial Part I review here!

Four Adventurers

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So, myself and three friends started playing Tainted Grail over the past 3 or so months. We’ve probably put about 40 hours of investment into the game, playing the first 3 scenarios. We had a rough start in Scenario 2 where we explored poorly that cost us a bunch of time.

The game flowed pretty quickly when we were playing. There was a lot of concurrency going on:

  1. Sara and Andrew would go hunting to get us food.  They would be fighting “green” monsters to get food for the party.
  2. At the same time, Rich and Teresa would go exploring and try to advance the story.

This worked okay, as the game moved a little faster with this paralleism, but Andrew and Sara got tired of hunting and they wanted to hear more of the story! And that’s fair! The story has been really good and the writing has been great!

Here’s the problem: I could tell my group was getting burned out.

Too Grindy

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In the words of the great Andrew: “The game became too grindy”. After scenario 2 seemed to just go on and on and on, we decided to try some rules to make it less grindy.

  1. Let the Menhirs stay lit longer.  The Menhirs are a sort of timer that keep certain parts of the world open.  If the Menhir “burns down”, that part of the world is unexplorable until you relight it.  We spent WAAAAAY too much time keeping the Menhirs lit as we explored.  By default, the number of turns a Menhir is lit is something like 9 minus the number of players.  We just maxxed it out at 9.
  2. Move the Hunt along.  In order to stay alive, you need to hunt and get food.  This because a major grind because you usually fight a ton of “green” monsters to keep alive.  We decided, rather than fighting to get food, we just get 2-3 food and completely ignore the combat.  
  3. (Spoiler).  Somebody comes after you.  We ignored this after game 2 because it was SO MUCH maintenance.

Now, with these changes, Andrew and Sara were more engaged as the story (the best part of the game) was being enjoyed by everyone: Sara and Andrew were no longer “stuck” grinding for food.

Silence

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My friends came over after we were (mostly) done with Scenario 3. “You want to move on?” Silence. Even with the changes we proposed, nobody wanted to play. “Even with our changes, it was STILL too grindy! I want to d of the combat and stuff, but the exploration/story is the best part. I want to do more of that!”

We proposed this change:

  1. The Menhirs simply don’t expire, but you can’t have more than 3 on the table at once.

Even with that change proposed, I couldn’t get my group interested in playing again.  My group was done with Tainted Grail after 3 Scenarios.

Reflections

The best part of Tainted Grail is the story and the want/need to explore the land!  We all agreed that the writing and tendriled subplots were interesting and fun to explore.  In the end, getting there wasn’t fun. In Part I of my review, I wasn’t sure abut the Combat/Diplomacy system.  It was definitely new and interesting setting up a combat .. almost like a story panel!  In the end, it wasn’t that great.  You only get three cards at the start of combat to use, and then get one when you are done.  Andrew pointed out “There didn’t seem to be enough choice”.  Granted, your deck of cards gets better as you advance, so you can make choices, but it felt tedious after a while.  Combat and Diplomacy were necessary evils to move forward, but they weren’t “fun”?

I reflect back to Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) games I have played where I loved combat!  In D&D, you have so many choices, ways to work with your party, imaginative ways to help each other, imaginative ways to fight!  So, I definitely like the idea of combat, like in D&D, but I think we felt like our choices in Tainted Grail were too limited.

Your group may love the Combat and Diplomacy mechanics in this game!  If you do, this is the game for you.  My group grew tired of all the Combat and Diplomacy mechanisms needed to advance the story.  If there had been one fifth of that, I think we’d still be playing.  We really did like the story.

Video Game

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There is a digital version of Tainted Grail available on Steam!  I am wary and optimistic at the same time!

  1. WARY: If digital version of Tainted Grail is too hard, you can’t scale it back like we did the board game!  One of the great things about board games is that you can control/modify the rules and play as you find fun.  The digital versions tend to just have a few levels and you are stuck with those rules, even if you don’t like them.  
  2. OPTIMISTIC: Video game combat is well understood and much less plodding.  If the Combat and Diplomacy has been streamlined in the video game, or simply just made cool with a joystick, maybe combat and levelling up will be a lot more fun!

I haven’t played it yet, but backers of the original Kickstarter can get the free Steam code in Update 50 to try it out.

Conclusion

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So, I got 40 hours  of gameplay out of Tainted Grail.  That’s actually pretty good!  I payed about 99$ (US) to get a lot of gameplay.   That’s a lot more than some games!  I feel like I got my money’s worth, even if my game group stopped early.  What did I get?

  1. One of the best “First Play” tutorials I have ever seen!
  2. A ton of cards (see above) and content!
  3. Beautiful miniatures!
  4. An amazing story!

What do I think you should do?  Learn from my group’s mistakes!  Play this game, but play with an eye towards simplifying gameplay (using our suggestions previously in the review) and reducing grind.  Concentrate on the story and enjoy the writing and subplots as much as possible.  Don’t burn out your group with grind!

Am I going to keep this game?  I think it was an 8 or 9 out of 10 when I first started, but it sure has fallen: how apropos for a game called “The Fall of Avalon“.   It’s probably a 6 or 7 right now, but  I will keep it and try to finish the game solo.  Who knows, that solo play might elevate the game back up.  I might just keep Tainted Grail just to read the adventure book without all the Combat and Diplomacy … the writing and story were that good.

 

 

5 thoughts on “A Review of Tainted Grail, Part II. Final Thoughts.

  1. These follow-ups are super useful — thanks for taking the time to post them.. It’s hard to predict how one’s feelings of a campaign game are going to develop. It’s nice to be able to hear about how you made sense of it.

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  2. My daughter and I are in Chapter 2, but we’re taking our time exploring. When we’ve had enough, or after a pivotal moment, we’ll save the game and continue some other time. But we also don’t enjoy the grinding part, so we’re playing on some sort of easy mode, where we only need X food/magic etc. instead of “X times the number of players”. That means we still need to look around for stuff, but it’s way less of a grind.
    The combat is okay I guess, not nearly as fun or interactive as in games like Gloomhaven, But we love the story, and that’s what we’ll be coming back for.

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  3. We played through the whole game in story mode (menhirs set at 8) with a group of three and enjoyed it – more so after house ruling that a) we could always hunt for food in non-settlement parts of Avalon (even those that weren’t designated “food areas”), and b) large prey such as deer or bear would give double the number of food specified on the card.

    Since we completely misunderstood the combat rules, we always fought as a group, chaining up to three cards per player together as long as they had the connect symbol. Even so, sometimes it still took a while to defeat the enemy, and we had a couple of close calls. We even lost the occasional encounter!

    Our main “complaints” were the lack of variety mostly of prey animals (green cards) and that there weren’t enough enemy cards, especially at higher levels. Once we’d fought (or debated) everything and everybody three or four times it got a little boring. There were also two or three locations that involved labyrinths and were irritatingly difficult and tedious to get through. We hated those!

    Overall we found the game satisfying and will play again at some point. We have the Kickstarter edition including two expansions + minis, so it wasn’t a cheap game. However, compared to how much it would have cost us to spend the same number of hours (approx. 60-70) at the movies, it was a good deal. 🙂

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