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WadeMonnig
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Short Cut to Remote Gaming Forum (29 Aug 2020)

Since remote gaming has now become a significant part of how we play board games, we have added a short cut to this forum in the menu on the left.

Tainted Grail - The Fall of Avalon Review

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09 Sep 2020 00:00 #313863 by Andi Lennon
It was twenty odd hours into our quest for the...

The true cup of Christ or merely a grail-shaped beacon?

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09 Sep 2020 02:03 - 09 Sep 2020 02:04 #313864 by MarloweSpade
Excellent review! As a primarily solo player, the phrase "too solo for groups and too big for solo" hit home, as a lot of games I look forward to end up fitting snugly in this category. The busywork involved in TG sounds like a dealbreaker either way.

Also, the constant use of "wyrd" throughout the game text would bug the everloving shit out of me.
Last edit: 09 Sep 2020 02:04 by MarloweSpade.
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09 Sep 2020 02:12 #313865 by Andi Lennon

MarloweSpade wrote: Excellent review! As a primarily solo player, the phrase "too solo for groups and too big for solo" hit home, as a lot of games I look forward to end up fitting snugly in this category. The busywork involved in TG sounds like a dealbreaker either way.

Also, the constant use of "wyrd" throughout the game text would bug the everloving shit out of me.


Yeah, to sit down and dine alone at a table set for four will always be weird. Sorry, 'wyrd'. :)

I'm sure there's a certain fastidious accountant mindset that will adore the kind of upkeep on offer here but oh man am I not it.

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09 Sep 2020 09:46 #313871 by Jackwraith
This is what I kind of expected when reading about it. Storytelling games can occasionally work, such as Tales of the Arabian Nights, but even that, a clearly multiplayer game, is burdened by trying to mesh decent mechanics with an expansive story. (Does anyone really take anything other than 10 destiny and 10 story points?) And I think the comparison with RP video games and actual RPGs is spot on. 30 years ago, I was talking with a friend of mine about this excellent game of Talisman I had had with some other friends, describing the ins and outs of movement on the board and fighting each other on the way to the Crown of Command. He was an RPG-only player and was mystified at how stories like that could come out of [dismissive tone] "a board game..." I convinced him to try and he was hooked. There is room there to intermingle the two kinds of approach. But there are limits to all things.

And, yes, the one thing that stuck out to me when hearing about Tainted Grail was "card-based combat." Ugh. Cold fact: There's something viscerally pleasing about rolling a handful of dice, even when you lose. Without this tactile pleasure, GW would have never existed. The difference between card combat and dice combat is that, with the latter, everything is a scenario unto itself. You try to hedge the odds in your favor, roll your dice, and you're done. As you mention, with card combat, it's a series of "What ifs" ("Damn! If only I'd drawn this card three rounds from now!") that are, if anything, more frustrating than a toss of bouncing cubes/tetrahedrons/whatever. In a lot of card combat, you can often see yourself failing and have no way of getting out of it... except for that card you drew last round that would've saved you. Yay? One of the best examples was Runewars. I really like the game and I can see what they were trying to do, but the card combat just grates.

And this sounds not that dissimilar from other Awaken Realms efforts. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Lords of Hellas, but I think that one is (thankfully) restrained by its own mechanics and it seems telling that others have spoken of the various expansions as unnecessary weight to an already solid game. It sounds like the expansions were already built in to Tainted Grail, by dint of wanting to make that sprawling world as replayable as possible. Too bad it sounds like their cup may have runneth over.
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09 Sep 2020 11:31 #313879 by Gary Sax
This is such a good review! One of the better ones on the site.
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09 Sep 2020 14:04 #313895 by ubarose
Excellent. A great read. It gave me a lot to think about, not only about Tainted Grail, but also about other games in this space. I think I agree with you, that card board may not be the right medium for these sprawling games.
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09 Sep 2020 14:59 #313899 by Jexik

ubarose wrote: Excellent. A great read. It gave me a lot to think about, not only about Tainted Grail, but also about other games in this space. I think I agree with you, that card board may not be the right medium for these sprawling games.


"Should this be a video game?" is a very real question solo and coop designers should ask themselves. I feel the same way about Gloomhaven, but I'm kinda in the minority on that one. I admit I haven't played the physical version extensively, but after playing the computer version a bit I just kinda thought, "there are half a dozen better video games for this."

One thing that video games are also able to do seems to be to crank up the difficulty a bit, because losing a solo or coop board game is more off-putting for some reason.
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09 Sep 2020 15:11 #313900 by charlest
I agree with this review (very well written too), but I don't think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much if it was a video game.

By shifting to an electronic format the competition is entirely different. This game doesn't stand out or provide anything really unique in that format.

However, as a tabletop design I get much joy travelling the land and seeing the large cards form a picturesque environment. Additionally, flipping through the book and seeing the choices branch before you hits a choose your own adventure feel I would miss.
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09 Sep 2020 15:43 #313903 by hotseatgames
I have neither played this in tabletop or video game form. But like others have mentioned, I always feel like these kinds of things just can't win. They are too unwieldy in tabletop form, so they would be better served electronically. BUT... at that point there is no real reason to have tabletop-style game play, so now you have a lackluster video game. :/
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09 Sep 2020 15:48 - 09 Sep 2020 15:49 #313904 by Gary Sax
I tend to like these many-systems-solo-ish games, but what holds them back is when they are a campaign system. My table has multiple uses, so I just can't keep this stuff set up. If I had lots of extra spending money I'd probably get one of those overpriced drop surface gaming tables for these sorts of these games, tbh.
Last edit: 09 Sep 2020 15:49 by Gary Sax.
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09 Sep 2020 16:39 #313912 by Msample
TAINTED FAIL should have been the name of this review, LOL. I was surprised to see it got 3 stars after reading it to be honest.
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09 Sep 2020 21:15 #313931 by Andi Lennon

Jackwraith wrote: And, yes, the one thing that stuck out to me when hearing about Tainted Grail was "card-based combat." Ugh. Cold fact: There's something viscerally pleasing about rolling a handful of dice, even when you lose. Without this tactile pleasure, GW would have never existed. The difference between card combat and dice combat is that, with the latter, everything is a scenario unto itself. You try to hedge the odds in your favor, roll your dice, and you're done. As you mention, with card combat, it's a series of "What ifs" ("Damn! If only I'd drawn this card three rounds from now!") that are, if anything, more frustrating than a toss of bouncing cubes/tetrahedrons/whatever. In a lot of card combat, you can often see yourself failing and have no way of getting out of it... except for that card you drew last round that would've saved you. Yay? One of the best examples was Runewars. I really like the game and I can see what they were trying to do, but the card combat just grates.


Yeah, many are the times we wearily went to the deck wishing for a handful of cool custom dice to clatter whilst making our way through this one. However, i'd say when it's done well- card based combat offers a level of depth and engagement that dice will never match. I thought it was done masterfully in Gloomhaven, each turn a beautiful balance between strategy and contingency as you marshalled your dwindling hand of resources. And I've recently been enamoured with "Judge Dredd:Helter Skelter" which is almost entirely card based combat. With dice it would be puddle-shallow but with cards it's a satisfying but still light series of decisions that engage and give the feeling of way more agency. I think both approaches definitely have their place- in this case as a one player puzzle it kind of works and offers one of the few genuine ludic decision spaces in the game. Unfortunately in a multiplayer session it both slows proceedings to a crawl and is a logistic nightmare.
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09 Sep 2020 21:19 #313932 by Andi Lennon

Gary Sax wrote: This is such a good review! One of the better ones on the site.


Thank you. truly. As someone who comes from a background of doing music reviews and articles (arguably an even more subjective space) it's been a challenge to balance pieces that need to encompass mechanical and thematic considerations, along with more amorphous factors like ambition and a designer's authorial intent. I think to speak to one's experience is the only real way to go. With a garnish of crap poetry ;)

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09 Sep 2020 21:28 #313934 by Andi Lennon

ubarose wrote: Excellent. A great read. It gave me a lot to think about, not only about Tainted Grail, but also about other games in this space. I think I agree with you, that card board may not be the right medium for these sprawling games.


It's difficult to say. I think if the central hook and experience of a game is compelling enough then we're more inclined to forgive a little bloat and book-keeping. I've played more of Kingdom Death Colon Monster in the past two years than almost all other titles combined (with the exception of RPG's) and it can sprawl in a most ungainly fashion. But oh man is it ever unique and compelling enough in the stories it tells to warrant the investment. Having said that-in most instances, be they analogue or digital, I much prefer a tight and focused experience where the agency comes from gameplay and the story or narrative is a strong supporting mechanism. The really memorable moments and tales that linger tend to emerge from gameplay rather than any scripting- and I reluctantly admit that despite being engaged as a writer for games as well as on games. I think games like TG are still finding their feet in an experimental space but as it stands there's a long way to go in making such an experience sing in the way a good session of D&D et al can. TG still feels a lot like you're being told a story rather than telling it together.
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09 Sep 2020 21:42 #313935 by Andi Lennon

Jexik wrote:

ubarose wrote: Excellent. A great read. It gave me a lot to think about, not only about Tainted Grail, but also about other games in this space. I think I agree with you, that card board may not be the right medium for these sprawling games.


"Should this be a video game?" is a very real question solo and coop designers should ask themselves. I feel the same way about Gloomhaven, but I'm kinda in the minority on that one. I admit I haven't played the physical version extensively, but after playing the computer version a bit I just kinda thought, "there are half a dozen better video games for this."

One thing that video games are also able to do seems to be to crank up the difficulty a bit, because losing a solo or coop board game is more off-putting for some reason.


I've dipped into the digital version of Gloomhaven briefly but it really doesn't capture what makes the tabletop version so special. The cooperative elements don't shine and it can't compete with dedicated SRPGS or TRPGS that dominate the digital space. There are certainly instances where I prefer the digital equivalent of even lauded tabletop games though. There's an unofficial and definitely legally grey app version of Eldritch Horror that I love mashing out on bus-rides. The automation of what is normally some deeply obtrusive upkeep phases means games are shorn from a trying 3+hrs to a brisk clip of around 45 mins. I'm not well versed enough in solo tabletop play to offer any kind of compelling authority on the subject but i will say i enjoy a dip into smaller games like EtDC whilst alone, but sitting down to something like TG or KDM or Gloomhaven etc by myself would just feel weird and overwhelming. Perhaps if i ever have the space for a dedicated table where i can leave them splayed and arrayed to dip into at leisure? It still seems weirdly antithetical to the primary lure of boardgames/RPG's for me though- which is that of a shared social and storytelling experience. I will be examining 'Seekers Beyond the Shroud' soon though, so we'll see how that pans out.

Also, this petite little thing recently arrived, and its mint-tin dimensions feel like more my speed for soloing:
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