Tobold's Blog
Friday, May 03, 2024
Tainted Grail: Kings of Ruin

Back in September 2022 I backed Tainted Grail: Kings of Ruin on Gamefound for $140 plus shipping. Of this, $99 was for the Kings of Ruin stand-alone expansion to Tainted Grail, while the rest was mostly for updating the original Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon and expansions to rules version 2.0. I now have started a Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon campaign twice, and never finished one. I never even started one of the first two expansions. So now Kings of Ruin arrived on my doorstep, and I am not even sure I'll ever play it.

The 1.0 version of Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon is a bit grindy. Rules 2.0 make it less grindy, but there were already a number of suggestion for rules variants in the original rule book, and for house rules on various forums to achieve the same goal. When using these, it turns out that the grind isn't the only problem of the game. The more fundamental problem of Tainted Grail is the combat system. Combat is fiddly and slow, and generally not much fun. That also makes character progression not much fun, as much of this progression is achieved by adding more cards to your combat deck. Even if you carefully thin out your deck to improve chances to draw these new and better cards, you still aren't sure to draw them in any given combat. The difficulty progression of the game over time means that while at the start of the game the combat is still okay-ish, with every further chapter into the game the health of the monsters you fight increase, and thus the length of combat increases. Thus you get into situations like just wanting to go on a quick hunt to replenish food supplies, and ending up randomly encountering a major threat, which then can take half an hour to beat. This is still playable in solo mode, or maximum two players, but with 4 players the slow combat is just killing the narrative flow of the game.

With neither the new rules nor the new expansion fundamentally changing combat, I am not sure that I will play Tainted Grail or any of its expansions again. This is also because since then I got other narrative adventure games with better combat systems. So I regret having spent that $140 plus shipping on the Kings of Ruin crowdfunding campaign. As I got the base game much later than most people, and then didn't really play it until after the crowdfunding campaign for the expansion (see my review here), that is obviously my own fault. I blame FOMO, the fear of missing out, where not being sure that I could get the 2.0 rules upgrade pack and expansion later made me decide to buy them before having played the original game fully. And that is a permanent risk with crowdfunding board games. By the time you receive the game you backed, your view or your situation might have changed, and you might feel very different about a game you earlier thought you must have.

I know nothing of the boardgame, but I got the computer version as part of a Humble bundle, and I found the combat slow and grindy in that too! (I also didn't like the 3D environment - it looked good but when I'm playing a deckbuilder I like my world map to be abstracted as well as the combat.)
You mention in your post that you've come across narrative adventures with better combat systems. I'd love to know which ones!
The two narrative adventure games me and my wife enjoyed the most were Roll Player Adventures and Sleeping Gods. In both of these games the game systems that determine combat and the success of other skill checks are a lot faster than in Tainted Grail, and thus don't get in the way of the narrative.

I am still looking for a game where the combat is short enough, but still tactically interesting. On my list of games I bought and want to try the most likely candidates are: Agemonia, Familiar Tales, and Kinfire Chronicles.
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