KS Spotlight: Tainted Grail

Tainted Grail

One of the biggest Kickstarter projects of last year was The 7th Continent.  It garnered a massive $7 million in pledges from over 40,000 backers.  It was a sprawling, survival, adventure game where cards formed an expanding continent.  I loved it.

So when someone recommended Tainted Grail to me as being a dark fantasy version of The 7th Continent, but better, I was immediately hooked!

It is currently on Kickstarter (finishing on 28th December) and achieved well over $1 million in funding in the first day!  It is already one of the top 100 most-funded projects ever on Kickstarter (not just boardgames) and it is less than a week in at the time of writing.

Interested?  Let me tell you about it…


A Menhir

It is loosely based on the Arthurian legends, but the world is falling apart, darkness is rapidly encroaching and the future looks bleak.  One interesting aspect is that all the heroes have gone off on a quest to find the source of the darkness and eliminate it, but unfortunately, none of them has returned and the darkness shows no signs of abating.  Who can combat it?

Enter the B-Team.  Players take on characters with serious flaws: festering wounds, addictions, trauma…  They’re certainly not heroes and you have to manage each of their shortcomings while trying to complete your adventure.

It’s a co-operative game in which you explore the land, but fighting against the darkness is a constant problem.  Players have to light huge braziers called Menhirs (represented by fantastic miniatures) which provide light to the surrounding area.

You can only explore terrain cards adjacent to these Menhirs, so to explore further, you need to find and light more Menhirs.  To add to the tension, the Menhirs will go out over time allowing the darkness to sweep in, which will prevent you from returning to terrain cards that are no longer lit.

Providing a bucket-load of theme is the exploration journal: a giant book full of potential encounters.  If you decide to explore at a particular location on one of the terrain cards, you consult the relevant entry in the journal.

Tainted Grail - Journal

Each encounter is like a mini-choose-your-own-adventure.  You can make decisions about which path to take based on your character’s strengths and weaknesses.  There are two crucially different approaches when resolving many encounters though: combat or diplomacy.

Tainted Grail - Map

Each character has two sets of stats: aggression, courage and practicality for combat, and empathy, caution and spirituality for diplomacy.  As you gain experience points from encounters, you can spend them to level up your stats, but there is a trade-off.  The more aggressive you become, the harder it becomes to develop empathy.  Each stat is paired in this way.

This provides some interesting character-development decisions.  You can become very good at diplomacy, but then you’ll struggle in a fight.  These are not well-rounded characters, that’s for sure.

Combat and diplomatic encounters are both resolved through card play.  You have separate decks of cards for combat and diplomacy – in fact, one of the things you can spend your experience points on is improving these decks.

Tainted Grail - Card Chaining

Each card has symbols on the left and right and you have to match the symbols and chain them together in the most effective way to defeat the creature you are fighting, or successfully negotiate with the merchant you are bartering with, for example.  It’s unusual.

I’m a sucker for any kind of adventure game and backed it as soon as the campaign went live.  Tainted Grail isn’t for everyone though.  When they say dark fantasy, they mean it.  Some of the storylines can be pretty grim.

It’s published by Awaken Realms who did This War of Mine, so if you’re familiar with that, you’ll know that they don’t pull their punches when it comes to macabre narrative.  If that doesn’t put you off, it should be a very rich game given the amount of funding it’s receiving.  I for one can’t wait!

Have you had a chance to look at it?  What do you think?

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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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