Dear friends and fellow gamers:
With the KS campaign for Tainted Grail approaching its end may I ask you all to indulge me and hear me out on my observations made during that campaign.
The Tainted Grail came with the promise of a deep story, enriched by wonderful expressive art. The story is written by a prolific Polish writer of Fantasy novels. In addition to that, the publisher Awaken Realms has proven that it is possible to build a board game injected with deep storytelling with the game This War Of Mine. I regard that game as a piece of art. I have watched all the play through videos available on YouTube at this moment and I have read all articles I could find regarding the gameplay for The Tainted Grail. And time after time I have been more convinced that The Tainted Grail will stand up to the task to give its players a wonderful story that is worth their time. But mind you, the story is gruesome. It touches on the darkest sides of the old legends and calls forth the Foimore, the red plague, and the monster that lies within human nature itself. Given the expressive character of the art the illustrations follow closely and are gorgeous and gruesome. Nothing for the faint hearted I might tell you.
For a story to be good, really good like a warm broth in the morning, it has to be humble in the beginning and glorious in the end. The publisher of Tainted Grail have always expressed their will to counter power play. Like with the game Mice and Mystic your character comes with inbuild weakness. Ahhh, does that sound familiar to us like Flea from the Disney classic Merlin and Mim or like Taran from the not lesser fabulous The Black Cauldron. Yes, those are the heroes our hearts are bound to. And this games comes with such underdogs, a plethora of them. And mind you those weaknesses are not supposed to go away. No, they stay with the character and force you to build around them, making the game into a personal endeavor. You play the second choice of the gods, those who are leftovers deemed unworthy in the first instance.
And when you follow these weakened souls on their journey through the tainted land of Avalon, carefully watching their steps, managing their health, actions, food and magic you feel the loneliness of a dying land taken over by an old magic called the Wyrd. Like a fog, only countered by the light of large menhirs, encroaches it your game board, shaped of wonderful designed playing cards, laid down like the tiles of a wondrous roof you do not dare to touch given its delicate and withered character, and takes them away from you. The game entitles you only to see through a narrow hole in the fog of war that hides Avalon from you. And like the astonishing board game The 7th Continent you are craving to see more, to explore more. And your character cries up to you to find more food, a secure place to sleep and dream and for more experience to fuel its never ending desire for character evolvement. The game is a constant balance between your own desire to explore and and longing of your alter ego on the game board for safety and growing expertise. This dualism is the main attraction for me.
And the game shows this Janus doubled face to you in the fighting system, too.
You guess it. It starts with a monster card filled with fine art and markings on its side. The inexperienced guest in the realm of faerie is immediately taken hostage by the art on the card and is immersed. You know what, he is under the spell of the little folk now and we must wait for his excitement to ebb down. But the eyes of the seasoned board gamer are caught immediately by the small markings on the side of the card. And that is where the real beauty lies, the encounter system. It is build around those nodes. They tell you what and were you can find entry into the encounter with this entity thrown your way. They are emulating smell, noise and sensation, the rush of blood in your ears and the shiver of cold air that surrounds you. And you are going through your limited hand of cards to find the cards that provide you with the key to the riddle that this encounter truly is in nature. Truly amazing, engaging and new to my humble self.
While all those impressions still hold there are certain flaws that show up during the campaign. May I ask you for a little more time of your busy schedule to show you the parts where this beautiful corpse is starting to rot.
There are unsettling reports about the qualities of game components that reach me from the depths of Reddit.
The user nkMEGA writes:
‘The thing with AR is that their decisions were really … not up to par for the amount of funding they have gotten. For four million USD from Nemesis, they provided a production that is not as close as their 3D renders (in which btw they only show 3D render or resin – better material than plastic – to advertise), bad cardstock that worn down quickly for a game that requires you to shuffle and hold cards on hand all the time, and a rulebook with bad grammar even when the backer community had alerted them loudly about their major grammar problems weeks before production started.
They just shipped Nemesis now and only after many reports of bad minis, finally decided to hire their very first quality control person to improve production quality. Meaning 1st wave backers paid more just to be a test run with bad presentation.’
‘I brought up that point when I saw my friend’s personal copy of Nemesis got worn out only after 1 game, because he was impatient to get sleeves for the cards. Another one had his copy of LoH and he also said the same. Most people I talked to dismissed my concern and said just buy sleeves. But at what point that it’s up to the consumer to be responsible to make the cards sturdy and pristine?’
Regarding the quality of the miniatures that are included in the prototype for reviewers my fellow backer and YouTube reviewer King of Average told me personally that no one should back this game because of the quality of the miniatures but because of the story and the art. I want to express my thanks to him and direct your gaze to his excellent YouTube Channel. If you like his work make sure to subscribe.
The Reddit user nkMega reports about the quality:
‘Nemesis just shipped and the game presentation was … sub-par. Heroes minis are small and details are not there. 1st wave backers will and can get a bad batch if they didn’t choose sun-drop option. Adult aliens show decent details and only the Queen is the redeeming mini of the set.’
On December the 22th Awaken Realms revealed via KS Live and Update # 20 that they will grant a download code for a video game of The Tainted Grail, OST, app with a voice-over of the story for free to all backers. This decision was triggered by the overall success of the KS for the board game, they continue. This free gift was cheered by many, especially those who are enjoying pc games equally or even more than board games and of course by all who are concerned about having to read the texts of the game out loud themselves.
This announcement raised some eyebrows with all who are more deeply involved into the creation of video games or are following the actual happenings in that segment of gaming. At his point in time we can observe the failing of triple A publishers in their attempt to create video games that are really good. It seems that those publishers are more concerned about injecting their triple A games with in game micro transactions and loot boxes. For more information about that I want to point you to the YouTube channels of YongYea and Jim Sterling. Many publishers are now more concerned with creating a constant inflow of cash from their gamers. You could argue that this is all well and good because they are bound to make money. But keep in mind that those gamers have already payed about USD 60 for those games only to find that those games are made grindiger and hard to play to sell those micro transactions to ease the gameplay. That is fine with a free to play game.
And here we find the free to play video game from Awaken Realms. They are eager to join those companies and get their share of the video game market which is currently changing its main focus from producing good games into providing live services.
May I quote a very talented gentleman and knight of the Empire that goes by the name of Terry Pratchett:
‘Taxation, gentleman, is very much like dairy farming. The task is to extract the maximum amount of milk with the minimum amount of moo.’
And despite all expertise and long years of producing video games we find that many of those highly experienced video game publishers are going under. Telltale Games, maker of The Walking Dead with 275 employees closed 10 studios. EA despite holding worldwide licenses for many beloved IP like Marvel, Star Wars and Bat Man has closed dozens of studios including previously acquired ones like Westwood and Black Box Games. Visceral, creator of Dead Space and Battlefield Hardline with at least 80 employees closed the gates. And mind you the shit storm that is caused by Blizzard with their decision to go for the free to play mobile phone market instead of concentrating on a long awaited new game for pc. Right now Blizzard is reducing the number of their employees worldwide to counter the meager revenues of this year.
And into this turbulent market Awaken Realms want to venture. They have earned a solid reputation with board gamers. But they have no such leverage in the video segment of gaming. Hence it seems possible that they will fail with this endeavor. In addition to that they do not rely on the service of any experienced third party like CMON does with Blood Rage Digital. Awaken Realms stated that they will develop their video game in house. This rose the questions how both projects are interlinked? They told us that both projects are relying on separate funds and that different teams are working on the projects. In the very same update they also announced that both teams will be connected and share Human Resources contradicting their former statement. And while update number 20 went online they were including a new pledge level for the video game only contradicting their former statement about strict separated fundings for both projects. May I add that the strict separated funding of projects could only be assured with the construct of two separate companies handling both tasks independly, but joining their efforts through a joint venture to grant a cooperate identity and seamless game design.
Many backer were toughed by the excitement of the co-producer and owner of Awaken Realms Marcin Swiercot. He was quite passionate about the video game project and happy to give it to the backers for free.
But may I add that despite I am touched by his excitement I am still not convinced by the gift. The gift comes tied in with the high risks of venturing into the video game market. To buffer that risk he invites his backers to follow him into that market with this free copy of the video game, creating an instant power base.
And the excitement he shows comes to me as an ill wind because we already know that Awaken Realms tended to wrong business decisions in the past leaving them poorly equipment to survive in a market full of hard fighting giants like EA and Activision. Those are steered by financial experts and not by idealists. And I am nervous about the fact that inexperienced idealists are putting the fundings of this KS campaign, that has started for a board game only, at such a high risk. They tend to support their dreams by all means and with all resources they have reign over, meaning our pledged money for the board game
The reddit user nkMEGA reminded us:
‘They just shipped Nemesis now and only after many reports of bad minis, finally decided to hire their very first quality control person to improve production quality.
Meaning 1st wave backers paid more just to be a test run with bad presentation.
Not to mention the fiasco with retail version of This War of Mine expansions. They did not handle well that gave the retail publisher the right to completely make expansions bought during KS campaign obsolete. Anyone who wants to play retail version of the expansions will have to give up their KS version. If you’re not a collector, then you’re not really affected by it, but let’s say you got the free KS expansion and now want to buy other add-ons during retail, then you have to give up playing your KS ones.’
If you ask me how I assess those impressions and proceed with my pledge I answer to you that I will keep my pledge because I see the wonderful game I have fallen in love with still, despite the changes in the general framework made by Awaken Realms.
I do not expect them to fall prey to their own desire to venture into the video game market segment. But I think the production will be delayed further than even I have predicted right from the start. Hence I will go for a two wave delivery to receive the core box as soon as possible while moaning the far away expansions . And I will grudingly go for the sleeves, too, despite I do not sleeve my games on a regular basis. And I will choose sun drop for the miniatures to make sure that I get double-checked quality.
May I thank you for the time you spared reading my words.
Keep in mind that those are the view points of only me and me alone.