Now, let me set a few ground rules. The game must have an official solo version, it can’t be something like Pandemic Legacy Season 1, which I played solo, but officially, by the rules, isn’t a solo game. I will say though, I haven’t played…
Tag: Malts and Meeples
It’s been a couple of weeks, but I’m back again with more Tainted Grail. Last time I had said that I was considering playing ahead to the point where I had lost last time, but I decided that I was going to take more time…
A long time ago, I wrote an article about beer and homebrewing. And if you’ve watched the Malts and Meeples videos, you’ll see me enjoying a good beer, though, none that I’ve homebrewed recently. Homebrewing is one of those hobbies that got set to the side for a little while, but that I’ve always loved and want to get back into, and then at GenCon I demoed a game called Homebrewers. I thought that the game was fun, but decided not to pick it up right away, and then later it was sold out. Fast forward a few months and I picked it up and just a few days ago, I got it to the table again.
In Homebrewers, you play one of several unique homebrewers who are trying to brew their best beers for Summerfest and Oktoberfest. You’re brewing beers in four different categories; ales, porters, stouts, and IPA. To do this, you are rolling dice on your turn which will give you actions that can be sanitizing the brew system, adding grain, adding ingredients, and brewing beer. Every time you brew a type of beer it goes up on a track which will determine if you come in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in Summerfest or Oktoberfest. The ingredients are one area, besides each homebrewer has a unique power, where you add ingredients to your beer and it can make your beer worth more, or teach you something to improve another beer, or give you extra quality on the beer that you brewed so you advance you further on that beers track. At the end of the game, the person with the most points from the beer that they’ve brewed and prizes they’ve gotten, and goals they’ve completed wins the game.
The dice adds in a random nature to the game as you can roll them once. But to help counteract that, if you roll all of the same symbol you can reroll. Plus, you can always pay a dollar to tip the side a die is on to another side. So you have some control over the dice, it just costs you something. But if you’re out of money, which can happen, it isn’t the end of the world because after the dice are rolled players can trade a die for a die to get something what they might want. So if I have two dice that will allow me to either get or play a card, and I only want one of them, I could trade that other one to another player for something that I might need, such as sanitizing that I didn’t roll. That way you never feel completely stuck with what you’ve rolled and the dice don’t feel too random.
Homebrewers, at it’s core, is an engine building game. When you brew a beer, the ingredients on that beer can do several things for you. It can improve the quality of the beer, it can improve the quality of an adjacent beer, it can give you money, or copy one of those previous ones. These ingredients are the cards that you can get and put into play. I like that you can use the cards for building your brewing engine, but what the cards don’t give you, when you brew, is any extra grain, or sanitizing or anything like that, it’s just the things I mentioned above, like money. But all the cards are multipurpose. If you use them as an ingredient in brewing, they stick around on that type of beer for the rest of the game. But, you can also use the play card action to play the card for another effect. This could be sanitizing and getting a grain, getting two grain, or sanitizing twice. It might be a lot of money one time or it might be a bunch of points. So for every ingredient card you have to consider how you’re going to use it, do you want to play it for brewing a beer, or do you want the other things on it as a one time use. This also helps balance out the die rolls. Because if I have the ability to play a card and get two grain for brewing and I have two other dice that let me brew, I got a combo that I can work with.
In terms of engine builders, this is a pretty fast game, I think that some engine builders can overstay their welcome, for some, late game, because turns might take a long time because one thing triggers another thing which triggers another thing, and the turn cascades. In Homebrewers, the game lasts 8 months, so 8 rounds, at the start you’re not doing much, at the end, you’re doing a little bit more. You have some engine in play, but it isn’t a massive one, and it’s not going to cause itself to trigger multiple times or anything like that. Last time I played, and I needed to refresh myself on rules and teaching it, the game maybe took an hour and that was with teaching and looking up a symbol or two. If I were to play it again with the same person, I think we’d get through a game of it in half an hour. The game is pretty light for an engine builder as well, which keeps the game time down and the combo building simpler.
I do want to touch on the components a little bit. normally I don’t that much because game components are game components. But this one has nice custom dice, good card quality, and a nice board. The part that really stands out, though is the custom beer glass wooden pieces. There are five colors, and each of them has their own, unique, set of wood beer glasses. It’s just really cute and well done. And Tom Vasel in the Dice Tower review, because he doesn’t drink beer, that that they were odd bottles not glasses. Overall, this has really nice pieces and they are vibrant and look good on the table. The only odd thing about it, and I think that this is probably for a future expansion, all of the ingredient cards say if they are organic or not. All the cards, say that they are organic. So I’m guessing at some point in time there will be an expansion with other ingredients that aren’t raised organically and that they might behave slightly differently.
Overall, I like this game a lot. It’s a very fast engine building game with a theme that I really enjoy. If you don’t homebrew, will you enjoy this game? Yes, if you like beer. Because it is tied to the theme fairly well, I think that if you enjoy beer you’ll enjoy this game more. Not to say that if you don’t drink you won’t like this game, it’ll just lose some of it’s charm. Because one of the parts I like is when you add in ingredients, you can end up asking yourself stuff like, would I really want to drink a nutmeg and bacon ale? Probably not, but that blackberry stout, that sounds amazing. And, let’s be honest, I’d try any beer once with the ingredients in the game.
Overall Grade: B+
Gamer Grade: B
Casual Grade: B+
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I was back last night with a live stream of Tainted Grail on Twitch. And now the video is also up on the Youtube channel. Thank you to those who checked out the stream. I don’t tend to announce too far ahead, but my plan…
There are some of these larger campaign games, Sword & Sorcery, Gloomhaven, and Tainted Grail, that can be hard to get a review done quickly. That’s simply because you need to play several chapters or scenarios to really get an idea of the game. So I’m going to start a new series of almost reviews called Behind The Box Cover. I will come back and do a TableTopTake later, but the idea is to get something out there on the game faster.
I’m going to start with Tainted Grail which I’ve just started playing. I did an unboxing and some game play on the Malts and Meeples Youtube Channel, so I’ll have the videos in here at the bottom so you can watch them. But I’ve only done about 30-45 minutes of game play in the videos and I’ve done the learn to play scenario that comes in the box to teach you the mechanics so you don’t need to read the rule book fully in order get the game onto the table.
Tainted Grail is a massive story driven game where you are playing in the land of Avalon. This isn’t some grand Arthurian adventure, though, Avalon is a land between realms which King Arthur and his knights fought for and claimed inch by inch, and that was 500 years ago. They erected Menhir, statues that can drive back the Wyrdness that corrupts the land, but now the Menhir are starting to fail and the land of Avalon is being claimed again by the Wyrdness. So, you’re some adventurer who was tasked with going out and finding a way to save Avalon? Not quite. There were more heroic people than you out there and they went off first to make it to Kamelot, but they haven’t come back. You’re part of the b team, those who weren’t quite good enough to go the first time, and you’re just hoping to find some answer.
What drew me into this game originally was the setting. The grim fantasy nature of trying to survive this darker version of Arthurian Legend just seemed fascinating. It wasn’t the standard sword and sorcery (not just the game, but that genre of fantasy) fantasy setting where you were epic heroes, in this game, you’re just barely more than being some guy. So while you are going to be the main character of the story, you might not be considered heroic to those in the lands. Plus, the fact that this is so driven by the setting and the story in the setting is awesome. There is so much text, I’m not sure how many total different location cards there are, but there are a ton of them, and the exploration journal is massive in which you read story. Compared to some other campaign games that I’ve played, this one is much more focused on the story.
But let’s talk a little bit about how the game works. During the day, you have a certain number of action points that you can take that then reset every day. You can either move around, explore a location or do some sort of special action. The game has a fun mechanic where you can push yourself for more actions on a given day, but that tires you out so you can’t do as much the following day. It’s one of those mechanics that makes sense in the game thematically because it makes sense in the real world. If you push yourself too hard one day, you’re not going to be up for doing as much the next day. What I also like about the things you can do during the day is that they aren’t that difficult, you’re mainly going to be moving and exploring locations. The rules for those things are straight forward.
Let’s talk a little bit more about exploring. Exploring really drives the game as it helps you figure out where you need to find things and brings the story together. When you explore a location you get to delve into the massive book that contains all of the story, and the book is massive. And with exploring, you might be able to do several different things, or if you have certain statuses or are a certain character, it’ll unlock different things for you. For example, in my first play, had I been playing Maggot instead of Arev, I could have done something different at the second location I explored. Or when I took an exploration action in the first day, I ended up getting a status for it. The fact that the story will branch and change depending on the statuses that you have, and because of choices you make, you might get a different ending to the campaign, that is awesome, and a testament to the writing that Awaken Realms put into the game.
I think that the other thing I should talk about is the encounters. This, being such a story driven game, seems like it should have some more focus on dice rolling, kind of the normal ameritrash style mechanics. But, we don’t have those at all. Combat and Diplomatic encounters is really focused on an interesting card play mechanic. When you go into an encounter, you draw a hand of cards and you play them down chaining symbols together. These, depending on the move can give you more damage or could allow you some card draw or another affect like ignoring damage in an attack. It makes combat and diplomacy much more of a puzzle to solve, and there are a lot of times when you don’t need to solve the puzzle, you need to escape and taking an opportunity attack is going to be better than taking damage, especially if you’re low on food, because when you’re dead, you could restart to the last save point, or you could just need to restart the game. This is a mechanic that some people might not love, but I think it has a bit of a Gloomhaven feel, mainly for the fact that you’re using cards, but it’s really about creating this combat or diplomacy set-up where it can chain into what you need.
So I’m already able to talk about a lot of stuff, because the mechanics are well thought out and I have already experienced a number of them, but since it’s such a story driven game, I want to get through Chapter 1 before I really determine how well I like the game. Right now, through the limited play and tutorial, I have it rated as a 9.5-10 out of 10, and I think it’ll stay around there, but will the grim nature of the story eventually wear out it’s welcome, we’ll have to see. I believe that Awaken Realms is going to do some sort of retail release, because this game was a kickstarter and if you didn’t get in on that or the late pledge, you can’t get back in on it between waves, but if you like heavy story driven games where the story really matters, I’d say that Tainted Grail is going to be solid for you, like it is for me. The combat/diplomacy might be a bit trickier to get into, because it’s different than your normal ameritrash mechanics.
If you were part of the game and have played your kickstarter copy or gotten your kickstarter copy, what do you think of the game so far? If you weren’t part of the kickstarter, with reviews and the game getting talked about, what do you think about it? Do you wish you’d gotten it?
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New video up on the Malts and Meeples Youtube/Twitch channel. It is a bit shorter game than some, but it’s also not game play, it’s just an unboxing of Tainted Grail.
Tainted Grail is a big story driven game from Awaken Realms who have done games like Nemesis and Lords of Hellas. In Tainted Grail, you play as not that heroic characters who are pulled into adventuring as the Menhir (statues that drive back the wyrdness) are starting to go out. Can you keep them lit in order to complete the quests? It’s a story game, but also a survival game as you are dealing with diplomatic and combat encounters. I don’t spoil any cards in the video, don’t worry, or the adventure journal which really drives the game.
The beer last night was from O’Dell Brewing Co. A big barrel aged beer, I really enjoyed Barreled Treasure Imperial Stout. It’s barrel aged as I said with cold brew coffee as well. I think it’s a beer that is better a bit warmer because you get more of the flavors. It’s also sitting at 11%, so a good beer for a cold winter night.
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