Board Game Battle – Adventure Games
It’s been a long time since I did one of these, and this is prompted because of playing Sleeping Gods recently. Let’s talk about games that are adventure games with a story driven lean to them. Much like Sleeping Gods, which, today is facing off again Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon.
What Are Adventure Games?
Adventure games are going to be story driven games where you make choices, explore, and maybe even fight monsters. Both Sleeping Gods and Tainted Grail are adventure games in a fantasy setting. But adventure games don’t need to be fantasy. I game I backed on Gamefound, ISS Vanguard, is going to be an adventure game with an emerging story, exploration, and combat, but that is set in space.
In this case, both adventure games are campaign driven. Technically Sleeping Gods isn’t a campaign, but a game takes 10-20 hours on average to play. It is unlikely that anyone will play it all in one sitting. And if you do, that probably means that things went poorly for you. Tainted Grail is a more traditional campaign game where it is split into chapters. But there are adventure games, like Zona: The Secret of Chernobyl that are one off games that would fall into that category, or another game from Red Raven Games, Near and Far can be played like that as well.
Let’s Meet the Adventure Games Contenders
In Sleeping Gods you are the crew of the Manticore, a ship taken to another world. You were brought here to search for a way to awaken the sleeping gods. To do that, you must find totems. But in a new land, you don’t know where anything is. So that means you explore around, talk to the people of the land, and find clues and quests that might lead you to totems. Some of the inhabitants are peaceful though, so you will need to fight.
Tainted Grail: The Fall of Avalon
Tainted Grail is a grim dark retelling of Arthurian legends, where Arthur took the knights of the round table and his people to the land of Avalon. A land that is almost between two worlds or is being held there. However, Arthur is long dead. And things are falling apart. You need to try and hold back the the wyrdness which is threatening to take over the lands again. But do you know enough to be able to do that? And will the people of the lands listen to you?
Compare and Constrast
Both of the games use story books as a way of conveying what is happening. When you explore you flip to a certain spot and read the text. In Sleeping Gods, you might be made to go down a path if you do or don’t have a keyword on a card. In Tainted Grail, your path might be set if you are in a certain chapter or do or don’t have a status yet. Both are very similar, but Tainted Grail comes with an app. You do not need to use the app, but if you do, it narrates everything for you.
Combat is very different between the two. In Sleeping Gods, you play out the monsters in front of you and then activate your crew. The monsters are adjacent to each other. Since they are, that allows you to hit multiple ones at the same time. You do that by picking a crew member to activate and then flipping a card to see if they hit their target.
Tainted Grail, on the other hand, that one is all about card play for combat. You only face off against one opponent at a time. And this isn’t always a combat encounter, sometimes it can be a diplomacy encounter. Then you try and string cards together to defeat the combatant or to resolve the diplomacy.
In both cases, if the combatant is still alive, they will retaliate. Generally that is damage, but it can be a few different things. In Sleeping Gods, the combatants also have an end of round ability for once all the crew have activated. Tainted Grail, it just activates between every characters action.
Let’s talk about story progression before we get into character progression. In the case of Sleeping Gods, the story is just one giant thing. But really it is a lot of little things. There is no break point in your story where the goals change. You never stop to reset to anything new. You just keep going. The closest thing is when you run out of event cards and it gives you something to read.
Tainted Grail, on the flip side, has chapters. You play through one massive story, but the story is split into fifteen different chapters. So as you progress, you goals might change. You start trying to light the Menhir, statues that drive back the wyrdness, and by the end, well, let’s just say that it changes up a lot.
Both games also give you ways to level up your characters in the way of experience to spend. In Tainted Grail, each character gains their experience separately. In Sleeping Gods it is one big pool. Which makes sense because you are playing as the crew.
Another big difference is that Tainted Grail has you leveling up stats and adding cards once you reach a point. Sleeping Gods is basically just giving a character a new ability for leveling up. Don’t get me wrong, the abilities are good, but it is less stat focused than Tainted Grail. So it is less granular in how you can level characters up.
Finally, we have skill checks. Both of them use them. In Tainted Grail it is rolling a die and then adding in whatever ability you might have. With Sleeping Gods, it is flipping a fate card and adding that to whomever you brought into the skill check. Both of them are similar with about the same level of randomness.
Head to Head Adventure Games Battle
Since I did a board game battle a little bit differently this time, let’s do some comparisons and see if/which any have an advantage in any of the areas that I highlighted. Plus a few more of theme, mechanics, and ease of play.
These are very similar. Extremely similar in fact, but right now Tainted Grail will get the nod because of the fact it has an app. Now, I don’t mind reading and reading out loud the story for the stream. I might be doing that even if it was on an app. But for game play and immersion I think that app gives.
For combat, the advantage definitely goes to Tainted Grail. Both I find interesting, and both I like better than straight die rolling. But I feel like I can be cleverer when playing Tainted Grail. A downside to that, though is that it often takes longer to get through combat. Sleeping Gods, you just pick who you want to attack and go with it.
This one is tougher because both of them progress so differently. Whereas Tainted Grail has a more directed story in what you are doing, how Ryan Laukat and his wife managed to create an open world story is impressive. The whole game of Sleeping Gods feels like it has an arc just from the little direction. For me, I think this one is a draw.
This one is also interesting, but I do have a clear winner. For me, I prefer the Tainted Grail character progression. The more free form character progression with XP spending and level-up cards, it works for Sleeping Gods. Mainly because you play as the whole team not one character. But Tainted Grail really allows you to customize your character over time. I could take a great combat character and make them great a diplomacy by the end if I wanted to.
This one, like I said, they are similar, but I prefer Sleeping Gods version. Is flipping a card that less random than rolling a die, no, not really But it feels like more control. And I can bring in characters to help and make it more likely to succeed. But doing so is a cost something. And the more you do it, the more it can cost. Versus the simpler version that is Tainted Grail where the additional numbers are basically always on.
This isn’t going to be that exciting. It is a tie. I love both of the themes a lot. I don’t always want to play in a dark fantasy world, but sometimes I do. So either of them works really well for me. And I think that the theme, because of the heavy story elements, really is there in the game.
This one is trickier. I think that Sleeping Gods mechanics are easier, but I prefer Tainted Grail‘s mechanics. For both fo the games the most mechanically heavy part of the game is the combat. And I prefer Tainted Grail’s combat. In terms of the rest of how the game works, it’s really close. Both of them are very easy to do. Tainted Grail, overall gives you more flexibility in what you can do. You want to explore, move, explore, move, explore some day, you can. For Sleeping Gods, that’s two and a half rounds.
Ease of Play
Another close one, but I do have one that I prefer. I think that Sleeping Gods is a bit easier to play. Both of these are big table hog games. They take time to set-up, they take time to tear down. But with Sleeping Gods there is less to track between sessions of the game. And the storage system is really nice for saving what there characters have. Granted, that’s just a ziplock bag, but since the characters have less it is nice.
I think that I prefer Tainted Grail but I also have more time in the land of Avalon than in the world of Sleeping Gods. Mechanically it offers more interesting to choices, but I really do like both. And I think I’d play both solo, but I’d play them with different groups of people. My campaign group would enjoy both. But I’d play Sleeping Gods with my wife because Tainted Grail might be a bit too much to track. Sleeping Gods is that little bit simpler but still big and epic adventure game.
Have you played both, which do you prefer? If you haven’t, does one interest you more than the other? Let me know in the comments below.