Tobias F
Germany
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Tobaius Is Not A Cylon
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TL;DR: This game is easily among the most immersive board games I have played so far. Imagine a Pen&Paper that receives the least but necessary condensation to fit a board game format, and there you have it. A definite Must-Buy for me.


Preface: I will not go into detail regarding backstory and detailed how-to-play – there are a couple of professional videos and text reviews up by now explaining all that. What I will do is tell a few anecdotes of our own personal experience at SPIEL ESSEN during the closed demo. If you were expecting the former, this is not the “review” you are looking for; instead, if you can indulge an early 80s-guy telling some camp fire stories, then this might be to your liking.


How it came to be
So…. I was at Essen this year and Fortuna smiled upon me as I happened upon a play slot for the closed-room-demo, along with 2 other friends (one playing, one as a spectator as slot 3 had been taken) during a time when apparently 2 people with RSVP hadn’t shown up (truly your loss, guys!). After a brief and cordial conversation with Marcin, we entered, took our seats and got an explanation of the backstory, followed by the mechanics necessary to attempt the first few rounds of Chapter 1. We were spared an explanation-overflow of topics and mechanics that are yet to be encountered during longer campaign play, so we were set up good for our own play.


Love – and slight irritation – at first sight
When we sat down, my first thought after seeing the 9 location tarot-format-cards on the table was “aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper…?”. I wondered how anything but little could happen on this seemingly small setting: a Menhir fending off the Wyrdness but failing over time (hence the coin at its feet as a timer to erect a new menhir in a different location), a ruin-adorned outback, a village plagued by white fungal growth, an arena for the brave and the ones with nothing left to lose, dark and damp forests, a hillside and meadows promising deer hunts and other essentials. A more detailed picture quickly started to form in my mind, by itself filling the meadows with sweeping winds and the sound of birds, a murder of crows ominously circling the failing menhir, children and men and women sick with the effects of the fungus, the clash of swords and spears and shields amongst the cheers of the frantic crowd… Then, in all his quiet wisdom, my inner Obi-Wan told me “Your eyes can deceive you”.


So it came to pass
“… that the strong but outcast Beor (played by the gentleman with the reservation for this play slot), the druid and recovering destruction-addict Maggot (played by my buddy Felipe) and the orphaned Wyrdness-survivor Ailei (played by me) set out to investigate the menhir and get the feel of the lands surrounding it and to find a suitable place to erect a new menhir to ward off the returning Wyrndess. We are by no standards “heroes”; we are not legends – not yet, anyway. We are the proud & struggling B-team (Z-team might be the cynic’s choice of term here…) and we are determined!”

“Beor, ever the short-tempered muscle of the group, headed for a challenge at the arena, so he headed west. In pursuit of coin & glory, Beor faced his first challenger, a hedge knight looking for glory in this forsaken land. The wannabe-knight stood no chance against Beor’s mighty Warhammer, sheer strength and skill in close combat, so the former had to leave the arena severely bruised and bloodied. Had we had more time, Beor would have faced the next (and stronger) challenger until he either claimed the title of “champion” (given the glint in his eyes, that seemed to be his wish) or tap out and take his earnings with him. This would certainly not have been the last time that Beor was to entertain the crowd with his prowess.”

“Meanwhile, Ailei figured that she needed to search for a suitable menhir-spot, as she would otherwise have difficulty recovering from the strains of her adventures during this day. She set out north to hunt some deer and go fishing in order to provide her companions and herself with nourishment. While she was out catching some carps and trouts, an idea formed in her mind: the fungus-plagued and famished village to the North-East could use some of her spoils as well…”

“The druid, as of yet without preference as to where in the blazes he should venture – blazes, yes, how nice would some arcane blazes be right now… stop it! No destructive thoughts! – Maggot chose to follow Ailei as she could hardly fend off the physical dangers of these lands while armed almost solely with herbal lore and empathy. Ah well, let the brute have his fun and instead follow and watch over the fishing girl. And, maybe – just maybe – someone or something might be in dire need of some arcane… lessons!”

“Expecting a warm – or at least human – welcome when Ailei and Maggot arrived at the village, they were instead greeted by a flock of cadaver-eating, flesh-rending crows of above-average size and numbers. Luckily for Ailei, Maggot had the sense to back her up against this threat as she alone would have been in dire straits all by herself. Together, they sliced and warded, evaded and blasted the creatures, but not without cost. This feathery endeavor left both companions near exhaustion, slightly bruised but exhilarated by the adrenaline-filled and victorious carnage – with Maggot bearing the lion’s share of the task and Ailei as the supporting scout & scoundrel. Subsequently, they approached the starved and fungus-affected villagers and chose to aid them in their plight by sharing their spoils of the hunt and fishing trip, thus aiding the locals in curing themselves from their ailment. The kind and thankful people offered trinkets and small riches, but the two companions refused that compensation and instead leave these people to their newly found hope, they themselves now having made a name for themselves and being more experienced.”

“And so concludes our first adventure into the lands of Avalon. (*closes-the-book-and-looks-intently-at-the-children-listening-attentively*). And if you go to bed now and behave tomorrow, I might tell you what happened next with Beor, Ailei and Maggot.” (*children-protesting-but-relenting*)

............
=> Alas, back to Real-Life and this forum post: this was it! Our time at the Awaken Realms booth with Marcin had come to a close. We had an absolute blast and when Marcin tactfully returned us to being at a gaming table instead of a world filled with wonders, challenges and superb immersion, I looked back at the 9 location tarot-format-cards and smiled: these once-little cards had become an entire world and I hadn’t even felt the transition.


What remains to be said for now:
….is…. “Thank you!”. Thanks for that opportunity to delve into the world you guys created and for giving us the chance to shape our own destinies therein. This was not a “guided” play-testing (as many other exhibitors had done during SPIEL, e.g. “I suggest you do X” and “It’s recommended to do Y here”) and the only time Marcin intervened was when Maggot and Ailei were to face an enemy that would have proven to a much bigger threat than our carcass-eating soon-to-be-dead birds. This game is amazing and you can bet your druid-hats, war hammers and herbal tinctures that I will join the pledges once the kickstarter is live. If you like immersion (we had 5 choices of how to deal with the village, and after sharing the food, we had another 3! – no idea what else could have happened and what alternative consequences could have carried over to the rest of the campaign!), then this is the game for you. May the Lady in the Lake watch over you & all hail Arthur, King of Avalon!

Cheers,
T
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Frank Calcagno
United States
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Beautiful.
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Shadow Fane
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Thanks, Tobias! Really amazing review. I’m very much looking forward to this game.
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Kevin
United States
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Thanks for sharing your experiences! It's nice hear some how the game played without the focus being on the game mechanics or components.
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Eric dK
Netherlands
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Great review! I love the way you immediately feel immersed in your story. I saw it in Essen as well and I cannot wait for it to KS.
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Mario Engel
Germany
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Thanks for the amazing review. You absolutely sold me on the game.
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Vadim Deylgat
Belgium
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I was also one of the lucky few in essen, to be in a closed session of Tainted Grail. This game is something special.

I couldn't have written a better report than Tobias though.
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Tobias F
Germany
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Tobaius Is Not A Cylon
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Thanks for your positive feedback guys. I am glad and happy about how many aficionados felt a probably similar immersion just by reading by the story we shaped for ourselves in the AR booth at Essen.

Back when I wrote this review, I didn't think the KS would start that soon - and I am not complaining Once this game reaches those of us who decide to back it, we all will have many more and much longer & intertwining stories to tell than what I could compile here from my comparatively brief and highly immersive encounter with this amazing game.

Have a good one guys! Time to check the KS page (again) and its current funding level + SGs
 
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