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Early Impressions: Tainted Grail: Kings of Ruins from Awaken Realms

There are a lot of fantastic narrative-based board games but so many of them have problems in my opinion. Recently, I’ve been playing Tainted Grail: Kings of Ruin, and while there may be issues with the game that I haven’t found out yet, the experience so far has been phenomenal. Kings of Ruin is doing exactly what I want from a narrative base game. There’s great storytelling, fantastic experiences throughout, and interesting characters to interact with. Doing this game with friends or family is phenomenal and while it could be a solo experience I think it’s best with at least two players. Why exactly do I love this game so much? Let’s dive into my early impressions of the game, what’s working for me, and if there is anything I’d like to see changed.


I think one of the biggest barriers to this game is just getting the game unboxed and sorted. As an original Game Found campaign, the box itself is built for all the stretch goals and optional extras that was released during the campaign. It would’ve been nice to get a sheet in the box indicating what content was in the retail version and that specific empty spots in the box would be filled if you purchased additional content. One specific instance of confusion is that the additional character minis that were included in the stretch goals are also included in the bass game. However, the boards you need to play those characters are not included in the bass game. I believe this highlights one of the minor, and I’ll say minor, issues that someone might face when unboxing the game, and uncertain where to start or how to get going.

All of that being said, it only took me about an hour to punch all the boards, sort all the cards, and get everything ready for my first game. One thing I love about Awaken Realms is that when they release games like this, they include a how to play tutorial mission which has its own deck of cards, its own separate manual, and more. This makes getting started and learning all the basic rules very easy and very intuitive. I think this is a fantastic way to introduce new players to this game, and I wish more game status. While reading the rulebook is still essential, I think this alleviates the concern about a thick rulebook and potentially complicated systems by breaking it down bit by bit, learning as you play.


What struck me right away, both in the tutorial mission that teaches you had to play, and in chapter one of the main campaign, was how fantastic the writing is throughout. Everything seems to flow together very nicely, and the book itself is just great to read, and great to explore. The game includes an optional downloadable app on Android or iOS. While the voice acting in the app is fantastic, we felt it was a little bit slow, and opted to read the content ourselves. However, for a more immersive experience, the app is definitely the way to go. The app itself just proves how much work and dedication Awaken Realms put into the experience, and it’s proof to me that what you’re about to play is going to be very, very good.

The way the Kings of Ruin utilizes cards and builds its worlds is nothing new. It was used in the previous Tainted Grail, it was used in 7th Continent, and I’m sure it’s been used in other games as well. But the way the world builds out, flipping cards to clear the Wryd (mist), building shrines to help with this, and more, is fantastic. I love how the game doesn’t (at least not yet) tie you too much to a “timer” and force you to make decisions you don’t want to make. There are often options, often opportunities buried in the various places you can explore. I love that! I enjoy turning over every rock, looking in every tree, etc. I want to explore it all, and the game so far has let me do that.

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I also love the day system. You get so many actions each day, and when those are up, your day is over and you enter the night phase, essentially prepping you for another day. Certain tiles will have time tokens that will count down and force things to happen, so keeping tabs on those is also a lot of fun. Sometimes time tokens will delay you getting to talk to someone, having to survive just a bit longer. Other times, time tokens will eventually spawn new enemies to fight, or other things to explore and investigate. It just works. It works so well.

All of this is made so much better because of the fantastic presentation and production value. Sure, cool miniature resources cost extra, and unless you have a spare $100 kicking around, you’ll have to use cardboard standees for enemies instead of miniatures. But the quality through is great. The card quality is better than expected, and all of the miniatures you do get are fantastically detailed. The insert included is also a big win, although it will feel somewhat empty if you don’t purchase the stretch goal box or other optional extras.

Over all, my initial impressions of Tainted Grail: Kings of Ruin is very impressive. I cannot wait to dive even deeper into the story, and see what exciting adventures await!


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blank Adam Roffel has only been writing about video games for a short time, but has honed his skills completing a Master's Degree. He loves Nintendo, and almost anything they have released...even Tomodachi Life.

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Twitter: @AdamRoffel