GAME STORIES (PART 9)
In this continuing series, I am detailing and reviewing the various stories presented in many of the board games on the market. Turns out, most aren’t particularly good, but there are a few exceptions…
As one might imagine, Tainted Grail is a play on the class Arthurian Mythos, which is blended into the video Dark Souls to present a depressing setting where the dream of Avalon has failed, the knights are all but dead, and the land is sinking into an apocalyptical nightmare known as the Wyrdness. Starvation, sickness, and monsters are regular occurrences, eventually resulting in the Guardian Menhirs—enchanted statues that push back the Wyrdness and ensuring safe travel throughout the realm.
Players assume the roles of damaged heroes, some carrying their wounds physically while others mentally. These are not the knights of legend but survivors making choices that could lead to vindication or castigation. Tainted Grail contains a detailed storybook that carries throughout multiple scenarios. Characters live and die by the combat and non-combat encounters that present themselves. With undoubtedly a dramatic visual flair, Tainted Grail attempts to recreate the feeling of video games like Dark Souls with an emphasis on story rather than combat. It’s certainly going in the right direction.
According to the game description, “there’s a legend waiting behind every stone and every tree. All locations have their own rich stories and secrets to discover. Places and characters are often much more than they seem. As you slowly put all the pieces of the larger puzzle together, the land will always have a surprise waiting for you just around the corner.”
Story Quality: 8/10
THIS WAR OF MINE
Finally, we come to this, another game by the same makers as Nemesis and Tainted Grail; they certainly love their story-based gaming, don’t they. This War of Mine is based on the video game of the same name by 11Bit Studios, which is an astounding title about non-combatants surviving in a city under siege. Curfews are in effect, and all levels of city administration have been destroyed. There is no money, few means of communication. Even the military is barely seen. People fend for themselves and are often forced to use force to keep what is theirs or take what they wish.
Both games don’t judge you for actions that will hurt others; you must carry that guilt yourself. Will you steal or maintain a personal level of morality? However, as anxieties rise and stomachs go empty, to what lengths will you go? Will you rob a hospital, kill that old couple hoarding supplies? This War of Mine can undoubtedly take the mantle as the darkest and deepest storyline of any game. It’s just unfortunate that the game kind of sucks.
It’s a real drag, unfortunately. It’s incredibly random and mean-spirited, and although the latter appears evident given the subject matter, what good is there to play a game, you have virtually no hope in winning? The video game knew this, so implemented comprises to make it still fun. The board game avoided this. The story is undoubtedly fantastic, with complex characters possessing personal habits and addictions that must be satisfied, but then goes about making their manifestations unrealistic. Characters are always one day away from committing suicide, which is statistically unrealistic, given what happens to civilians during wartime. This War of Mine is a mediocre game of a good story that could have been great.
Story Quality: 7/10
So that was it. What did I miss? I admit skipping a few because the failed to qualify.
Near & Far includes a massive storybook but player characters possess no real identity with nothing to set them apart from others.
In Dead of Winter, you are not playing as a person but rather as a group of people with a leader that constantly changes hands.
Tales of Arabian Nights…I actually want to play that one sometime.
Robinson Crusoe almost made the cut, but First Martians clearly weaves the better story.
I am sure there are others…but this comprehensive review ran nearly 7,000 words: I’m done.