Birmingham, Mar 2019
Having booked both games at Grand Escape, we’d originally scheduled Grail second, but the owners encouraged us to swap the two games round to start with Grail as an easier game. That turned out to be excellent advice, with Grail being an uncomplicated but pretty and enjoyable game to start our day with.
Rather than a setting from Arthurian legend, you are modern historians raiding a 12th century crypt that conceals the Grail – or something like that. In practice it’s a cheerful mishmash of props that blend medieval knights with Da Vinci references and the occasional modern incongruity. The setting may not be particularly consistent, but it is pretty, an attractive space to spend time in that also has a good selection of props that tempt players to dress up in costume as they solve.
We spent half our time very stuck due to an unfortunate search fail, and the other half rattling through the game at speed. Okay, perhaps we didn’t spend quite as much as 50% of our time stuck, though it felt close to it. (The gamemaster wasn’t inattentive, he was simply holding back since he knew we’d played plenty of other games.) I’d expect many experienced teams to finish this one comfortably short of half an hour, though.
Though short, we found it enjoyable throughout, with a couple of fun touches and pleasantly varied tasks leading up to a more complex final puzzle. One step seemed to have confusingly ambiguous clues and left us trying each of a handful of possible combinations to find the correct one, but in retrospect made complete sense.
However, one of the tasks could turn into a massive frustrating time-sink for some teams, a classic sort of puzzle which is straightforward if you know how to solve it (our group did), and a complete brick wall if you don’t – doubly so since it’s not something the gamemaster can easily tell you the solution for. He warned us about that before we entered the game, though I didn’t realise what he was referring to until after we’d finished, so it’s clearly an obstacle for some teams.
That aside, Grail is a hard game to dislike. It’s not all that challenging, it doesn’t take itself very seriously, it looks good and it finishes with a smart puzzle and a suitably impressive prop.