The Night of Mage Knight!

Last night we had a board game night as a break.  We played a couple of games of Dungeon! which was really great fun.  I died three times in it, nobody else died once.  I have never laughed so hard at dying before in a game.  I even managed to win one of the games while I was on my third character.  But in the long run I was really eager for my game of Mage Knight.  It is a game with depth and longevity, but I have to get other players interested and it is an involved game.

So, as suggested by the books that come with the game, the best way of teaching the game is by playing through the walk-through scenario of Reconnaissance.  Being that this was my second game of it and my daughters, we were familiar with the rules but the two other players were brand new to it.  I was worried about how this was going to go because I knew at least one of the other two had a real possibility of wanting to play again, so would the other but he has little time to.  It is hard to convince the players that the game is easy because it looks so complicated with everything laid out.  Notice the auto awesome panorama shot that Google cooked up for me overnight.  This many pieces make a game look complicated.

Thank Google for Auto Awesome!

Mage Knight is a board/card game where 1 (that is right, you can play it solo) to 4 players take on the role of a Mage Knight.  A warrior who is a blend of might and magic, feared and respected through the land as they serve themselves and/or their masters.  It has a nice role-playing feel to it without there being any role playing actually conducted.  You go out onto the board, visit villages, keeps, monasteries and mage towers influencing, conquering and razing them.  You employ units as you attempt to meet the goal of the game while routing rampaging orcs and dragons, delving into dungeons, tombs and ruins.  Sounds fun?  Well it most definitely is.  I love games like this, explore, build power and chase varying goals.

Playing as a Mage Knight you start as a wandering adventurer of low fame and no reputation.  As you explore and interact with enemies and perform actions on the board you gain fame.  The more fame you have, the more powerful you become as you level up and become more capable.  The more you help residents with rampaging creatures the better your reputation becomes and things become easier to influence as they recognise you.  If you do things that threaten or destabilize the area though your reputation drops and you have to work so much harder to influence things to get what you want.

The heart of the mechanics though come from the cards that you build up in a thing called a Deed Deck.  These cards start as 16 cards which are the same for each player except for one that is individualized to the particular character you are playing.  You start with five cards in your hand and take turns in using those cards to move, influence and fight on the board.  The mechanics to the card portion of the game are similar to Magic the Gathering where each card gives you an ability and can be powered by mana from the source or from your inventory to give you higher powered abilities.  The source is a set of dice that are rolled at the start of each round and depict different colours of mana.  You may use one of the mana from the source per turn you play (unless you have a card that allows for more) and that mana generally enables you to supercharge yourself a little as play cards.

The final board had all tiles out as the city was on the bottom of the pile!

The aim of the game varies by scenario but last night it was exploratory and aimed at finding a city.  Once the city was found we would get one round, tally up the points we earned from a variety of actions and the person who got the most fame (congratulations +Cam Mcloughlin who flogged us) won.  The game progresses by moving out to the edges of the tile and exploring where you draw further tiles and build up the game world.  In some scenarios this is largely a random thing but in the initial scenario the first 12 or so tiles come out in a set pattern and it is only the last three that are randomized.  This nature of game ensures that the game will pretty much play much differently each time you play as the tiles have a large effect on where you can move easily and the need to think tactically.  Especially with four players on the board!  It got quite difficult last night moving around one another (in the introductory session you can’t fight one another but you can in later scenarios.

As you level up and move through the game you have the opportunity to increase the size of your deed deck by picking up artifacts, spells and advanced action abilities.  The more cards you have, the better your Mage Knight is.  You also cannot “die” in this game but you can get wounded and wounds can become a serious pain because once they get in your hand they tend to stay there and slow down your rate of cards.  Combat is a fairly simple affair following a ranged/siege attack – block incoming damage – assign damage – melee combat – resolution style.  It does take a little to get your head around the fact that you need to use your cards and units to block incoming damage but once you get it things flow naturally.

There are a LOT of tokens and cards in the game and for a lot of people this means complexity.  It is not really the case here as most of the tokens are used for putting on the board to give a random element to creatures and locations while the other tokens are markers for your characters trail of destruction and to record their score tallies.  You have tokens for skills and levels that make for handy props (although I did forget to use my skills a lot which is a point +Ricky Royal makes in his play-through on YouTube) to see what you can or can’t do.  the rest of the game revolves around your deed deck and the night and day board.

This is a link to Ricky Royal’s play through the initial
scenario in solo mode.  He explains things exceptionally well
and plays right through to the end over multiple videos. 

The game is organised into rounds of day and night.  Each player will have multiple turns in these rounds and the state of the round changes when a player runs out of cards in their deed deck to draw on.  Night and day also have an effect on the types of mana you can use, with the most powerful spells only being castable at night…

Looks complicated but is simple at heart.

I know this has not been much of a blog saying this is how to play it, in fact it has been more of a review.  But never fear!  The game is at its heart is simple but multi-faceted.  If you have played card games like Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh! and you like board games you will have it down pat in no time.  I know I look at the photo here and think that it appears to be way too complicated but in reality they are just a lot of tokens, many of which are just their to randomize the game and show you simple challenges.

The good news is the depth that this game appears to possess.  It is very much a strategic game that you could layer many different approaches over.  Each character may have similar cards to start with but as you start to level up you pick up some very unique skills and abilities that mesh well together and can be strategically combined with other abilities to build a complex interaction.  It is really the reason I bought this game, I love a game that makes me think and this game allows me to do this.  It also allows for light play too, but I am a planner.

The good news, everyone enjoyed the game last night and there was talk of more games to come so I suppose that is mission achieved on my part.  I am really keen to play a game where we play with our cards not open for viewing and perhaps open it up to some player versus player (PvP) interaction.  Plus it appears that there is a lot more involved in the city locations than this scenario offers up.  The game cost me aroun $110 Australian Dollars which is reasonable seeing it was an impulse buy off a shelf at my friendly local gaming store (FLGS) rather than trawling for the cheapest price online.  The replayability of this game is exceptionally high and most reviews of the game seem to support this.  Once I have exhausted the main game, there are a couple of direct expansions for this board game.  There is also a hero-clix series for it called Mage Knight Ressurection but I believe that his is a completely separate entity to the board game.

I literally can not flaw this game in any way.  I love it, and I am sure they must have made it with specifically me in mind as it hits all of my must haves and also my wants in a board game.  If I was being really picky then I would say it is a game that you need a BIG table to play on, but that is being way too picky.  Get this game, convince your friends to play it.  If they say it looks hard I will come around and sort them out!  Well done Wiz Kids!  This is the first product I have bought of yours and I think we are in for a long and beautiful friendship!  Keep on rolling 🙂

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