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Ten Things To Keep In Mind When Playing Mage Knight

Jesse Dean
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So now that I am quite a few games into Made Knight exploration, here are the Top 10 things that I think are useful to keep in mind as you play.

1) While it can also be useful later on, going first during the initial round can be very valuable

Particularly with three players, it can be a bit tough to accomplish anything very meaningful in the first hand or two unless you go earlier in the round. There is a race to get to the village or monastery for recruitment or to kill the first few monsters to get the experience points required to reach level two. This is less the case with two or four players, as there is a bit more room, but even in these cases there are usually prime spots worth fighting for. Keep this in mind when selecting your tactics cards. This importance is, of course, overshadow by actually needing to be able to do something with that initial turn. If you cannot do so, then those cards that manipulate the cards available in your initial hand are, of course, more useful.

2) Try to be level 2 and have a follower by the end of the first day

While particular board configurations can make this difficult, always try to be level 2 with a follower by the end of the first day. Followers are one of the most important keys to victory, essentially providing an additional card that is available (almost) whenever you need it. Getting to level 2 allows you to access and use your first advanced action and skill, both allowing you to maximize your number of uses as well as get an idea of your general capabilities throughout the rest of the game. Failing to do one of these things is unfortunate but something that can be overcome. Failing to do both when your opponents succeed can put you into a hole that will be very difficult to climb out of.

3) While it is important to have a plan on how to get rid of your wounds, getting them in of itself is not the end of the world

In my first few plays I tried my hardest to avoid getting wounds, and generally did not get into fights if I thought I was going to get hurt. The first time I did not do this was a moment when I was able to defeat an opponent but had to take four wounds in the process. Not only was it not awful, I was able to deal with the wounds pretty easily and the artifact I got from conquering the dungeon was helpful enough to win the game. Since then I’ve prioritized winning fights over avoiding wounds, and it has worked out pretty well for me. I even received the “greatest beating” award during our last game and still ended up winning by a large margin. The advantages I achieved from slightly riskier play paid off.

4) Scenario goals are helpful and rewarding, but you need to build your experience and rewards backbone if you want to be able to win

Most of the presented scenarios provide an additional way to get victory points and an additional category of scoring available during play. These are all fun and interesting ways to get some great bonuses, but you need to avoid letting your focus on them override your sense of good play. You need to spend your time killing orcs, exploring dungeons and ancient ruins and conquering keeps and wizard towers otherwise will you never reach the point where you can successfully complete the scenario goals. Sometimes it might be worthwhile to skip the scenario goals entirely and focus on just performing the normal adventuring actions. While your opponents are wasting time trying to defeat a big stack of monsters you can leave a trail of destruction across the world that results in a big pay-off come final scoring. Similarly by ignoring the final goals, you are also making yourself better prepared to accomplish them, as you will be getting the bonus spells, crystals, and artifacts which will make it more likely you will be able to win some of the bigger, rewarding battles.

5) Do not overload your deck with combat abilities. It is almost always better to have just a few good combat cards and more of the secondary cards that support them

While there are tons of great cards that allow you to do some amazing things in combat, it is too easy to focus exclusively on these cards to the exclusion of cards that provide movement, healing, or mana bonuses. If you get too many great combat cards, you will end up having to throw a bunch of them away for a +1 modifier to movement or influence instead of using them for their named ability. All the great combat cards are worthless if you have no way to get to the locations you need to in order to use these fantastic combat abilities and lack the ability to power them to their full potential once you get to these locations. Cards that provide movement or magic are almost always useful though, as it is rare to have too much movement or too many ways to power up your cards. Having extra cards that provide healing have the benefit of allowing you to take risks that you would normally not be willing to, and frequently have secondary effects that are useful even if you are not using the card for healing.

6) Only get spells if you have the mana sources to power them

Similarly, while spells are generally pretty amazing, their mana cost presents a hidden trap. It is pretty easy to get into a situation where you will have a large number of wonderful spells in your hand that you will be unable to use because you don’t have enough crystals and the one mana you get from the Source per turn just is not cutting it. So make sure you have a good mana flow before you go crazy with the spell acquisition.

7) It is frequently worthwhile to spend time camped on a monastery or wizard’s tower

If you have the influence cards and/or the reputation, it is very worthwhile to spend a few rounds hanging out a wizard’s tower or a monastery in order to add additional action cards to your deck. Not only will spending this time improve your deck, it will also give you a pretty sizeable amount of end-game points. Remember rule 5) though, if you are learning spells! This makes influence improving actions doubly important, not only do they give you access to units, but they also allow for additional avenues to improve your deck and the points that go with it.

8) Prioritize dungeons (and artifacts)

While all locations are valuable targets for adventuring and conquest, dungeons are the most valuable, simply because they are the easiest way to get artifacts. Why are artifacts so valuable? First of all, they do not require any mana to activate. This enables them to be generally useful, no matter what sort of hand you have. Additionally, a lot of them provide pretty powerful abilities that either provide new capabilities, enhance existing ones, or both. Getting one of the rings that provides a crystal and a mana gives you the sort of mana income that you need in order to successfully utilize multiple spells; getting a banner expands one of your unit’s capabilities significantly. Finally, they provide massive, game changing special abilities that can be used once in exchange for the discard of the artifact. These aren’t the sort of thing that I will use every game, but after seeing a lady in our gaming group discard an artifact on Sunday to completely avoid all attacks and damage while assaulting a city, it is not something I will ignore again.

9) It is better to follow the person who is controlling the board then to be the one who is controlling the board

I argued in a previous article that you could punish other players who are more focused on conquest then defining the board by pushing it off in a direction where they are not going, thus limiting that player’s options later in the game. While I still think that is pretty strong, I think it is even more powerful to be able to effectively follow that explorer, moving in behind them and taking advantage of what they reveal without spending the movement required to open up these tiles. Granted, you will not have first choice as to what to get to on these tiles, but the erstwhile explorer will be slowed down enough by their movement costs to make this irrelevant. This is particularly helpful if you get one of the spells or advanced actions, such as Underground Travel or Wings of Wind, which allow for you to get across the board quickly. Then your lack of exploration is even less relevant, and you can easily target the locations that you think are most important.

10) Make every turn meaningful

While it is unlikely that you are going to make every single turn result in an experience gain even in the late game, try to make sure that every action you take has a significant effect on your relative position in the game. While this can be difficult for certain hands, proper use of tactics cards, deck knowledge, and hand management should allow you to spend most turns accomplishing things that will move your position forward or at the very least have a very significant turn in the near future. If you do not accomplish this, then you have probably made a mistake somewhere and need to reevaluate how you make decisions in Mage Knight.
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