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Subject: A Strategy Guide to Mage Knight rss

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Jelte de Boer
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I love playing this game. Every game of Mage Knight I play is challenging because of the complexity of this game. In this document I’ve put together my thoughts on strategy in Mage Knight. As I only play the Solo Conquest, this strategy guide is written to solo play, but I expect that most concepts also apply to multi-player games.

I’ve come to a list of 8 tenets which I find important in every game of Mage Knight I’ve played. Understanding these tenets made me a better player, scoring more points, and enjoying the game even more than I already did.

Here we go.

Tenet #1 Know your deed cards
In Mage Knight you use your deed cards to order your character around. The beauty of this game is that every round you know in advance which deed card you’re going to draw. You just don’t know the order you will draw them. If you haven’t drawn a card from your deed deck yet, you know it will have to come, remember this.

I listed 'knowing your deed cards' as the first tenet as I think this is one of the most important aspects of the game. A thorough knowledge of your cards and what you can do with it is essential in optimizing for a round.

There’s one trick I find very useful. At the beginning of each round, I write down all the cards in my deed deck. So, in the first round you’ll start with the sixteen basic cards. During the course of the game more cards are added to the list (or perhaps removed from it). Every time I draw a card, I’ll highlight this on my list. Every time I play a card I’ll also note this. This way I’ll always know what cards there are still to come and which cards I’ve already played. I use this knowledge to optimise the actions I want to do in the remainder of the round.

Knowing your cards starts with understanding the characteristics of your basic cards. Your 16 basic cards consist of (the numbers don’t add up because some cards give you multiple options):
- 7 cards to give movement;
- 4 cards to attack or block;
- 2 cards to range attack;
- 3 cards to influence;
- 3 mana management cards; and
- 1 card to heal

With the knowledge you have of all the cards in your deed deck, the knowledge of the current cards in your hand and the knowledge of discarded and future cards, all together give you the knowledge of the possible actions you can do in (the remainder) of your round. This knowledge is essential in planning and optimizing your round (see Tenet #2).

Knowing your deed cards helps you when choosing new cards as a reward from combat, levelling up or buying cards with influence. When you know you’re a little light on movement cards, you’ll might choose to pick up that movement advanced action, skill of spell card. Or pass to pick up another influence card, if you’ve already got to many of them.

The key thing to remember is that knowledge of your deed cards is essential to become a better Mage Knight.

Tenet #2 Plan, plan, plan
Mage Knight is a game of planning. At the start of a round a lot of the variables are known in advance; you know your hand cards, you know what cards are still in your deck, you know your (possible) enemies, and you know your desired path to go. At the start of every round imagine what you want to accomplish that round. Then optimize your turns and actions to realize these goals.

Also take into account goals you’d like to realize the next rounds (like revealing a core tiles to be able to recruit elite units, or find the first and/or second city). Don’t simply wander around. Use your turns and actions wisely.

Every round you have around 5 to 7 turns and the cards in your deed deck (which you know, remember Tenet #1). These two (turns and cards) are your limitation. The time you have to pre-analyse your turns and actions is limitless! Exactly this is what I love about the game of Mage Knight. Analyse and optimize. Plan how to use your cards (both the cards in your hand and the cards you will draw the next turns) en turns optimally.

You can plan in advance how to beat every (possible) enemy. You even know all possible enemies you are able to encounter when flipping an enemy token. Take all possible unknowns into consideration when pre-analysing and planning your combat(s).

Mage Knight is not a game of luck. So, don’t base your strategy on lucky outcomes.

Tenet #3 Understanding Tempo
As an former Magic: the Gathering player I borrow the excellent concept of Tempo from this good old card game (for more reference see here). Tempo is the concept around your pace, being able to do more things, doing it more quickly, and gain an advantage over your opponent.

In Mage Knight you play against the notorious Dummy player. This means you play a fixed (but unknown in advance) number of turns each round. To be able to get the most out of your turns you need to gain Tempo. How do you increase Tempo in Mage Knight?

One of the most important Tempo gainers is to level-up quickly. When you level-up you’ll get more strongly. You’ll get advanced action cards, skills, you’ll be able to recruit more companions and you’ll be able to increase your hand size. All of this will give you more resources to get the most out of your turns. Levelling-up quickly increases Tempo.

Another way to gain Tempo is to increase the number of cards in your hand. An example is plundering a village if you can handle the reputation loss. Or increase your hand size with keeps or certain tactics cards.

You’ll gain Tempo if you’re able to gain new cards cards with little costs to actually get them. Burning down a monastery plus gaining enough fame to level-up if you can easily beat every purple enemy, would be a good trade off.

One thing that clearly decreases Tempo are wounds. Personally, I hate wounds. Wounds slow you down. A few wounds are fine, but don’t clog your deck with them, you’ll lose Tempo (more on wounds in Tenet #8).

Always be on the lookout to increase Tempo and not to decrease it. If you’re able to use only few cards to conquer a keep, gain fame to level-up, gain a good advanced action card and skill, increase your hand size, and are able to recruit a great unit the next turn, you’ll clearly increase Tempo. If on the other hand you’re a bit too weak when entering an adventure site and are not able to defeat the enemy plus leaving the site with a couple of wounds, you’ll clearly be decreasing Tempo.

Every round you’ll have to optimize the use of your turns and cards and increase Tempo.

Tenet #4 Mana management
Mana is what powers the Mage Knight. Mana provides actions. It doubles the power of most basic action cards. You need mana to cast spells and power your units more stronger abilities. To get to most out of your cards and turns is to use mana wisely.

When managing your mana don’t solely rely on the source. Most of the time you can only use one die from the source. It is uncertain into which color you’ll reroll the die. Furthermore, the source might become depleted in the course of the round.

To increase the effectiveness of your cards and units you need to have additional sources of mana. Gain crystals and mana via skills (Arythea’s Dark Fire Magic is a really great one), via cards (like the different bolts and rings), via units (like the mages), and via magical glades and crystal mines.

You’ll also have to appreciate the mana management cards in your 16 starting cards. Try to get to most out of Crystallize, Mana Draw, and Concentration (Will Focus for Goldyx). If you find yourself playing these cards sideways means you’re doing something sub-optimally.

Mana management also means that you have to match your available mana to your cards and units. As you already have a great knowledge of your cards (see Tenet #1), you know what colors of mana you would require to play them optimally. Build your mana resources to match your cards and visa versa. For instance, if you have gained a lot of blue crystals via Goldyx’ crystal craft skills, you better have enough great blue cards or units to use these crystals for. Just collecting crystals for the greatest loot achievements scoring is not optimal.

Special attention has to go to the use of black mana. Black mana is really powerful. With it, you’ll be able to cast the strong effects of spells and use the Altem Mages’ strong attack ability. There are some things the remember with regards to black mana. Firstly, you can only use black mana during the night and in tombs and dungeons (or using Amulet of Darkness). Secondly, there are no black crystals, black mana only exists as pure mana. So, know how to get black mana. Fortunately, you have some options to get black mana: the source, your basic card Mana Draw, magical glades, Altem Mages’ first ability, some of Arythea’s skills, or by using the strong effect of some artifacts. Plan and use your black mana carefully.

Tenet #5 The importance of units
Units give you actions just like deed cards, but units have some advantage over deed cards. Firstly, units don’t occupy a slot in your hand. Secondly, your units are available to you right at the start of the round. You don’t have to draw them yet.

Adding units gives you more options, but remember that you have to increase Tempo when you do (see Tenet #3). So, don’t spend too much influence, cards and turns on weak units. If you have to make a detour and spend valuable cards and mana to recruit some Herbalists, you’ll clearly be decreasing Tempo and playing sub-optimally.

At the start of a round you know where you can recruit units. Determine if you’ll have enough influence to recruit them efficiently. Then, as always, plan your turns carefully, use your current hand cards and future cards optimally, and be able to recruit at the right moment and increase Tempo.

Elite units are strong. You’ll really want these guys. They give the diversified army (see Tenet #7) you’ll need. To be able to add the elite units to the unit offer you’ll have to get to the core tiles quickly. I’ll always try to reveal the first core tile at least at the second day, so I’m able to recruit elite units from the second night on. Tempo matters.

Remember that units need mana for their stronger abilities. Take this into account with your mana management (see Tenet #4).

Personally I like units a lot. I’ve assaulted level 8 cities with just a line-up of good units (and enough mana) and only basic action cards, and beaten all the enemies. You don’t need spells to finish a city.
To be able to recruit units, especially the higher level ones, you’ll need to pay attention to influence and reputation. You start the game with three influence cards: Promise (Noble Manners for Norowas), Threaten, and Improvisation. These cards provide a good start, but you’ll probably need more influence to be able to recruit the higher level units. This is even more true when the optimal future path you’ve planned involves the loss of reputation by assaulting keeps and mage towers or burning a monastery, and there are not much rampaging enemies around.

Again, know your deed cards (you haven’t forgotten Tenet #1 I trust) and make sure if you need to add more influence by adding advanced action cards, artifacts, and skills which provide influence. You might also use unspent units to provide influence (Illusionists, Peasants).

Always be very careful managing your reputation. Units are just too strong, so I don’t like to be unable to recruit them because of some wasteful and meaningless plundering, burning down, or assaulting. I tend to hover around the 0 reputation spaces. You lose Tempo if you have to kill Marauding Orcs to increase your reputation. These enemies just give too little fame in mid-game.

Off course, be flexible. When the board offers a lot of tombs, dungeons, and monastries, you’ll might need to have less focus on units, but more on strong spells, artifacts and advanced actions cards.

Tenet #6 Understanding spells
If you have a look at the spell cards, you’ll see they’re strong. But, and this is a very big but, you have to be very very careful with spells. Spells cost mana and its strong effect even costs two mana. And most of the time, there’s no abundance of mana (see Tenet #4).

When it comes to spells, it’s better to have one or two devastating spells, then to have several mediocre spells. It’s quite difficult to play multiple spells with strong effect because of the large amount of mana required (especially to get multiple black mana). Having multiple spells in your hand and ending up playing some of them sideways is not optimal.

I think most spells are just nice. And there are only a few spells worthwhile to make a detour to a mage tower to get them. If I see these spells in the spell offer, I will strongly consider getting them: Expose / Mass Expose, Tremor / Earthquake and Wings of Wind / Wings of Night. Off course, if I already have a comparable artifact (Banner of Fear, Horn of Wrath) I probably consider otherwise.

Only taking out 1, maybe 2 mage towers in one game is more than enough. I’ve played a lot of games without conquering a single mage tower and still score more than 200 points.

Tenet #7 Have a diversified army
Don’t solely rely on physical attacks. Add units and deed cards (and if needed some skills) to have fire and/or ice attacks and blocks. Add different forms of resistance. Also siege (fire/ice) attacks are important to have later in the game when taking down cities.

With a strong diversified army, you can kill every enemy you encounter efficiently. It’s advantageous to have different attack options in your arsenal when assaulting a city. Having a great line-up of elite units surely helps you on this (see Tenet #5). Furthermore, having such a strong diversified army also decreases to number of wounds you have to take (see the next tenet).

Tenet #8 Be careful with wounds
It’s a tough world out there in the Atlantean Empire. Your Mage Knight encounters a lot of different foes like Orcs and Draconum. He has to assault keeps and mage towers. He will capture heavily guarded cities. It’s not strange to see him get a scratch or two.

Ok, let move on from this theatrical image. In this game getting a few wounds is not that bad. But (another big but) you should only be willing to get a few wounds under the condition that the rewards you’ll get in return are worth it, and/or you’re making a giant leap to realize your game objectives. Remember, this game is largely plannable (see Tenet #2). When pre-analysing and optimizing a round and its turns you have to take into consideration the wounds you’re willing to take.

The most important drawback of wounds are the huge decrease of Tempo (see Tenet #3). Be very careful with them. The wounds itself make you lose Tempo because they clog your hand and deck. But you’re also losing Tempo when you have to get rid of the wounds. If you have to take a healing card from the offer, it means you to have to pass on another (probably more meaningful) card. If you have to go to a magical glade, village or monastery to heal, you’ll lose valuable actions. Even if you play Tranquillity to heal, you’ll lose its ability to draw cards. Remember that wounds make you lose Tempo.

In all the Solo Conquests games where I scored more than 200 points, I had a maximum number of only 2 wounds at the end of the game. Most of these games I had 0.

Concerning wounds on units, you should try to minimize wounded units. Especially elite units. As you have to pay healing point equal to the level of the units, it costs you a lot of healing points to get rid of the wounds on elite units. More importantly, you can’t activate your wounded units and valuable actions are lost.

Concluding thoughts
For me, understanding these 8 tenets strongly helps me to end Solo Conquest scenarios above the 200 points hurdle.

Knowing your deed cards, be able to plan your turns, understanding tempo and mana management are the most important concepts of the game of Mage Knight. Combine this with the importance of units, your understanding of spells, having a diversified army and prudence with wounds, and you’ll be playing Mage Knight much more efficiently. And with that you’ll probably enjoy the game even more.
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Jordan Franklin
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A good note regarding tempo: Pay attention to what cards have been drawn by the dummy player. If for example the dummy has 3 blue crystals 1 red and 1 white, watch to see how many blue cards have come up already. Also keep track of what color advanced actions were added to the dummy player's deck. Also, if you are on the fence when deciding which advanced action to take from the offer,take into account the crystals in the dummy player's inventory. If he has mostly blue, you may want to take that blue AA to prevent him from obtaining it. Little things like this allow you some control over the tempo of the game.
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Greg Thompson
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Well thought out. Thank you
 
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Timothy Borgstrom
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Could you post a turn by turn record of one of your high scoring games?
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thetimmy wrote:
Could you post a turn by turn record of one of your high scoring games?

I second that.
 
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fridericus rex
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Posting turn by turn record would be quite tedious i think. The 200 score limit is not that hard if you are not unlucky. You can consistently hit 180+ score and with lot of luck 230+ score.

What you need to do is follow these advices, they are all great, but if score is your aim, also look at what gives the most of it. And actually most of the final score is gained from the fame. Generally I end up having around 115-135 fame when playing solo conquest. Next you get some guarenteed score - 35 for conquering both cities, 5 if the end of the turn was not annouced. Those are great. Would not recommend trying to get the score for finishing round early or with dummy player having lot of cards, as generally if you spend the time clearing enemies (or even buying spells/cards/artifacts with influence if you have lot of rep and/or full glittering fortune from Goldyx) you will generate more score thoutgh fame gain.

The remaining 40-50 score is gained from all the additional cards you acquire + sites you cleared + sites you conquered + crystals + units.

What is really important, is that you do not get any score from reputation. When I´m playing multiplayer lot of people (especially new players) are afraid to loot villages and monasteries. It can be sometimes trully beneficial, especially in the late game when you dont need it anymore. Eg. raiding monastery grants you 2 points for clearing the site, 2 points for the artifact and 4-5 points from the enemy and most of the artifacts can give you a little bit (1-3) of fame right next turn.

Also as mentioned by DeBoer avoid wounds ! They are terrible. If you cant block everything during the final assault on the city, its ok, just wound your units which are already spent, preferrably level 2 units (which is just -1 fame).

Btw try to plan which character to use. In solo play the balance is bit different from multiplayer. Still Goldyx is usually considered strongest, while Tovak rather weak (although he can be really strong if you are really lucky get Cold Swordmanship + Shield mastery early, as it allows him to easily clear all the early sites, the problem is that if you dont get those early, he is quite weak)
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peter griffin
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frex18c wrote:
Btw try to plan which character to use. In solo play the balance is bit different from multiplayer. Still Goldyx is usually considered strongest, while Tovak rather weak (although he can be really strong if you are really lucky get Cold Swordmanship + Shield mastery early, as it allows him to easily clear all the early sites, the problem is that if you dont get those early, he is quite weak)



I find Arythea to be the strongest in solo play from the base characters. She has a good mix of skills. Two skills that generate black mana, three that makes use of wounds, two action skills for combat and two outside of combat. Battle versatility and Mana pull are the most flexible unique cards IMO, and flexibility is power in solo.

Maybe because I struggle with him a lot, but I find Goldyx relatively weaker. He has too many per round skills. Even given that Universal Power may be the strongest per turn skill, one skill does not make up for his general lack of per turn skills, and that makes it harder for him to have turns as efficient as the other MKs in the beginning. Now, that inefficiency will be addressed when he amasses crystals midgame, but it doesn't change the fact that his start is more likely going to be weaker, and he may not catch up to the others even with a strong midgame.

Lategame Goldyx can be a monster, but he has no certain way to access black mana(outside of mana draw), and that makes him underwhelming compared to Arythea. Late game Norowas will also surpass him in power because nothing beats amassing elite units.

I find Tovak to be the high floor low ceiling kind of guy, but since he is the most combat ready of the bunch his typical strong start can still carry him throughout the game. He is never going to be as strong as the other three at their strongest, but I find it easier to win with him due to his low variance.

Norowas is the exact opposite of Tovak. How good his game is depends on when he gets Bond of Loyalty. Get it early with a ranged unit and he will annihilate. Get it late and he is just someone who can recruit and support units a bit easier. Not getting any unit support skills early will also suck the fun out of things.
 
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Mike Oehler
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A lot of the value of reputation depends on how much you have though. At +3 or +5, plus the bonus for shields on city, you can often recruit units or take city actions for little cost. So maybe it's not worth knocking over a monastery for points at the end if you could instead recruit a fresh unit cheaply to replace a spent and wounded one, and then use that unit to a slay a dragon or clear a different site. I mean, you could potentially do both depending on the cards and what's around too.
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Dr Eclipse
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DeBoer wrote:

There’s one trick I find very useful. At the beginning of each round, I write down all the cards in my deed deck. So, in the first round you’ll start with the sixteen basic cards. During the course of the game more cards are added to the list (or perhaps removed from it). Every time I draw a card, I’ll highlight this on my list. Every time I play a card I’ll also note this. This way I’ll always know what cards there are still to come and which cards I’ve already played. I use this knowledge to optimise the actions I want to do in the remainder of the round.

I followed the same approach when learing MK solo conquest. I registred the cards in an Excel file, where all cards (deed and other) also had a mana color. That's how I quickly learned to optimize actions. For instance, when you only need to move 4 and there is blue and green mana available and you have both March and Stamina available, it's good to take into account the other carts left in the deed deck. Movement cards and other cards. I used the Excel three times. And then I knew by head what movement remained in my deck.

DeBoer wrote:

Always be on the lookout to increase Tempo and not to decrease it. If you’re able to use only few cards to conquer a keep, gain fame to level-up, gain a good advanced action card and skill, increase your hand size, and are able to recruit a great unit the next turn, you’ll clearly increase Tempo.


One of the best combo's I have found in the beginning of solo games, was when both a monastry and familiars where available on the starting tiles. In that most ideal situation I was able to generate a white crystal with crystalize in the first turn and end my turn on a glade. With the gold token in my backpack, I travelled to the monastry and hired familiars powered by a concentration token. Next turn, spend familiars to use the influence + threaten to buy the available Advanced Action. Next turn, burn down the monastry and kill the unit with help of the AA, gain artifact and level up (AA + skill). So at the end of round one I had a terrific unit, two AAs, a skill and a artifact and a white crystal to power the familiars with the next round. I believe one of my AAs was Force of nature, which was pretty good to give my Familiars physical resistance (and armor 5).



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peter griffin
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VictimEN wrote:
A lot of the value of reputation depends on how much you have though. At +3 or +5, plus the bonus for shields on city, you can often recruit units or take city actions for little cost. So maybe it's not worth knocking over a monastery for points at the end if you could instead recruit a fresh unit cheaply to replace a spent and wounded one, and then use that unit to a slay a dragon or clear a different site. I mean, you could potentially do both depending on the cards and what's around too.


I don't see the point in having such a high reputation. You have to skip out on mage towers so you won't have any spells, keeps which makes recruiting harder, and a monastery where you lose a guaranteed artifact. You will fight a bunch of rampagers whose only reward is reputation boost, and for what, so you can get your spells and artifacts only when you reach the city?

There are going to be games where keeping a high rep makes sense, but for the most part not attacking fortifications and not burning a monastery severely limits your options.
 
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