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Copy of an As a Board Gamer article


Expands: Mage Knight: the Board Game
Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Publisher: WizKids Games
Number of Players: 1-5
Playtime: long, 2-3 hours
Price (approx.): 40 euro

This is a game-expansion. So I’ll review it as such. I won’t grade it as an individual game. I’ll give plus ones or minus ones (or more) to the various grades of the base game.

Overview:

The story:
General Volkare is back with his Lost Legion on his side. Nobody knows what he wants. The only thing we do know is that he hates the Mage Knights. He finds them, chases them and kills them if he can. Does he do it without any self-interest or does he want something in return from the people of the Atlantean kingdom?

What you get for your money:

One Volkare miniature and one new Mage Knight (Wolfhawk) with their tokens and cards. A bunch of new unit, spell, artefact and action cards and a couple of fixed old ones. Some new map tiles and brand new enemy and skill tokens. Lastly more crystals, a die and one rulebook.

How do you play the game:
Essentially this game plays the same as the base game, but it does add some extra unit, enemy and map features with corresponding rules. Plus, it adds a new hero, so you can play the game with 5 players (don't).

You have hero and thug units now. You can recruit thugs more easily when you have a bad reputation and hero’s when you are a saint. Another new type of unit is the magic familiar. You must ‘feed’ him mana to keep his loyalty.



A couple of new enemy features. Enemies can attack you multiple times in one attack face. Sometimes you are able to block attacks with movement points. Assassins go directly for the Mage Knights and don’t care for their army. Elusive enemies can avoid your attack quite easily unless you block them first and other enemies are able to resist special card effects, like ‘this enemy does not attack this turn’.

Sometimes, when you defeated an enemy, you’ll get, in addition to a fame bonus, a reputation bonus or penalty.

There are new locations to explore, like mazes, deep mines and refugee camps.

The most important addition, of course, is General Volkare. He is described as a moving city. Joined by a large army, his Lost Legion, he will track you down and attack your Mage Knight if he can. He will stir up the locals and sometimes recruit new units.

Review:

This review is (mostly) from a solo players perspective. I’ve played the game multiplayer, but most of my Mage Knight games were played solo.

Theme(1x):
General Volkare adds more flavour to this game. The mechanics fit his character as a scaremonger. The addition of the thug and hero units and the reputation bonus or rewards, goes together with the story of this world where no one knows who to trust. People are on the run, either because of the General of the Mage Knights with the refugee camps as a result.

7(+1)=8

Base game (+/- expansion)= New grade

Gameplay (2x):


This expansion adds a whole new layer to the base game. The dummy player in the base game was a game timer, now you have Volkare. He and his legion are a whole new force to be reckoned with. He may move and he may attack you if you come too close. You have to watch him constantly and it adds a ‘push your luck’ element to the game.

And if he attacks, you need to roll a die to determine how he attacks. He is unpredictable. You can plan an attack on his legion, but you can’t prepare for the generals attack.

Like a city, Volkares level is adjustable. His Lost Legion can be as big as ELEVEN units or as tiny as four. But not only is the size of his army adjustable, also his deck of cards. This deck determines Volkares movement and aggressiveness. You can add more wounds to his deck if you want him to be more docile.

Another new element in this game are indecisive units. These units, specified by a random mana crystal on them, do not know if they want to be in Volkares army or in yours. If you reveal a wound card from Volkares deck, he does not move, but you have to roll a die. If the die has the same colour as the mana crystal of the indecisive unit, he joins Volkare.

Some other ‘thing’ Volkare does, is reroll the mana dice in the Source of the same colour as the action or spell cards you have drawn from his deck.

General Volkare is another player in the (solo) game. He really feels like a worthy opponent. You are not really playing a solo game, it feels more like a two player game. And now you will fight against a boxer, not the punching bag a city sometimes felt like.

The other additions are mostly about choices. You can choose to recruit a new unit or attack or defend a certain way, but there is always a price to be paid. You can choose not to block an elusive orcs attack, but attacking him becomes much harder. You can choose to recruit a familiar, but you have to pay mana very turn.

This expansion also adds another unique card to every heroes deck, every hero has two, so the five heroes each play differently. Which hero you choose at the start of the game does matter now more than before.

Cooperative skill token are added. These skills you can use its primary effect and your teammate can use its secondary effect.

The Lost Legion expansion adds more and more different units. More is not always good, but in this case everything is so well thought of that the game play is almost perfect. Mage Knight, the base game, already is a game about exploration. Now the game is even less predictable and you have to become as versatile as the enemies you will encounter.

9(+1)=10

Looks (1x):
Similar to the base game

8(+0)

Quality of the game parts (1x):
Similar to the base game

8(+0)

Fun (2x):
General Volkare is exactly that moving part, that screw factor, that ‘unpredictable’ force Mage Knight solo game play needed to become a less puzzle like game.

Mage Knight solo play was fun before, but now the game is awesome. The Lost Legion expansion adds more choices, more interaction, more variability. You’re playing a solo game with the sense of a real opponent. The game becomes a more intense (solo) experience.

I will not play a solo game without this expansion any more.

Mage Knight: the Board Game is one of the best designed games I’ve ever played, but with the Lost Legion expansion, the game is even better. It is polished and shines as bright as a star.

8(+1)=9

Final Score

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I really like how you did your scoring system!!!
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Great review, thanks for writing it. Your comments on theme and gameplay are very well thought out.

I really like your scoring system too. I would only change the weights:

Theme: 1x
Gameplay: 2x
Looks: 0.75x
Component Quality: 0.75x
Fun: 2x

to get a score of 8.9.
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Dave Howe
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3 of our gaming group played with the Lost Legion expansion a few weeks ago, and maybe it was our luck, but Volkare barely moved from the initial starting place. From going over the rules about 4x afterwards, we didn't miss any of the rules, or misplayed the drawn cards.

So just wondering if other players have also had similar problems when using Volkare either in the Volkare's Return or another scenario.
 
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I am interested in your thoughts on the solo experience. I purchased the base game and played it solo. I saw the genius of the design, but it seemed to lack two things to me as a solo game: 1) it lacked story/theme, I felt like I was solving a Eurogame efficiency puzzle; 2) it seemed like limited replayability was present as a solo game as the book had limited scenarios for solo play (at least that is my recollection).

It seems like you are saying these two issues are addressed by the expansion. Is that accurate? Can you share more?
 
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Ben Kyo
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tazz: I'm guessing you played with 18 wounds? So that's 18 non-moves, 12 single moves, and 3 double moves +5 non moves in the first phase that become 4 single moves and a double move in the second phase.

In the first phase Volkare is guaranteed to move off the starting hex after 4 moves, and likely after two moves. So odds on he will leave the first tile by turn 6. Note that there are only 3 possible directions for movement and there is no way he can return to a hex he has left.

In the second phase every non-Wound card moves Volkare closer to the city by the most direct route possible.

I think you must have played his moves incorrectly.
 
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atsgamer wrote:
I am interested in your thoughts on the solo experience. I purchased the base game and played it solo. I saw the genius of the design, but it seemed to lack two things to me as a solo game: 1) it lacked story/theme, I felt like I was solving a Eurogame efficiency puzzle; 2) it seemed like limited replayability was present as a solo game as the book had limited scenarios for solo play (at least that is my recollection).

It seems like you are saying these two issues are addressed by the expansion. Is that accurate? Can you share more?


1) In the base game you have the deck of cards (timer) that functions as a dummy player. No you have Volkare, he moves and attacks. That is more fun and more thematic. The game is a puzzly by its nature so you will always have that, but now you have the 'unpredictability' of Volkare it is less than before. Volkare function in this game as player 2. And I think with this expansion, the choice of being a good or a bad MK is more important than before(and that is more thematic).

Volkare is moving, fighting and recruiting. You still know, more or less, where you want to go, but along the way you also need to beat this giant army. The game becomes more immersive.

But, it's the nature of solo games in general (I think). They will always have that puzzly, 'can I do better than before', feel.

2)If you set up the game in a certain way (it's in the rulebook), you can play almost every scenario solo. If it's not in the book, make something up (it's your game).

In this expansion you have 2 scenarios, both are for solo play. Both are really fun. One you are trying to prevent Volkare to conquer your base (or kill you). In another scenario he is looking for a city, as you are and he wants to conquer it, as you are. You have to beat him to it.

Volkare (and so the game) is adjustable is more ways a city is. And you have more variants (in the rulebook).
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rvlieshout wrote:
atsgamer wrote:
I am interested in your thoughts on the solo experience. I purchased the base game and played it solo. I saw the genius of the design, but it seemed to lack two things to me as a solo game: 1) it lacked story/theme, I felt like I was solving a Eurogame efficiency puzzle; 2) it seemed like limited replayability was present as a solo game as the book had limited scenarios for solo play (at least that is my recollection).

It seems like you are saying these two issues are addressed by the expansion. Is that accurate? Can you share more?


1) In the base game you have the deck of cards (timer) that functions as a dummy player. No you have Volkare, he moves and attacks. That is more fun and more thematic. The game is a puzzly by its nature so you will always have that, but now you have the 'unpredictability' of Volkare it is less than before. Volkare function in this game as player 2. And I think with this expansion, the choice of being a good or a bad MK is more important than before(and that is more thematic).

Volkare is moving, fighting and recruiting. You still know, more or less, where you want to go, but along the way you also need to beat this giant army. The game becomes more immersive.

But, it's the nature of solo games in general (I think). They will always have that puzzly, 'can I do better than before', feel.

2)If you set up the game in a certain way (it's in the rulebook), you can play almost every scenario solo. If it's not in the book, make something up (it's your game).

In this expansion you have 2 scenarios, both are for solo play. Both are really fun. One you are trying to prevent Volkare to conquer your base (or kill you). In another scenario he is looking for a city, as you are and he wants to conquer it, as you are. You have to beat him to it.

Volkare (and so the game) is adjustable is more ways a city is. And you have more variants (in the rulebook).


Yes, I would definitely think of this as a gaming system, where you could create your own scenarios pretty easily.

For instance, one of the nice touches from The Lost Legions is that Volkare is surrounded by his army. You represent this by adding a variable amount of token surrounding his player token. You could easily take this approach for some of the other scenarios, say, if you're hunting the Rogue Mage (fan expansion), you could add more difficulty by adding extra tokens as Bodyguards.

The building blocks are all there in the base and expanded games, and the new character expansion drops tomorrow. So if you find the scenarios getting old, there are a lot of pieces that you can pick and choose, or create yourself, to come up with more scenarios.

Off to design a scenario...
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Benkyo wrote:
tazz: I'm guessing you played with 18 wounds? So that's 18 non-moves, 12 single moves, and 3 double moves +5 non moves in the first phase that become 4 single moves and a double move in the second phase.

In the first phase Volkare is guaranteed to move off the starting hex after 4 moves, and likely after two moves. So odds on he will leave the first tile by turn 6. Note that there are only 3 possible directions for movement and there is no way he can return to a hex he has left.

In the second phase every non-Wound card moves Volkare closer to the city by the most direct route possible.

I think you must have played his moves incorrectly.


Yes, we were using the 18 wound cards difficulty level (Fair), and added those to the basic cards from one of the Hero's decks, along with the 4 removed Spells (38 cards total).

I can't recall the exact number of spaces, but he moved around 8 spaces in the whole game, which mostly ended up moving him along the far edge of the board layout for the scenario (his camp starts adjacent to us).

So while the scenario sounded cool, he never did hunt down the characters. Maybe we were too fast? Of course, we did run out of turns before he was able to approach and attack the castle that we were able to take over (bloodied, but victorious!)

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tazz wrote:
Benkyo wrote:
tazz: I'm guessing you played with 18 wounds? So that's 18 non-moves, 12 single moves, and 3 double moves +5 non moves in the first phase that become 4 single moves and a double move in the second phase.

In the first phase Volkare is guaranteed to move off the starting hex after 4 moves, and likely after two moves. So odds on he will leave the first tile by turn 6. Note that there are only 3 possible directions for movement and there is no way he can return to a hex he has left.

In the second phase every non-Wound card moves Volkare closer to the city by the most direct route possible.

I think you must have played his moves incorrectly.


Yes, we were using the 18 wound cards difficulty level (Fair), and added those to the basic cards from one of the Hero's decks, along with the 4 removed Spells (38 cards total).

I can't recall the exact number of spaces, but he moved around 8 spaces in the whole game, which mostly ended up moving him along the far edge of the board layout for the scenario (his camp starts adjacent to us).

So while the scenario sounded cool, he never did hunt down the characters. Maybe we were too fast? Of course, we did run out of turns before he was able to approach and attack the castle that we were able to take over (bloodied, but victorious!)



Sorry, but you weren't victorious if you merely took the city. You also have to take down Volkare. If he moved only 8 spaces in the whole game, that means you only took only about 28 turns over the 6 rounds (~5 turns per round), which is very fast, and you also drew all the wounds, and only 8 moves from his deck, which a very unlikely draw.

So you either 1) had a set of circumstances that are very unlikely to occur in a normal game, causing the game to end after 6 rounds with a loss you could do little to prevent, 2) made rule errors, or 3) ended the scenario halfway, after taking the city.

Any way you slice it, that isn't a typical result when playing the Volkare scenarios.
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Thanks for helping to clarify our situation. Yes, I shouldn't have said victorious, but we were definitely bloodied awaiting Volkare's attack on our castle which never came to be.

It sounds like Volkare should have been a bit more active, definitely worth trying it again. I just need to convince the other 2 now!
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No worries. Bear in mind that you should be aiming to conquer the city by round 5 at the latest, and preferably by round 4, in order to prepare for Volkare's attack. That also gives you the option of stretching out the last round or two to ~20 turns each(!), which, although far from ideal, does guarantee that Volkare will reach you. Having said that, I've played the Volkare scenarios at least a dozen times and have never had to kill time in such a way - it's always been a very close-run thing.
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Benkyo wrote:
No worries. Bear in mind that you should be aiming to conquer the city by round 5 at the latest, and preferably by round 4, in order to prepare for Volkare's attack. That also gives you the option of stretching out the last round or two to ~20 turns each(!), which, although far from ideal, does guarantee that Volkare will reach you. Having said that, I've played the Volkare scenarios at least a dozen times and have never had to kill time in such a way - it's always been a very close-run thing.


Awesome, glad to know that it was only our bad luck, and not a broken game mechanic.
 
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tazz wrote:
Benkyo wrote:
Having said that, I've played the Volkare scenarios at least a dozen times and have never had to kill time in such a way - it's always been a very close-run thing.


Awesome, glad to know that it was only our bad luck, and not a broken game mechanic.


You're not required to wait for him in the city. Especially on the slower race levels it may be a wiser course of action to go out to meet him rather than to let the clock run out.
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jsciv wrote:
tazz wrote:
Benkyo wrote:
Having said that, I've played the Volkare scenarios at least a dozen times and have never had to kill time in such a way - it's always been a very close-run thing.


Awesome, glad to know that it was only our bad luck, and not a broken game mechanic.


You're not required to wait for him in the city. Especially on the slower race levels it may be a wiser course of action to go out to meet him rather than to let the clock run out.


True, but we collectively took a pretty bad beating while attacking the castle, so we were licking our wounds when the game ended. I see what you mean, we wouldn't need to be in the city if we attack Volkare directly, we would just lose if he makes it to the city without any of the players putting up a defense. The ol' cut him off at the pass.

We're sooo going to play this scenario different next time! Thanks for the tips.
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I'm new to Mage Knight having just purchased the game after it being on my "to buy list" for quite some time. I love the game. I recently found a copy of Lost Legions on EBay for $24 and wasn't sure if I should get it or not. Your review convinced me to pull the trigger. I'll probably play the base game several more times before adding the expansion as I haven't won yet! But I keep getting closer. I've only played three times so far.
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