Recommend
43 
 Thumb up
 Hide
12 Posts

Mage Knight Board Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Mage Knight by Candle Light. A Bullet-Point-Review-in-a-Powercut. rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Dr. Octatrack
United Kingdom
Rochdale
Greater Manchester
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
Introduction

This is my second review on BGG, the first being No Retreat: The Russian Front. It's been a while since I contributed anything to BGG, but in the meantime I've been getting into solitaire gaming.
I've played Mage Knight The Board Game 40-odd times. About 80% of those games were solitaire, and about 30% included elements from the Lost Legion Expansion. Even so, this is mainly a review of the base game, with solitaire players in mind.
The review is bullet-pointed for easy reading, and split into two main sections- Components, and The Game.

Totally Skippable Flavour Text
Moons ago on a black winter's eve, I returned home from the daily toil to find the electricity off in the local area. In my flat there was an eerie silence. It was as if my neighbours had switched off along with their TVs. No cheering or shouting from the lads playing FIFA Football next door, no soap operas from the deaf lady with the 5.1 THX home cinema downstairs. She all about dat bass. Even my neighbour's dogs had stopped their infernal and incessant barking. They had ceased responding to stimuli. They were like zombies awaiting their master's next command.
For a while I sat in the candlelit gloom, smoking in the crypt-like cool of the kitchen, drinking hot coffee from the gas stove, absorbing the silence, thinking of Depeche Mode...
Something was calling me...
Guided by the flickering flame, I entered the pitch black chamber. Following the sound of a thousand whispering voices to an alcove, I feverishly grasped at something in the dark. The thing was much heavier than it looked, it trembled and shook until I opened it. With care I laid the contents on the kitchen table according to the ritual and then, under shimmering candlelight, I knew what I must do...


Play the game and write a review...!
(Disclaimer: The pictures were taken at a later date, and some of the components are from the Lost Legion Expansion. Also, do we really need another review of MK? Well to be honest I wrote most of this review over a year ago, so some of the references may seem dated. I don't smoke anymore (Booo, hiss!!) and I think the debate about theme in Star Wars LCG has died down...But anyway, moving on!)

Components

1. Packaging
Pro's-
thumbsupBox is sturdy and relatively small, considering how much stuff is packed in there.
thumbsupContains a semi-useful insert.
thumbsupArtwork is technically well-done.
Cons-
thumbsdownYou'll need plenty of bags and/or boxes to contain all the bits. (You know you got 'em!)
thumbsdownThe insert is a bit flimsy, you may or may not keep all/some of it.
thumbsdownThe cover art doesn't exactly grab me. Who are these generic-looking fantasy people? Why has that guy got a bat on his head? Who cares? I don't...

Contents of the base game and Lost Legion- it all fits in the box!

2. Cards
Pro's-

thumbsupExcellent artwork.
thumbsupPlenty of them.
thumbsupGreat variety of cards, adds replay value.
Cons-
thumbsdownCards from the base game are a little thin and flimsy. If you're not a sleever, you will be...
thumbsdownSome have distinguishing marks on the back.
thumbsdownCards from the Lost Legion expansion are thicker card stock, and the colour balance is different.
thumbsdownMany cards contain errors. The Lost Legion Expansion replaces these (albeit on thicker cards).
thumbsdownThe double-sided reference cards, which you will need for many games, are a pain in the arse.


3. Counters – e.g. Bad Guys and Adventure Sites
Pro's-
thumbsupPretty solid card, not quite FFG quality.
thumbsupLots of uncluttered information, but have the rulebook handy at first, until you know what the symbols mean.
thumbsupPlenty of variety.
Cons-
thumbsdownSome tokens are reverse punched. The 'back' of most tokens is the rounded side, but some have the flat side as the back. You can see and feel this. It means that you have an idea of which enemy creature is on the other side, when you really shouldn't.
thumbsdownSome contain errors, which are replaced in the Lost Legion Expansion pack.


4. Map Tiles and Boards
Pro's-

thumbsupEnough map tiles for great variety on each play through.
thumbsupFunctional, colourful, clear hexes and terrain types make it easy to see what is going on.
Cons-
thumbsdownLooks a bit 'cartooney' and doesn't really capture the gritty feeling of morally-ambiguous warrior-priests stomping all over a kingdom over the course of a few days.
thumbsdownTile edges may start to peel.
thumbsdownSome have distinguishing marks and colour variation on their backs. Shuffle them under the table, or in the dark!
thumbsdownThe XP and Day/Night boards take up quite a lot of space.

5. Dice, Minis, etc. – e.g. The Plastic Bits
Pro's-

thumbsupMana Crystals are cool (but very sharp!)
thumbsupThe dice are just fine.
thumbsupTovak and Goldyx look great.
thumbsupPre-painted minis, but...
Cons-
thumbsdown...the other mages are uugly, and the paint job is horrific/comical.
thumbsdownThe cities look like cheap toys. Think Cinderella's castle from a Kinder Surprise. My friend actually laughed out loud when he first saw them.
thumbsdownThe cities have a clicky base, which doesn't offend me, but the symbols are hard to see (especially in candlelight).
thumbsdownThere is no Mana 'Token', which is no big deal but would have been nice.



The four 'heroes', with Wolfhawk and Volkare from Lost Legion in the background.

6. Books
Pro's-

thumbsupThe Walkthrough scenario 'First Recon' is helpful when learning and teaching the game.
thumbsupThere is a good variety of Scenarios, with great scope for customisation, variants, quests, official house-rules etc...
thumbsupThe Rulebook contains most of what you need...
Cons-
thumbsdown...but the information can be hard to find, especially as certain things are only in the Walkthrough guide or the Reference Cards. You may end up switching between them a lot for your first few games.
thumbsdown'First Recon' as a mission is rubbish. Players will get a feel for the rules, but probably won't feel like they had an adventure. Learn the rules and move on as soon as you can!
thumbsdownYou should read through each book more than once, before and after a few games just so you get an idea where the relevant information is.
thumbsdownWalkthrough videos are a big help. You don't get any in the box, but there is a Board Game Site (for Geeks) that has some.

The Game

1. General Gameplay Overview
Pro's-

thumbsupLots of variety for great replay value. Mages, Skills, Actions, Spells, Artifacts, Units, Monsters, Cities, Adventure Sites, Map Layout, Game Type/Length, Difficulty Level... All different every time.
thumbsupVery strategic gameplay, with interesting tactical choices.
thumbsupMakes dice-less combat interesting.
thumbsupEncourages players to play out their turns, trying out different combinations and tactics before actually committing. AP players will still find a way to take forever though...
thumbsupTense gameplay- you generally succeed (or fail) most actions by just one point.
thumbsupCards can be used in diverse ways when you get stuck (and you will).
thumbsupVery engrossing and addictive when you get into it.
thumbsupOffers plenty of Risk/Reward situations.
thumbsupDiscourages dawdling- encourages action!
thumbsupTurn and Round Structures are very procedural and easy to follow.
thumbsupLots of room for planning. But you must always have a plan B!
thumbsupFeels like a race against time.
thumbsupIn-game-deckbuilding-lite.™
thumbsupLooks great when set out on the table.
thumbsupInteresting method of creating and refreshing groups of cards, which players may select from at certain times.
thumbsupLevel-Up! to gain new skills, better stats and Advanced action cards to your deck
thumbsupWounds. Yes, wounds!. Wound cards usually go into your hand when you are injured. Your hand is like your energy, how much 'stuff' you can do in one day- and it is limited in size. If not dealt with, these wounds eventually clog up your hand and reduce your ability to take action. You can Heal, which is hard to do but completely gets rid of wounds, or you can Rest, which is easy but you only get to discard wounds. This means that when you re-shuffle your deck/discard pile and draw a new hand, (which is frequent), old wounds will crop up again and give your Mighty Mage Knight arthritic knees. Wound cards are a great idea, very simple and very thematic!
A lot of the game mechanisms are thematic, but...
Cons-
thumbsdown...the theme requires a little bit of imagination. It doesn't leap out and tell you a story, you have to add a little thought or it ends up just being about numbers. I like to use my imagination, but I have heard complaints about a lack of theme and story in Mage Knight. After all, it doesn't bother me if C3-PO can somehow kill Emperor Palpatine, as long as we're having fun (sorry, wrong game).
thumbsdownRequires a fair amount of dedication and determination to really learn the game. On the plus side, it is designed for solo play so you can learn it at your own pace, while you play. And it is relatively easy to teach to others.
thumbsdownTakes a while to set-up/teardown.
thumbsdownTakes up lots of room.
thumbsdownSometimes, the preparation of a new round can feel like a bit of a chore, especially if the previous round was uneventful.
thumbsdownYou will get rules wrong/miss things/cheat by mistake!
thumbsdownYour Mage Knight will get stuck every now and then. This is where 'mmm, luck' comes into play, and you have to try to look on the bright side of life as a Mage Knight. You'll spend turn after turn joyously throwing away powerful combat cards to trudge through baking hot deserts by day, tangled forests by night and really stinky swamps at any hour. You'll be pleasantly surprised as you draw a hand of movement/influence cards when you're locked in mortal battle with a master wizard. You'll laugh, almost manically as you find yourself trapped between a lake, the sea and a mountain. But when you realise that the Gorgon is going to paralyse you and there's no escape from her dungeon, you'll feel calm, refreshed and optimistic about the future.

Arythea with her starting deck and counter set.

2. Multi Player Game
Pro's-

thumbsupMultiple game modes – Competetive, Cooperative, PVP combat (or not), Drafting etc...
thumbsupVarious Short, Medium and Long scenarios so you can always cram a game in.
thumbsupEasy to teach as you play, especially when playing Coop or semi-Coop
thumbsup2-3 players is the sweet spot, in my limited experience
thumbsupEnough downtime so that you can plan in between turns
thumbsupEnough luck so that no plan is foolproof
thumbsupPVP can be brutal (see Cons).
Cons-
thumbsdownPlayer interaction is generally low in most games without PVP. Can feel a bit like 'multiplayer solitaire'.
thumbsdownCan suffer from a runaway leader effect.
thumbsdownOccasionally a player will lag far behind.
thumbsdown4 player games can drag on for hours with lots of downtime
thumbsdownPVP can be brutal (but is optional)

Solitaire game a few turns in. I'm not doing very well.

3. Solitaire Game
Pro's-

thumbsupYou can play it sans friends. In the dark. Down a hole. With an Owl.
thumbsupCan have a quick game in a couple of hours or less, or...
thumbsup...Play an epic game over 2 or 3 evenings, with plenty of time to plan and mull things over.
thumbsupDummy Player keeps up the pace, and is easy to manage (I really don't understand complaints about ol' Dummy)
thumbsupVariety.
Cons-
thumbsdownIf your gonna get rules wrong, its gonna be when your goin' solo. Make sure to check the rules/forums and don't get complacent!

"Kiiilll Meeeeee!!!"

Summary
The first time I saw Vlaada Chvatil's Mage Knight The Board Game I was totally unimpressed. Nothing at all grabbed me or made me want to look again. I'd never played a Vlaada game. It looked fiddly, generic and to be honest, kinda cheap. I kept hearing about how you had to watch tutorial videos before you could play, how much of a commitment learning the game was. Not to mention complaints about price, component quality and customer service! Maybe you've heard similar things? So what was it that changed my mind? Well, apart from re-learning these lessons-

1. Do not judge a game by its cover,
2a. Believe nothing that you hear...
2b...and only half of what you see, (thanks, Marv.)


it was one word- Solitaire.

Remember, I said I was getting into solo games, right? Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't rush out and buy the game immediately, but I did start reading/watching reviews and Paul Grogan's excellent tutorial videos(!) to see what the fuss was about. I downloaded (and of course, read) the rulebook and walkthrough. And even though I ended up doing just the things that had initially put me off, I started to get a feeling that there really was something to this game.
After great consideration...Obviously I bought it, but when I first set up the game I already had a good idea what I was doing and this definitely helped as Mage Knight can seem daunting. I recommend research. You're doing well!
Regarding component issues, the only ones that really bug me are the reverse-punched counters, and the marked card-backs/map-tiles. Everything else is either easily dealt with, down to personal opinion or just trivial. This is the kind of game I would have sleeved anyway (due to cost and constant shuffling of cards) but you may want to consider getting sleeves with coloured backs if you have the same component issues as I do. But the game is that much fun I can almost completely overlook the shoddy production values!
Regarding the Lost Legion- it definitely is not essential to enjoying this game. The base game is 100% complete and offers tons of replay value. The expansion does fix, tweak and replace quite a lot of components, but to be honest, with most of them I didn't even realise there was a problem in the first place.
This isn't a game to rush into, it isn't cheap and it does require some preparation, but for me it was definitely worth it, even with the component issues. Its good to know that its on the shelf for emergencies, power cuts and of course game-night!
I hope this review was helpful, or at the least, mildly entertaining.

Finally, I will hesitantly and obscurely rate Mage Knight-

Somewhere between a Barbarian Bastard Sword and a Grey Wizard's Sleeve.

Or on a simpler scale...

Siege Attack 8

Its that good.

Adam





Bonus image- My shot of the solar eclipse, March 20th 2015


Onward, through swamp and over burial mound marched the Knight.
Moving swiftly in the blackness, with waning candle,
His cold coffee cup clasped like a shield to his burning chest,
He vowed to Conquer the ancient city,
Before the Moon rose again...

...And in that frozen hour before dawn were the distant spires viewed,
Through fog as thick and green as potion-glass,
Unlimited power within one's reach,
One Ring to ru...


Hey! The power's back on!
Who wants to watch Game of Thrones!?!?
71 
 Thumb up
8.26
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Iskaral Pust
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Amazing write up, I wish I had some geek gold to give you.
Regards the tokens and badly marked map tiles, use a dice for the tokens and use randomizer playing cards for map tiles.
I use playing cards for my map tiles and I don't even have any issues with my set.
What a partial solar eclipse image that is.
Stunning!
2 
 Thumb up
2.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Iskaral Pust
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
Hahaha thanks Geddon.
1 
 Thumb up
1.01
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David desJardins
United States
Burlingame
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I am pretty sensitive to such things and I haven't noticed any difference in thickness between the base game cards and the expansion cards.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dr. Octatrack
United Kingdom
Rochdale
Greater Manchester
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
Iskaral Pust wrote:
Amazing write up, I wish I had some geek gold to give you.
Regards the tokens and badly marked map tiles, use a dice for the tokens and use randomizer playing cards for map tiles.
I use playing cards for my map tiles and I don't even have any issues with my set.
What a partial solar eclipse image that is.
Stunning!

Thank you! Good idea for the tile selection too.

DaviddesJ wrote:
I am pretty sensitive to such things and I haven't noticed any difference in thickness between the base game cards and the expansion cards.

Cool, I think there has been a lot of inconsistency between printings of this game and it's expansions. My Lost legion cards are not only thicker, but are kind of bowed too, so when they're in my deck I can see the gap in-between them. But obviously, YMMV! Cheers
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sky Zero
United States
Illinois
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
DaviddesJ wrote:
I am pretty sensitive to such things and I haven't noticed any difference in thickness between the base game cards and the expansion cards.


There's a significant difference in some printings. Mine are wildly varied between the base and expansion. I just sleeved them though, problem solved.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dr. Octatrack
United Kingdom
Rochdale
Greater Manchester
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mb
skyzero wrote:
There's a significant difference in some printings. Mine are wildly varied between the base and expansion. I just sleeved them though, problem solved.

I think using premium sleeves should solve the problem in most cases. But I cheaped out a long time ago and have tons of those not-quite-a-penny flimsy sleeves! Lesson learned.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Patrick M
United States
Highland Park
New Jersey
flag msg tools
Geddon wrote:
skyzero wrote:
There's a significant difference in some printings. Mine are wildly varied between the base and expansion. I just sleeved them though, problem solved.
I think using premium sleeves should solve the problem in most cases. But I cheaped out a long time ago and have tons of those not-quite-a-penny flimsy sleeves! Lesson learned.
Same here. I play a lot of deck builders and used to have everything in Mayday penny sleeves because I was sure they were good enough. Then tried Ultra-Pro matte and have been spoiled ever since. I have all the deed cards in Ultra-Pro black matte, and all the unit cards in gold and silver Dragon Shields. So luxe!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dylan Thurston
United States
Bloomington
Indiana
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
DaviddesJ wrote:
I am pretty sensitive to such things and I haven't noticed any difference in thickness between the base game cards and the expansion cards.
Likewise here. I find the cards in both the base game and the expansion to be nicely thick.

Thanks for the nice review!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Richard
United States
San Diego
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
DaviddesJ wrote:
I am pretty sensitive to such things and I haven't noticed any difference in thickness between the base game cards and the expansion cards.


There's a big difference in mine, although I can't judge thickness. I can say, however, that the base game cards are thin but don't bend too well. I feel like they'd snap if I tried to bend them. The expansion's cards bend in one direction like like they're made of thin paper and the other they don't bend at all.

It's all very strange. I've never seen cards like this and it's too bad since they actually have a nice linen texture on the surface.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ridley Bojangles
United States
Cape Elizabeth
Maine
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Cool review. You make a lot of good points, I think Mage Knight is a neo-classic game that will stay a long time in people's hearts. However the production values are mixed, to say the least. I don't know why they spent money on those clicky bases for those castles which play a very small part in the game all in all. Or that horrific insert which seems awesome until you realize it totally sucks and can't hold the expansions.

I would totally re-buy the game if it was produced as a super-mega-Anniversary edition with all top notch components and some redos on some of the art.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David desJardins
United States
Burlingame
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
blakflag wrote:
I don't know why they spent money on those clicky bases for those castles which play a very small part in the game all in all.


This is the easiest thing to explain. The Clix system was WizKids's hallmark. So they wanted (I would guess, insisted) that it be integrated into Mage Knight somehow, even though the rest of the game has very little to do with anything else they publish. If it were published by anyone else, you would never see this in it.
8 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.