Jon Beckett Schreiber
First Impressions of Mage Knight - Revised Rules and figures
“Mage Knight has become a whole new game,” said Jordan Weisman, WizKids CEO. “The game introduces all-new characters to the Mage Knight universe, and the new abilities and game mechanics make Mage Knight a faster, more strategic game.”
- From the WizKids Press Release dated 11/5/2003
"Mage Knight 2.0 is the new hotness."
- WizKids Playtesting Coordinator
Mage Knight came out in 2000 with a great new concept in miniatures - keep the stats on the base, eliminate the paper work, have tons of special abilities and track damage on the base reducing stats as a figure gets wounded. Oh, and the figures were pre-painted, too.
This caught on with a lot of folks and lead to several expansions with increases in figure quality - both sculptures and paint jobs - as well as successive games in different genres, each with modified rule sets.
The new games were not as generic as general fantasy, and added new layers to the basic activation style of Mage Knight. These rules sets eclipsed Mage Knight in both depth and complexity - leaving the original game in the dust. The release of the new rule set is an attempt to update Mage Knight and bring it to a level of it's brother game Mech Warrior. And in all I would say that WizKids did a good job with the update.
Now, I've only played one game of the new rules (referred to as MK 2.0 from here out) but found that it did indeed fix a lot of issues that were problematic with the first game, without rendering the original figures obsolete.
One of the biggest changes was the creation of different attack types. Figures that have a sword next to their attack type are melee figures (which includes all older figures), a bow for ranged, and a wand for magic. Both melee and ranged figures gained new abilities to go with the attack icon.
Melee figures now have Surge. This ability allows a figure to move up to it's full movement, take a click of damage, and attack all for one action token. This make a melee army now a much more viable tactic. Oh, and Werewolves just got really nasty.
Ranged figures have both Precision and Point-Blank. The former lets you fire at enemies that are in base contact with a friendly figure. The latter give a bonus to shooting a targets that are within half of the attackers range. Again a nice change.
They've also printed the damage for all ranged attacks on the dial. So now a figure can be specialized at range combat or at melee, not always both as it previously has been.
Another major change has been made in how the game is played in a standard setting. Instead of the army destruction being the focus, it is now objective control. Three objectives are placed on the battlefield, and whomever controls the most objectives wins the game. Ties are broken by more opposing figures eliminated, followed by lowest army size. This has the effect of forcing more interaction between players.
The figures themselves have received new advantages - sub-factions. In the original game a figure's faction only determined who they could make a formation and had no other impact on the game. Now some figures have sub-factions which add special abilities that do not disappear. These range from a built in Force March or Vampirism, to a wicked ability that allows you to bring a figure back from the dead for one turn - yours or your opponents! Again, another level of complexity has been added, to make the game a little more interesting.
Other additions include: Domains - modify the battlefield conditions for the entire game, Relics - add powerful items to your Unique figures, and Constructed Terrain - small, simple buildings that can be placed on the battlefield.
All of these additions are found on cards included in each booster and starter, which add to the value of the boosters and adds another layer of complexity to MK 2.0.
But there are a few downsides to this new set and concept. First of all, rare chasing has just gotten worse with a set of 88 cards to gather, along with the 16 Unique figures. With only one card per booster - two in a starter - getting a majority of the cards is perhaps the most difficult part of gathering the set.
This is made worse with the Domains being added to the game. Changing the battlefield conditions is huge, and the player without a Domain can be at an disadvantage - especially since they are not allowing proxies for Domains. But on the flipside, for casual games there is no reason to not allow proxies.
The Final Verdict:
The new release of Mage Knight has a lot going for it. Improved rules, increased pace of play, new concepts that can radically change the game environment, victory conditions that now encourage interaction instead of defensive play.
The figure sculpts are possibly some of the best yet, with lots of detail and painted well enough to satisfy those who don't care to do it themselves. And the dial changes - and there are a few - have made it more legible, without adding clutter, and added the potential for multiple special abilities on one stat.
Also the rules changes and new figures make this a good jumping on point for new players, while the old figures are still viable, but not as good as they once were. But it is still not an inexpensive game - I purchased a starter and four boosters and had enough to have fun, but not enough for serious play. Also, while some older figures are quite good with the new rules, others that were excellent are now reduced in quality.
Mage Knight 2.0 - 8 of 10
Good game for people who like the genre and are willing to spend the money. If you like fast paced miniatures, but didn't care for Mage Knight the first time around, take another look at the rules and see if you like the changes. For Mage Knight players, 2.0 is indeed the "new hotness".
Product Line discontinued
Wizkids, the game manufacturer, recently announced that they are discontinuing the Mage Knight product line due to poor sales. I can't see the news article, but some MK fans discuss this on wizkids forum, http://forum.wizkidsgames.com/showthread.php?t=115257" .