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Subject: A Review for Mage Knight Enthusiasts rss

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Jan-Philippe Lavoie
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This review is from the point of view of a huge fan and veteran of Mage Knight The Board Game. Even though the two games are almost identical, I was utterly disappointed by the way the balance was changed. Disclaimer: I have only played one game of Star Trek Frontiers, but have played a lot of Mage Knight, solo, cooperative and competitive and consider this enough to recognize how the new rules affect gameplay after just one game. Following are the difference that I think skew the balance on the "way too easy" side for anyone with mage knight experience.


Assault from adjacent space

Contrary to mage knight fortified sites, you don't need to move on a starbase to assault it, and this makes a big difference. In MK, you often needed two cards to move on fortified site, or one card and one mana, which is huge when you only have five cards in hand and are only allowed to use one die from the source. This makes assaulting starbases much easier than MK fortified sites

No fortified ennemies
In MK, range attack is very powerful at the beginning of the game, but since cities are fortified, you can't just go all in on range attack and expect to have a good time assaulting cities in the late game. In STF, there is no concept of fortified, so long range attacks stay good for the whole game. It's hard to find justification to invest in any type of shields, especially since you can't even use them for away mission. Once again, this makes things much easier as you don't have to worry about attacks from enemy tokens if you hold enough range in you hand.

Multi-ennemies combat
In MK, when you battle against multiple ennemies, you have to handle all of them at the same time. In STF, it will happen when fighting in class-h planets and Borg cubes that you will face a mix of ships and planets. In that case, you can avoid taking any damage by not beaming any crew/captain down and just sacrificing your "basic security team". The consequence of doing that is only a lost of two reputation, which is a small price to pay to remove prevent one or more token from participating in combat. Especially in Borg cube assault, having one less token to deal with in a single turn is huge.

No day/night cycle
Having no day/night cycle means that you can use black data for spells every round. It also means that white data(gold mana in MK) is also usable every round. This means cards are much easier to power cards, especially spells.

Partial shields
Contrary to MK, you can partially shield (block) an enemy. Playing one or two shield points to prevent one damage without having to shield the whole thing is huge.


Conclusion
All those changes may seem small, but they actually change the difficulty quite a lot, and all of them together make the game way too easy for any experienced player. As an example, in my first (and only) game of STF, doing a Full Conquest with three players, we each managed to conquer or Borg cube by round 3 (out of 6) which is insane, and it was not even a close thing. I understand that cube levels can be changed, but the whole pacing of the game is going to be weird if everything else on the map is ship fast food. I can't recommend this game. If you are a Mage Knight veteran you will most likely find the game too easy. If you are not, you will get less replayability from this one as once you get more experienced you will face the same problem. Unfortunately, this is not Mage Knight In Space
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Ben Kyo
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Thanks for the review. I'd come to similar conclusions just from what little I'd picked up in forums, but it is good to have confirmation from someone looking at things from the same perspective.

I can see how an easier and faster romp through the board with less difficult decisions might be appealing to some, but I'll be sticking with MK.
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Barry Miller
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It will be interesting to hear from anyone on the design team, to learn if this was their intent, or if something's missing from your analysis. I'm not suggesting either way as I've played STF only twice and have never played MK. But your observations now have me curios.

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Evan Francis
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For me personally, I sold Mage Knight as the reward for completing a scenario was not worth the rules and gameplay over head. I sold Mage Knight because of that.

I picked up Frontiers particularly because the game play was streamlined and those changes for me mean a more satisfying game.

I can see those differences as seeming a simpler game, I just see it as a more approachable game (ha, it's still difficult to learn initially)
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GreatDantone wrote:
I understand that cube levels can be changed, but the whole pacing of the game is going to be weird if everything else on the map is ship fast food.


The variants section in the rules states that the tile distribution is just a recommendation and that can be adjusted to your skill level. By reducing the number of frontier tiles, and increasing the number of core tiles, can't you tune the game to have the right pace and challenge for you?
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Darryl Coles
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I think long range attacks are powerful, but they still count as phaser attacks and so enemy's with phaser resistance will be a problem.
 
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Ben Kyo
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rbelikov wrote:
GreatDantone wrote:
I understand that cube levels can be changed, but the whole pacing of the game is going to be weird if everything else on the map is ship fast food.


The variants section in the rules states that the tile distribution is just a recommendation and that can be adjusted to your skill level. By reducing the number of frontier tiles, and increasing the number of core tiles, can't you tune the game to have the right pace and challenge for you?


Not from my understanding. It's not just a matter of tile difficulty, it's about a reduction in difficult choices. There's also a hard limit on the number of core tiles.

Note that the first expansion for MK recognised that block was undervalued, and tried to add a bunch of different ways to correct that. Starting from the base game and going full-tilt in the other direction seems like a strange choice.
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bgm1961 wrote:

It will be interesting to hear from anyone on the design team, to learn if this was their intent, or if something's missing from your analysis. I'm not suggesting either way as I've played STF only twice and have never played MK. But your observations now have me curios.


Here is a partial answer to your question from a playtester / developer:
Manuel ODonnell wrote:
This solo game is significantly easier than MK on default difficulty, but I think that's a good thing, both because the initial learning curve is fairly steep, and because it's a simple matter to make significantly harder as a player improves.

[Source: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/23390868#23390868]

I would be very curious to know whether Manuel (or other developers) ever thought the LRA strategy may be too dominant.

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José San Miguel
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Thanks for this review. This is what I feared. I will stick with MK even though I'm a trekkie.
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Ben Kyo
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Manuel ODonnell wrote:
This solo game is significantly easier than MK on default difficulty, but I think that's a good thing, both because the initial learning curve is fairly steep, and because it's a simple matter to make significantly harder as a player improves.

It's probably worth noting that for any experienced Mage Knight player, the default Mage Knight solo scenario is almost impossible to lose.

That's kind of secondary for people like myself who prefer to play the game competitively, but I imagine it is quite significant for anyone who plays primarily solo. A "significantly easier" solo game on default difficulty can only be a negative change for experienced MK solo players.
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Brian C
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I wonder why, but "streamlining" always seems to go awry in my book.

I've come to fear and loath that word. soblue
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Chris J Davis
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Exo Desta wrote:
I wonder why, but "streamlining" always seems to go awry in my book.

I've come to fear and loath that word. soblue


In my experience, streamlining always does games the world of good.

It seems to me that this may be the only exception.
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bleached_lizard wrote:
In my experience, streamlining always does games the world of good.

It seems to me that this may be the only exception.

I'm glad you've had a different experience than I have.

I can only think of Descent 1st Edition versus 2nd Edition, and how that change was more than just one game deciding to go "mainstream" -- maybe I'm misremembering the old days as more glorious than they were, but to my mind games were chunkier back then.. and then the CMoN era commenced, and it seems to me that the majority of games got lighter and less interesting.

There are small exceptions ofcourse. But as soon as the phrase streamlined gets tossed around, my first instinct is to duck and run.
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Mark K.
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Reading these comments I am asking myself, what prevents players from porting their beloved Mage Knight rules to Frontiers?

I haven't played Mage Knight but aside from away missions that make cube assaults easier and maybe the day/night cycle it seems to be trivial to implement the following changes:

* give borg cubes the fortify mechanic
* remove long range attacks from away missions (something I'll probably introduce into my games soon)
* remove the ability to partially shield attacks
* require entering of star bases in order to assault them
* raise the levels of the borg cubes
* remove the 1 exp bonus when revealing a new tile

Quite a few ways to "roughen up" the streamlined experience

Since the rule book emphasizes adjusting difficulty to ones liking this seems to be within the spirit of the game to me.
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der_mandarin wrote:
Reading these comments I am asking myself, what prevents players from porting their beloved Mage Knight rules to Frontiers?

I haven't played Mage Knight but aside from away missions that make cube assaults easier and maybe the day/night cycle it seems to be trivial to implement the following changes:

* give borg cubes the fortify mechanic
* remove long range attacks from away missions (something I'll probably introduce into my games soon)
* remove the ability to partially shield attacks
* require entering of star bases in order to assault them
* raise the levels of the borg cubes
* remove the 1 exp bonus when revealing a new tile

Quite a few ways to "roughen up" the streamlined experience

Since the rule book emphasizes adjusting difficulty to ones liking this seems to be within the spirit of the game to me.


Also, give Fortify to starbases.
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Jan-Philippe Lavoie
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Benkyo wrote:

It's probably worth noting that for any experienced Mage Knight player, the default Mage Knight solo scenario is almost impossible to lose.


And this has been nicely dealt with in Lost Legion, providing multiple ways to increase the difficulty by adjusting the strength of volkare, the speed of the game, etc...
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Jan-Philippe Lavoie
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der_mandarin wrote:
Reading these comments I am asking myself, what prevents players from porting their beloved Mage Knight rules to Frontiers?

I haven't played Mage Knight but aside from away missions that make cube assaults easier and maybe the day/night cycle it seems to be trivial to implement the following changes:

* give borg cubes the fortify mechanic
* remove long range attacks from away missions (something I'll probably introduce into my games soon)
* remove the ability to partially shield attacks
* require entering of star bases in order to assault them
* raise the levels of the borg cubes
* remove the 1 exp bonus when revealing a new tile

Quite a few ways to "roughen up" the streamlined experience

Since the rule book emphasizes adjusting difficulty to ones liking this seems to be within the spirit of the game to me.


It might work, but I would worry about the balance of the game. The absence of any card to deal with fortifications, for example, might make fortification too strong. My issue here is not that much the difficulty of the game but the pacing that feels weird in STF, compared to the smooth progression in MK. But it's definitely worth a try now that I invested in the game shake
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Jacob H.
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GreatDantone wrote:


Conclusion
All those changes may seem small, but they actually change the difficulty quite a lot, and all of them together make the game way too easy for any experienced player. As an example, in my first (and only) game of STF, doing a Full Conquest with three players, we each managed to conquer or Borg cube by round 3 (out of 6) which is insane, and it was not even a close thing. I understand that cube levels can be changed, but the whole pacing of the game is going to be weird if everything else on the map is ship fast food. I can't recommend this game. If you are a Mage Knight veteran you will most likely find the game too easy. If you are not, you will get less replayability from this one as once you get more experienced you will face the same problem. Unfortunately, this is not Mage Knight In Space


Surprise surprise, I have the same feelings. Probably because we played together whistle
 
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Evan Francis
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Right, got it.
If you're mega good at Mage Knight, pass on this.
Otherwise, if you thought Mage Knight was bloated and convoluted (yeah huh) then give this a try, you might be suprised how much more accessible it is (that's not saying much either).
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Jacob H.
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kinkykone wrote:
Right, got it.
If you're mega good at Mage Knight, pass on this.
Otherwise, if you thought Mage Knight was bloated and convoluted (yeah huh) then give this a try, you might be suprised how much more accessible it is (that's not saying much either).



Seems like a pretty fair assessment!
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Jo Bartok
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Your review sounds overly positive to me. Concerned for difficulty its simple, play head vs head. Still the lack of interaction makes me - one that played MK and sold it and likes STTNG - want to play, but not want to buy Star-Trek-Mage-Knight.
 
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Question to the op: at what official variant setting (I.e. Modifying the tile distribution and Borg cube levels) would you say does the balance and difficulty of ST:F most closely approximate the default in MK?
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Chris J Davis
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My concern would be that, although you can adjust the difficulty of the Borg Cubes, you cannot adjust the difficulty of the enemies throughout the rest of the game, so it will never be the same difficulty as Mage Knight.
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bleached_lizard wrote:
My concern would be that, although you can adjust the difficulty of the Borg Cubes, you cannot adjust the difficulty of the enemies throughout the rest of the game, so it will never be the same difficulty as Mage Knight.


Which is exactly why I was asking not only about the Borg levels, but about modifying the tile distribution (so that, for example, harder enemies like Borg spheres and distress planets appear sooner). Both are official variants from the rulebook.

Would any of our Canadian friends care to comment? Specifically about what tile distribution changes and Borg cube level changes do they think comes the closest to replicating the default MK experience?
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rbelikov wrote:
bleached_lizard wrote:
My concern would be that, although you can adjust the difficulty of the Borg Cubes, you cannot adjust the difficulty of the enemies throughout the rest of the game, so it will never be the same difficulty as Mage Knight.


Which is exactly why I was asking not only about the Borg levels, but about modifying the tile distribution (so that, for example, harder enemies like Borg spheres and distress planets appear sooner). Both are official variants from the rulebook.

Would any of our Canadian friends care to comment? Specifically about what tile distribution changes and Borg cube level changes do they think comes the closest to replicating the default MK experience?


I still don't think it would really achieve the effect you're after. You would just be moving the power curve tipping point to earlier in the game.

To achieve the effect you desire, all of the enemies and cards would have to be designed with that progression of power in mind, and they're just not.
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