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Robert Gardunia
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I picked up Mage Knight as a family xmas gift. My wife had played and really enjoyed Runebound, but though I also enjoyed it, to me Runebound (at least the base game) seemed a bit random and repetitive. We're both fairly heavy gamers, and enjoy games that are epic and intelligent, so after reading some of the reviews here about MK vs RB I chose to pick up the former in hopes of finding another scratch for that particular itch.

As another background note, we're also Vlaada fans and own several of his other games, so that was another point in the favor of MK (not to mention our 300+ Mage Knight figures)

Things that didn't go well:

I'll start with this, just because.

Concerns about the rulebook that you've likely read in other reviews are valid. Though we appreciated the way the Walkthrough let us get into the game a lot earlier (my wife LOVED that aspect), the lack of any glossary was, in a word, crippling. It only got worse when we played the full game. I spent a full 15 minutes between turns looking for the rule for when you could assign banners that would've been completely unnecessary with a simple 'banners pg. x in y book' glossary entry. Having several weeks ago introduced new players to Arkham Horror, and the sheer utilitarian joy of having a multi-rulebook glossary available in multiple places, made this distinction especially painful. A possible other negative aspect to this is that PvP and some other less used things seemed awfully fiddly for how often they might be actually used, as such even our first 'real' game avoided PvP and coordinated city attacks in an attempt to retain some level of sanity.

The Walkthrough (tutorial) game. Let me preface this be saying this was 100% necessary in order to get the 'feel' of the game. It's fairly short and for the more part gives you a solid base for the rest of the rules. However, my wife didn't like the tutorial game. She felt it was too short, too bland, and (after playing the full game) not really indicative of what the game really was. Sure, it showed you how to play, but the 'richness' of the full game is hard to see in it. She was a good sport and went through two Walkthrough games (one with just us and the other introducing two new players... actually the same two we'd introduced to Arkham Horror a couple weeks back).

The good things:

Epic theme abounds. We were fighting dragons, not crunching numbers despite the 'actual' prevalence of the latter, something I expect will decrease with familiarity of the systems. Mind you, the number crunching really isn't bad, it really only gets a little tricky when you're working with monsters/units that have special attacks and abilities. Units that wouldn't go into dungeons or attack monasteries, and that being evil actually mattered (via reputation), both also helped to give the world 'life'.

For an adventure game, options are everywhere. This is something I don't feel Runebound could really touch. It is possible to get resource 'screwed' and not be able to do a whole lot based on your hand and the situation, but this really felt like a rarity, especially later in the game. I also think clever use of the lover level units (which in several ways are more versatile that the higher level ones) could alleviate this quite a bit nearer the beginning of the game.

Thematic deckbuilding. We love Thunderstone, and the deckbuilding there is far 'heavier', but after our first 'full' game of MK, I have to say there were some nifty deckbuilding tricks that I hadn't seen elsewhere. Consider wounds, which in both games 'deaden' your hand. At some point my character learned a skill that instead turned them into exceptionally handy cards, and had another which allowed me to occasionally inflict them on other players while hissing 'now you bleed' in a creepy whisper. 'Nuff said.

Scenarios and play options. Haven't tried any of these aside from the main ones yet, but have to say the availability of co-op or team play as well as variations to change the goals of the base scenario are a welcome addition and we're looking forward to trying them.

Random, build as you go map. Always a HUGE plus with everyone I know!

Depending on your group this could go either way:

Our first, 4-player standard game, with a fully open map and 4 level 4 cities took 11 hours )mind you this included some off-time for lunch and dinner). Now, this isn't necessarily bad. As stated before, we love epic 'day-killers' as long as they are engaging and immersive (our last Descent game took 14 hours). MK has both those attributes in spades, so that 11 hours flew by. As it was our first 'real' game, I would pretty much expect the same scenario, perhaps after 1-2 more plays, to drop to about half of that. It also warned us quite clearly in the rules that it was going to be a long game.

Only 4 players max. We tend to have 3-5 players when we game, with 5 being fairly common. So that will rule this game out as a contender for play more often than it should.

In summary:
Probably not for everyone, but if you're looking for an 'thinking' adventure game with loads of theme and big epic feel, and you don't mind putting some time into it, I highly recommend it!
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Jason Matthew
Australia
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Sounds like Mage Knight Board Game needs

Universal Head
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Professional creative visual communication: www.universalhead.com
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Game summaries and reference sheets: www.headlesshollow.com
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to write up one of his excellent rules summaries.

Thanks for the review. Can't wait to pick up my copy.
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