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Subject: Adventuring for Accountants? rss

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Don Smith
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Howdy All,

I waited a long time to get my copy of Mage Knight - felt the buzz here on BGG. Finally, got it, read the Walkthrough (head was spinning). Played a three player then a four player game. All the other players loved it! I knew I must be missing something so I set up a couple of solitaire games. Played a bit better - actually took out a dungeon. But then I packed it up and sighed to myself and thought something like "this game has no soul".

A bit of background - I really like many of Vlaada's games: Galaxy Trucker is a unique gem, Dungeon Lords is a great heavy Euro, Dungeon Petz is pretty good, Through the Ages is brilliant. So, BGG psychologists out there, why does MK seem so flat to me?

I titled this thread "Adventuring for Accountants" - no slur on accountants, someone has to keep all the beans counted in this complex world of ours, but that isn't why I game. The goals in this game seem so scripted. Optimize your cards so that you can gain Fame and get better cards to kill little things faster or big things. Repeat ad nauseum.

Sure, there's a puzzle to be solved with each hand, much like the combat sequences in Dungeon Lords, and I do feel a moderate buzz when I see a card combo that can take out a particular foe with no cards/mana to spare, but that's a pretty lifeless process for me after the first dozen times!

I've read a few threads here that say you need 8-10 games under your belt to really know what is going on and play well. Well, I'm not there yet and maybe never will be...

I have no worries about AP, downtime, helping other players optimize their moves etc...I have no problems with the rules - they're tight... I have no problem with the theme or with the components... It all works... but not for me and my soul...

I'm disappointed in MY reaction to MK. Do I need therapy?
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Miles Archer
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I think your reaction stems from your early-adolescent years...

I'm kidding, I think it has to do with the way Mage Knight eschews much of the flavor of the theme in exchange for very solid gameplay mechanics. I don't quite know whether this type of unbalance was necessary, but atleast for me the depth of the game more than makes up for it. Frequently I find myself imagining my own storylines as I'm playing, and I get the sense that it requires a very active imagination to maintain the thematic backdrop. You get a hint of the game in the character descriptions, but it still seems somehow absent.

I also think because the game feels more like a game-system than an individual game, that this decision could have been intentional. Maybe the random owners of keeps, and mages in the mage-towers are left as an abstraction so that you could fill in the blanks with your own customizable scenarios. I know I was anticipating more flavor, and that's probably my only disappointment with Mage Knight, but I really adore the depth and interesting strategic decisions you get to make, and for me, that strategy really brings the tension of the game to life.

I'm just going to write out this prescription for about 5 more games, and let me know how you're feeling after that.

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that Matt
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It doesn't sound like you are missing some core element of theme, mechanics or gameplay. I doubt that you can be convinced to enjoy the game if it hasn't hooked you by now.

So wait for the second printing to run out, sell it for $85, and be on your merry way.
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Brian M
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Quote:
I've read a few threads here that say you need 8-10 games under your belt to really know what is going on and play well.

Hell, you'll probably need almost that many plays just to get all the rules right.

That many games to play well, probably, but I don't think it takes more than a play or two to "get" what is going on, and certainly not to recognize whether it's a game you will like or not.

Sometimes there are good solid reasons why you don't like a game...sometimes it's just a chocolate/vanilla thing. You don't like that flavor as much, and no amount of trying to reason or logic it out is going to make it make sense.

Since you have no solid feeling for what you don't like, this sounds like it's just one of those cases.
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Matthew Tadyshak
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I hate Accounting, yet I like these so called "accountant" games.
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David desJardins
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Don Smith wrote:
The goals in this game seem so scripted. Optimize your cards so that you can gain Fame and get better cards to kill little things faster or big things. Repeat ad nauseum.


It's "scripted" in the sense that you have to consider a large range of possibilities on each turn, and then choose the best one? By that criterion, every game is scripted. I understand why you don't like the game but I don't understand how you could possibly call it "scripted", when you have so much flexibility in how you play each turn. A turn of Dominion is way more scripted....
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Brian M
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Quote:
I understand why you don't like the game but I don't understand how you could possibly call it "scripted"...


I would suspect that this is because the overall goals and path to those goals are the same. Each game of Mage Knight does tend to follow a similar overall path of upgrading and attacking the cities.

However, (IMHO), the details of that path can vary enormously from game to game depending on how the board layout comes up and what sort of skills and spells you get. If you have only played one or two games, you probably haven't seen how different it can be. But it sounds like the OP has played more than that.

In contrast, a game of Dominion offers immediate and very "visually" different paths; a game where you start with a Chapel goes very differently from starting with a Witch (for random examples).

Personally, I find that even within one game of Mage Knight you get a lot of very tough and interesting choices that change how the game flows. Sometimes even just picking a +attack instead of a +move skill will drastically change how the game plays out.
 
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David desJardins
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Most games of Chess have the same overall structure, there is an opening phase where you deploy your pieces and maneuver for strategic advantage, a middle game where you trade material and try to exploit your advantages and defend your weaknesses, and an endgame where you try to force promotion or checkmate. But there are still a bazillion different ways a chess game can play out, and no one would call it scripted, I think....
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Brian M
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But there are still a bazillion different ways a chess game can play out, and no one would call it scripted, I think....

Chess players memorize entire scripts for sets of moves based on board positions. Just sayin'.
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Mr. Monkey
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I personally think that Mage Knight has a lot of theme built into it; night rules applying in dungeons, enemies are fortified when defending their keep/tower/city, burning down monasteries to get powerful ancient artifacts, etc. I can see that as you get down to the nuts-and-bolts of it a person could see that the game is mostly about getting from point A to point B while performing many different optimizations under the constraints of what the game gives you (but, then again, in any game without excessive randomness that would be true).

If you see the game as a state function, then yes it could rather bland. For me, however, the joy is from how that path turns out and how much work that takes.
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Don Smith
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Don Smith wrote:
The goals in this game seem so scripted. Optimize your cards so that you can gain Fame and get better cards to kill little things faster or big things. Repeat ad nauseum.


It's "scripted" in the sense that you have to consider a large range of possibilities on each turn, and then choose the best one? By that criterion, every game is scripted. I understand why you don't like the game but I don't understand how you could possibly call it "scripted", when you have so much flexibility in how you play each turn. A turn of Dominion is way more scripted....


Howdy David,

I respect your participation in all the forums and your no-nonsense, precise approach! You are one of those who make BGG worth reading!

By "scripted" I guess I meant it in a "process" sense. Sure, the details of what cards/spells/monsters etc... come out is highly variable - providing a new puzzle each turn - but the essence of the game is a pretty narrow "script" of killing monsters and levelling.

I agree that most games have some sort of "rinse and repeat" script. Your Dominion example is apt, and I guess one has to like the depth of puzzle in a turn of MK versus the depth of puzzle in optimizing a Dominion hand to really enjoy MK. For me, Dominion is too bland and repetitive and MK is too fiddly/complex and repetitive It is like doing a Mensa puzzle book on a game board...But some people buy those puzzle books and it gets their endorphins flowing!

I guess I prefer a mid-range puzzle/decision-making aspect where one has to be more reactive/adaptive than what I perceive MK to be (a series of inter-connected static puzzles). Having written that, I guess MK is a case of reacting/adapting to what puzzles show up on the board. Maybe it's the "soul-less-ness" of the process in MK that doesn't click for me.
 
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Brian M
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I've seen people complain before about Mage Knight lacks variety for what to do compared to, say, Runebound. I mean, Runebound has decks of hundreds of different encounters, right?

My feeling has been that a game like Runebound may give the illusion of variety, but Mage Knight has far more mechanical variety. You may draw a card in Runebound and get anything from a Grumpy Bog Smurf to a Lactose-Intolerant Dragon, but it all works out to "roll high to gain money, roll lose and lose turns and resources". In Mage Knight, you only meet a dozen or so possible things, but a Monastery gives completely different opportunities and challenges from a Monster's Den.

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Maybe it's the "soul-less-ness" of the process in MK that doesn't click for me.

You know, I find "soulless" (or soul-less) to be one of the most empty and meaningless statements a person can make about a game. Unless it's a game about vampires or killer robots
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Knock knock open up the door it's Riel
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I had the same feeling after playing the walkthrough scenario. I actually feared for Mage Knight's replayability, because it seemed like only the details would be different. On game you might take out a few orcs and a mage tower, the next a keep and a monster's den, but that's really it.

And then I played a solo conquest. The first time I revealed a city... wow! It suddenly struck me that I would never beat this scenario unless I pushed myself each turn, taking risks, thinking ahead a few turns, finding ways to get that critical spell or artefact or advanced unit maybe a turn earlier if possible, &c. You don't take a spell or an artefact because it's nice to have and worth a few points (like in the walkthrough), you take it because you won't beat the scenario without it. That pressure and sense of urgency is what provides the thrill for me. And if I ever lose that feeling, I can always try a new scenario or ramp up the cities by a few levels.

Have you played a (solo) conquest scenario yet? Have you taken the cities within those 6 turns? Have you found a way to beat two white units and two purple units with a city bonus attacking you at the same time?
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Joseph Crockett
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Do replicants have souls?
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Antony Alexander
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Hi,

I received my copy of Mage Knight in the post today, have checked the components and am taking time off reading the walkthrough book to browse BGG - I am no expert on the game but I hope I have better luck with it!

I say this because the whole "soulless" feeling to me means that you (the OP) just do not connect with this game and, in my experience, that is unlikely to change. It ain't the game, it ain't you - it's just the chemistry is missing and, unless it is immediately obvious, it is usually very hard (and futile) to look for why.

All games are a selection of mechanisms that allow people to engage with the game and other players to enjoy themselves and the games we like most tend to run without us, while playing at least, noticing the workings - sometimes you come across a game that, while looking good and lots of others likeminded folk enjoy, you only see the cogs and workings and it can seem soulless and arbritary and there is nothing to do but move on.

Doesn't matter that it should be a game you like, it works like other games you enjoy, lots of others like it, etc. etc., it just don't click with you so I second the motion that you mothball it, sell for a profit in a couple of months and reinvest in (hopefully) something that does ring your bell!

And yes, Replicants have soles - it was footprints I used to track the last one down.........



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Philip Thomas
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There are plenty of accountants who play 'normal' adventuring games like D&D. So much so that the standard joke about D&D characters playing a roleplaying game frequently has at least one of them playing an accountant...

Lawyers too, of course...
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Bryan F
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I have to agree with Antony on this one. If you need "convincing" to like a game, you probably aren't going to like it.

You'll probably not enjoy it solo, but I wonder if a highly competitive three or four player variant might get your juices flowing? One where it's less about conquering cities and levelling up, but rather you're battling human opponents.
 
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Harald Korneliussen
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I suggest heading over to the Play By Forum forum. There's definitively a lot of "story" to MK, and there are some hilarious reads there.

But I've seen this complaint for many games. It seems many want to be able to choose an overall strategy at the beginning and pursue it with dedication (say, decide "I'm going to be a thief!" or "I'm going wizardry big time!"). This does not seem to work well in Mage Knight. It's not a role-playing game, it's not going to let you build your character the way you would like to imagine it.

But let me suggest that a game where that is possible, is ultimately less interactive and deep. The reason you can't pursue a single strategy in Mage Knight, is because you need to take into account what other people do, and you have to really squeeze the most out of your turn.

IME, most of the games that offer that sort of "play to make your side look like you want it to!" are either quite random, or worse, unbalanced (so that although you may play a "thief strategy" or a "mage strategy", the one is definitively better than the other.)
 
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David desJardins
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Don Smith wrote:
I guess I prefer a mid-range puzzle/decision-making aspect where one has to be more reactive/adaptive than what I perceive MK to be (a series of inter-connected static puzzles). Having written that, I guess MK is a case of reacting/adapting to what puzzles show up on the board. Maybe it's the "soul-less-ness" of the process in MK that doesn't click for me.


Yes, I do think you have to react a lot in MKBG, to what opportunities show up. But one can't deny it's a fairly stereotypical adventure game: kill stuff, gain experience, buy upgrades, kill stronger stuff.
 
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jef stuyck
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well its all about your own opinion.
Look at diablo 3. The only thing you do there is just hold 1 mouse button and you can finish the game like that. I think that is the most boring thing ever but millions of people seem to like it :o.

But this game got me hooked trying to get the right amount of numbers with cards you have in your hand can be really hard sometimes so you figure out a lot of combinations and then when you see the solution!! Awesome This while people are trying to convice you, that you will fail and then shove it in there faces
 
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M.J.E. Hendriks
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So Mage Knight is for accountants, but TtA isn't? I just introduced TtA to two players yesterday and that's their main complaint - that, and that it took so long. I don't see how you can level the complaint of something being for an accountant if you like TtA. (Even I think TtA is fiddly like that and it's my favorite game.)
 
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Ed Bradley
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Mr Mjeh wrote:
So Mage Knight is for accountants, but TtA isn't? I just introduced TtA to two players yesterday and that's their main complaint - that, and that it took so long. I don't see how you can level the complaint of something being for an accountant if you like TtA. (Even I think TtA is fiddly like that and it's my favorite game.)


TtA might be for accountants but that's what it looks like, so it's not a problem.

Too many people are describing MK as a thematic adventure game which I don't think is a very good description. I don't think the theme is particularly strong.

MK is much more of a cerebral game than a visceral one.
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Brian M
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Quote:
So Mage Knight is for accountants, but TtA isn't?

Something like that is largely going to be a matter of how a person's brain happens to work; the difference between something that feels natural and intuitive and something that doesn't. Mage Knight does have a lot of number juggling, and a lot of "oh wait, if I use the Blue on this card instead of the Red on this card I can get +2 on the block, which would save me one face down card, but then my attack will be too low, so I activate this unit..."

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Too many people are describing MK as a thematic adventure game which I don't think is a very good description. I don't think the theme is particularly strong.

How is the theme in Mage Knight weaker than in most adventure games?
 
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StormKnight wrote:

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Too many people are describing MK as a thematic adventure game which I don't think is a very good description. I don't think the theme is particularly strong.

How is the theme in Mage Knight weaker than in most adventure games?


The only other adventure game I have any experience of is Talisman. And a bit of Magic Realm. MR is hugely thematic. Talisman is about as thematic as MK. Which is to say "not very".

Do you find yourself immersed in the setting of Mage Knight? I don't. Nor do I have any great tales to tell about my adventures once the game is over. I think the game could be re-themed quite easily which is always an indication that the theme is not central to the experience.

None of this is really a criticism of MK itself. It's a great game. It just doesn't deliver the experience most people are looking for when they hear "thematic adventure" in my opinion.
 
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Fwing wrote:
StormKnight wrote:

Quote:
Too many people are describing MK as a thematic adventure game which I don't think is a very good description. I don't think the theme is particularly strong.

How is the theme in Mage Knight weaker than in most adventure games?


The only other adventure game I have any experience of is Talisman. And a bit of Magic Realm. MR is hugely thematic. Talisman is about as thematic as MK. Which is to say "not very".

Do you find yourself immersed in the setting of Mage Knight? I don't. Nor do I have any great tales to tell about my adventures once the game is over. I think the game could be re-themed quite easily which is always an indication that the theme is not central to the experience.

None of this is really a criticism of MK itself. It's a great game. It just doesn't deliver the experience most people are looking for when they hear "thematic adventure" in my opinion.


What themes would it go with?

I always use "baking". If I could easily apply the theme "baking" to a game, I know the theme is pasted on.

I find Mk hugely thematic.
 
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