Alex Brown
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Mage Knight is a rich and complex game. However, as much as it might take a few plays to see all of the rules in action, for games of this weight I found the boundaries of the decision space quickly definable. Mage Knight manages to combine an incredible variety of situations with both narrative and tremendous player control.

I’ve played around thirty games of Mage Knight and am now able to beat the Full Conquest scenario with both cities set to the maximum (11). I have only played the game solo, but have now used all the rules and effects in the game at least once.

I am enjoying the game now more than ever. Due to the length of the game it can take a few plays to appreciate its many intersecting metrics. Awareness of pacing and the fluid mix of strategic and tactical thinking also deepen with experience.

This is the first of two articles on Mage Knight strategy. The second is posted here.

Using mana

The best place to start is with mana. There are a lot of different things happening at once in Mage Knight. Most of them can be improved with mana.

Mage Knight is built on clean infrastructure. Any card can be played sideways, as a ‘blank’, for +1 Attack, +1 Block, +1 Movement or +1 Influence. These are the basic currencies of the game. Each basic action tends to double this if played in the appropriate circumstances. So Rage gives you +2 Attack or +2 Block, Stamina gives you +2 Movement and Promise gives you +2 Influence. Once you start adding mana, the effects tend to at least double again. So, Rage gives you +4 Attack, Stamina gives you +4 Movement, and Promise gives you +4 Influence.

There is a clear incentive to use mana as much as possible. That’s why there’s a dummy player. If there wasn’t any time pressure, the game would merely be about optimizing moves by accessing mana as much as possible. As it is, the pressure of the other players means you have to decide what effects you can afford the time to play as stronger, and which you can’t.

Access to mana defines what you can do in Mage Knight. In the beginnings of the game your draw will offer certain biases but the mana available will usually be a bigger factor. The colours of mana in the source, mines, glades and some basic Actions will determine what the most efficient path will be. As your holdings improve, there might reach a tipping point where you need to find crystals of a particular colour, but in the beginning you should be letting the mana guide your decisions more than forcing them when they aren’t there.

Understanding the quantities of the basic deck

Time and time again I hear newer players complain about movement in Mage Knight. Movement, as well as attacking (and blocking) and using influence, involves careful planning. This might not correspond to what you thought the game should be, but that’s a matter of taste. There is more than enough movement in the basic deck to allow players to develop their character.

The basic deck has two copies of Stamina and March providing up to four movement, two Swiftness for two movement, and Improvisation. Between Day tactics and mana you should be able to reach at least one opportunity site on the first day. The reality is that there is much more movement on offer than there is attack (or block) or influence.

The first piece of advice I would offer is to respect the terrain. Stick to the plains to start off and only move off them when you are going to gain something. Even trying to cross consecutive three-cost terrains can be prohibitive in the early going. You should be prepared to give up several enticing opportunities in the initial forays if it costs you several movement cards. With an unimproved deck and no units, defeating anything above Rampaging Orcs can be a tough ask.

The second piece of advice I would offer is to see a ‘bad’ hand for what it is: the guarantee of seeing certain cards later in the round. I you end up with few movement cards to begin with, and this goes for attack and influence too, you know you will see them later. This means you can plan for having a lot of movement later, which might allow you to reach further into the map, which has its own advantages.

Planning for the round


The last section links nicely into talking about planning for the round. The mechanical beauty of Mage Knight shines in many areas, but it’s take on deck construction is executed elegantly.

Each round you play through your entire deck. This means you can be assured of seeing each card once but once only (only a spell considered very weak, Meditation, breaks this rule). While there is built-in redundancy with repeats of basic actions, the random draw means you can never be assured of having the perfect hand for what you want to do.
The different advantages to Day and Night combine with each deck cycle to demand you really think in concrete terms about what you can achieve each round. The reality is you can’t do everything. At the beginning of the game, you will certainly be choosing one direction through the map while forsaking others.

Planning for the round means you work out what you can do this turn, and then evaluate what this means for what is left on your turns further in the round. For example, you might be able to reach a village, but lack the influence to recruit the unit you want. You need to weigh up how you will use those influence cards later in the turn, even if just as sideways blanks.

Over thirty or so games my thought processes have become refined, but there is still a delicious interplay between strategizing for the round and addressing the tactical opportunities in each hand. Once you understand the basic deck and mana, the redundancy in the deck means you can make firm plans for minimum gains each turn. However, the order in which you draw from your deck can allow for lateral shifts in valuation, and profitable detours!

Wounds as the default

Although my advice has been somewhat general so far (it is for the uninitiated!), wounds are a special case and proper evaluation of their worth allows for enormous leaps in understanding.

Once you have an idea of how to do things in Mage Knight, you need to think of wounds as expected rather than something you should avoid at all costs. It is very difficult to have the resources to defend and successfully defeat enemies in combat without taking wounds. Your early goal has to be to make permanent improvements to your character, and if you have to see wounds for what they are: transient problems.

Most characters can handle a few wounds and the game gives you plenty of chances to rid yourself of them. Glades are excellent locations for attacking Rampaging Enemies from as you essentially buy yourself a wound. The Level 1 units in particular are excellent for providing an effect and then wearing a wound before being disbanded. When planning for the round, whether you have drawn Tranquility or not yet should be something you remain aware of, as that’s another wound you can mitigate, whether to yourself or a Level 1 unit.

There is word that Block will be improved in the expansion, but for now I think you should absolutely expect to be wounded early on and that more often than not it is better to accept one or two wounds than pass up an opportunity to gain fame when levelling up is so easy. The restriction on hand size is a massive pain (!) early on, so definitely have an idea of how you will heal those wounds, or at least save the wounding action for later in the round. That said, don’t avoid it.

Don’t take risks

It’s been stated eloquently elsewhere, but the brilliance of Mage Knight is that it provides randomized opportunities, rather than randomized outcomes. Sure, some people love a lack of control to drive their narrative experience; in Mage Knight you control what your character does, with very little interference.

When you start out, don’t take risks. Use the day time to know your enemy. Know whether you will defeat it or not in advance, even if that involves taking wounds. ‘Losing’ a combat early-which I would define as either taking wounds or using abilities for no long-term benefit-is devastating at any point for a character. You might wish you could take that Mage Tower in the Wastes on turn one, but you will start to appreciate the game more when you know why you can’t (and better yet, why it doesn’t matter).

After thirty-odd games I can tell you that I’ve never once felt the board or hand provided no opportunities, even if that was simply moving through to the next tile. As you play more you will develop notions about what is worth risking, and I imagine this is a bigger deal in multiplayer and even moreso in PvP.

This article was squarely aimed at the beginning player looking to gain an appreciation of why this game is great. I will follow it up with a more detailed breakdown of expert advice for each of the five entries above.
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Ade Lewis
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Great write up!
All good advice and loads taken on board for my next foray out.
Thankyou.
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Larry L
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Great write up. I'm relatively new to board-gaming in general and Mage Knight in particular. (I actually found it through one of those "stream of consciousness" type web-browsing sessions after playing "Settlers of Catan" for the first time.)

I just purchased the game two weeks ago (after watching Rick Royal's two video series) and have been lurking around this site ever since.

I've played through the walk-through twice solo and once with my 9-year-old son (which was ALMOST like solo, but he got a kick out of it anyway).

I've since played Solo Conquest 3 times - The first time I played (with the scenario-recommended city-settings), I managed to capture the first city by the end of the last night.

The second time I played, I aborted because I realized - in my late-night-sleepy state - that I hadn't always been keeping up with the Dummy Player.

In the most recent game I played, I managed to conquer the first city about halfway through the last night. After that, with units spent and attack cards dwindling, I "called" it based on the fact that there was no possible way to even REACH the second city, let alone attack it. (After hanging around here, I realize that I need to start keeping track of my SCORE!)

In spite of these losses, I absolutely love the game.

Your articles are perfectly timed for me because some of what you wrote was beginning to form in my mind - just not in so many words - while other parts of what you wrote have given me something new to think about.

Thanks.
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Tyler Maschino
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"Once you have an idea of how to do things in Mage Knight, you need to think of wounds as expected rather than something you should avoid at all costs."

My game improved dramatically when I came to this realization.

Very well written and insightful post. Thank you.
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Andre Lucato
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What a great reading.

Also many thanks for helping me not to feel so damn guilty for not being able to take over Mage Towers during my very first walkthrough games.
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Robert Lavarnway
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Very sound advice here.

Quote:
This means you can be assured of seeing each card once but once only (only a spell considered very weak, Meditation, breaks this rule).

The advanced action Steady Tempo is another.
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Mark Campo
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it worth having a summary sheet and note what cards you've gone past/used.. for those with a bad memery

do you discard card you think you don't need like influence.. if you've just bought a unit have no unit slots..or its nearing round end..
 
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michael dorazio
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Wounds in Mage Knight remind me of Loans in Le Havre. They are useful tools to get you where you need to be.
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Tristan Hall
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After a serious arse-whupping the other day as Tovak I was thinking about writing a similar article "Going from Competent to Beginner".
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Andre Lucato
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ninjadorg wrote:
After a serious arse-whupping the other day as Tovak I was thinking about writing a similar article "Going from Competent to Beginner".


LOL! Count me in for the club.
 
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Mike Boucher
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Brilliant article. Now I can't wait to read the next one! I've played many solo games myself, and didn't think I'd learn much in the 'beginner to competent' phase, but I did! Seeing a bad hand as a opportunity for a good hand coming is brilliant. Nice job!

While I've won the solo campaign a few times, I personally am still searching for the elusive 200+ score, so hoping the next article will help me do that.

LOVE this game - only problem is finding the time to play it!
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Jesper Hansen
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Had 3 games this weekend, our first game on friday and coop (4man saturday and 2man sunday)

in the first game the player playing Tovak was using him really defensive, when the game was over he was very proud of not having taken a single wound the whole game - he wasnt that proud being a lvl behind me and 2 lvls behind the leader....

SO yeah, wounds are not that dangerous as they first seem.


I guess that another great tip when playing solo vs playing with other ppl (pvp or coop) is that u can slow the rounds down in ur solo which can be pretty hard when playing coop (especially if one player has the tactics card that allows him to play 2 turns)
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Eddie
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Interesting.. in the entire write-up the word "keep" does not come up...


Here's my addition to what's been said so far. Keeps are a /very/ crucial thing to consider. I'm not saying always rush for keeps, far from it. But here's the key to never forget:

1 A keep will increase your hand limit when you end your turn on or adjacent to any of your conquered keeps

And furthermore, the other point many forget (I sure did for my first few plays)...

2 Your hand limit is increased by the total number of keeps you own (not just the ones you are on or adjacent to!)

c.f. Rulebook p.9

I had a game where I had 3 keeps conquered, and some cities are one hex away from a keep - guess what, that meant my hand was +3!


Of course, there are tradeoffs. Fighting keeps means you probably thus ignored mage towers: less spells. The grey enemy tokens are less Fame-giving than, say, focusing on some Draconum, etc.
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Thomas
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isthar wrote:
Interesting...

In the entire write-up the word KEEP does not come up.


Here's my addition to what's been said so far.

Keeps are a /very/ crucial thing to consider. I'm not saying always rush for keeps, far from it. But here's the key to never forget:

1 A keep will increase your hand limit while near ANY keep.

And furthermore, the other point many forget (I sure did for my first few plays)...

2 Your hand limit is increased by the number of keeps you own ANYWHERE ON THE MAP.

I had a game where I had 3 keeps conquered, and some cities are one hex away from a keep - guess what, that meant my hand was +3!


Of course, there are tradeoffs. Fighting keeps means you probably thus ignored mage towers: less spells. The grey enemy tokens are less Fame-giving than, say, focusing on some Draconum, etc.


Your hand limit is only increased when on or adjacent to a keep you control.

pg 14 walk through:

Quote:
Owning a Keep

If you conquer a keep, put your Shield token on it. Your keeps give
you two benefits:

First, you can recruit Units with the keep icon here. This is done
through interaction, like at a village. You can’t recruit a Unit on the
same turn that you conquer a keep, since assaulting the keep uses
your action for the turn.

Second, your keeps provide supplies to you. If you end your turn in
or adjacent to a keep that you own, your Hand limit is temporarily
increased by 1 for each keep you own
. This allows you to draw
more cards at the end of your turn. For example, if you own three
keeps anywhere on the map, your Hand limit is 3 higher than what
is printed on your level token (if you end your turn in or adjacent
to one of your keeps.)
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Eddie
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Yes, I had said that, but I will re-emphasize the "while" part...

if someone then plays the keep approach and forgets to only increase hand limit when ON IT or ONE HEX AWAY... that will also be a bad thing (in the player's favor but still)
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Gareth Lloyd
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Is it possible to get both of these Alex Brown "Understanding your decisions" posts pinned? They are both a worthwhile reads to new MK gamers.
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Igor Mascarenhas
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Hello i'm in third game of Mage Knight. Scored 86 fame in my first solo conquest. What should I do when goetting wounds too early, should I spent two turns to heal that or keepn moving and fighting for fame instead ?
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James Palmer
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rajatz wrote:
Hello i'm in third game of Mage Knight. Scored 86 fame in my first solo conquest. What should I do when goetting wounds too early, should I spent two turns to heal that or keepn moving and fighting for fame instead ?


Good to check the dummy player in this situation. If the dummy player has been going slowly, then you might as well rest and clear out your hand.

If you have a lot of wounds (3+) you definitely need to clear them out or else you will barely be able to do anything.

Also worth thinking about is if the heal card(s) you have have already come up or not. If you've already used it/them this round, then there is no point waiting for them to show up, and it might be best to rest to get them out of your hand.

Also remember that your turn isn't totally wasted if you rest - there are certain things you can still do, as long as they aren't an "Action" (like interacting or fighting). So you can use cards that create crystals and/or heal wounds and rest on the same turn.
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Mike Boucher
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Felkor wrote:
Also remember that your turn isn't totally wasted if you rest - there are certain things you can still do, as long as they aren't an "Action" (like interacting or fighting). So you can use cards that create crystals and/or heal wounds and rest on the same turn.


It's been a while since I've played this but is this true? I thought resting was your whole turn. Is that not true and it's just another choice of 'action'.?
 
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James Palmer
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When resting, you can't move or take an Action, but anything that doesn't fit into those two categories is fair game.
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Georg D.
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And don't forget that mines are great places for taking a nap... ähhm a rest.
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Ryan Yan
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Translated into Chinese, with illustration added from the Gallery here.

取舍有道--MK从入门到精通


魔法骑士(Mage Knight)是一款内容丰富、复杂精细的桌游。虽然要玩上几局才能把规则融会贯通,但对于此种复杂度的游戏而言,我觉得上手并弄清其套路还是算快的。MK巧妙地把变化极其多端的局面与代入感和玩家可控性完美地结合在一起。

我玩了大约30十局MK,现在可以在两座城市都设到最高级别(11级)的情况下完成完全征服剧本。我一直只是自撸,但已把游戏中所有的规则和效果都尝试了个遍。

我现在比以前任何时候都更享受这款游戏。由于游戏的时长,可能需要玩上几局才能完全理解其设计的巧妙。对于游戏步调的感觉、将战略与战术有机结合在一起的思考,也将随经验的增长而逐渐加深。

本文为两篇MK策略文中的第一篇。第二篇是“从精通到专家”。

魔力的使用

本文最好的切入点是魔力。在MK中,很多事情常常同时发生,为了将其做得更好,常需要使用魔力来增强。

MK的基础结构非常清晰。任何卡牌都可横置打出,作为攻击1、格档1、移动1或影响1来使用。这些是此游戏的基本“货币”。几乎每张基础牌都可在适当的情形下将此值加倍--暴怒(Rage)提供攻击2或格档2;活力(Stamina)提供移动2;而承诺(Promise)提供影响2。若你将一枚魔力灌注其中,此数据常常会再加倍--暴怒(Rage,红)提供攻击4;活力(Stamina,蓝)提供移动4;而承诺(Promise,白)提供影响4。

这条原则清楚地提示我们要尽量多使用魔力。这也是使用虚拟玩家的原因。如果没有时间压力,此游戏会变成每步都要设法使用魔力而达到最优效果。而其他玩家(包括虚拟玩家)则迫使你有所取舍,要去决定在哪些效果上你能牺牲时间来换取增强、而哪些不能。

在MK中,能使用多少魔力决定了你本轮能做什么事情。在游戏的开始阶段,抽牌带来了一些随机性,但魔力的供应情况影响更大。资源池中的魔力颜色、矿坑、灵池(glade)及某些基础牌,将决定你当前的有效路线。在你的库存魔晶增长之后,会有一个临界点,转由你拥有的魔晶颜色来决定你的路线。但回到游戏开局,你还是应当根据魔力情况来决定自己的路线,而非相反(预设一个路线然后指望能有相应的魔力出现)。

了解基础牌库的数量


我们总是时时听到新手抱怨在MK中移动有多么困难。移动力,与攻击/格档、影响力一样,都需要仔细的规划。与其说这取决于(你心目中的)游戏特性,不如说更取决于你的个人风格。基础牌库中的移动力其实远超所需的数量,这给玩家发展具自己风格的路线提供了便利。

基础牌库中,活力(Stamina)和行军(March)各有2张,每张提供最多4点移动力;2张敏捷(Swiftness),每张移动2;还有即兴发挥(Improvisation)。根据你昼间策略卡的选择和资源池的情况,你应当有能力在第一个白天抵达至少一个有效地点。现实就是,你拥有的移动力,比攻击/格档和影响力都更多,

我的第一条建议就是:重视地形。开局尽量走平原,仅在你需要获取某目标时才离开平原。在早期,连续的3移动力地形都是不建议走的。如果某次进攻需要耗费你多张移动卡,你要能抵挡住这种诱惑。在牌组提升、雇佣部队之前,击败高于野怪的任何东西都很困难。

第二条建议是:正确对待一手“坏牌”。坏牌也就意味着在本回合的后期你能见到某些特定卡牌。如果你开局手牌中的移动力很少,你就知道以后你会在后几轮中抽到更多移动牌(此原则对攻击/格档和影响力同样有效)。这也意味着,你可以规划在下一轮中使用更多的移动,可能一次性移动很远,这也是有好处的。

规划好整个回合

下一篇将更深入地讨论整回合的规划。MK有很多机制很精巧,但其中的牌组构建最为精致。

每一回合你都要打完你的整个牌堆。这就是说,其中任何一张牌你都肯定会看到一次、且仅限一次(只有一张较弱的法术牌会打破此规则)。虽然某些基础牌有两张,抽牌的随机性还是意味着你常常抽不到一手完美的牌来做你当前想做的事。昼间和夜间的不同特点,再加上你当前的牌组构成,要求你切切实实地规划好每个回合的目标。现实就是你不能面面俱到。游戏开局时,你显然只能在地图中选择一个方向,断掉其他念想。

规划整个回合,需要你弄清你本轮能做什么事,并评估本回合以后各轮还有什么事要去做。例如,你能抵达一个村庄,但缺少雇佣部队所需的影响力卡牌。你就要评估以后你如何使用那些影响力卡牌,甚至考虑到它们可能只能横置打掉了。

在三十多局游戏中,我的思路在不断提炼,但回合战略目标和每一手牌所蕴藏的战术价值之间的相互影响,总是值得回味。一旦你理解了魔力和基础牌库,你就知道根据牌库的冗余性来制订每轮的最低收益。不过,之后抽牌的顺序,仍会改变这些评估,并带来收益更高的机会。

战士的创伤不可避免

虽然到目前为止我的建议都是比较泛泛而论的(请记住这是给新手的!),但在本节中我还是想谈一个非常具体的东西--创伤卡。对其价值的正确评估,将会让你的水平再上一个台阶。

一旦你理解了如何在MK中做好你想做的事,就需要把创伤卡当作理所当然之物,而非不惜一切代价要去回避的东西。在战斗中,要同时做好格挡、并成功击败敌人,所需资源过大,所以拿取创伤卡是常有的事。你的早期目标,是提高你的英雄的永久性能力;随之而来的创伤卡--只是一个暂时的副作用。

多数英雄能对付少量的创伤卡,游戏也提供了充足的机会来摆脱创伤卡。灵池(glade)是迎战野怪的最佳地点,因为在战后你可免费去除一张创伤。壹级部队也是很有用的--它们可以先提供一个效果,然后承受伤害,最后被解雇(雇佣其他部队来取代之)。当你规划整个回合时,要时刻记住是否已经抽取过宁静(Tranquility)--这是你解决(无论是手中还是部队身上)创伤卡的另一个重要机会。

据说一扩将更为突出格档的作用,但在基础版中,我还是认为你绝对要做好在早期承受伤害的准备,此时升级是如此轻易,接受一两张创伤卡以攫取经验,常常比因回避伤害而放弃机会要好得多。不过,游戏早期的手牌数量限制是非常非常痛苦的,所以请务必想好以后如何治疗这些伤害,或者等一轮再进攻。

请正视伤害,而非回避它。

避免冒险

MK的一个闪光点在于,它提供了随机化的机会,而非随机化的结果。可能有些人喜欢“不可控性”以增强代入感;但在MK中是由你亲自控制你的英雄,而非什么其他的随机因素。

开局时,请不要过分冒险。请利用白昼规则来探明你面临的敌人,弄清你能否击败它、是否要为此承受伤害。早期的一次战斗“失败”--我将此定义为:在没有长期性收益的情况下打出(格档)效果或拿取伤害--在此刻对任何英雄来说都是一场灾难。你可能会想要在夜间第一轮能打下那个荒地中的法师塔,但若你理解了为何不能去打,你会更欣赏这款游戏(若你还能理解为何它无关紧要,就水平就更高了)。

在三十多局游戏之后,我可以肯定地告诉你,我从未遇到过这种情形,即地图和手牌皆不能提供任何机会--移动一格,那也常是某种机会。随着你经验的增长,你也会逐渐形成这种概念,在何时值得冒险。可以想象,在多人游戏中这点更为重要,尤其是在PvP中。

本文较为务实,目标人群是想了解为何本游戏如此伟大的新手玩家。在下一篇中,我将就以上五个方面提供更为详细的专家级建议。
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Mike Boucher
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Found a couple of typos. Don't have the right keyboard to be able to share them though. (j/k)
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