I am Mage… I am Night…. I mean Knight… I am Mage Knight.

What a dramatic entrance I make, me all in my shiny brand new kneecap protectors. And I think I am going to need them. Just look around…bloody nast little wizards boarded up in their nasty fortified towers, dungeons with goodness knows what lurking within, and not content with Orkish mayhem littering every step of the way, there are bloody dragons…DRAGONS, I tell you.

There’s no way this ridiculous plastic replica of Excalibur is going to cut it with that lot (there’s another fifty quid investment at the local comic store down the toilet, right away. Erik the Large must be getting friction burns from his eager hand rubbing)

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Player dashboard from BGG

INTRO: 

It may be news to you that the countryside is a joyous wonder to behold. Trees and fields as far as the eye can see. The chirruping twitter of birds in the branches, small droppings by a newly excavated rabbit holes, a long abandoned tied-barn anouncing its delapidated presence on the hillside and a guttural bellow of a cow standing on a thistle.

But you couldn’t be further from the truth. That twittering is not the gay abandon of springtide birdesong filled with love…it is the incessant jittering of marauding orcish beasties hiddem behind every hedge….that pile of dung is scent-marking of goodness knows what lurking in the depths of a tomb…that apparently abandoned stone barn is actually the home to unpleasant magic users (not of the collectable card variety, I hasten to add)…that gutteral bellow is the sound a rampaging dragon makes as it picks up your scent.

This is no idilici country side setting. This is a wild landscape awaiting epic exploration and conquest.

The compulsory  Mage Knight Blah Blah

 

So What’s All The Fuss About?

Is there any fuss about this title?

…of course there is. It is hugely popular and rightly so. This is an epic 1-4 player, 1-4 hour title of high-end fantasy magical exploration and conquest where heroes build their own legend where only the Mage Knight of greatest acclaim will be declared the victor…or so it says on the box.

But is it any cop for the soloists amongst us?

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Immersion or Subversion?

As a hand-management, exploration, questing, beastie beating up affair, I think it would be a safe bet to conclude that this has a substantial immersion. Yes, the illustrations on all game components (particularly the landscape tiles) set the scene so well…but it’s the way so many interesting and, at times, complex mechanics come together to really make us, the lonely explorative hero feel deeply inserted inside this bizarre fantasy world. The array of scenarios in conjunction with the choice of characters all lend themselves to massive variability and, as the landscape is never the same from game to game, the replay value is staggering (…and that is just with the base game…expansions offer deluxe shed-loads more to add to the affray)

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It is very easy to become obsessively invested in the character we are playing. Not only are we pitting our wits against the game, with its host of unpleasant inhabitants, but we have an imaginative AI to lock horns with.

 

Mechanical Attributes:

This AI, Derik, as it likes to be called….oe at leat what I like to call it, works in quite a different way to many other designer’s attempts to make multiplayer games solo-able. This AI chappie doesn’t work directly against us. A relief I hear you sigh…but don’t be too hasty…It has no onboard presence, true, but it acts as an increasingly devastating timer mechanism that progressively burns through our potential resources and puts so much pressure on us that veins are liable to pulsate in an alarming manner upon our fretted brow. Each turn end, it takes an Advanced Action card drom the Action Offer and gains a crystal correlating to the last displayed Spell card in the Spell Offer (Offer being the term used to describe a line of cards available to pick from if opportunity arises). Each subsequent round this is repeated and so the AI deck increases in size. Yipee! It would seem, as the AI normally turns three cards per turn as the timer (once it has emptied its draw deck the round ends)…we have more time to squander. Not So! The ever growing collection of coloured crystals mean that if the 3rd card discarded by the AI matches any of the crystals it has accrued, additional cards are discarded upto the numbwr of that crytal in the AI’s sweaty little hands…in this way time really can run out fast and best laid plans are shot to bits.

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AI deck with available skills & growing collection of mana crystals

There are many, many interesting aspects to the game too many of which I have neither time nor inclination to discuss. I advise watching some of the youtube playthroughs to get an idea. (Ricky Royal and CatWeasle both have excellent and informative examples of said videos linked below)…that said, I do want to touch upon the action & wound cards. The action cards are of that pleasant multifaceted variety. They have a basic use, which is nice. They have an advanced use when combined with mana dice or crystals (basically the driving power within the game) which is even nicer…but they can also be…well, basically chucked away to add additional strength to other cards. A quick example would be a card give 3 strength for using fisticuffs against a bad guy. Chuck away another card (without using its abilities) and that 3 strength goes to 4. Each turn a basic hand of cards has to be used wisely…and this is the most absorbing element of the game. The choices a player has to make, even with a bad hand, are to optimise the use of limited resources. Such a nice touch. Wounds are …obviously damage accrued during conflict and stay in your hand as a permanent feature. Unless you have ways to remove them, they restrict hand size and can clog up your action deck. A cleaver way to represent injury to a hero but also illustrate how injury can incumber progress.

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…as an afterthought, the daytime/nighttime expect is a good mechanic. Movement within this realm is thematically altered dependant on day or night conditions as is the restricted use of certain mana dice. Nighttime also obscures/affects the manner in which enemies are revealed on the map.

 

Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:

There isn’t a whole lot to be said here. The artwork is superb, the card tiles and chits are all printed well and of a substantial thickness. There are fancy plastic crystals, engraved custom dice and reasonable nice ready-painted figures.

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I had to repaint mine, but for those who are not miniature painters, having a ready painted model looks so much better than a lump of grey plastic. My only gripe is with the quality of playing cards. They are not that thin and flimsy but mine have warped and don’t stack together as well as I would have hoped.

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Meeples and Standees:

Game designer: Vlaada Chvátil

Art/Graphics: Chris Raimo

Cover Illustration: J Lonnee

Additional Art: Milan Vavroñ

Published by Wizkids Games/NECA

 

Solitairianism:

I get the feeling that, apart from squabbling over which Units, Actions or Spells are on offer, there is not much inter-player interaction…although players can assault each other if they choose but that can be a time-consuming diversion. There is a cooperative mode too (which admittedly, I have not tried)

It feels to me like it would be more like a race to the finish line with 2-4 players running round the landscape like be-headed chickens and as such, I believe this game lends itself so much more to the solo player and with such a well thought out AI mechanic, the hours just fly past. It is not the cheapest of fantasy games but it is definitely worth the expense for an all round solid solo fantasy adventure.

 

Me, Myself and I:

I have to admit to this being supremely frustrating for Me. The time is really up against us and making those right judgment calls is so hard…and turning over hidden enemies only to find it is something decidedly unpleasant, fortified and with nasty Fire and Cold attacks…My hero also struggles but Myself loves the challenge. I play with the ‘shopping’ …

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and ‘quest’ …

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…fan-made expansions from BGG which add a little extra flavour to the game, especially on those frustrating lul-turns. Both work in similar ways to the Action Offer and Spell Offer but are accessed in villages or monasteries. I also occasionally use a Wounds expansion that has certain additional restraints to players beyond a simple wound.

Player Mat by Slegyras https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/77550/player-mat

Shop Expansion by TMocker  https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/111733/mage-knight-board-game-item-shop-mini-expansion

Quest cards by Pabula link https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/100727/quest-cards-pabula

(a couple of other expansions might be worth a look Weather exp https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/154296/atlantean-weather-mini-expansion

underground tomb exp https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/146745/mage-knight-underground-dungeon-and-tombs-expansio

And a Solo Scenario booklet https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/120439/mage-knight-solo-scenario-book)

 

Yay or Nay?…the final verdict

This has to ba a rather large YAY. Mage Knight hacks, slashes, explores and magicates its way to earning a BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (8.5)…eight point five? Is that even possible? Well this is fantasy, after all

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OUTRO:

…you would think Liberating Mines would be a pretty simple task, would’t you? No such luck. Not only are there knobbly orcs all over the shop, the mines are like tombs full of Minotaurs and Werwolves and who knows what else. To make matters worse all these bloody followers, these well equipped units are all too scared to go into the mines…looks like I’m on my Jack Jones again.

hitches up lycra knee britches, adjusts papier-maché cod piece, tests sharpness of sword (then winces as finger gets paper cut from cardboard sword) and strides of into the mist

 

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Something For The Weekend, Sir?

  • CatWeazle solo run-through of First Reconnaissance
  • CatWeazle runs through a solo game of Conquest
  • Box od Delights walk-through

  • Wizkids Games Website

https://wizkidgames.com

  • Wizkids Games Twitter

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