Fight monsters! Cast spells! Level up! Conquer cities! Burn down monasteries! Read the Mage Knight Board Game Review!
Today we are looking at the Mage Knight board game published by Wizkids. Mage Knight is a complex board game with deck building and RPG elements where every turn feels like a puzzle full of challenges and meaningful choices. The game accommodates 1 - 4 players with solo, cooperative and competitive options. Each player will play of one of the titular Mage Knights in an attempt to complete various objectives as laid out by the eleven different scenarios included with the game.
Editor's Update February 2019: Mage Knight Ultimate Edition has been released, which includes the base game and all of the expansion content available, all in one box. If you are interested in Mage Knight that's the absolute best way to get this wonderful game. For people who are interested in the game but prefer sci-fi settings there's also Stark Trek Frontiers, which re-themes the game for the Star Trek universe.
Mage Knight - Setup and Gameplay
The game is played in turns over a number of rounds determined by the chosen scenario. Each round is represented by a day/night cycle. The day and night cycle not only keeps track of the rounds but has a profound effect on the way the game is played. The day/night cycle not only determines how difficult terrain is to traverse but also determines how effective a spell is once cast and also which mana will be available to the Mage Knights.
Each Mage Knight begins the game with a deck of 15 cards that represent everything that that player can do. These cards dictate things such as your movement, attack power, ability to influence units to join your cause and ability to absorb damage in combat. Each card has a primary effect as well as a second, more powerful, effect that can be triggered if the player pays mana while playing the card. In addition players are allowed to play cards sideways for a small amount of attack, block, movement or influence. The abillity to play any card sideways means that players are never stuck with useless cards in hand.
Mage Knights - Progression
Mage Knights will gain fame as they play and will gain levels as a result. Fame can be gained in numerous ways including but not limited to defeating monsters, exploring dungeons and ancient ruins and taking control of keeps, mage towers and cities. As the Mage Knights gain fame and level up players will add cards of increasing power to their decks. Players will not only have access to cards that are direct upgrades to their starting cards but will also be able to add powerful Spell and rare Artifact cards to their decks. Leveling up also gains the Mage Knights new unique skills, stronger armor and the ability to recruit more units. Additionally, leveling up gives the player a larger hand size. The fame and leveling system adds a satisfying sense of progression to the game as the Mage Knights are constantly growing in power.
A single game of Mage Knight will see players explore the countryside fighting monsters, visiting villages, recruiting units, assaulting keeps and mage towers, visiting and potentially burning monasteries to the ground, visiting dungeons full of dangers, conquering cities and much more in their quest to complete the chosen scenario. Most of these options will be available to the players immediately from the beginning of the game. It is up to the player to figure out how best to use the cards in their hand and deck to tackle all of these obstacles and options presented to them. The plethora of options and numerous ways that each card can be used gives each turn of Mage Knight a puzzle like quality as the player must determine how best to use the resources at their disposal.
Mage Knights - Decision-Making
Players are given freedom to choose how to approach each situation presented in the game. Many of the decisions a player makes directly effect their Mage Knight's reputation. Having a positive reputation will make some things easier such as recruiting units and healing wounds at a village. Having a negative reputation makes these things more difficult. Players gain reputation by defeating rampaging enemies found scattered on the various map tiles in the game. Many actions throughout the game cause a Mage Knight to loose reputation such as assaulting keeps, mage towers and cities, pillaging villages to increase hand size or even burning a monastery to the ground to take control of an ancient artifact. The players will need to decide if the power gained is worth the negative reputation.
Mage Knights - A Few Notes
A note on complexity
Mage Knight has a very very steep learning curve. The game's walk-through and instruction manuals are well written but expect to play the game at least three or four times before you gain a full grasp of the mechanics and options available. The game is very complex. I would not try to introduce Mage Knight to someone who is brand new to board gaming as it truly does take a commitment to learn.
A note on solo play
Mage Knight is an outstanding solo experience. I have more solo plays of Mage Knight than I have total plays of many other (good) games in my collection. If you enjoy board gaming but don't play as often as you like because you have trouble pulling a group together I strongly recommend Mage Knight due to its outstanding solo play.
A note on “chrome”
Mage Knight has good card quality and solid cardboard pieces. The Mage Knight figures all come pre-painted to a decent level. When laid out on the table the game looks beautiful although it does take up quite a bit of space. My copy of the game needed a few replacement pieces as some of the monster chits had been printed off-center. The process of requesting replacements was relatively painless and Wizkids offered me the replacements at no cost.
Should I Buy Mage Knight?
Mage Knight is quite possibly the best solo game on the market. Not only does it excel at offering a great solo experience but is just as fun when played cooperatively and competitively. Mage Knight offers an enormous number of game play options, scenarios and meaningful choices. With all of these options comes complexity. Mage Knight has a very steep learning curve but is more than worth the effort to learn. The game has a very satisfying sense of progression and can be quite challenging. I would recommend Mage Knight to anyone experienced with board gaming who is looking for a deep, thematic and fun game that offers incredible depth and re-playability. That said, if you're more of a casual player, this will probably be too much for you.
The copy of Mage Knight used in this review was provided by the publisher. This review was originally published on 11-26-2014. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions, and for historical context.