When you get bored, what do you find yourself reaching for? Most would say their phone or games console, but the miniatures community wouldn't dream of reaching for a game with the best graphics available.. What could be more graphics intensive than life itself however, and what better way to experience complex strategy than in the throes of the Atlantean Empire?. Mage Knight, a game from the incomparable Vlaada Chvatil, is a game that promises to involve you fully in the building of armies, the conquering of cities, and more importantly the development of your very own mage knight miniature characters.
Now, entering into a game of Mage Knight is quite the epic experience, even if you're a veteran of these kinds of board games. Some players may be overwhelmed at the scale of the thing, which becomes obvious when you rifle through the cards, glance at the rules, and finally get the whole thing set up (it will take longer than a game of Jenga).
Basically, Mage Knight is a scenario-centric game that gives you the option of playing on your own, with friends in a cooperative game, or competitively. You will be taking the role of one of a great number of magical, mystical, and generally powerful beings/creatures, all with specific powers and all tasked with the responsibility of roaming the land, taking out opponents, interact with other characters, and also invade/overrun various areas in the fictional world.
As you would expect from this kind of game, it's all about levelling up each of your characters to make them more resilient in battle, more powerful with their attacks, and generally more notorious than they once were. To do this you have to increase your fame and get hold of a number of different abilities/enhancements that you can then utilise in battle. One more thing to remember is that you can't die as a Mage Knight - the end game is therefore the acquisition of wealth and fame, and having a hell of a lot of fun in the process.
You've got a day/night cycle that underpins the game's many rounds, with the game being made up of a finite number of rounds of course. Each player has a starting deck of 16 cards at the outset: these denote the specifics of you attributes (influence, attack, block, and move) and various different special effects for your character. You'll use move points to move around, with certain areas of the game map costing more than others to explore.
After moving you can perform one action before your turn is up. There are many actions possible in the game, but these include interacting with people populated areas, recruiting allies for your mission. You can use allies by placing them face up at the beginning of a round, though your units possess different levels of influence cost.
Obviously battling has a large part to play in Mage Knight, and you'll get to encounter a large variety of enemies. You'll find attacking and blocking are the most important actions you will rely on as you face off against enemies that possess abilities such as Swift or Brutal as well as elemental attacks (a little reminiscent of Pokémon in this respect, though this is the only comparison to be drawn really).
Fame can be gained by being successful in battle and gaining a reputation - enough fame allows you to level up. New skills are gained when you reach even-numbered levels whilst odd-numbered levels allow you to recruit brand new units.
If you were thinking the game isn't unique, then wait until you start using crystals in conjunction with your cards. This allows you to increase the effect of your cards or even change it altogether. Also, if you're struggling for move cards, you are able to lay a card sideways and use it as one of those four attributes mentioned earlier.
It has to be said that Mage Knight is a fantastic game that engages the player and will likely drag you into a dynamic world of fantasy/adventure - this is to be expected of a game from Vlaada Chvatil . The potential for the number of different scenarios is quite staggering (perhaps overwhelming for some) and the various locations such as mage towers, dungeons and dens keep things interesting
The board-game market is of course somewhat of a niche one. Most board games are an acquired taste at the best of times, but even more so with Mage Knight, a game that's obviously not as accessible as board games like Monopoly or Jenga because it's really a board game concerned almost exclusively with epic adventure scenarios steeped in fantasy and held together by what turn out to be a fairly complex set of rules. Mage Knight offers what so few fantasy based warrior games ever manage to accomplish in terms of strategic complexity which is actually what many people actively seek in board games and which never seems to fail in providing.
This complexity is what makes Mage Knight so very popular, and there will always be a market for this kind of mana-dependent, grand-scale, multiplayer fantasy game. Mage Knight is simply an incredible way to spend hours of your time.