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12 in 12: Mage Knight: The Boardgame

Article written by:
DC Dominguez
Author: DC Dominguez
Corporate grunt by day, video gamer by night and tabletop player on Sundays. Likes unicorns and the occasional naked romp through enchanted forests.

Details

Hello. My name is DC, and welcome to 12 in 12 where we take one of 12 board games and play the hell out of it for a month (or about a month, technically 3-4 Sundays). Today, for our first review ever, we review Mage Knight: the Boardgame. 

Mage Knight is a thematic boardgame for 1-4 players. The game is designed by Vlaada Chvátil, acclaimed board game and video game designer. Anything this guy makes seem to sell out like hotcakes, as Mage Knight sold out in 20 days after its first release in December of 2011.

Aptly called the Gandalf simulator by Quintin Smith (of Shut Up and Sit Down), The game takes you from a lowly “Gandalf the Grey” type Mage Knight who makes/shoots measly fireworks…

Earth Wind and Fire, Back to the Shire!

to a “Gandalf the White” level Mage Knight who shoots exploding cold fire blasts capable of leveling 2 dragons and a city without batting an eyelash.

"Gaze upon my countenance and DESPAIR!"

All this under the backdrop of epic medieval fantasy set in the Mage Knight universe. 

 

What's Cool?

The Components:

The Dragon's name is "Goldyx" *snicker*

The components are beautifully designed, from the hex shaped map tiles, to monster tokens, to mana tokens and mana dice, to pre painted Mage Knight figures, and of course beautiful art on the cards. You really get more than what you pay for, which leads me to the game itself.

The Game:

EPIC

This isn’t just a board game, it’s a very well designed and intricate game system. It merges two of my favorite types: traditional RPG and deck building. Think of it in such a way that you have a D&D character but all your moves are governed by cards from Magic the Gathering. The amount of moves you make to advance on the board, what kind of attacks you make, the number of allies you can hire, the spells you cast, ALL OF IT, boil down to the cards in your hand and the deck that you build while traversing through game map and leveling up.

The game is played in scenarios that you pick, each with a specific goal, from scouting a city for the solo game, all the way to assaulting and taking 3 cities for the full game. 

Up to four Mage Knights can take the board playing cooperatively or competitively. The game is loads of fun when you have friends playing alongside you as you get deeper level strategy. HOWEVER, the game tends to be significantly longer to play.

Win or Lose, I’ve noticed that most of the time it doesn’t really matter to the Mage Knight players. It all boils down to one thing in this game and it’s….

Being a Motherfucking Sorcerer (or Mage Knight, whatever):

We filled out an entire dining table for 10, nearing the end of the game.

In my last game, I started from a measly half dragon Mage Knight who could barely fly, into an all powerful avatar of draconic wrath, ripping dark mana from the void to create flaming cold blasts of energy to besiege a city protected by flame wizards, gunners and an all powerful high dragon. I turned their bones into a glowing ash pile of blue and red dust. Afterwards, I played air guitar atop the highest castle spire to the tune of “The Touch” 

YOU GOT THE TOUCH! YOU GOT THE POWAAAAAAHHHH... YEAH!

Then there was also that time I had a handful of wound cards, journeyed into an ancient tomb, only to win against its defender, by sheer luck of the draw to uncover a powerful Altem guardian and a runesword capable of stealing your very soul… Yeah, that happened. It was awesome.

Interested yet? You should be. It’s experiences like this that make Mage Knight, one of the best board games out there today. 

However it’s not perfect.

 

What’s Not Cool:

It’s LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG:

This game, is notorious for being very long. One solo session took me 2 hours, a four player session took 8 hours. The reason for this is because the game is so complex, numerous rule clarifications will happen in your first couple of games. Not to mention the very math heavy focus of battle and assigning damage. It can get to be a handful. When you do figure out how to play it’s different combinations of things you can do in each turn that take up time. On average in our last game each player spent 20-40 minutes on average for our turns, because some of us forgot to use the skills we earned previously. 

It’s Complex, to a fault:

This is the only board game I own, with TWO manuals for rules and gameplay written in size 8 font back to back. It’s a long read and it’s not very well organized. Just reading the manual will make you feel like you’re growing a mage beard (if there was such a thing). If you think watching a video of gameplay is better I suggest you look for Ricky Royal’s play through videos and watch season 1 and season 2 (YES, 2 SEASONS). 

The learning curve is punishing but once you get a feel for the game it all makes sense. One or two complete games (full scenarios) should be enough for you to get used to the game.

 

The Verdict: Get it. Play it.

Go out there and buy it. It’s an experience I recommend for any gamer looking for a great RPG experience as well as great tabletop experience.

   

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