Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mage Knight: Board Game

MAGE KNIGHT: BOARD GAME

by Wizkids 

Published in 2011

Mage Knight is a miniature wargame that I know absolutely nothing about. I had heard the name sometimes, but before stumbling across this board game version of it, my knowledge about the whole game world, its story and its mechanics had been non-existent.



And as I'm not so much into miniatures gaming, I began concentrating solely on this product; Mage Knight: Board Game.

So I found this game while browsing through some boardgamegeek.com rankings - this game was the third highest when viewing the solo-playable games. And after carefully reading through the very long rulebooks, I was immediately ready to go and purchase this game!

What I got was a great, strategic, deck-building, monster-fighting, cooperative or competitive board game that will go down in history as one of the best games ever! (well ok, I can't know that, but for me it will!)


So what are the Mage Knights? They are agents of something called the Council of the Void, individuals who have traded their independence for unimaginable powers - powers that allow them to fight against entire armies and single-handedly conquer great cities.
As their name suggests, they are masters of both magic and physical combat.

The game sets in a land populated by a once mighty Atlantean Empire. However, 32 years ago some horrible and devastating events occurred, leaving the country in chaos. Now the Empire struggles to maintain control, while Orc Khans rampage through the countryside, terrorizing the populace. To make matters worse, Draconum have begun to emerge from their underground tombs, ready to cause destruction upon the Atlanteans.

But this is not a story about the struggling Empire, or about the people who are trying to survive in this dangerous world...

This is the story of Goldyx, Mightiest of the Draconum, now a Mage Knight who is sent by the Council of the Void to take control over the two great Atlantean cities in this area. He was given only three days to accomplish this...
The Atlantean people have never seen a Mage Knight before, and it is up to Goldyx to be remembered either as a hero who saved the people from the invading Orcs and the feral Draconum, or as a savage beast who invaded their homeland...

In order to use magic, one must learn to use Mana. Mana exists in different colors, and a Mage Knight can channel a small amount of it from the surrounding world. However, Mana can also be crystallized to make a physical form out of it and keep it in reserves.
Goldyx's talents include several forms of Crystal Craft, but he must first evolve to gain these skills... Also, as a Dragon, Goldyx can learn to tap into his Draconum powers of magical breath and flight.

THE STORY BEGINS:

The Magic Portal stands on a rocky peninsula, and from this portal the mighty Goldyx will soon appear... He's got three days and nights to advance through the countryside, find the two great cities and conquer them.
A Mage Tower can be seen a little distance to east, and a sound of noisy Orc Diggers comes from somewhere behind the small forest to northeast. These lands are soon to experience the unstoppable power that is a Mage Knight!
The Portal crackles, and the form of a Dragon steps into this world.

The 1st day:

Goldyx advances through the forest and into the hills. A quick gaze to the Mage Tower reveals a group of Fire Mages garrisoned inside - perhaps a slightly too powerful foe to be taken on at this early point of Goldyx's evolution.
The hills have a mine from which Goldyx finds a blue Mana crystal. Hoarding crystals is a good idea, as magic will definitely be needed when matters get serious.

Goldyx attacks the nearby Orcs. These Diggers had entrenched themselves to make a ranged strike impossible, but Goldyx isn't shy on getting personal with his enemies...
The Orcs are slain with ease.




The Dragon then moves forward to explore the next area. A Keep is found, and a squad of Utem Crossbowmen can be seen patrolling its walls. Circling the Keep, Goldyx moves ahead and stops by a Monastery that is neighboring the Keep.

After considering his chances, Goldyx suddenly attacks the Keep. Having no way of avoiding the incoming volley of crossbow bolts, Goldyx is wounded in the attack... But upon reaching the walls, the defenders quickly fall before the rage of Goldyx.

And through combat, the Draconum evolve: A second level is reached and Goldyx learns new abilities. He gains his innate freezing breath, and learns a Crushing Bolt -action.


The dusk is quickly arriving. The wounded Dragon stumbles down from his new Keep and seeks aid from the Monastery.
With some well placed promises, he convinces the monks to heal his wounds...

The 1st night:

As the night falls, completely healed Goldyx scouts ahead. A pack of Orc Wolf Riders almost manages to ambush him! The riders attack, but Goldyx knows exactly how to fight against them. He quickly uses Crystallization to transform his blue Mana crystal into a white one.. then with this white Mana he launches a ranged attack against the fast moving enemies. His own freezing breath does the rest, and the Orcs never reach their prey...

Goldyx gains his third level and his scales thicken to offer better protection against attacks.

Exploring further, Goldyx finds a swampy area with a small village and some Cursed Hags. These female Orcs are known for the dangerous poisons they apply to their weapons.

While exploring the hillside, Goldyx comes across a cave. Without hesitating, he enters this Monster Den... and a fearsome Medusa attacks him!

These creatures are extremely dangerous with their petrifying gaze, but Goldyx is not worried. Another Mana crystal is spent, and soon a Crushing Bolt rushes towards the monster. And while this is not quite enough to kill the creature, Goldyx's own freezing breath once again finishes the job.


A green Mana crystal is found from the cave, but more importantly Goldyx gains his fourth level!
A Path Finding -action is learned, as well as a skill of Red Crystal Craft.

While pushing forward seems like a good option, the Dragon decides to double back to his Keep. There he uses his considerable influence to hire a group of sturdy Guardian Golems to fight by his side.

These constructs are good at soaking physical damage, and Goldyx can also use Mana on them to make them able to block elemental attacks...




Goldyx doesn't want to go back north and walk through the swamp, so he heads east, finding plains and another Keep towering in the distance. Some Ancient Ruins are also nearby... These places usually have wonderful things to be found, but Goldyx's acute hearing picks the sounds of Orcs from inside. Orcs, and something else too... Another member of the Draconum race must be inside!

Feeling brave, Goldyx decides to check the Ruins anyway...

A group of Orc Summoners and a mighty Ice Dragon are found from inside. The Orcs summon a Gargoyle to attack Goldyx, but the real trouble is the Dragon, for its freezing breath - much more powerful than Goldyx's - is quite fatal. Empowering the Guardian Golems with red Mana, and with Goldyx's considerable personal effort, the Ice Dragon's attack is blocked. The Gargoyle injures Goldyx, but in a furious counter-attack the Orcs, who summoned the Gargoyle, are killed.
Goldyx is forced to retreat from the Ruins, but now he knows exactly what is guarding the treasures inside... Next time he will be prepared to fight an Ice Dragon!

The sun rises, as Goldyx heals his wounds with Mage Knight's Tranquility.

The 2nd day:


As the day dawns, Goldyx and his Golems march eastward over the plains and attack the Keep there.

The defending Utem Guardsmen pose little threat; their weak attack is completely useless against the Golems' thick armor.
Goldyx's highly focused counter-attack slays the enemies, and another Keep has been taken over.

Conquered Keeps are important, as Goldyx can refresh his supplies from them.

Through promises and threatening, Goldyx hires a group of Utem Swordsmen from the Keep. His private army grows larger...
Then he quickly leaves the Keep to head north, effectively avoiding the swamp. Some armored Orc Ironclads are met in the hills... After a surprisingly exhausting combat, the Orcs are defeated.

Goldyx reaches the fifth level!

The hills continue to north as a huge bridge, and Goldyx gets a glimpse of a desert plateau opening to east. A Monastery is spotted, and a threatening Draconum Tomb looms in the distance...


Sun sets, and Goldyx uses Crystal Craft, Crystallization and all other similar skills he has to build up his reserves.



The 2nd night:

As the sun sets and the temperature drops, Goldyx heads to the desert. He visits the Monastery and recruits a team of powerful Fire Mages. These magic users would be exceptionally good against the Ice Dragon that was left into the Ruins, but that place is so far away from here, and the time is running out...

Spawning Grounds! Goldyx enters a network of caves and finds a monster Spawning Grounds. A furious battle ensues as a Crypt Worm and a Minotaur attack Goldyx and his army.
A focused Crushing Bolt destroys the burrowing Crypt Worm easily enough, but the Minotaur offers more trouble...
The Utem Swordsmen and Goldyx himself block the Minotaur's savage attack, while the Fire Mages send their fire magic to burn the beast to death.

Goldyx gains a level, learning an Ambush -action, and a Universal Power -skill. He also finds an assortment of Mana crystals from the caves, as well as an artifact known as the Banner of Fear. This powerful item is said to be able to incapacitate enemies with sheer fright!


Reaching the end of the range of hills, Goldyx finally sees the first of the great Cities!

A White City is standing next to a small lake, behind a patch of forest.
A dangerous Swamp Dragon is flying over the lake, effectively blocking Goldyx from approaching the City...

As there is no time to waste, Goldyx moves forward to the forest knowing that the Swamp Dragon will try to intercept him.

The beast swoops down from the sky and a battle begins between these two Draconum...
Or it would have begun if not for the Guardian Golems carrying the fabled Banner of Fear! The Swamp Dragon hesitates, giving Goldyx enough time to launch a powerful ambush from the forest. Before the green beast has a chance to snap out of its terror, Goldyx's savage attacks kill it...

Sun is rising again, and Goldyx takes a good look at the defenders of the White City. There are Guardian Golems like his, but they are the least dangerous of the defenders - vastly powerful Altem Mages are also present, backed up by a group of deadly Amotep Freezers!

Frantically exploring the surrounding area, Goldyx finds the second City - a Red City located in the middle of some very challenging terrain, and two more Draconum... Reaching this city would be very exhausting, so Goldyx turns his eyes to the east. There he finally spots another Mage Tower. Visiting the tower would be a very good idea, since Goldyx is yet to know any of the devastating spells that could be learned from these towers...

And the concept of attacking a city would seem a lot more promising with some Real Magic up in reserves!

The 3rd day:

Forgetting about both the Red city and the Mage Tower, Goldyx starts making plans for taking over the White City that is now right next to him. Without spells it is nearly impossible to conquer the city with just one single attack, but Goldyx and his army attack the city anyway:
As the Altem Mages are the most significant threat inside the White City, the Banner of Fear is used to keep them at bay... Even these fearsome mages are affected by the artifact's strange powers!
The Amotep Freezers attack, but Goldyx's Fire Mage allies block the Freezing attack with their fiery spells. The Guardian Golems are not much of attackers and pose no threat.
As a counter-attack, Goldyx's Utem Swordsmen attack the Freezers, while Goldyx takes care of the defending Golems.

The Golems are destroyed and the Freezers killed, but the Altem Mages remain untouched and Goldyx is forced to retreat from the city. However, now the Mages are the only defenders still left, and no matter how powerful they are, they cannot resist Goldyx for very long all by themselves.
The Utem Swordsmen are injured in the battle.

Still outside the gates of the White City, Goldyx suddenly comes up with a plan for a lightning fast surprise attack on the Mage Tower that can be seen at east.
Path Finding and Ambush takes him through the rough terrain and allows him to reach the tower, while a Will Focused Crushing Bolt decimates the defending Ice Mages.

Goldyx learns a spell called Burning Shield from the conquered Mage Tower. Fully understanding how essential spells are in attacks against the cities, he decides to spend some more time in the tower to learn another spell. Through threatening, promises, and Goldyx's Universal Power, the Dragon gains another spell, this one called Call to Arms.

Goldyx starts walking back towards the White City, this time making the distance considerably slower... He finds a mine from the hills and extracts a white Mana crystal from it.
Sun is setting again - Goldyx's time is getting short.

The demanding terrain and 60 hours of non-stop rampaging through the country slows Goldyx down and he is unable to defeat the Altem Mages still lurking inside the White City, as the sun sets.

The last night has arrived, and there is still so much to do...



The 3rd night:

And so the White City falls! The night invigorates Goldyx and his allies, and they overwhelm the powerful Altem Mages.
The Banner of Fear is used once again, and the Fire Mages' magic plays a key part is overcoming the defending Mages' strong defenses.

Goldyx gains his eight level, and learns a Green Crystal Craft and Crystal Mastery.

First part of Goldyx's mission is now complete, but there is only a few hours left...
The Dragon has to accept that the Red City is out of his reach for now - the city's defenders will most definitely be extremely powerful, and a hostile High Dragon is blocking the way to the city.
High Dragons are the mightiest of foes imaginable...


Desperately trying to accomplish something great, Goldyx finds his way into a nearby Draconum Tomb. These underground locations have young, but very powerful Draconum inside them. Allies refuse to enter these places, but Goldyx has a plan - however this plan won't work against certain types of Draconum... 
Goldyx takes his chances and enters the tomb, keeping his Burning Shield -spell at the ready. The plan is to use the ultimate form of this spell, the "Exploding Shield", that can only be used when the elusive black Mana is available. When casted successfully, this spell could literally explode the enemy to pieces, no matter how strong it is.

However, what is found from the tomb thwarts Goldyx's plan; another High Dragon! These infinitely powerful Draconum are resistant to fire, and a fire-based explosion attack won't work...

A moment later, badly wounded Goldyx stumbles out of the tomb.



But Goldyx knows these tombs and he knows another way in...

Without bothering to tend to his wounds, he enters the tomb again, this time running into an Ice Dragon. This Dragon, while still very powerful, doesn't resist fire...
Goldyx casts his Exploding Shield and uses his Universal Power to complete the block - and when the Ice Dragon touches the Shield, it explodes!

From this tomb, Goldyx learns a Restoration -spell, and finds another artifact, the Horn of Wrath! This wicked item can cause incredible destruction, but its user must be careful not to injure themselves in process...

The night is ending.
While it's still dark, Goldyx casts the Restoration -spell in its more effective form, as a Rebirth -spell. His wounds are healed and the banner bearing Guardian Golems are activated again.

As his last action, Goldyx vents his frustration by attacking the High Dragon that had blocked his way to the Red City. The Banner of Fear is once again used, as is the newly acquired Horn of Wrath.

The Dragon dies, and Goldyx - once again having killed a member of his own race - has done his last deed in this world....




Such was the rampage of Goldyx, Mightiest of the Draconum. His ultimate goal was not met, but the people of this land will never forget the things he did... the good things as well as the bad.

And after everything that happened, Goldyx actually does enjoy positive reputation amongst the Atlantean people.

The acts of slaying Draconum and Orcs outweighs the evil things he did, and while not necessarily a hero, Goldyx leaves with the acceptance of the Atlantean people with him.




Goldyx's Fame:

Base Fame: 87
+10 for knowledge
+5 for loot
+7 for leadership
+6 for conquering
+6 for adventuring
and +10 for the White City
totals to 131 Fame.

CONCLUSION:

A failure. I must say that I played poorly this time; 131 Fame is not a very good score. Every game in which the second city is not conquered is a failure, and even without the second city, this score seems quite low.
But I had fun, which - of course - is the most important thing! Mage Knight: Board Game is an exhausting, but highly entertaining experience... always.

What went wrong here was two or three bad decisions on my behalf, and the fact that Mage Towers were so rare! Usually Mage Towers are about as common as Keeps are, and as mentioned above, spells are crucial in fighting the cities.
I could have lingered on the first few map tiles, where the first Mage Tower was, but at the time that didn't seem like the correct strategy - it may be that I was wrong.

This is a difficult game... first it will be quite difficult to master its rules and get a grasp on how the game flows, and then it will be difficult to learn to play it well.
But challenge is always good, isn't it? At least for me, the first time I managed to capture a city with a single, devastating attack was a memorable moment! And all the times I found out a combo of actions and spells that made me almost feel like I just typed in a cheat code, gives off strange satisfaction.

The playing time is on the longer side... usually a solo game takes more than 2 hours, and setting the game up isn't a very fast process either. But those 2,5 hours are just about the best time one can spend with board games!

RATING:  10 /10

SOLO RATING:  10 /10

Mage Knight: Board Game could very well be the greatest of solo board games the scene has to offer right now! This game has it all:
Very deep strategic value, tough decisions to be made, strong theme, nice artwork and a high replayability.

I enjoy the game every time I play it, and if you are not repelled by its high complexity and long playing time, I'd say there is a very good chance you will enjoy it too.