Players: 1 to 4
Game Length: 3 hours, give or take an hour
Best enjoyed: With 2-3 players who want a complex and epic fantasy adventure game!
Mage Knight Board Game, by Vlaada Chvátil, is an epic fantasy adventure game where players will control powerful Mage Knights – generals, warriors and wizards all in one – as they start from fairly humble beginnings and grow in power, gathering spells, artifacts, abilities and followers, until they are able to fell dragons and topple fortified cities!
The game works a little like a deckbuilder, in that the capabilities of each player on their turn will be determined by their hand of cards, drawn from a personal deck. A game round ends after one player has gone through their entire deck, and efficient use of cards will be essential if players are to make the most of their options. As players grow in power, they will be able to add new cards to their deck. There are four characters in the base game, and each plays differently with a unique starting card and access to different sets of skills upon levelling up.
Mage Knight is a very complicated game to learn, and the game itself recommends players start by playing a tutorial. The rulebook can be difficult to get your head around, and there are a lot of moving parts that players will need to be aware of. A good video tutorial is highly recommended to understand the basics of the game, and playing a solo game by yourself before teaching it to others is recommended to make sure that you can go into your first proper game as smoothly as possible.
Mage Knight is a compelling game that offers a lot of options to its players, but tends to slow down a lot when played with more than 3. Turns can be very lengthy, especially when players start to attack cities, and the downtime between turns can be frustrating for other players. Resolving large combats tends to get very mathy, with players trying to work out the best way to balance taking wounds against dealing damage to their opponents, and determining how to do enough damage through use of spells and mana.
One of the benefits of Mage Knight is that it also works quite well as a single player game or co-operative game, where the players are working together to defeat all the cities on the map before the end of the game. The expansion, The Lost Legion, improves on the co-operative player element, adding the marauding General Volkare that the players must contend with before he rallies the local population against the heroes. It also adds extra starting cards to further distinguish each character out of the gate, which is a nice touch.
Mage Knight is an excellent game well worth playing, so long as all the players involved understand that the first playthrough could take longer than planned and may get mired in rule checks. It has a truly epic feel, with the players starting by struggling to take down orcs and ending with them becoming an engine of destruction. If you can get through the complex rules and are after a long and engaging game, Mage Knight is one of the best out there.