Monday, 19 November 2012

Underwhelmed by Mage Knight

We tried out Mage Knight on Saturday and my intent was positive, firing off a few tweets during set up and explanation. It went really quiet after that, though.

The board of Mage Knight towards the end of the game, with most of the map discovered

This is because I got disenchanted really quickly. Even before the end of the first day (half a round) I had just discarded a hand of cards in disillusionment hoping for something useful to come up. That is not a good sign.

As I was stuck behind other players, I had few chances of actually scoring or leveling up, and there were a few turns I was just marching and countermarching, not doing anything.

The complexity of the game is high, with lots of different mechanisms interacting. More than once, actions we'd been planning for a turn had to be revised because we'd overlooked a bit of detail. For example, every terrain type (keep, tower, monastry, questing location) has half a page of stuff you need to know first, and it's not intuitive.

It just grinds the whole thing down. And half of it is not essential to the game. The evil track doesn't affect the game much, so why include it? The game also makes an accounting exercise of something that should be exciting and risky.

This is a thing I've noticed about other games by Vlaada Chvatil, Dungeon Lord and Stronghold. It takes very interesting themes and then harnesses them into euro mechanisms. Like Dungeon Lord, Mage Knight is essentially a multiplayer solo experience. Mostly it's getting somewhere before another player. Attacking other players doesn't gain you much. For me it was a long, boring grind which made me weep deep down inside.

But there was real bad news that night from a few of the other players in our group. It puts gaming (and blogging) back in perspective.

Take care guys. Our thoughts are with you.


  1. Never played it and on the basis of your review I never will! I hate wasted evenings like that.

    1. I must say I was surprised at how badly I took it, but I think the gut feeling was right. I have no problem with complex rules, if they give me a better and more fulfilling game. But I couldn't see the point of much of the complexity here.

      Strangely, I'm willing to give this one another go. Just to make sure it wasn't just me having a bad day.

      And obviously euro gamers who love earlier games of Vlaada Chvatil will find their cups filled to the brim with this one.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I love complexity in wargaming but for boardgames I have a cap. Talisman is about as complex as I like a game to get.
    Part of wargaming, for me, is browsing through the books figuring out the rules. It is the same mechanic with which I take time for the library every now and then: I walk in and just pick out a stack of books on roughly the same subject and start reading, trying to connect the dots. In boardgames I guess I'm more drawn to Talisman level complexity.

    1. Well, I don't mind this level of complexity. Starcraft or Descent are at about the same level of complexity, but they are less about accounting and optimising. They are about fighting battles and slaying monsters. They have interaction and risk and you always have something to do.

      Many of the GW miniature games may be simpler games in principle, but require that you also digest a number of army books or codexes so you know what special abilities you and your opponents can bring to the table.


I appreciate comments. Let me know what you think!