Having seen the new banner ads on E2 touting an online retailer selling the game Mage Knight and being an avid player of the game myself, I thought that perhaps a good writeup would encourage people to click on that banner ad and perhaps buy a starter pack of this fantastic little game. Doing that would not only cause a great game to be delivered to your door, but would also help make a little bit of money for those wonderful people who keep E2 in business. So, without further ado, a summary of the game Mage Knight.
Mage Knight is an interesting tabletop game made by Wiz Kids first released in late 2000; it is a collectibe miniatures game. The game consists of each player controlling an army of miniature figures who face each other in a battle, but this game has several advantages over other such miniatures games such as Warhammer. The big one is that unlike Warhammer, you can play straight out of a $12.95 starter pack; in other words, it's the most inexpensive miniatures game by far. Another huge advantage is the simplicity of the rules; after playing two or three games, you won't need to consult another booklet or pamphlet at all. The real cincher, though, is the fact that you don't need any extra materials to play outside of the figures, some table space, and two dice that are included in the starter pack. One can carry around enough material to play in a coat pocket or in a small box in one's backpack.
With this, it also retains the advantages and fun of miniatures gaming. Miniature games give an accurate representation of a battlefield before you, really helping to fire your imagination and competitiveness. The figures are paintable, allowing the artistic player to paint their own figures for their own visual flair (I have a nice Atlantean Mage Knight army all done up in aqua and gold, myself). Most systems (like this one) allow for as many players as you have around quite easily; I've played with two players and eleven, and everywhere in between, and the game was still quite fun. Plus, the underlying game itself is extremely enjoyable because it is balanced: it provides a solid dose of strategy with a hint of luck, all rolled up into a game with nearly infinite possibilities.
When you purchase a starter set, you get a rulebook, some tokens, and enough figures for two people to play a basic game, though it is much better if both people buy their own starter pack. So, essentially for $12.95, one can have the pieces to play a simple miniature fantasy war game.
The pieces themselves come in a variety of sizes, ranging from roughly two inches high to eighteen inches high. They are composed of a sturdy but flexible plastic, which is both a positive and a negative. The positive is that they're much cheaper to make than miniatures from other games such as Warhammer, which have pieces made of metal. However, the pieces from the other games just seem of higher quality: they are heavier and just look and feel a little better. Still, one can't argue with the huge savings that Mage Knight has over the other games.
The game takes about thirty minutes to play if you use a small army, adding about fifteen minutes for each progressively larger size of army (both players have the same army size, explained below).
The most fundamental thing one needs to know is how to understand how each figure works. Rather than having to memorize information, each figure has all the data you need right on the figure itself; all you have to do is figure out how to read it, which isn't tough.
Each figure contains details on the character's name, rank, point value, range, damage, speed, and attack and defense ratings. The last four are determined by the health of the character, and this is the really nifty part...
The health of each character is raised and lowered simply by twisting the base of the miniature. Like a timer, each character has a number of health settings, gradually growing lower with each click to the right until the symbols show all skulls (meaning the creature is dead). So, rather than keep track of creature health with tokens or careful notes, everything you need to keep track of things is already present with the figure. The starting settings are marked in green, so with just a few clicks on each figure, you're ready to start again.
Before each game, much like the assembly of a deck in a collectible trading card game, one must assemble his or her own army out of his or her collection of Mage Knight figures. Essentially, all players agree on a point total for each of their armies that is some multiple of 100, then all players choose whatever creatures they want for their own armies as long as the point value of all of the members of the army is equal to or less than the point total. After the armies are selected, all the players assemble their armies in whatever fashion they wish on the table, provided that members of opposing armies are at most three inches away from the edge of your table and six inches away from opposing figures. In tight space, it's best to give each player an imaginary small space to start from in equal placings around the board.
After the armies are assembled and placed, the turns go around the table clockwise, starting with whoever is chosen as the first player. During a turn, a player may do a number of actions proportional to the number of points of the game; if it is a 100 point game, the player gets 1 action a turn; if it is 300 points, then a player gets three actions a turn. At most, each character can do one action a turn, so if you have three actions, you must spread them across three characters. The possible choices of an action are:
- Move a warrior. You move one character a number of inches equal to or less than the character's speed (found on the base of the figure).
- Ranged combat. If there is an opposing figure within one character's range and that character is able to conduct ranged combat (signified by an arrow symbol on its base), that character may conduct ranged combat. Basically, you roll two dice and add these numbers to your attack value, then compare this to the targeted creature's defense value. If the attack value is more, you do damage to the opposing creature equal to your damage number, and that opposing creature is thus clicked downward that many clicks (weakening the creature). If a character has two arrows, it can do two ranged attacks for one action; if there are three arrows, it can do three ranged attacks.
- Close combat. Close combat works the same as ranged combat, except that your character doesn't need the arrow symbol but it also must be in contact (actually touching) with the opponent's figure that it is attacking.
- Parry. Essentially, burn an action with your current position.
You can also make a formation (i.e., a group of characters actually touching one another) of characters so that they're touching. Formations move slowly and are highly susceptible to opponent attack, but they move and attack with one action.
That's pretty much it. Some of the more powerful characters also have some nifty special powers, but these are spelled out for you by a particular color on the character; there's only a small set of special powers that you'll memorize if you play very much.
Starter sets contain twelve figures, enough to construct a small army. Starter sets also contain a rule book and everything else you need to play for $12.95; these are the most widely available packages, available at most better hobby shops.
There are also booster packs available that contain six or seven figures (depending on the series; there are currently three series of Mage figures). These booster packs are available for $6.95 a pop, and these are also often found at better hobby shops.
Many larger hobby shops also carry individual figures, both the special pre-packaged kind (some of the large, high-end figures are sold individually by Wiz Kids) and individual characters from the other sets. These have a wide variety of prices.
The figures are also widely available online; one place you can find by clicking around E2 and watching the banner ads...
The basic set (called Rebellion contains 160 figures; there is also two expansion sets (Lancer and Whirlwind) with roughly eighty figures in each of them. These come in a variety of rareties; there are a few in each set that are quite rare. There are also a number of individual large figures, such as the Venomous Dragon and the Black Powder Rebel Chariot that are sold by themselves; these figures are monstrous, have ridiculously high stats as well as huge point values. It should be noted that one does not need these to be competitive, though they are nice to have in high point games (200+).
It is quite a trick to track down all the figures, but that is more for the collector; the player can thoroughly enjoy the game with just a small subset of the figures and still have a good shot at winning when playing.
Is the game itself enjoyable? Yes, without question; it is definitely a great miniatures game and a good (and relatively inexpensive) place to start for anyone interested in miniatures gaming. The rules are rather simple (comparable in complexity to Magic: the Gathering) and the game doesn't take up much space either in storage or in playing (again, comparable to Magic: the Gathering).
Any significant flaws? The figures come pre-painted, so one has to paint over the paint already provided. Wiz Kids is rumored to be making a series of unpainted figures to aid in the painting process, but these haven't seen the light of day yet. Plus, the same problem that plagues any collectible game occurs here; if you start to get into it, you can easily spend a lot of money and time before you realize it toning your army.
Mage Knight is a pretty enjoyable way to spend an afternoon or four, especially if you're into playing games, especially strategic ones with fantasy themes. The game itself is extremely enjoyable, with a lot of strategy involved. Plus, one can be reasonably competitive with just the purchase of a starter set. If you're thinking about getting one, you can kill two birds with one stone by clicking through the Mage Knight banner ad flashing on this site and buying it through that vendor; their prices are reasonable and it helps out E2 as well.