I’ve owned Mage Knight a long time and previously only played a co-op scenario. It is a long game with a complex set of rules. As the Shut Up & Sit Down guys explain below in their review it is a “gamers game”, not something non board gamers will enjoy. So I have been waiting for a chance to play it with a friend who knows the game as well as the right 3rd and 4th players. Today we got together for a 4 player game and played a competitive scenario.
All the players were experienced board gamers so the lead time was “only” around 30 minutes for setup and basic rule explanation. Once we got started the play was reasonably smooth, having an experience player to answer questions instead of delving into the dense rule books helped. We were soon exploring the hexes with ease, womping on the orcs in our way.
As things progressed however the game slowed down. Our decks expanded along with the map, giving us more choices, combinations and decisions. This combined with more player interaction ruining pre-planned turns made for a fair bit of downtime. And we weren’t even playing PvP rules which I imagine would have slowed down things considerably.
I found the game frustrating, mostly because I made a series of silly mistakes in part as I was learning, but also because I got distracted. I moved to a village and ended my turn but on my following turn I forgot I had done so, my character covering the icon. I then moved off the village towards the castle I had in my sights, ending my turn next to it ready for an assault on my following turn. Once it was my turn again however I was informed I would need to be on the same space as the castle to attack it.
It was then I realised my mistakes, wasting a lot of movement without gaining anything. I was most annoyed with myself. I proceeded to throw away a lot of good cards to get myself to the castle, and more taking it with a less than formidable deck. By this stage I was falling behind in levels and far from where the action (and therefore points) was. Dumb and unlucky, but I didn’t allow to foul my mood apart from a couple of choice swear words.
I cannot relate much of my fellow players experiences in detail. To me it seemed they had a target rich environment and the opportunity to pull of some fun combos and generally enjoyed themselves. As with my last play everyone found movement painful, getting about the expanding map being slower and more costly than one would expect. There were also complaints about downtime as well, passively watching someone pull together a turn with a set of cards we were only vaguely familiar with wasn’t much fun.
The next games I play are going to be 2 player and maybe try I will try the 1 player variant. I found enough satisfaction in the game with the promise of plenty more to continue with it, albeit aware of its weak points.