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Jharii

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9
Go to the Mage Knight Board Game page

Mage Knight Board Game

110 out of 118 gamers thought this was helpful

Board games are a social endeavor, whether it is sitting across from a good friend playing one on one, or hanging out with your board gaming group of 30. Many games have variants for playing solo, but rarely do they capture the essence of the game and it is far less rewarding outsmarting or outwitting the AI of a game.

Mage Knight, on the other hand, offers a very rich and rewarding solo experience, and is the focus of this review.

Out of the box, Mage Knight strives to set itself apart from the pack. 2 rule books sit atop an abundance of cards and pre-punched game pieces neatly wrapped and placed in plastic cartons built specifically to house those pieces. The painted miniatures and cities are a high enough quality and add a sense that this game is to be taken seriously.

The standard rule book is nicely written, complete with a section for scenarios and a very helpful summary page on the back. Where the rules really shine, however, is the Game Walkthrough book, which guides you through a predetermined and structured game of Mage Knight. This first walkthrough is invaluable to learning the game, and once you play through, the rules of the game become logical, fluid, and almost poetic.

Game setup takes a while, but the storage solution which Mage Knight provides makes the process go very smoothly. The scoring board is placed off to the side and then surrounded by the numerous token piles, card decks, and the tile deck. The organization of the player board and resources is laid out nicely in the rules, but you want to keep this off to the side since you want to leave ample room for the map tile placement.

I am not going to get into the details of the setup, as this is explained clearly in the rules, but once you have completed setup, you will choose one of the four characters (randomly, if you like) to play and one of the remaining 3 will be the “dummy” player, which helps pace the game.

Each character has their own deck of 16 cards in which one card is unique to that character. This may make it seem like each character is not very unique, however the skill tokens (which you gain when you level up at even levels) are quite unique and make each character stand out.

A solo game consists of 6 turns, split into 3 day and 3 night turns. A single turn is composed of actions in which you play cards from your hand to move around the board, explore new tiles, attack enemies, recruit companions, and visit various locations revealed on those tiles. These locations are wonderfully described on location cards, which illustrate how to set up the location and what actions you can do at each. Once your action is complete, you draw up to your hand size, level up if you have enough experience, and draw the “dummy” player’s cards, then begin your next set of actions. These actions repeat until either yourself or the “dummy” player runs out of cards in the respective decks, then the next day/night begins.

Your cards, or abilities, all contain a mundane ability and a second ability which can be powered by mana and tend to be much more powerful than the mundane action. Mana can be obtained from finding and gathering mana crystals, but is most commonly used from the mana dice you roll each day/night. Three mana dice are rolled and you are allowed to use one during each turn.

Followers, which you hire from various locations, and skills, which you gain from levelling up, offer you actions that you can use in every turn. Think of them as cards that are always in your hand.

Combat with enemies is more puzzle-like than combat-like. Your goal is to combine ranged attack, siege attack, blocking skill, and melee attack in such away to mitigate damage and destroy your foes. While it is not the most elegant combat system, it is rather challenging and rewarding when you solve some of the more complex combats. If you are unable to block damage, you take on wounds in the form of cards that occupy free spots in your hand or can be placed on followers.

Other cards can be obtained throughout the game to enhance your deck. Advanced action cards are achieved when you level up at even levels. Spell cards are obtained from mage towers. Artifacts are rewards for conquering some of the more dangerous locales, such as ruins or dungeons.

The ultimate goal of the solo conquest game is to conquer 2 cities. These “final” fights are quite challenging, and you will need a few levels under your belt as well as a full compliment of followers.

This review was a bit difficult to write, as Mage Knight is a complex game with numerous rules, and it could have been easy and informative to focus on different facets of the game. The bottom line is that Mage Knight is a superb and rewarding solo game, and it surprises me how much fun I have playing it by myself considering how much I love the social aspect of board games. The game rules, while at first daunting, are quite fluid and every single rule contributes to the game and never detracts from it. Your first game should most certainly be the walkthrough scenario, but even that will be a lot of fun.

If you like adventure games, such as Talisman or Middle-Earth Quest, Mage Knight will take that experience to an all new level, and you may never take those other games off the shelf again. If you have been on the fence about adventure games, play Mage Knight and you won’t need any others. Solo or multiplayer, this game is fun and rewarding on so many levels, and has yet to disappoint.

10
Go to the Eclipse page

Eclipse

142 out of 150 gamers thought this was helpful

I am not one to overreact or wax poetically about any one board game. Board games are a social endeavor, and the majority of the enjoyment received from playing games is from the players themselves. The strength of the game merely amplifies that experience.

Eclipse shatters my belief structure.

Unboxing Eclipse is an adventure in and of itself. 11 (or so) sheets of high quality chits and tiles are a fun trial of organization, particularly when you don’t know the rules yet, but the artwork and functionality of each piques interest in the game. The rule book itself is a treat, containing concise instructions, examples, and excellent organization. The only negative is the player boards and the tech board: I would gladly pay an extra $10 or more for those to be laminated out of the box.

Set up of the game seems daunting, but it is really pretty simple since each player is responsible for their own board (and this is the lion’s share of setup). Technologies are randomly drawn, so that helps alleviate the need for their organization. Ship upgrades could be sorted and stacked, but it really is not necessary, as the upgrades could be searched for when needed.

Game play is elegance personified. A turn is composed of players taking actions in clockwise order. The actions are short, deliberate, and wrought full of impact, so players’ interests are held during their short downtime. Explore, Influence, Research, Upgrade, Build, Move. All are small, yet important components to a game turn. The first full turn took a while to understand the mechanics of each action, but once that first turn was done, each subsequent turn was exponentially faster. We were moving like old pros half way through our first game.

The player boards are highly intuitive and functional. The blocks and disks serve multiple purposes, revealing their respective economy levels on the player board while representing population and influence on the hexes. The players’ ships are also presented on the player boards, offering places for upgrades; you have excellent control of your fleet’s construction. Finally, the tech trees house the purchased technologies and are very useful, revealing future tech discounts and victory points as it fills up. Multiple purpose is most definitely the theme and focus of everything on the player boards.

It also should be noted that the icons found throughout the game are highly intuitive once you understand the basic logic behind them. It won’t be long until you pull out a random tech, view it, and understand it, even if you have never seen it before.

Once players are done with their actions, they may pass, but they still have minor actions available to them in case they do need to react. This is an excellent touch and adds another layer of strategy to the game.

Combat is simple. A 1 always misses, a 6 always hits. Shields and weapons help modify the rolls, hulls let you take more hits, drive technology lets you strike before your foe. It’s an effective mechanic that does not detract from the game and does not take long to resolve, so those that are not in combat are not held hostage.

There are so many nuances to the game, it is hard to describe in a rather short review. The mechanics, individually, are very simple, and they combine to form a synergistic orchestra of spectacular strategy and game play. I have missed so many other aspects (diplomacy, orbitals, ancient ships, tile discovery) that add to the game, but it is truly impossible to cover every facet.

Anxious. That is how I feel about Eclipse. I simply cannot wait until the next time I get to play it. This is the kind of game that would be fun to play, and you would have a great experience, even if you were seated next to people that you don’t particularly care for. Fortunately for me, I get to play with friends, tomorrow.

Eclipse gets the first 10 I have ever given out to any game.

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