Mage Knight is an interesting game that seems to get some fired up opinions on both sides of the fence. There are some people who just angrily hate it while others adore the solo play of this unique and in-depth game. Some people claim the game’s solo settings are too complicated while others argue though long, the game is easy to learn.
So which is it?
In my opinion:
Mage Knight can be difficult to learn at first, with most players running into a snag or two their first time playing it. However, the game isn’t complicated and once you practice the mechanics a little bit, they become intuitive and the game becomes a very enjoyable solo play.
The rules to Mage Knight aren’t hard to understand or learn. The problem that some people run into is that there are a lot of rules. I mean, a LOT of rules because this is a long and in-depth game.
That can intimidate or turn off some beginning players who are new to the game and that is understandable. There’s a LOT to figure out, especially if you started off playing two players then went to solo, or vice-versa.
Cards need to be added or removed, dice need to be added or removed, and once the setup is done you are prepping for a two hour game.
Any time you have a game that is designed to last two hours or more that is going to be exciting for some people and disqualifying for others. That also means that you are going to need a lot of rules to take care of every potential situation that comes up.
It’s the difference between a 10 question quiz and a 100 question quiz. Even if the questions are relatively simple the sheer number of them makes things slightly more complicated than things would otherwise be.
In my experience the biggest problem isn’t that Mage Knight is difficult to learn, but that it can be a little bit overwhelming especially if you haven’t played before.
Ricky Royal’s Excellent Mage Knight Rules & Playthru Video
That really is one of the best videos online for understanding the rules through seeing them in action in gameplay. There’s a reason that Mage Knight playthrough is one of the favorite recommendations to beginners.
When fans of the game recommend it, you know it does things right.
Starting at 0 fame, 0 reputation (hey the life of a brand new adventurer is rough, yo) this is a game where taking a little extra time to learn the mechanics and read through the Mage Knight rules once or twice will save a lot of headaches later. I know I’m guilty of being someone who tends to set up and go without reading all the rules first, but this is a time where you really need to thoroughly study the rules first.
I’d also recommend watching the walkthrough, and possibly another one just to get a feel for how the game is supposed to play and how the story moves forward.
This will let you know when you have a feeling that you might be messing a rule up or things might be going sideways. That way you can reference the rules as you’re playing to make sure you’re on the right track.
Or correct course if you find a mistake.
Setup Adjustments for Solo Mage Knight
For setup if you’re playing the solo game version of the Mage Knight, then you will need to make some adjustments in order to avoid problems later on in gameplay.
- Remove interactive spells from Spell deck (basically card 17 and up)
- IF playing the introduction mission it’s SUGGESTED that cards 17 and up are removed from the Advanced Actions deck
- Regular Unit Deck is unchanged for the solo game
- Elite Unit Deck doesn’t get used at all for the walkthrough mission, but gets used for other solo Mage Knight games
- Only 3 dice are needed for a solo game (2 + X numbers of players in the game, so three for solo)
- Remove interactive skill tokens from the play area
Learning Basics Vs. Learning Strategy in Mage Knight
This might also be a place where some of the disconnect is taking place when it comes to those who love this gave and believe it is easy to pick up and those who vehemently disagree. A five year old can learn the basic moves of chess in an hour or so.
Getting to beginning understanding basic strategy takes much longer. Unless the child is a prodigy, it will take much longer to get good at chess.
The same concept seems to be at work here, with the change that as opposed to being a relatively simple game, the sheer number of rules and potential early campaign issues with Mage Knight can feel overwhelming to someone not prepared for it or not used to a really in-depth tabletop RPG.
The first game is going to start rough. Whether it’s solo player or multiplayer expect a few stumbles with the rules early on. However, if you’re willing to not get flustered and take a game or two you’ll find that while there’s a lot to keep straight, the rules are actually well made and the mechanics work smoothly once you fully understand how all of them work.
Once you know the mechanics, then and only then are you in a place to learn really good Mage Knight strategy. When to push your luck, or when to play conservative. How to manage time and resources, and how to use your level ups to give yourself the best chance of victory on whatever campaign you’re playing.
This can be difficult in the sense that it does take multiple games, and that means many invested hours in gameplay, as well as focusing on really mastering the ins and outs of the game and its mechanics.
That is definitely harder than learning the rules.
Which is a shame that will turn off many gamers because in many ways Mage Knight can be quite a remarkable and interesting game.
Especially in solo play, and there aren’t many games that can honestly say that.
So What’s the Verdict?
Mage Knight is a really interesting game, to say the least. Learning the rules takes time and focus, but it’s not overly difficult. The hardest part is picking up the sheer amount of information that you will have to go through.
If you can have the patience and time to review those rules and keep going then you will do well and may find a very enjoyable game.
For some players this won’t be a big deal while for others it can be a little bit of a challenge.
If you’re interested in getting a copy of this game, check out the Ultimate Edition on Amazon!
Other Great Resources:
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.