10 reasons Mage Knight is the worst boardgame of all time


I never liked Settlers because it was so easy to be cut off and fall hopelessly behind the snowballing. Fans have always told me, “Just use the ports then!” but even with the ports you’re making inefficient trades that can’t possibly keep up with the people who beat you early on in the road game and now have towns on the best resource spots.

Once you fall hopelessly behind, the temptation to play kingmaker is overwhelming. Just hand over all your cards to the leader to make it end faster. It might make me a jerk, but you’re the one who made me play Settlers of Catan!


So does this mean Mage Knight is worse than Ticket to Ride?


Tom, I’m glad you were able to find the time to write this article as I’ve long wondered (beyond the downtime and long playtime) what made you hate the game so much.

I wholeheartedly agree with points 7 and 6 – that it takes longer than most games and the downtime is worse than modern designs. I’ve personally gotten around that by playing in an environment where the board can be setup at work and having the game take place over several days, where each person wanders in to take their turn a few times a day in a coffee break. But that’s obviously not an option for most people. :)

I disagree with 10 and 9. Learning how to leverage a non-optimal hand is important. But yes it can be frustrating. And I think the characters do feel different enough and that there is plenty of theme in the game.

All the other points are valid criticisms, but are either minor quibbles or not a big deal for me, or become not as critical in the expansions co-op scenarios – the best way to play the game in my experience. I’m a big fan of the game!


Wait, I thought Mage Knight was a WotC miniatures battle game?


WizKids. Planeswalkers is the one you’re probably thinking of.


There is a old miniature battle game also called Mage Knight.


Yep, the shared IP is why they have the cities on the clicky stands. At least that’s my understanding.

Tom is talking about the Vlaada Chvátil-designed 2011 boardgame release. (Vlaada Chvátil of Galaxy Truckers, Through the Ages, Space Alert, Codenames, etc.)


I don’t think I’ve played a Chvátil game that isn’t awesome. I blew my brother’s mind at Christmas when I realised the four amazing games we’d happened to end up playing were all his designs.


I mostly play 1v1 with an excitable 10-year-old. There is very little downtime.


I’m guessing you’ve never played a serious game of Diplomacy. It’s definitely not a casual party game to have fun with, and it’s certainly not for everyone, even among serious gamers. Nothing wrong with disliking it. And it can indeed become a slog if you get one of these EFG vs RT stalemates or similar.

But re Italy or Austria, if you play with a good player in that role among other casuals, they will absolutely crush you with one of the central powers despite the bad position, not because of tactical brilliance (no scope for that in the game at all) but because they are better at setting up alliances and backstabs than other people. Also, if the game takes 6 hours you are doing it wrong.


Diplomacy: not a game to have fun with

I agree!


I got a $100 Amazon card for Christmas and decided to spend it on a solo-able dungeon-crawly fantasy board game. So I have spent the last six weeks trying to decide which one I want,and tons of lists put Mage Knight as #1. The BGG Top 100 Solo Games voted on by the community has Mage Knight as the #1 year after year, it seems.

At the same time, I’ve been well aware from this forum of the absolute disdain that Tom has for the game. So I’ve been trying to figure it out: how can Tom so loathe a game that is revered by so many?

Now, I have my answer:

Meanwhile, not to derail the thread, but what should I get with my gift card? I have been thinking of Descent, 2nd edition, which now has the Road to Legends app that acts as the overlord, thus making it solitaire a possibility. I had one of those D&D crawlers, Castle Ravenloft but it didn’t do much for me and I traded it away.


There was an excellent podcast a year or so back in which a professional senior foreign service officer went to a Diplomacy convention and commented on it’s differences and similarities from real Diplomatic work.


If you are a non-rejector of Cthulhu-themed games, you should consider Arkham Horror: The Card Game. It’s not a “boardgame” but the location cards create a sort of board and you are having the sort of adventures one associates with those types of games.


I love Mage Knight, but if you’re only getting one game make sure that this is the one for you before pulling the trigger. Tom isn’t the only person who can’t stand it.

I have a couple of these games, but to be honest I didn’t like the rules and wrote my own.

Have you considered Mansions of Madness 2ed? It’s not a dungeon crawler, and I don’t love it enough to give it a unconditional recommendation. But if you want something a little different, it’s worth having a look at. It has a focus on storytelling, investigation and deduction, although there is combat too.


I’m not a huge fan of the D&D dungeon games, but they’re OK.

The dungeon crawl games I love, other than Mage Knight (which isn’t real dungeon-y), mostly require 2 players. Imperial Assault/Descent is my jam. Have you considered Zombicide: Black Plague? I absolutely love that game, and it is quite enjoyable solo.


Well if we’re not limiting out recommendations to solitaire games (despite that being what was requested) both Imperial Assault and Conan are games I’m seriously considering picking up. Another crawl game that I do own is Claustrophobia, which I’ve not played enough to recommend yet, but seems quite good.


I don’t think MK is the worst game of all time (I know Tom was tongue in cheek), but I do think it’s not good.Tom points out some of the reasons, but to me it’s just exceptional in its blandness. In my mind I compare it to Magic Realm, which craps on it from 8 miles high. I also just personally dislike games that are efficiency puzzles and nothing else, and that’s pretty much what MK is.


I agree with this assessment, each turn in Mage Knight is this beautiful, brutal, procedurally generated puzzle. I can’t get enough of it, if only the running time of the game was a little more compatible with having a family.


Thanks. I already have (and love) LoTR: The Card Game. But for now I want something with minis and tiles.

Yup, and many of his ten reasons here are sufficient for me to know it would not be for me (playing time, complexity, puzzle-ness).

Actually I’m giving it serious consideration. It has come down to that or Descent. But Descent is my more likely choice, as I prefer the traditional fantasy setting and a pure crawl compared to an investigation.

I did play Imperial Assault with my group and had a great time. Not into Star Wards though. So with the Descent overlord App, I think that would be the better choice.

No, thanks. I will check that out.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions.

EDIT: (from blurb): “Zombicide: Black Plague takes the zombie apocalypse into a fantastical medieval setting!” Oh wow. I had no idea. I assumed all zombie games were contemporary or post-apocalyptic. Now I do need to check this out. Thanks Jason.