10 reasons Mage Knight is the worst boardgame of all time


Oh, and Bruce says “Enemy Action: Ardennes is one of the best solo games ever” but you’re like, no, I HATE General George Patton and America…


Challenge accepted


Tom Mc

Edit: And here I am just now catching Josh’s mention of Realmspeak. It really does a good job wrangling the monster that is Magic Realm.


I was responding to tylertoo, but for the record, Gloomhaven is not “the latest miniatures boondoggle”. My copy doesn’t even have any miniatures in it. The retail version has one mini per character class, but KS backers could opt to skip them and save $16.

What it is is an insanely content-rich fantasy tactical battle game with RPG progression, very unique classes, and a unique and awesome action system where you play pairs of action cards and use half of each, with a full suite of options available to you at the start of the scenario and gradually dwindling as you play them and lose them either by refilling your hand or using certain more powerful actions. I have no idea if you’d like it (since you’re so wrong about Mage Knight!), but it’s not “an appeal to the Kickstarter thirst for little toys.”

Edit: Actually, if you have access to Tabletop Simulator, the creator has a preview version up on that that should give a feel for whether you’d dig the basic gameplay or not (though it doesn’t offer any of the campaign-level content, obviously).


I demand investigation of the physical product.


I don’t do Java ports of boardgames. Sniff.

My bad then. I saw pics of miniatures on BGG and I had read posts about what a massive box it is. Also there’s the high cost. Based on those factors, I assumed incorrectly it was full of little toys.

But to be perfectly honest, the main reason I don’t have any interested in Gloomhaven is because the developer’s previous game, Forge War, is pretty bad.



Yeah, the cost is high (at retail - I paid $64 on KS) and the box is huge but that’s because it’s got like four entire games worth of stuff in it. If it relied on minis it would have way less in it or cost ~$800.


Aw you really should. The guy also did an implementation of Wizards that is well done, Timetripper too but that one will no longer work with newer OS’s and JRE’s. But, Realmspeak was where he poured his effort and it has paid off.

I would gladly Investigate the physical product but those are just trappings to participate in the larger ritual of the game itself. The PC provides a nice stand in for those.

I do have a fascination for Hamblin’s Gunslinger and copies of that I actually did manage to attain. I wish that existed in digital form beyond a Vassal Module.

Tom Mc


Mr. terran – I’m super impressed with your ability to isolate and explicate the soft vulnerable underbelly of the most venerated classics. I also trust that your overall assessment of The Witcher Boardgame (which I doubt I would ever even attempt to play) is correct. But, your first two objections about it are perplexing.

Isn’t this the competitive genre we call a “race”? Seems like a legitimate form to me.

I think this is what we call “mechanics.” The abstraction of fictional elements into quantifiable, manipulable systems and components. If I’m looking at the right cards, there’s theming on there. Quite a bit for a board game, if you ask me. That it boils down to “collect resource X and Y” seems like gameplay, not a failure of theming. What would you like to see?

I admit, I’m taking you to task mostly because I’m hoping it will evoke some more wryly harsh analyses of beloved board games.

In my opinion, you’re both right and wrong about Dominion: There’s often a couple good engines that can be built from a set, and you have to have both good perception of it and good execution of it.

And Betrayal at House on the Hill is way better than you say, but you have to look for the joy elsewhere than the parts you’re focusing on. Does it often turn out to be kind of broken? Yeah. It’s like an enormous, beautifully colored gemstone that is also rife with flaws. It’s impressive if you don’t expect too much or look too closely.


I respectfully disagree. The physical pieces are not the trappings, they are the thing itself, in its tactile form, which allows us to share the same experience in person. The other manifestations, while well-intentioned, are useful in their way, but are ultimately ersatz contraptions.


I hate to be that guy, but I have a thing about names, probably because mine was mangled so often. He is Richard Hamblen.


Tabletop Simulator has a beautifully implemented module for Magic Realm.



Funny this comes up as I have Mage Knight on the table at the moment and done a few solo plays. I did a couple of runs with Wolfhawk in the city conquest scenario before deciding to give the blood/fire mage whatsitsname a go. Yeah, Tom’s comment about theme are spot on. The heroes are meaningless, I don’t know nothing about Utem, Altem etc, or why there are rampaging orcs and the reasons as to why they and the draconians are so pissed off sitting in their camps.

Firstly, I’m not really playing a different character, but I am playing a different miniature that comes with two unique cards. Whatsername’s (rulebook says Arythea) mana pull for instance typically gets burned for an extra movepoint, while her other card at least has a use in combat situations, but only combat. And I can not even enter the game with a strategy because I don’t know what to expect when the skill tiles flip over. Add in a map that can really screw a person and a game feels like a puzzle with a complexity that isn’t of my choosing.

Somehow though, there is a compelling desire I feel to move forward in the game. Hope maybe? That ideal of holding out for that flip of a skill tile, advanced card or map tile that can turn a nobody into a badass dispatching multiple foes at once. The night before last, I lost two hours merely sitting down to do one day. That day ended up becoming a day and night, then another two rounds after that before I looked up and noticed the clock had struck midnight. There’s a progression and challenge that I appreciated once I started doing the actual scenarios and gave up the introductory recon mission. Until then, it felt too predictable.

One issue I have with both Mage Knight (and Eldritch Horror alike) is that ticking clock. It’s fair in that it makes a person have to take calculated risks in order to meet the objective, but the time to play with those cool toys is all too short. The typical progression I’ve seen in Mage Knight is earning first advanced action card by the first day, units and maybe a spell by the first night, more of the same on the next two rounds, then hopefully capping off the game with the city conquest on each of the day and night rounds in the final days. I would like the solo boardgame to have something like a new game + where the challenge scales up for that character that has been developing and cooking for a few hours. That character development is a huge part of those games, particular with Mage Knight being a deck builder of sorts. Instead I look at the map I’ve uncovered, sigh a little, then clean up and reset the game for another go around. Maybe the answer is to hold those cards, then reset the map and increase the difficulty of the cities. I don’t really know.

Mage Knight is a ruthlessly time limited game, where the single most important factor is how much time you have. It is a vicious exercise in maximizing efficiency. Yet you’re often left in a position where you have very few choices and all of them are terrible. You might have a great hand of attack cards, but no way to actually move into the hex you need to attack. Here’s your might mage knight, sitting outside a castle, armed to teeth but unable to budge. What a terrible place to find yourself in a game that’s essentially a race.

Furthermore, there is no provision for actually tracking the time limit. Many of the scenarios are on a clock, but there is nothing in the game that marks how many rounds you’ve played. Is it the fourth day or the sixth day? Who knows? Bring a piece of paper or something to note this, because Mage Knight can’t be bothered. Imagine a scoreboard for a baseball game without room to tell you what inning it is. You’ll just have to remember.

In the first situation of having a hand of attacking cards, you just have to burn a couple to move, then accept the fact you may need to take on some wounds. Not defending the game though, it sucks and it actually funnels me down into a position where I choose to take movement skills when I level up if I can, or you know, count the cards and try and keep track of chances for picking up a dedicated movement card.

With the second about keeping track… yeah I’ve only done city conquest, and so I know that there is an inherent tracker of time because each tactics card can only be played once, so it is easy to know when the third round is up because there will only be two tactics cards left. But that’s about the only situation I’ll concede where the game does track time, otherwise yep, I guess paper and pen all the way. One other possibility could be to use those gold and black mana crystals because in reality, they don’t really go into the inventory if I recall, they can only act as tokens.


Using Karim’s brilliant graphical redesign no less!


There’s an app for that, “Mage Knight Dummy Player”.
I have only used the iOS version but there’s one for Android as well.


The player characters (I almost wrote “heroes”, but you’re plundering brutal warlords so that seems inapt) in Mage Knight are very distinct and the biggest part of that is their skill tiles. Yes, it’s possible for other PCs to take those tiles, but only after that character has already discarded them, and only at a fairly significant cost. A PC that opts to take a significant percentage of skill tiles from some other character is operating at a disadvantage and playing against their own strengths. They’re also probably giving the other players a crack at their own character’s best skills, while taking the stuff other players didn’t want.


I was going for games that are widely like that I can’t stand…

I’m cautiously interested in Gloomhaven, but having read the rules, I’m not sure it’s a game for Tom Chick. Too much fun I expect.


Here it is


Pretty much. It’s not in the cards so much as the skills which make certain characters significantly better at certain things. Some of those abilities are pretty powerful (like the wound one on the knight dude which basically makes you a near-god).

I get not liking the game for various reasons, it certainly isn’t for everyone.


That’s cool, but without rules enforcement I don’t really see the point. RealmSpeak does rules enforcement and async online play :)


I was trying to articulate how The Witcher Adventure Game experience comes off as little more than “everyone roll dice until someone wins (but usually you’re crippled)”. You can boil any game down into a short summation, but Witcher feels exceedingly pointless and dull from the start.

I’ve never had a good experience with House on the Hill. The first half is always pointless haunted house Candyland. The second half, either the haunt player screws up the secret rules or one or more players are rendered useless by not having the right stat or item or some special rule of being turned into a toad or anything else that makes their participation pointless but they can’t just quit.

BaHonH is the Cosmic Encounter of haunted house games. There’s just no reason to be playing it in the 21st century when stuff like Mansions of Madness is available. MoM isn’t even more complicated; as long as you have a decent DM it’s just as casual friendly.