Too Many Words about Mage Knight (Part V — Advanced Actions)
The four bolts (Fire/Ice/Swift/Air) all either get you a crystal or give you a ranged attack 3, with some bonus (the fire/ice have the approrpriate element, the swift bolt is ranged attack four, and the crushing bold is siege attack 3). The bolts are always useful. If you are mana poor, you get a crystal. Mana rich, you get an attack. Granted, in solo conquest the attack won’t necessarily be useful (although Siege will be), but even if you wait to the regular attack phase, attacks that change element are nice ways to deal with physical resistance. A bolt is rarely a bad pick, although there may often be something better. Solid citizens, the lot of them. B+
I’ve separated the rest of the cards roughly by type, although some cards live in multiple categories.
The weakness of (non-ranged) attack cards is the necessity to not throw them away due to paralysis or getting knocked out. But other than that, attack cards are always in style. Block cards also due some heavy lifting, it’s rare you’ll block nothing (unless you cancel some attacks, or just plan to heal as much and have your followers do everything).
Blood Rage is just super rage, where you can take a wound for an extra +3/+4. Killing stuff is always good and worth a wound. B+
Chivalry gives you solid attack numbers, or lets you reduce them a bit to gain some reputation, which (in turn) may help you recruit. B+.
I’ve mentioned my love of doubling. Well, in some ways Counterattack is a doubler. Attack 2/4 and an extra attack 2/3 per unit blocked. That’s not a strict doubling, but against Volkare it can often come close (especially if you have a few elusive units where blocking also lowers their armor). Even against a regular city assualt you can often see this boosted to 10 or 13 easily enough. A-
The more I play, the more I like Dodge & Weave. In some senses another doubler — it lowers attacks and gives you bonus attack if you take no wounds — but against a large army you’ll likely forfeit the bonus. But even ignoring that — lowering attacks beats blocking. Reducing is always efficient (unlike swiftness or elemental attacks). You can’t partially block, but can partially lower (to maybe let a resistant unit bounce the rest). Lowering a 5 cold-fire paralyzing attack is a good deal, even if you never get any attack bonus. A-
With a big enough unit Force of Nature absorbs a decent attack. (A problem with resistant units — albeit a minor one — is that each can only bounce one attack. If you can already bounce 3-4 attacks, you don’t have many worries). And you can power it for block (for pesky assassinating enemies) or siege attack (always nice). B+.
The Ice Shield (which provides Ice Block 3 / & Reduce Armor of the blocked enemy by 3 if you power it), is an OK doubler. Ice Block three isn’t enough by itself to fully block lots of your more annoying enemies, and reducing armor by three is fine. It really helps if the unit is resistant. Still, there are often a number of good targets, but typically you have to power this to really get value, so call it a B-.
Intimidate provides a strong attack at the cost of reputation or a bushel of influence at the cost of reputation. Attack and Influence? Both good. Yes, your reputation will spiral down. Grab a few followers ASAP and embrace the decline! A+, but it may require some finesse and if you have no followers and are already dangerously low on reputation beware.
Into the Heat provokes mixed results. If you have built up an army and have lots of ranged/seige attacks, this just destroys opposition. The downside — being unable to assign wounds to followers (or block with resistant ones) is a big deal — but this card can provide twelve to fifteen points of oomph. On the other hand, if you draft this without a plan Into the Heat is one of those cards most likely to cause you to go “Hm…” and eventually discard it. You need ranged attackers (or Altem Mages) to make this work, or some plan to just eat all the wounds in the world, then unleash hell. (Sword of Justice goes well with this). I wouldn’t draft this early (until I knew my setup) but late game this can be anywhere from an A+ to a pure Failure.
Ritual Attack — Another mid/late game card. You don’t want to discard 6 cards (one per round) from your deck, no matter how good an attack you get. Still, discarding a red card (intimidate being the logical choice) for attack five or fire six (if powered) is a good deal. You do also get to choose what cards you get rid of, so you can make an assault time decision on what you need. Downsides — you spend two cards for one attack, so its anti handsize. Most decks can’t afford to give up many cards, but some cards do lose value over the game (people with X reputation don’t need influence cards, you may not need much movement in the late game, crystalize and tranquility are often redundant towards the end). Still, not a frequent target, unless I’ve drafted a card that adds cards to my deck. Then absolutely draft this, to reduce the variability of your deck a little. C+.
Unlike Ice Shield, Shield Bash finds decent targets. Swiftness shows up early (more so than fire). The armor benefit for the powered version isn’t as good but — depending on who you fight — you’ll get more block out of this. And you can tune Shield bash or dump extra cards into it. So — better than Ice Shield, but it depends on what you find and you can’t necessarily plan for it. Still a B-, though.
Agility gives you movement, then lets you spend movement points as attack (or ranged attack with the powered action) during combat. Note you lose movement points when you start combat, but (unlike ranged attacks or blocks) movement can be saved throughout combat. So if you are about to get paralyzed you can dump your hand as movement (or block) and still attack. B+
Given how much I love Concentrate, no points for guessing I like Ambush. Move to the attack, then boost it (or a block). Sadly, ambush is a strictly arithmetic card … always good for a little boost, but never turning into a monster card. Early, it’s A, but its effect will down as the game goes on, maybe half a grade per round. At some point you’ll be happier with other cards. In a siege, Agility may be much better, depending on what you draw.
OK, the real advantage of Frost Bridge is that it reduces swamps to one. The green city tile is filthy with swamps, and the powered ability to walk over lakes can be great. But typically you only take this if you know you’ll need it (or are absolutely desperate for move, or perhaps if you’ve taken another knight’s skill token, so you get no choice on your AA). D+ [After writing this, the very next day I bought Frost Bridge while in the green city, because I needed to beat feet over some swamps to the white city, which the TaoLing had discovered. So –rarely useful, but otherwise ignored].
Unlike a lot of other skills, Mountain Lore gives you 3 or 5 move, instead of 2/4. The bonus of 1 hand size if you end in a hill is nice, but highly conditional. The powered version also lets you stop on a mountain (and get two hand size). Hand size is nothing to sneeze at, and this is a big movement booster, although other card’s discounts make them just as good. But again, you’ll likely only draw this if you see a mountain you want to cross. C+.
Path Finding is the ‘rush across the board’ card. You want to play this with lots of movement to take advantage of the big discounts. Particularly on core tiles, a powered path finding can let you race to your next target. B
I frequently take Refreshing Walk because movement is good, and healing is good. You use something else to walk into battle, then can heal (wasting the movement) or perhaps move/heal the next turn (particularly good when you are heading for a glade or mine, and don’t really need the handsize right away). A solid B.
Song of Wind discounts some spaces to one and zero, and in theory lets you shoot several spaces across the board. But here’s the thing. Those spaces weren’t noramally that difficult to get through anyway. (OK, deserts and wastelands are, but plains aren’t). And moving through lakes isn’t bad, either. Perhaps I’m undervaluing this, but this feels like the worst movement card. D+
Steady Tempo feels … steady. It’s a solid movement card. If you play it, you’ll draw it again at the end of the round, for more movement (or just one more card to chuck to something). If you are desperate, you power it and get it again ASAP. Not flashy, but useful. B-
In some extent, how much influence counts depends on your scenario. In Solo Conquest, you’ll typically have a turn or few loading up in your city. If your reputation is around zero, then you’ll get 3-5 influence for city tokens, so a few more actions to bump that up (or skills) can make a big difference. I’ve already said how much I love Intimidate, so let’s discuss the others.
Also, many of these skills go up in value when you buy them at a monastery, because you can then (next turn) use these AAs to buy another unit (assuming one is available).
Finally, these cards go in up in value if you have heroes and/or thugs (unless you have a skill that provides influence) since you’ll need to pay them off to attack a city or absorb a wound, respectively.
Diplomacy lets you spend influence for block. Not a big deal (unless you have an influence skill), but the powered version can talk some heavy hitters out of punching you in the face. So, you get slightly less influence than the other skills, but you can use it combat. Flexibility like that is often useful. B+
Despite the fact that Heroic Tale pays out 3/6 influence, it’s not my favorite. Yes, the bonus reputation and fame are nice (and can stack up fairly quickly), but all you can do is get influence. Typically you’ll only take this if you are going to use it next turn. B-
A literal feast or famine card, In Need provides munificent bounties of influence, all at the cost of having been beaten like a red-headed step child. Still, at a monastery this single card can heal your entire hand (or army of foresters and peasants) single handedly. Not the sort of thing to draft without a plan, but often when you draft it In need will pay dividends. B.
You can use Learning outside of interaction (which means your rep/city tokens don’t matter) to draft another card. You can also use it inside interaction, which will be useful if you have reputation or are at a city. The ability to use this outside interaction (which takes an action) does mean you can do some interesting things, like chuck your soon to be paralyzed hand to improve your deck for next round or possibly take a great advanced action right now. Remember that you can’t power the card then use the basic ability. That fact drops it down to B-.
Remember that if you use Peaceful Moment for its action, you aren’t interacting. Which means after a hard day of burning down monasteries and being shunned like the Pariah you so obviously are, you can still heal three wounds or ready some units with this bad boy. Often in the end game I’m taking a turn or two waiting next to the city, either building up my reserve underneath Sparing Power or I simply have to trek from the first city to the second and have nothing to do. So, a useful action is nice. Even readying one unit can mean taking out an additional Draconum or some such.
AAs that gain cards
Is I’ve mentioned before, it is possible to bloat your deck too much. (I just played a co-op game where I spent the second night waiting for Sparing Power to build a huge assault, but because we didn’t control the mana pool I absolutely needed Mana Draw to set a die to black. The dummy rushed so I had to assault with a few cards undrawn. This time I got lucky).
I just read a session report of one player versus the world where the one player (who seemed quite good) called Magic Talent “The best first Advanced Action.” I concur. Even ignoring the spell gaining ability, the option to chuck a card to use one of three is spells is highly flexible. Obviously whenever you go a spell route you want to get a good source of mana, and you can have too many spells, but unless I’m totally dry I’m happy with this. Even then, the source will power a basic spell action, and the offer normally has some spells that are situationally useful. And you don’t have to take this early for it to be useful. A single shot of a spell can game changing. A+.
Blood of Ancients costs a wound (tolerable) and a mana to get a card into hand. The advanced action doesn’t get you the card, but lets you put the wound in the discard pile (or not). It’s a decent first draw, because you’ll get another card next turn, but don’t go crazy. The nice thing about BoA is that you can grab the card you need right now. B+
Training lets you improve your deck by chucking a card to get a better one. Unlike the advanced Magic Talent, you still need to a chuck a card (instead of spending a mana) which sometimes means you lock up and don’t get to use it a round, but that’s fairly rare. Still from time to time I find myself carrying this for a few turns waiting to draw the right color and then it is somewhat of a load. Also, it doesn’t have the late game punch that Magic Talent does, because Magic Talent converts an Advanced Action into a spell usage, and with Training you could presumably have just taken the right card. There are exceptions (the skill forced you to take the bottom card, or all the cards are terrible but you hope to turn this into the new top card or wait for someone else to level up). But this is still a quite reasonable. A-.
I’m blase about wounds, so Blood Ritual strikes me as a good card. A wound for what you need right now is good, and the advanced action lets you crystalize. The ability to take Black Mana can be — the non-judgemental necromantic equivalent of ‘godsend.’ Note that the only other card in this section that can earn you a black die is Mana Storm, and that’s based on Lady Luck. A-
The TaoLing loves Crystal Mastery, and it does have turns where it lets you go hog wild (particularly with spells) and not spend anything. But — it can’t gain you a crystal you don’t already have (which Crystallize sometimes can). Still, if you ever get a fair amount of Crystals, this can save you a mitt-ful. B+
Not all decks have Chaff, but towards the mid game most do, and Decompose lets you trim it out and gain some crystals to boot. Typically by the second night (assuming you’ve set your layout) you know if movement is overvalued and you’ll know if you’ve toileted your reputation, so you’ll have some target for the card. (In solo conquest — Swiftness is often reasonable to get rid of by mid-game). I’d rarely take more than one card that throws away cards (not counting those — like Training — that replace them), but this one is pretty good. B-
How good Mana Storm is depends on number of players. Pure Solo, the source only has three dice, so if you use one to roll the other two, its a literal crap-shoot. Again Volkare, you have another dice. With co-op, the pool goes up as well. In a four player coop, brilliant. The ability to grab a crystal and force a re-roll — without using a source die — is solid. But in pure solo, the source is a bit too small. B- in a four die source, and adjust based on the number of dice.
Spell Forge is super crystalize. You gain a crystal, and it will always work (unless the spell offering is only spells you are maxed out on, in which case you instantly gain a token), and if you spend a blue (from the source) you get two crystals. Solid and efficient. B+
As I stated in the first section, Mage Knight is a game of brutal bombs, so I’m reasonably pleased to take Maximal Effect once we’re into the second day or so. It makes your hand denser — blowing up a Stamina to move six now may be much better than being able to move four. Blowing up Determination for block ten will stop a lot of things, and almost stop the rest. And you can tune it for what you need. Blowing up another Advanced Action costs you a point, but you get a lot more out of it. But unless your deck can already do what you want, this won’t help. B
Flexibility powers Pure Magic, but at the cost of mana. If you’ve got mana, then this is a great card. In particular, if you have a lot of mana but not mana spells — you’ll be flush and the ability to swing this card from block 4 (or 7) to attack or influence or move is great. B
The ‘super-tranquility,’ Regeneration has the flaw that it doesn’t replace itself if you don’t draw wounds, but the ability to ready a unit is pretty nice. If you are totally unit-less, then yes, this could become dead weight. But if you’ve got this in your deck, use those guys to block and wound, and then by the end of the round they are ready for the next day. B.
I prefer Stout Resolve to Pure Magic even though the latter gets more oomph, because Stout Resolve costs less mana and lets you discard a wound without resting. Assuming you can keep your hand, Stout Resolve turns that wound into two more attack during a city assault (as well as making any other useless card a bit better). Never a great draw, but never a bad draw, and that earns this an A-.
Granting movement and handsize at the cost of an action, Temporal Portal was one of those cards I didn’t draft for many, many games, because the action seemed big. But moving two spaces — even one — can be a hurdle in the early game, and many sites that look daunting with five cards seem trivial with seven. As I’ve stopped trying to sweep the board clean and (in particular) try to skip past rampaging orcs that give nothing but fame except after my first level up, and as I’ve lost game after game getting pinned by some dragon or trying desperately to route around lakes and mountains, I’ve grown to appreciate this. It still has limitations, but I think this is a solid B.