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Can someone scan Shades of Tezla Faction Token reference?

I played a Mage Knight game with the Shades of Tezla tokens, which we don’t normally use because:

  • They are different sizes
  • They add a lot of variability (much harder, less scoring etc)

And I discovered I appear to have lost the reference sheet for the bonus faction tokens. I posted a request (with GG bounty) at the geek.

Also, I published a quick note on BGG giving an example of the math of comparing lines of play at bridge.

Written by taogaming

October 19, 2019 at 10:24 pm

Posted in Bridge, Mage Knight

Tagged with

I’m pretty sure that the TaoLing is a better Mage Knight player than I am….

(at least, in co-op).

How quickly they grow up.

Update — Also, just passed 350 plays of MK. But to show that I am not totally washed up, one was a solitaire victory vs cities of 10 and 18.

Written by taogaming

November 6, 2017 at 10:27 pm

Posted in Mage Knight

Too Many Final Words about Mage Knight (Part VII — Miscellania)

This is blah blah blah. You know the drill.

So, random miscellaneous thoughts that I’ve had when playing way too much solitaire MK. First of all, I’ve been upping the power level a bit. I can now somewhat routinely win at 11/11 cities, and I’ve had a few wins at 11/16, but have not (yet) won at 11/22. Still, some things jump out at me.

Games where I load up on followers go much better. I think this may be unique at high levels, because you can so rarely keep your hand against a huge city. An army lets you block (and a few ranged/seige) and then still do great damage. At typical levels, you don’t need as much, but at higher levels you want Altem Mages (to make everything siege) or Disease or some combination of great spells, and you still want followers.

Don’t sit around. I’m guilty of this, mainly on the second night when my usual plan is to wait and build up Sparing Power (one card a turn) and then attack on the last turn. That’s not a bad plan, but it’s still better if you can sit on a glade or mine, and I suspect that taking a detour and killing a spare Mage Tower (etc) would be better, even if I had slightly fewer cards. You can take out an 11 city in one swoop, but its tough. For a bigger city you really need to attack it twice (towards the end of the final day, and then in the final evening).

Some open questions I’ve been mulling

How many wounds is too many for your first combat? You go to a nearby hidden target, reveal it, and have your choice, take X wounds and win, or throw everything and block. Where’s the breakpoint? I suppose it matters on what you were attacking on how likely your remaining hands will be useful. Sometimes you don’t have a choice (I’m looking at you, Werewolf … stupid swift attack seven) but even four wounds seems … feasible. You can take six from sorcerers (which don’t KO, since three are poisoned wounds) but that’s difficult to recover from. At that point, unless you are getting Cure / Disease (which I’m liking more and more) and you go sit on a glade for a turn, I’m not sure it’s worth it. Three wounds is totally acceptable.

Is motivation really a top skill? I find myself passing on this more often than my earlier strategy guides would imply. Its still good, but I think I may have over-rated it.

I’ve also been playing co-op with the TaoLing, and he seems obsessed with finding cards that give him more advanced actions (or spells). Training, Learning, Blood of the Ancients, Book of Wisdom. That kind of thing. Its not bad, but at some point it felt like a waste of time. But I noticed that he’s routinely outscoring me in many categories while doing it. As a counter-balance, he’s also much faster to pick up cards that discard cards permanently from his deck.

And he loves Time Bending and will go well out of his way to grab it whenever it shows up. Which — given that there are only something like 24 spells, is often.

Anyway, I think I’ll leave it here. 20k words seems like enough, for now.

The full “Too Many Words about Mage Knight” series:

  1. Introduction — General Concepts
  2. Part II — Followers and Enemies
  3. Spells
  4. Artifacts
  5. Advanced Actions
  6. Characters
  7. Miscellenia (this post)

Written by taogaming

October 1, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Too Many Words about Mage Knight (Part VI — Characters)

This series of articles cover my (evolving) thoughts about Mage Knight strategy, tactics and planning. The first article enumerates my typical caveats. This section covers character skills and improved starting cards. I’m not going to talk about competitive (“hose your neighbor”) skills; I play solo/co-op, but as of this writing I have gone 1/3rd of the way to a thousand games. I doubt I’ll ever make it, but 500 may still be in the cards….

General Notes

Mage Knight is a deck builder, But you cycle your deck ~5 times. Given a vast, random array of options you rarely build the same deck twice. Of small differences do histories diverge. A deck with spells and Crystal Mastery should not be played the same way as a deck with Into the Heat and Banners.

Character doesn’t control destiny, but affects it significantly. Your character provides two upgraded cards and the vast majority of your skills. You could choose to take another character’s skill when you level up, at the cost of having no choice of advanced action cards. If you were selecting the bottom Advanced Action card in any case, then there’s no cost to selecting another player’s discarded skill. In solo or two player game, that’s usually not great. But with 4 players, which the TaoLing and I sometimes do, then you’ll likely have an excellent skill choice from another player, unless this is your first level up.

The interesting decision is when the lowest AA card isn’t your preferred choice. In that case, I’ll still consider taking it for the skill under several circumstances:

  • If the skill reduces multiple rest turns into one, take it. The only exception? If the round is going to end anyway. But even then, consider it (because at that point you’re carrying enough wounds to need this again). If you are playing cooperative, sometimes the right play is to accept way too many wounds in order to kill some units to soften up a city / Volkare. In solo you can’t do that (well, perhaps once).
  • Ask the standard economics question — as opposed to what? Sure, the bottom AA may be your least favorite, but how big is the difference between it and your favorite option? Similarly, how big is the gap between one of your skills and the best opponent’s skill? Mind the gap. If it’s close, prefer your own skill because next time the gap may be bigger. (If you take an opponents skill now, that’s one less potential option for next time).

The skill common to all base characters is Motivation, and so deserves extra talk. Motivation lets you draw two cards (once per round) and gives you a mana token if you are at the lowest fame. Good news: in solo you are! Motivation offers two standard uses — bulking up your hand (and mana!) for a key turn and recovering from a big battle. Usually, the better choice is to take the big turn and use it to avoid suffering a loss big enough that you can only discard one wound. But (particularly against cities) that isn’t an option. In that case, use motivation the turn after you get knocked out to draw two cards and pitch one plus all the wounds you’ve got.

Motivation probably isn’t good enough to getting a second copy (the rare times that’s possible). You can’t use them on the same turn. You have to wait until the end of your next turn to do a second. Sometimes motivation doesn’t help in a round, but it often does. It lets you take risky plays like entering a dungeon when you can handle most things. If you get a reasonable draw, fine. If not, you can gamble that the next two cards may help you enough. Good early. Good late. If you already have massive hand size improvement you may consider passing on it, but you’d have reasonable games just selecting it all the time. A solid B, at least. But sometimes motivation fails you. You pays your money and takes your chances. That makes a reasonable choice, but not necessarily the best one. I think it falls in above average for all characters, and if you run a really heavy wound style, that may make it better.

Skills that provide attack (ranged or not) are good, although I’m more fond of attack two than siege one, because seige one only matters if its a break point, and if it isn’t you just have less attack later one.

For each character I’ll put their skills in rough order for the first level up choice. Late game will be more specific to your current needs.


Arythea has good cards. Battle Versitility — which replaces Rage — gives you 1 ranged attack as an option, and if you power it, you can choose from (ahem!) attack 4, block 4, fire attack 3, fire block 3, ranged attack 3 or siege attack 2. Versatile. With Lost Legion blocking with a powered Rage becomes useful; converting this to fire or a ranged attack is the typical usage. In any case, great.

Mana Pull’s basic ability to use a second die and to treat a black as any color (during the day) unlocks a stuck source die. The advanced ability to set two dice and get two different crystals is a nice boost past basic mana draw; but the basic version is quite good. As for the skills:

The Power of Pain — Play a wound sideways for 2 points? Yes, please. Your score goes down with wounds, but your ability goes up, way up. You may take the final city a turn or two faster, and that’s good. You have the option of not blocking a token to get a wound or two to finish it off. Then you worry about the wounds later. (Use a wound to get +2 to walk into a magical glade… done and done).

Dark Fire Magic — A red crystal and a red or black token is good. “Black on demand” is always welcome; this skill singlehandedly powers Fire Storm or Sacrifice or Flame Wave. Using the black for non-red spells is just as good. Even if there is black in the pool, sometimes you have two spells. And (during the day) you can get a red crystal while still powering something. Poor Goldyx, he got three Crystal + Token skills, none this good. If you don’t have any spells, then yes, this becomes mediocre, but red+red is still ok.

Hot Swordsmanship — Attack two or fire attack two is Ron Swanson. Kind of a big deal.

I won’t say the above skills are better that Motivation, but …. they are are great skills. And yes, probably better.

Dark Invocation — First of all, another way to get rid of wounds? Delightful. And it gives black mana!? Great. But the ability to chuck a card for green or white is also good (usually better than playing a card sideways).

Cooperative Skill — Healing two is good, and then the ability (on the next turn) to use a wound sideways for 3 points is also good. (And, if you have Power of Pain you can use two wounds sideways).  If you are playing an actual co-operative game (as compared to solo) this may be good to let go, just because other people will probably need more help dealing with wounds than you will.

Dark Paths — Movement is always fine.

Polarization — I rarely take this, although the ability to use gold as black (at night) and black as gold (during the day) means you’ll rarely got a locked source. In solo (three dice pool) that’s a big deal. But Athyrea already has two other ways to get black mana and Mana Pull to clean up the source during the day. This isn’t bad, just overkill.

Burning Power — Siege one is a weak skill, and Arythea has so many better combat skills (counting Power of Pain and black mana gaining as combat).

Dark Negotiations — Influence 2 (three at night) is good, not great. See Norowas’s Bright Negotiation for more details.

More than any other character, Arythea’s skills shine. Even the bad ones are solid. You can play it totally safe, but that’s not winning Mage Knight. You shouldn’t let your skills goad you into accepting excess wounds; but a few ar fine. Athyrea turns that negative around. Multiple skills that directly boost combat, excellent access to black mana, the ability to shrug off wounds, mana source unlocking, and versatility. When I increased the city levels to (11/16), I struggled mightily with Goldyx  game after game, then cruised with Arythea. Perhaps I got lucky. It may be she is suited to my style of play. But one character has to be best — I think it is her.


Goldyx two cards are the whelming Crystal Joy and the excellent Will Focus. Will Focus improves Concentration — already great — by having the powered version pump up the follow-on card by three points instead of two. Given the nature of breakpoints, that means you have six ranged attack (instead of five), or whatnot. The unpowered version can get a green crystal (concentration can get tokens of any non-green color), which means on the off chance you don’t find anything to do with your Will Focus, you get a crystal for next round.

By contrast, Crystal Joy is fine. The ability to crystalize over and over sounds great, but typically is only useful if you were already planning on spending a turn or two at a crystal mine (or magical glade) for other reasons. Crystal Joy makes some bad turns suck less, although the ability to chuck a wound with the advanced power is good. Sometimes its worth it to power it with a blue from your own crystals, just to toss a wound and get it back. Doing this when you attack a city and expect to get knocked out is great. Like a mini-motivation recovery.

Universal Power lets you use spend mana from the source for plus two (or maybe three) even when you don’t have a card that gives you what you need. Red mana turns attack two to attack four … if you hold rage. Universal Power turns <something> 1 to <something> 3 or 4, pretty much no matter what. The worst case is you play your rage sideways and a non-red mana for 3 attack instead of 2. For a long time I consider this wasteful, but Universal Power combines flexibility with might. If you already have the right mana and cards, this isn’t great but you don’t always have the right mana.

Flight is Goldyx’s signature skill. Bounce a space for free or two spaces for two points, and ignore rampaging. Simply great. Either this or Universal Power are worth considering instead of motivation, although your needs may very.

Cooperative Skill — Re-rolling a die in the source is ok. The cooperative part of crystalizing a second die is pretty good. So this is OK in solo, so-so in co-cop.

Glittering Fortune — 1-4 influence during interaction is fine (although you can’t use it during peaceful moment, etc).

Freezing Power — Siege 1 or Ice Siege 1 isn’t great. This would be the worst skill for many other characters (like Tovak), but Goldyx has a distinct lack of firepower, which turns this into a reasonable choice for him.

Colour* Crystal Craft — Gain a blue crystal and a token of the (non-blue) colour. [*Goldyx is British, obviously]. In general, the colour of the token matters more to me than how many blue cards I have, because you can save the crystal from turn to turn. It’s worth remembering that there are three of these, because its quite possible to get two of these the same level up.

Potion Making — Healing two is useful, see comments on Golden Grail. That being said, this isn’t a great skill to take. Crystal Joy already provides some wound amelioration, but if you find yourself wound heavy it’s reasonable. Still — I’d rather get something that helps me in the end game, and that is probably anything else.

Putting it all together, Goldyx has lots of ways of gaining mana and crystals, some movement, some healing, some influence. He lacks punch. Ironically, that kind of means that Freezing Power should be taken more than I suspect, because one (reusable) attack is better than nothing. You need to go out of your way to some attack as Goldyx, as a string of recent losses re-iterated.  Whereas the other three characters have a sharp glittering arsenal, Goldyx basically builds up a bankroll of extra movement, influence and mana. You need to turn that into something useful.


Norowas’s cards are Noble Manners and Rejuvenate. Noble Manners replaces influence and gives you a bonus to rep and fame. OK, not great. Rejuvenate (improved tranquility) adds the options to get you some green mana or  ready a unit (instead of just drawing cards or healing). Again, nice not great. Actually, the improved Rejuvenate’s ability to ready a level 3 unit is fairly powerful, but obviously a late game card.

Bonds of Loyalty — Arguably Norowas’s signature skill, and truly great. This gets you an extra follower slot and more choices (which could be picked off, but in a solo game not an issue) and a five discount. Yes, you can’t fire that person, but you can have them step in front of a paralyzing unit.

Inspiration — Heal or Ready a unit is big. Units are nice because they are always “in your hand,” even a lowly peasant is pretty good if you can use them twice. Yes, you can’t do this in combat, but taking an Utem Guardsman and having them block four, eat up to five points of attack, then heal them and have them eat another attack. That’s up to 14 points of attack you just ignored. Then you toss the unit away and repeat next round.

Those are the two that are better than Motivation.

Day Sharpshooting — 2 ranged during the day (1 at night) is pretty good. But it’s more often night than day (for final battles, underground, etc).

Foward March — Movement is nice, but this is variable (You get 0-3, based on readied units). This may let you fly across the board by midgame, but is highly conditional on your opening. If you can’t get an early peasant (etc), pass on this.

Cooperative skill — Lowering movement costs by two (to a minimum of one) can let you get through some nasty forests or swamps, and the secondary effect only lowers by one, but again to a minimum of one, so its always useful.

Leaves on the Wind / Whispers in the Treetops — Green Crystal + White token (or vice versa). OK, not great, typically taken if you are short on mana.

Bright Negotiation — 3 or 2 influence is again OK. You could get lucky and camp out in the green city and just take a free advanced action every turn, but honestly that’s not great unless you are tuning your hand anyway. If you really get lucky you’ll camp in the red city and get 2 Influence + 3 or 4 for city tokens + 3-4 for rep + a few a turn and get an artifact every turn. But for every game that happens Bright Negotiation turns out to be ok not great. Now, if you have heroes and have to pay to use them in an assault (a rule I just now realized I forget in my last game) then this comes in pretty hand. And influence does equal healing. So, a highly variable power one that can shine with the right setup but is mediocre otherwise.

Leadership — +1 Ranged or + 2 attack or +3 block each combat, with a follower. Awesome in theory, but in practice you only get to use this once or twice a round (even if you have 3-4 followers, because you often spend them all during a big attack in the endgame.

Norowas’s style of play is pretty obvious — followers. Some games he raises an army that makes the world tremble, but it does leave yourself open to getting a bad draw (especially in Solo Conquest where there are only 3 followers/round). He — more than other characters — suffers from feast or famine.


Tovak’s two cards are Cold Toughness and Instinct. Cold Toughness is improved Determination, and is a big deal. Ice Block 3 instead of Block 2 is nice, a point better block and against some opponents four points better. But the powered version of Ice Block 5, plus one per ability or color of attack allows Tovak to block damn near anything with one card and one mana, unless they have magic resistance (which turns off the +1/per) or swiftness. In the late game, this + a blue mana typically blocks the most annoying thing you face.

Instinct improves Improvisation by giving you the option of not discarding a second card (at the cost of that cards +1). Since you can always discard the card anyway, that’s nice. Sometimes you only need two or four points instead of three or five, or you don’t have a card, or you don’t want to waste a card. Early on, its not much of an improvement, but again in the late game you’ll appreciate the option of not discarding. As for Tovak’s skills:

Cold Swordsmanship — Attack 2 or Ice Attack 2, once per combat. Excellent. The problem with blocking is it doesn’t kill stuff. You don’t win wars by not dying, you win them by killin’. This or Motivation is Tovak’s best skill.

Double Time — Move 2 (1 at night). Remember, this list is for your first skill. On Day one, great, but this drops quickly.

Night Sharpshooting — Range 1 (2 at night).  In Solo Conquest, ranged isn’t great, but you’ll often want to take cities at night, so its still attack two then. Ranged 2 underground is useful. This is at least a half grade better than Norowas’s Day Sharpshooting.

Cooperative Skill — This gains black mana, or gains you a token and then later (in solo) a bonus.

Shield Mastery — A great early skill that commands some value in the late game. Block 3 (or Fire/Ice 2) lets you gamble a lot more on dungeons/tombs and multi-chit draws like Spawning ground.

I Feel No Pain — Turning a wound into a card will let you recover much faster (mostly). This can be a game saver, if you had to attack and got a bad draw or are just playing at insane levels of difficult. Even without that, it may improve your hand a little bit each turn.

I Don’t Give a Damn! — Once a turn play a card sideways for +2 instead of +1 (or +3 if its a non-basic card).  I have mixed feelings. A nice boost, but using a card sideways is not great. This goes up with hand size boosts and late game (where typically you’ll have extra movement and be short on block or attack, or even just spend a round at your city and turning cards into influence).

Resistance Break — Late game, this moves up. Early game, its not as worth it (remember, its only once per combat). Reducing fire/ice resistance is minor, since odds are you’ll have physical attack. Reducing physical resistance is great. For the end game this can effectively give you six attack, but in the early game its often zero or one.

Who Needs Magic? — Inferior to IDGaD, because want to use the source. Not using it is gaining +1 by giving up +2 (or a spell!)

Tovak’s many good battle skills dish out or block damage. Complement that with movement to reach the scenes of carnage you’re trying to cause (one reason I rate double time so highly for him. By comparison Wolfhawk already has movement …. so it would be marginal for her).


Swift Reflexes improves swiftness, and lets you play it (without mana) for ranged attack one, or reduces an enemy attack by 1 (2 if powered). Reducing an attack can function is slightly better block, since you can reduce a swift or ice attack. It can make the Storm Dragon’s 4 Ice/Swift attack blockable with a mere 8 regular block instead of 16. Tirelessness improves Stamina, but not by much. Adding one to your next move isn’t nearly as good as move 3, since to get any benefit you must spend another card. The advanced power adds one to every other card, so its possible to make it move 8. Wolfhawk likes Mazes, Tirelessness + any card is 6 movement.

Dueling — +1 Block and +1 attack isn’t bad (though they have to go the same enemy. A bonus fame (if you don’t use a unit against that enemy) is the icing on the cake.

Know Your Prey — I used to pass on this, because its once per round, but what an ability. Removing physical defense can save you 7+ attack. Removing fire or ice can let you target a spell.  Summoning is an ability. Know your prey is 5-6 “I am not left handed” moments. It’s a toss-up between this and dueling for best skill. These are both better than motivation, IMO, but Wolfhawk’s motivation gives some fame, which is intriguing.

Cooperative Skill — A card sidewise for 4 points (not for interaction) is not to be sneezed at. A bonus for each unassigned command token can be gross, but typically you want followers anway. Still, sometimes they get paralyzed away, and 4+ points of block or attack or move is not swiss cheese. The -1 attack and -1 armor secondary ability aint bad either.

Taunt — As discussed on the Swift Reflexes, lowering an attack is sometimes better than block because of swiftness or fire/ice. It also may let you just let it through for one less wound. Taunt also has the option to increase the attack and lower armor (after the ranged attack phase) which turns extra block into attack, or may just save you same attack (at the cost of a wound, or not).

Hawk Eyes — 1 Movement a turn is nice, and the bonus (exploring for one less at night, revealing from two tiles away during the day) are nice kickers.

Deadly Aim — Adding +1 ranged/siege or +2 attack to a card isn’t as good as just providing it — you need a card, but that does mean you can keep any modifiers (fire or ice).

On her Own — Influence 1, 3 if you don’t use it to buy a unit. A decidedly inferior influence skill.

Refreshing Bath / Refreshing Breeze — Get a blue (white) crystal and heal one. I’m not sure how I feel about this instead of a crystal and a token. I guess healing is slightly better on average, but the token can be huge with the right comination.

Wolfhawk has a fun style of play, and her skills provide some compensation if you don’t happen to get followers. Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring followers (they are almost always useful), but Wolfhawk suffers less from their absence. A dueling, prey-knowing Wolfhawk is a force to be reckoned with, but a city is still a city.


Savage Harvesting is  a march that lets you chuck a card to gain a mana (multiple times, if you pay for it). It is often useful in the first turn to get rid of an unwanted tranquility or influence. Ruthless Coercion ‘improves’ intimidation by adding influence and (when powered) the ability to ready spent units, but costing even more reputation. Krang often falls harder, faster down the reputation track. Note that you can influence away from a village/keep/etc and not deal with the reputation effects, so Krang can still coerce his followers, so long as their are no witnesses to restrain him.

Also note that Krang doesn’t have motivation!

Battle Frenzy — I won’t say I’d always take this and ignore the other skill, but it may be true. +2 attack, and +4 attack on your final battle each round (or if you are desperate) is great.

Master of Chaos — This does great things, but the timing is hard to control. You can get something every turn, and if what you want lines up with what you are doing, its great. Worth taking if you can see the next few turns and line up your starting position, and about once a round you can choose what you want. Not as good as Battle Frenzy, but probably the ‘signature’ of Krang.

Spirit Guides — 1 move and 1 block every turn. Solid.You may not use it either turn, but this is a good amount of both.

Puppet Master — Either take a token each combat or spend a token each combat for half attack or block, keeping the type. So, this is free-ish, attack or block, but only half the time. As apart from that you get some flexibility, assuming you’ve been rampaging properly.

Arcane Disguise — As noted above, 2 influence isn’t huge. But the ability to cancel a -5 (or X) reputation can be a big deal. That means getting a follower in your first city, even after you’ve burned and pillaged your way across the board. It means ruthlessly coercing your followers and still getting more.

Regenerate — Spending mana to heal is ok. It lets you use something from the source each turn, and a red mana may get you a card for a full heal. But this isn’t up to Athyra or Tovak’s skills. Mediocre but sometimes great.

Curse — Reduce an attack or armor by one. You can use this in ranged attack phase against unfortified opponents, which is nice. At worst this acts like attack one.

Cooperative skill (Mana Enhancement) — When you spend a mana (however) gain a crystal. And then someone can get a free token of that color. So this is basically two mana, making it roughly equivalent to all the “Crystal + Token” skills. BUT, you need to have the mana (either source or other means) to get it. On the plus side, you can take whatever color you need.

Shamanic Ritual — A mana token of your choice is good, and giving up an action to reset is OK but will be done rarely. The issue is that with Savage Harvesting Krang usually isn’t desperate for mana, and his other skills are great.

Battle Hardened — This lets you ignore some damage, and may save you a wound (see thread for details). In that sense, its better than block because you can use a bit, but rarely is taking one less wound taking zero. It could really help against paralyzers that you sacrifice a follower to, but that lets a little bit left. I may be undervaluing this, but I hardly ever take it.

Krang is whatever he gets. If you get battle frenzy, he’s a murderchine, if you get master of chaos, he’ll try to tap dance the best he can. Roll with the punches.


The newest mage knight has two movement based improvements. Druidic paths reduces a terrain by one (min of 2). Unpowered, this is better than Tirelessness, assuming you aren’t going only on plains. It lets you get into a hill (or woods/desert at the right time) for one card. If you are only going through plains, useless. The powered version lets you reduce all of one terrain, which is probably only one or two points of movement. One with the Land can be used for heal 1 or block 2 instead of movement (or heal 2, block X, where X is the cost of the land you are one). That’s nice. Towards the end game you often have too much movement and an emergency heal/block is nice. Flexibility is always appreciated.

Braevalar has a few good skills and a lot of OK ones.

Forked Lightning — +1 Ranged Cold Fire attack against up to three separate targets. Yes, you’ll often be saving this to the regular combat phase, but its 1-3 attack, and great against physical resistance.

Shapeshift — Turn movement into block into attack, but for basic cards only! Flexible, flexible, flexible.

Feral Allies — + 1 attack or reduce an attack by one is good, not great. -1 to explore costs provides a little bit extra.

Secret Ways — +1 movement is fine, and the mountain or lake movement can save your bacon, but its tough to tell early.

Cooperative Skill (Nature’s vengeance) — Reducing an attack by one isn’t great, but making it cumbersome (so you can spend movement to reduce it more) is intriguing. This can let you partially block, and sometimes (I’m looking at you, Storm Dragon) its a god-send. And someone else can do it agian.

Thunderstorm / Lightning Storm — Token + Token instead of Crystal + Token, but you get some choice (Green and either blue/white or blue and either green or red). OK.

Regenerate — As with Krang, but made somewhat better by the storms, which may find a use for a ‘wasted’ token.

Beguile — Like most influence items, usually 2 influence, the 4 at a the circle or 3 at a village is a mild kicker.

Elemental Resistance — As with Krang’s Battle Hardened.

Maybe its just lack of experience, but Braevalar appears to be the weakest Mage Knight. Lots of OK, nothing crushing. He can do just fine (Shapeshift and Forked Lightning are quite good), but often has to choose between two mediocre skills.  One may be much better in the current situation, but wouldn’t it have been nice to draw a rock crusher. Also note that Braevalar (like Goldyx) is somewhat short of attack, so grabbing those advanced actions is a priority (although with shapeshift you can grab whatever and then use the basic card you doubled up as attack).

Written by taogaming

July 29, 2017 at 10:40 pm

Puzzlement and Wonder, Comparing Mage Knight and Magic Realm, Pt 2

(If this were a book I’d throw a colon in there. ‘Tis all the rage in publishing).

As I mentioned, Mage Knight & Magic Realm have little in common except theme. Thematically they aren’t even close, Tolkeinesque fantasy versus a high power-gaming bash fest.. While exploring the Realm I pondered the differences between them.

I call the first the Combinatorics of World-Building.

Enter a Dungeon in Mage Knight and what will you face? A brown monster. No exceptions.

You can analyze how many you can defeat and weigh that risk versus the 2/3rds shot at an artifact and 1/3rd shot at a spell. A simple enumeration will do. Can you defeat the Gargoyle? the Shadow? the Hydra? Medusa? Crypt Worm? Etc? You can’t? Check again. Have you missed some trick?

A puzzle, to be sure, but a well defined puzzle. One monster, one reward — each have a parameter. You may get the one monster you can’t beat. You may get the easy monster. You may get the Horn of Wrath, or your choice of two dud artifacts to choose from (I’m looking at you, Banner of Fortitude and Banner of Courage), but there you go. You knew the risk/reward ratio.

There are 8 brown monsters, 30-ish artifacts and 30-ish spells, but the numbers don’t multiply. You can assign an approximate value to the artifacts and calculate what percentage of the monsters you can defeat, and solve.

Now Imagine that each artifact had a small box on the bottom that modified the rules in the combat when you gained them. Most of them don’t do much, but you may go down and face a Whatever and draw your artifact and peer at the bottom and it says “The narrow walls prevent ranged attacks….” and your plans are out the door.

What if every card did that? If you face a Crypt Worm, you weren’t going range attack anyway, but if you faced a Medusa, you most definitely planned on it. If you’ve played two dozen games of Mage Knight, you’ve likely faced every brown creature in a dungeon setting. But with combined effects — No way I’d have encountered all the combinations in my 300+ games.

I’m a fan of combinatorics.

I’ve already seen several interactions messing with people in Magic Realm, and that’s before you even get into players deliberately messing with you. You search for a treasure and get it, but boom! Curse. You start to buy something and boom — there’s a modifier that makes a combat likely to break out right away! These aren’t even interactions, just single cards, but the systems do interact. In my current game, I searched and found the black book, which provided black mana. The sudden influx of mana turned on a spell I had inert and — boom, I’m suddenly a giant octopus.

Now, I’d planned on being a giant octopus later that day, so no big deal. But if I’d been planning to try to hire some helpers it would have seriously cramped my style.

The book of learning has an example of the Elf controlling all six bats with magic, a feat the author says he’s never seen in 200+ games but happened in a solo game he set up to demonstrate, with no cheating. Amusingly, I did it in my first game with the elf. But it does take some lucky chit interactions and some lucky rolls, as well as having the Control Bats spell.

I like my puzzles, but have I been surprised in the last hundred games of Mage Knight? Not that I recall. Nor possibly the hundred before that.

Can I be surprised by Chess? Yes. The unexpected move. The deep brilliance. These are usually based — again — on some combination (Chess even uses that phrase). Mage Knight has that; the core of the game is manipulating your hand of card to get the most oomph. So I’m not sure why it doesn’t surprise me that much. Then again hundreds of games is a lot. It may be that you always (always!) control your hand of cards. No monster shows up that says “Oh, discard one card before combat.”

To be fair to Mage Knight, The Realm extracts a high price for surprise. Gameplay suffers under randomness. You see ‘unfair’ results. Nobody would say that Mage Knight is less fair, I think.

Unfairness has its charm, in a way.

I like puzzles, but I also like puzzles where you can’t enumerate the possible outcomes. (Even with full knowledge). Approximation and intuition are skills like any other. I don’t care for Tales of the Arabian Knights and I’m not sure it’s a game, but its a hell of Story-telling engine. Combine that potential with something that gives me some actual decisions — even if the results could just be “lose a turn” — and I’m intrigued.

Magic Realm drips with combinations — Each map hex has a few chits that define what’s there. While you build the map in MK, once a tile is up its fully known. Until you know the chits on a tile in Magic Realm, it might contain treasures, or dragons, or spiders, or an Octopus Garden. (Also, the tiles can be flipped over, so its not as static as you think).

You play your twelve chits, but only two points of effort per combat round. Your items can combine. You may have one thing you can’t use at all, but if you get that second (rare) thing you’ll wield a powerful combination. Any Mage Knight can cast any spell. Any Mage Knight can get use any other’s skill, although Goldyx will get Goldyx’s skills the most often.

In Magic Realm, the White Knight will have a tough time learning spells the Witch can learn. (I’d say never, but …)

Jay Richardson has a review comparing Magic Realm to RPGs that’s worth checking out. One interesting (to me) point he makes is: Because the characters don’t level up, this makes the game less grindy and more interesting. That’s a novel point. You get better be looting good stuff, or working together with others. An interesting dynamic.

OK, so combinatorics. What else?

Magic Realm contains more hidden information (and randomness).

Part of that was discussed before — you have face down chits and monsters that can appear and disappear, and the treasures are put into piles but that’s really not that different than randomly drawing them (like in MK). But the hidden information causes a novel effect.

In Magic Realm, you make (some) decisions with incomplete or even wrong information. You plan your turn and then roll for monsters. This gives you — in effect — a huge fog of war effect. Do you hide before you move? Well, there may have been no monsters prowling the Deep Woods this turn. Was your hide wasted?

There aren’t any monsters on your path, but other players may move and monsters may follow.

You have to decide on much less information. But each sub system you base your decision on is understandable. Most characters fail to hide 11/36th of the time. The monsters appear on a known system (if you know the chits). Knowledgeable players can quickly determine if a monster is safe or deadly or risky (I can do this for simple battles, now). You can guess the price range an item will cost you, based on your relationship with the seller. You go first 1/n times (n= number of players, ignoring hired helpers) at which point the game state will match.

Each of these systems are calculable, but the overall impact provides remarkable breadth. From a game play perspective there’s a lot of “Why this” but it has a certain logic. The rules read weird, but feel right. In the real world if you were hiding from monsters, could you ever be certain you were successfully hidden?

Only in the negative and only too late.

I was trying to think of an example. Consider a game of chess where you wrote down your move and only then did your opponent reveal his prior move. (You’d have to cover White’s first turn advantage, perhaps they wrote down two moves and the opponent got to pick after he wrote his first move, and you’d have to deal with issues of failed pawn captures, etc).

This game would most definitely not be chess, even though it used a lot of the mechanisms of chess. You could make theoretically horrible chess moves that could work quite well.

Chess feels like chess, not because knights move two in one direction then one in an orthogonal one, or because of castling or en passant. To be sure, Chess has all that but if you switched how the pieces move you’d be a smilar game (like Chinese Chess). Chess feels like chess because it is a complete information game with alternating moves. Chinese Chess and Shogi feel closer to chess than my invented game which uses the exact same rules, but doesn’t reveal the moves right away.

Magic Realm feels like my chess analogy, a little. You don’t see your opponents move until after you’ve declared yours. In order to simulate this, MR uses lots of charts and randomness. At it’s heart, Mage Knight feels like a ruthless rush to exploit a world, and Magic Realm feels like avoiding the onrushing of a ruthless world.

Written by taogaming

November 25, 2016 at 8:28 pm

Comparing Magic Realm and Mage Knight, Part I

Fairly often — though less frequently than my idyllic youth —  I play a game that feels miserable, bewildering, or just plain bad.

Mostly I note the poor decision and never play again. The first board game I played in college? Terrible — It lasted from 10pm until 6am (not a mark against it) with bewildering rules including a bunch of exceptions. The game didn’t actually end at six, that’s just when I lost. The “graphic design” made following the rules difficult but even then it seemed to contain obviously bad features.

It wasn’t time wasted — gaming with friends rarely is — but I quickly moved on to better games including the murderer’s row of Cosmic Encounter, Illuminati, Bridge and some others like Junta.

I rarely revisit bad games. Who would? Still, sometimes my judgement gets called into question and so it happened that four years later I gamed with a group that loved this title. I played it again.

That game was Titan, which I’ve played at least a hundred times, probably closer to 250.

In the past I’ve had a few encounters with Magic Realm, none of them good. So I’d just ignored it. But reading a recent thread comparing Magic Realm to Mage Knight piqued my interest again. After all, I’ve played three hundred games of Mage Knight in the last few years — I’m slightly burnt out again, but I’ll pick it back up.

So I wanted another solo game and this seemed interesting. I started reading the “Book of Learning,”  basically a number of session reports that double as tutorials. Given the plethora of revised rules (I particularly recommend Magic Realm in Plain English) and the existence of Robin Warren’s brilliant Realm Speak program) the barriers to entry are much lower than they used to be the last time I tried to play.

Remember, my M.O. for the last five-plus years is to ignore new games unless it still had people playing a year or two later, then give it a try. I make exceptions, of course. For designers I like, or games that just seem like they are in my wheelhouse. Hell, I didn’t even try Mage Knight until it had been out several years. So sometimes I’m late on great games, but I save a lot of time in the process.

Magic Realm still has a dedicated following almost forty years after it’s arrival, despite such obvious warts as an Avalon Hill Rule Set that made Up Front seem simplistic. I began to think there must be something to it, so I dove in. This review is still preliminary, but I have put in dozens of hours on learning this and playing (solitaire, via Realm Speak). This is part I because its not complete; I’ll probably add more thoughts as they occur to me.


I don’t normally summarize mechanisms in games anymore, because plenty of places that do that and I’m not a bleeding edge reviewer, but sometimes you have to. Magic Realm’s basic ideas aren’t difficult (not that you’d know that from reading them).

  • The map is fully built, but you place hidden chits to indicate what appears where. So you know the entire layout, but the Lost City could be in any cave. A setup sheet lists which monsters can show up on which chits. Setting up the game is a huge time suck (the first time is about an hour, but with practice that comes down) which is why a computer moderator is such a godsend. One click setup.
  • Pre-programmed turns. Everyone writes down their turn and you resolve in random order. (Richard Hamblen also designed the classic Gunslinger, which shares this). Each player gets roughly four actions per day (only two if they are underground that day) to move, hide, search, prepare, enchant, rest, trade, hire followers, and the like. The planning phase is called Birdsong instead of morning (a lovely touch that feels out of place in the rulebook, like finding a colorful Monet print hanging in your IRS auditor’s cubicle)
  • You resolve turns (daytime) in random order. Most rolls involve throwing 2d6 and taking the higher number. Some things like hiding are simple — fail on a six — others involve charts (typically lower is better). Some monsters ‘prowl’ during a turn and prowling Monsters appear on the board based on the chits. Prowling monsters already on the board move if you end up on the same tile as them (unless they’ve already blocked another character).
  • After everyone has moved, you have evening — when spells are cast and combat occurs.
  • Each character has twelve action chits which are mainly used in combat/casting. Each chit dictates its use (Move, Fight or Magic are common, a few other rare ones exist) and a speed (a number, lower is better).

The rules for combat are … non-trivial. But at its heart, there’s some order.

Let’s take a simple “One Character, one Monster” combat. You get a pre-combat action (maybe running away, or casting a spell, or preparing a weapon). These typically take a chit. You attack the monster and it attacks you (if you weren’t hidden. If you were, you get one free attack). You set your tactic and the monster’s tactic, and your maneuver (defense).

What the rules don’t tell you — the monster’s actual tactic is random. You can set up which box its in, but it will roll randomly to move. It may also flip over (double sided monsters) which adjust its values. The faster attack goes first, and if it’s faster then the opponents defense? It hits.

If it’s not faster, then it hits only if the defense used fails against the attack. If you ducked when the attack was a downward smash, no help there.

So — there’s a Rock Paper Scissors aspect, but intuitive: Faster attacks hit. Equal (or slower) attacks hit if the defender dodged into them. Should have jumped aside as that warhammer came down.

Attacks (and weights) are rated on a scale of Negligible, Light, Medium, Heavy and Tremendous and if the attack is greater than or equal to defender’s vulnerability — dead. A character who takes a hit less than his defense may wound a chit.

Also, each chit you spend has an effort (0-2) and if you spend two effort in a round (the max) you fatigue. Wounded and fatigued chits are out of play until you rest them.

If nothing important happens for two rounds of combat, it ends, otherwise you keep going.

Now — combat can get much more complicated. You can have multiple monsters, followers, weapon sharpness and armor, multiple characters, PvP, spells, horses, missile attacks, armor, weapon length (which changes the order of attack in the first round only, and is a tiebreak in later rounds), special rules for tremendous monsters (which grapple when they hit and then autokill the next round unless they are defeated first).

Even getting the basics down is taking games (see my note on messing up in this post). I forgot another few small points last night. I don’t really understand followers and magic, yet. You can play the game using only movement and combat (for some characters).

Simple combats aren’t devoid of strategy, merely simple. Your main questions are which chits to play (can I guarantee a kill? Do I want to run away? Do I want my attack and defense to line up, so that if the monster hits me I know I’ll hit him. Can I prepare for the monsters to flip over (an 11/36 chance). While setting up one monster is effectively rock-paper-scissors, setting up multiples can get quite detailed. And it’s not R-P-S in the sense that its truly random. It’s just one (interlocking) system. One character may be hopeless versus a monster, when a different set of chits (or manuevers) would give you a shot or a guaranteed victory.

Advanced combats can be planned out, but I’m still not able to see things … like “Oh, if I do this I can probably kill Monster A but in the next round I’m going to die no matter what.” There’s a backgammon-esque quality to combat — strategy but you have to play the odds, either relying on some lucky die rolls in bad situations or defending against bad rolls in good situations.

With experience you’ll learn to not get into bad situations. (He said, as his latest game had one character trapped between three unbeatable clearings and another character died to a group of angry natives). Right now I’m applying a maxim of Go to Magic RealmLose your first fifty games quickly. I’ve survived two games, mainly due to luck and playing the easiest character. To be fair, that’s how I learned Titan and 1830 (although those losses take more time).


Most importantly, Magic Realm is definitely a lifestyle game. It does not shine out of the box. There are warts, and I’m not just speaking of the rules. This is not a game to pull out once every five years (unless you burned out and put it away for a while).

Secondly, Luck in Mage Knight is card luck. If you draw a hand full of movement cards, you know the combat cards are lurking in your deck (or vice versa). If you fail a roll in Magic Realm, you can fail again and again. Very small hurray for dice!

Third, Magic Realm and Mage Knight differ in scale and narrative. In Mage Knight, you start off as a minor demi-god who can defeat tribes of Orcs, raze villages, plunder monasteries for mystical artifacts, and two days later you are taking out a fully defended city in a quick siege. You are Jason Bourne, Lizard God-King. Encounters ramp up until the climactic battle vs Volkare or Capital City, as you grow in power.

In Magic Realm you could stumble into the boss monster’s lair on day one and die. Over the course of the month you may get some followers or cool new stuff, but you won’t really level up. (There are optional rules for that). Typically you kill a few monsters, loot their stuff, sell it and try to find a lost treasure. You can fail harder, faster. You may find a great site on day 1, loot it, and then die because you weren’t hidden on day 3 (of 28) and some bats pecked you to death.

I happen to enjoy ambiguity and atypical styles of narrative that embraces failure, but its definitely not to everyone’s taste.

You can easily spend half a game in MR doing nothing but rolling two dice, failing, and going onto the next day. In Solitaire, this isn’t a big loss. If it were a 4 player game? Could be very frustrating as you roll two dice and end your turn, and the next player has an epic turn, then a great/interesting battle, then gets all the loot as gaming groupies swoon and applaud. Then you roll two dice and fail again.

It makes Mage Knight seem Euro by comparison, which is an odd thing to feel.

On a related note, The Magic Realm feels alive and real. On one level it is merely a collection of places to loot and monsters to murder, but the environment changes. In Mage Knight, you find an artifact and add it to your deck. In Magic Realm, you may find an artifact and keep it, but it may alter the entire rules right around you. It can affect everyone on the tile its on, from the instant its discovered. You plan your move out, but searching may disrupt your plans, literally warping reality. It hasn’t happened often in my game, but it’s amusing. Perhaps this is part of the appeal of legacy games. It feels like literally anything can happen as you rip open a folder with new cards. I guess I understand that now.

Fourth, characters in the game feel different. Mage Knight packs a hell of a lot into 16 cards and 10 skills. Each character starts with only two variant cards, but leveling up and taking a critical skill and those cards mean that Goldyx is distinct from Tovak who differs from Norawas or Krang.

But at the end of the day they all do the same things against the same things. They all cast spells (if the take a Mage Tower to earn them). They all have the same victory conditions (based on the scenario). A Lava Dragon poses the same number of wounds to them — assuming they cannot block. Etc.

In Magic Realm, the White Knight’s a dragonslayer. If you tell him Dragons are over yonder, then a-yondering he will go. Terrified of bats, though. His armor slows him down. He’ll kill some, but they’ll tired him out. No killing blow, just death of a thousand cuts. The Wood’s Girl may be able to kill a Dragon with a lucky shot (missile damage is a random modifier), but she’ll take her shot from the bushes then run away. Unarmored, she can’t risk getting hit. Plays totally differently. Two different equipment chits, a few different special abilities (skills in Mage Knight) and a different mix of starting chits play totally different. I grok (somewhat) the White Knight. He’s very forgiving against huge monsters.

He just gets nibbled to death by bats.

Characters play differently, despite their similarities. Some have their own rules. The Witch gets a familiar that can move separately around the board (to spy on other players and examine the realm’s secrets). The White Knight can cast a single (white) spell, but he’s not able to cast anything the Witch knows, even if he learns the spell. He’s never getting a familiar. The witch can’t just put on the Knight’s Armor (should she get it). She’s too weak.

While there’s an elegance to having each spell’s rules on a card, Magic Realm’s spells feel Tolkienesque. Some of them move and attack and block and influence, but you can transform yourself into a toad (who can quietly hops away from battle, usually) and then wander the forest ignoring the roads. You can curse others. Some spells affect only specific monsters. Some last for combat, or a day. Some are permanent. It feels much more lived in.

Short form — Magic Realm feels more like an experience than a winnable game. I suspect that the long term strategy is deeper, there’s a similar puzzle like aspect to combat although Mage Knight is a more satisfying system. In fact, MK is generally a better system overall. But Magic Realm has its charm. I imagine that an update that tried to streamline all of the Realm’s byzantine experiences into a simple core ruleset would fail, the same way that civilization does not compress. But if someone could convert this (or perhaps another genre that felt as lived-in), they’d have a huge hit.

Magic Realm isn’t a great game. But it’s a great experience. I’m enjoying my time exploring it.

Written by taogaming

November 10, 2016 at 9:00 pm

Posted in Mage Knight, Magic Realm, Reviews

Tagged with

Some more MK

It’s been a few months since I played MK, and (as the TaoLing is away) I set up a solitaire game. My first one was … nicht so guht (full report). After lunch, I decided to play again (since the game was already set up). Solo Conquest with Braevlar (again), but since I’d just lost somewhat badly, I lowered the city strength to 7/14 (instead of 5/8). And I took pictures.

In the opening I drew one of my favorite starting tiles, the “Monastry + Dungeon” combo, I used Rethink to prep my hand and — voila! Concentration plus Swiftness. I went to the Dungeon on T1, attacked it (Shooting the Minotaur) on T2 and got the Diamond Ring + Blood of the Ancients (more cards, at the cost of wounds) and Braevlars “discard a wound for a mana” skill.

This is known in the trades as “a good start.”

I could have ducked to the monastery, but that would have risked having to backtrack (if a bad tile showed up). Since there was a familiar available, I went to a magical glade to recruit the familiar and also get rid of the wounds from Blood of the Ancients and incidentally kill an orc. I could have killed another near the glade, but I raced forward to kill a different orc, get a crystal, and explore, revealing a keep, monster den and ruins.



Position after Day One

The first night I sacked the keep. I could have probably taken the ruins (after recruiting) but again that risked having to backtrack and as it turns out I had a handful of movement. I went to the monastery and explored, then burned the monastery (for the Golden Grail). I grabbed Blood Rage for a steady supply of wounds to heal (for fame).  I went forward and killed another orc and grabbed some crystals. Still going fine.


Position after Night One

Position after Night One

For the second day, I explored the the final country tile and the first core tile, getting a Wizard Tower and Dragon. A modicum of murder later (hmm….) I had a fireball spell and another level. I explored and found the green city. Things were looking good.

Position after Day 2

Position after Day 2

On the second night I went to the village next to the city (which took a lot of movement) and got some heroes, graciously looted my hosts (-1 rep, +2 cards) and took the green city with relative ease. Once there, I got a few more followers then healed up (glade + grail)

During the 3rd day, I quickly revealed the white city, I decided to kill the nearby Dragon and then go around to take the keep next to the white city (for the hand size boost of +2, since it would be my second keep). Along the way I took out a Spawning Ground and luckily got the Horn of Wrath. (Best artifact for Conquest). Along the way I got the Regenerate which meant that once I took the keep I could clear a wound, refresh a follower and study my options.


The final battle (Note — I haven’t yet walked to the keep)

With the Horn, and an Ambush and a lot of blocking (skills and cards, and three physically resistant followers) I determined that I could attack and kill two white units (the 6 fire brutal and the 4 cold fire brutal/poison), while only taking a handful of wounds (Braevlar’s skill to make someone cumbersome came in handy here) and while keeping the Horn of Wrath for the final night. I used the final few turns of the day to clear out some wounds, and also using Blood of the Ancients to grab Decompose and turn tranquility into a few more crystals.

The final night was just a question of when I’d get the right cards. I spent a turn or two healing, decomposing, recruiting, then assaulted twice. The first time I didn’t have any siege, but a lot of blocking and attacking (combined with followers) took out the Altem Guardians (I hate those guys), the Golems and the fire heroes (while keeping my hand). I healed up and then attacked again (breaking my Diamond Ring to provide black mana for Firestorm, which added to the Horn of Wrath) finished off the stragglers. For my last turn I recruited the Guardians and healed the Firestorm wound.

Final Score:

  • 142 fame
  • 13 knowledge (11 AAs + a spell)
  • 8 loot
  • 13 leadership
  • 8 conquest
  • 4 adventuring
  • (No wounds)
  • 35 points from cities (10+10+15)
  • 11 timing (6 cards in dummies deck + 5 for the round not being called)

A nice solid score of 234.

Written by taogaming

September 24, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Too Many Words about Mage Knight (Part V — Advanced Actions)

This series of articles cover my (evolving) thoughts about Mage Knight strategy, tactics and planning. (The first article has my typical caveats). This section covers the advanced actions (AAs).

The Bolts

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.

Combat AAs

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.

Movement AAs

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-

Influence AAs

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-.

Mana AAs

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+

Misc AAs

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.

Written by taogaming

June 17, 2016 at 6:04 pm

Too Many Words about Mage Knight (Part IV — Artifacts)

This series of articles cover my (evolving) thoughts about Mage Knight strategy, tactics and planning. (The first article has my typical caveats). This section covers artifacts.

Aah artifacts. Even the ‘basic’ action is usually great … and nary a mana to be spent. A dungeon near the portal is always a welcoming site — with a decent hand and non-abysmal luck you level up and likely get an artifact. A fair price for a few wounds.

And early on, any artifact is good. Later on you may get unlucky and draw two artifacts that are both mediocre or affect areas you can’t use much of. But even in the mid game an artifact is not to be shunned lightly. The two points for the artifact is the least important part of it. You can make your destiny without breaking a few artifacts, but its much easier if you do.

A Sidebar — The Power of Doubling

I mentioned the Disease spell’s power derived from the fact it turned Block into Block + Attack. In effect, it doubles what you’ve got. Geometric progressions grow so much faster than arithmetic. These are combos to look out for. Successful ranged attacks effectively double, counting as attack + block (since they kill the target before you have to block).

So, if I say something “Doubles” in value I may not mean it literally, but that the effect grows quickly.

The Rings

All four rings either gain you token plus a crystal and 1 fame, or you destroy it for infinite tokens of the appropriate color (and black!) and +1 fame per spell of the matching color. Black man on demand means that selecting a ring is always a reasonable choice. You can power 2+ spells (even if they don’t match the rings color, you’ll probably have a few crystals by the second night, when you might reasonably break a ring).

If you happen to have spells of the right color, that’s a bonus, but I don’t worry too much about it.

Mid-late game, you may know that the ring isn’t that great if you lack spells and are mana rich. In that case you’ll snatch the other card, but first day? A ring is a safe choice. (Maybe not the top choice, but good). You’ll earn 5-6 fame, load up on crystals, and some spare mana. I don’t worry if I waste the token the turn I play the ring, although of course its nice to get full use. Early on, a ring is a B+ grab. Maybe A-.

I consider the Endless Gem Pouch a psuedo-ring; not quite as good, decent. You’ll get less fame, but you keep everything you can’t use right away. If you break the bag, you’ll get 5 tokens (one of each), which gives you a single black (assuming you break it at night) plus a variety. When you roll gold you’ll get the crystal you want most, and when you roll black you’ll get fame. So — More variety, two crystals a round (instead of a crystal + a token), less fame, no infinite black. Call it a B-.

Always Useful

To make this category a card should be generally useful and/or have a huge upside.

The Horn of Wrath is great in conquest. Siege attack five can usually pierce out a cities minor unit, and if you break it you can take out a non-resistant major unit. Sure, you may eat a few wounds, but you probably would have anyway. Even when facing Volkare (where you’d prefer ranged) the horn works fine. You get a free Concentration + Swiftness that you always draw together (and a bonus card). If you always took the Horn you’d be wrong some small percentage of the time. A+

The Banner of Fear has a place in my heart. Drafted early, give it to your peasants (whoever) to wave at your enemies. Then (before the second night) you shuffle it back in and during your first city siege you cancel three units. (If you don’t need to do that, then congrats! You’ve got a great game). This lets you hit your first city taking almost no wounds (assuming you hold a heaping helping of Murder, which you should because you just cancelled three units for one card). The time/wounds you save will pay you back. Sure, this is only a one-use card, but what a use. A+

The Bow of Stardawn shines against Volkare (who tends to not be fortified) but the ability to break it to turn ranged into seige is also good, or doubling seige to ranged is going. Its either a literal or figurative doubling, and also great early (when tramping down into dungeons, etc).  A- only because you need a few combos with it in solo conquest.

The Sword of Justice is a literal doubling when you break it — you double your physical attacks and remove physical resistance (from the non-magically resistant). So — a sometimes quadrupling. You can’t save attack from phase to phase, so you can’t play your attacks prior to block, lose your hand, and then do this, but you can still break it prior to losing your hand, then double your followers/skills/etc.  A-

The Amulet of Darkness is a stretch for this category, because you don’t always have spells. But when you do — man, playing an advanced spell during a daytime round can be huge. B+ in general, but in the right deck this is an A+ card.

Conditionally Useful

The Circlet of Protection (aka the “Chiclet” of protection. I don’t know why I started this). I rarely own the Chiclet, I just rent it by breaking this the following turn. Skills are great; taking a skill — even one someone passed on as the weaker of the two — rocks. Keeping the circlet provides flexibility (maybe you want one skill this round, and a different one next round) and using a skill twice during a battle can be amazing. But not breaking this risks the timing, and usually the flexibility isn’t worth it. So — as I said — I typically posses this for one turn.  This goes up a fair amount as you add players, because the number of skills to choose from grows.

The Golden Grail. You say you have no wounds so you shouldn’t draft this? I say go forth and attack your closest enemy then (airquote) block (airquote) it for free and earn two bonus points to boot. If you draw it with wounds its obviously valuable.  And if you have too many wounds.

Because it’s useful with a wound free deck, the grail is actually weakest when you have a medium number of wounds. Enough that you might draw it with a single wound and not be willing to take one more. This also gains value the earlier you draw it (like a ring). Solid A- on day 1 (especially as you are almost certainly staring at 2-4 wounds from earning it) and drops a half grade (or more) each round. It can also be a late game life saver, letting you flush out wounds redraw and attack right away.

The Banner of Command works great because its a one time Call to Glory. Typically there will be an early city unit you’d like to recruit before you conquer the city, and breaking this gets you the unit (and the two fame you’d lose by breaking it!). If you get to use it for influence a time or two prior to breaking, that’s a bonus. In contrast, the ability to have an extra unit is sometimes amazing, but typically the units run low fast. But sometimes you get hosed in the unit draw (particularly solo). B

Book of Wisdom — As an early pick, this can really make for a monstrous deck. In many ways, its nice to trim your deck out as you improve it. Just grabbing a bunch of new cards (with Blood of the Ancients, or Learning, or buying everything when there are multiple monasteries) can get you a theoretically awesome but practically too-variable deck. Using Book of Wisdom to toss base movement for advanced movement (like Steady Tempo or Pathfinding) and Rage for better attack isn’t flashy, but its solid. And if you find you no longer need influence, you can turn those cards into something better.  B

[TaoLing particularly enjoys cards that net more advanced actions and often drafts them. Sometimes this works spectacularly, but I’ve seen him struggle with bloated decks increased variability. He draws no movement or all movement no attack and then flounder the final day or two. It’s a grueling way to lose].

Tome of All Spells –Any spell can huge, and I’ve already sung the praises of casting an advanced spell during the day (with the mana paid for). Still … the tome is an anti-hand size combo in that you are giving up two cards (and one must be the right color) for a spell. If you have hand-size-boosting, that won’t be a problem. But a knight with six hand size (and say, a wound) will find this dead weight from time to time. B

Druidic Staff — The nice thing about the staff: flexibility. You get what you need (at the cost of a card). But typically I use it for the white (move up to 2 revealed spaces) ability. The staff is the only movement-granting artifact, but it’s good. Readying a single unit can help take out a dragon, crystals are nice and healing is nice. But nothing is great, although the advanced ability can often prepare an assault by teleporting to the right place and giving you some crystals. B because its usually useful.

The Amulet of the Sun doesn’t have near the power of amulet of darkness, but its minor powers are good. Using a gold at night can really reset the mana pool, forests are much more common than deserts and two move is not to be scoffed at, and revealing garrisons is great. B

Look, the Bag of Infinite Gold gives you fame and influence. What it doesn’t give you is time. I’d much rather have less fame and some mana (like say, a ring). Repeated four influence is nice, but you can only recruit so often, and by comparison the Banner of Command just lets you nab that great unit (without requiring an action or being in the right place). B-

Sad Trombone

Soul Harvester — Attack 3 and gain a crystal. Nothing wrong, but not sexy. The advanced ability (attack 8 and one crystal per defeated unit in the phase) can actually gain you more points than you lose from breaking it in the right situation, but the Soul Harvester is purely additive. Even the (terrible) banners may have a right situation come up where they are game changers. With Altem Mages or some other combo you could gain massive crystals with this, but that makes the Harvester icing on an already delicious cake. C+

Shield of the Fallen Kings — Block improved in Lost Legion, but this isn’t enough block to shine. Block six with no special powers is just barely better than determination, although you have the option to block four twice. If the shield doubled against swiftness that would be something, but “one point better than a powered card you start with” isn’t much to write home about. Breaking this isn’t great either (Cold Fire Block 8 or three cold fire block fours). C

Most Banners grade poorly because they require a parlay. You need units that match the banner. (The Banners of Command and Fear are great because they don’t require units. Command gets you units, and Fear stops enemies). That’s why most of them are listed here.

The Banner of Protection grants Armor +1 and all resistances. This (typically) turns one unit into a tank, able to bounce 1-2 wounds a round. (An Utem Guardsman works well with the Banner). The advanced ability (“Throw away all wounds you received this turn”) is ok; but hard to time. Typically that means you throw away five wounds, and if you had it in your hand, you could have used it to bounce some wounds. C+

Banner of Fortitude is here because ignoring one wound a round isn’t bad, but it’s no Grail. If you have it you can end a round (the second night, say) by assaulting a city/volkare and wounding every unit, then reshuffle it and break it the next day to heal them all your units. Particularly against the green city (which poisons) that can be huge. But … still a parlay. C-

The Banner of Courage lets you ready a unit (except during combat) or ready all units. The advanced action can be great, attack a city (etc) and discharge a massive volley, trash the Banner, repeat. But …. You have to have enough units to be worthwhile, and either be weak enough to not take out your target the first time, or have another target(s) that really need the units the second time. And you have to get the Banner at the right time. It clogs your hand. But if you get an Altem Mages (etc) good. C

The Banner of Glory (Armor/Attack/Block + 1 and +1 fame per attack or block) is a minor boost, really only efficient on a resistant unit (to boost the repeated block) and a small fame bump.  If you’ve got a Guardian Golem, it’s fine (if you get them both really early, especially) but the number of times its fine is way too low. If you quickly get a healers + a unit, you can pop this for 2 fame a round, and I’ve done that, and I’m still underwhelmed. C

Written by taogaming

June 12, 2016 at 10:43 pm

Too Many Words about Mage Knight (Part III — Spells)

This series of articles cover my (evolving) thoughts about Mage Knight strategy, tactics and planning. (The first article has my typical caveats). This section covers the spells.

I don’t always get spells, perhaps incorrectly (ignoring the times where none of the mage towers are on my path of destruction). Spells aren’t as good as artifacts (they cost one or two mana) … but you’ll pick from three known choices (instead of two unknown). ‘Known’ counts heavily. Timing when to attack a Mage Tower or buy a spell at a tower or blue city before a round ends (to grab a good spell) or just after a round begins (to hope for a better one) is an issue.  If you get a consolation prize in a dungeon, well — sometimes tough luck.

In theory you can time your Advanced Actions, but there roughly twice as many AAs and it’s rarely worth it to time your level ups. In general, the right time is now. Hit Level 2 ASAP. Maybe wait a turn for an AA (if another player is about to level up). It’s certainly not worth waiting for a round, since you’ll cost yourself a skill use. In solo the spell deck is the most consistent, game to game. (For large co-ops you’ll see most of each deck, since the AA deck cycles faster and you’ll likely hit several monasteries fast).

Format is spell name / advanced name [Description] — Thoughts, and final Grade (overall).

Good Spells better in Solo Conquest than vs Volkare’s Return

Fireball / Firestorm  [Ranged Fire 5 or Siege Fire 8 + take a wound]. — Solid attacks. Quite good in Conquest (where Siege is valuable). (Snowstorm/Blizzard are the same, except ice). Solid B.

Expose / Mass Expose [Target loses fort/resistance, ranged attack 2 / All enemies lose one or the other, ranged attack 3.] — Note that the two effects (cancelling and ranged attack 2) do not have to be the same target. A in conquest, B vs Volkare.

Mana Bolt / Mana Thunderbolt — For this you should be flush with mana. This costs two (or three). You can tune it to what you need, but it’s not as tuneable as you hoped. Unless you pay red, it’s an ice attack (red makes it cold fire). You can really just tune its type. Green makes it siege, white makes it ranged, blue makes it large (but only a bit) and red makes it cold fire. Generally not as good as Snowstorm. C+

Underground Travel / Underground Attack — Turn one green into 6-14 movement. Note that underground attack de-fortifies the site, but you’ll withdraw back to your space if you lose. I originally rated this a terrible spell, but it’s grown on me as I’ve been writing the series. That’s a lot of movement for one spell, and I often find myself using Magic Talent to cast this if its a legal target. B- [But note that in Volkare’s Return you have to find a single city and then defend it. Not much movement. If you are playing Volkare’s Quest (where you have to go out and back) this goes up to at least a B+.]

Wings of Wind / Wings of Night — This can move farther than underground travel (good!) but you have to pay (bad!). At night, you can stop a large number of enemies (3 moves points stop 3 enemies). As a white spell, it affects anything not-magically resistant. Honestly, I should take this more often. This + Improvisation or a powered March practically stops a Level 5 City. You’ll want to bump hand size with this (b/c you’ll need to move into the city, and can’t store movement) and you’ll need followers with attacks. But even if you don’t use the night action, this will also let you jump over to a wrongly placed city in cooperative games. B-. (When it works, amazing, but takes effort to work. I may be undervaluing this).

Demolish / Disintegrate — Armor – 1 and either ignore fortifications (Demolish) or destroy a (non-fire resistant) enemy (disintegrate). The basic ability makes attacking cities in the daytime much easier. This is also a good spell to pick up and go hunting in Tombs (where it’s always night) as long as there’s a black mana showing. Yes, Yes, you’ll suffer when you draw a Summoner Dragon. That’s kind of a theme. [FAQ — The ignore fortifications part is versus a site, so fire-resistant creatures may still be ranged attack. But they don’t lose the armor bonus. See this thread). A-. This isn’t terrible against the Big V, because he’ll have so many units.

Call to Arms / Call to Glory — I’ve loved Call to Glory (recruit a unit) for a long time. It’s the “get out of reputation hell free” card. I’m not sure it’s the best spell, but it’s pretty good. Call to Arms goes down in value the more players there are (because you go from 3/4 followers for one player per turn to 4/5 for two players, etc). Volkare also sucks indecisive units away, so better when playing Conquest. B+, but drop this with more players.

Good Spells better vs Volkare

Flame Wall / Flame Wave — The advanced attack (with +2 versus each enemy) can get huge against Volkare, if you can save this one card (using your hand and units to block), you can often unleash  an 17+ point Flame wave. IF. B

Tremor / Earthquake — This lowers value, and the advanced version lowers value of fortified units more. That could make it better versus cities, but Volkare has more units (and the daytime version doesn’t care, so Volkare affects more). B+

Offering / Sacrifice [Discard cards to generate mana / turn crystals into tokens to generate ranged/seige fire/ice attack] — The spell I’ve gone back and forth over the most. For a while I grabbed this every chance, but too often sacrifice isn’t great. Siege 8/12 isn’t huge. Ranged 12/18 is better, but 18 will usually be ice. And then you typically waste some of the converted tokens. Some very good PBEM players call this “The best turn 1 spell.” So consider grabbing early (especially if you’ve gone hard negative in rep, because then you can still spend your influence cards on this). However you value this, it lowers in value as the game goes on, although if you happen to be mana flush its a solid late game pickup for Sacrifice. This is probably a B+ card on day 1, and gains a bit vs Volkare.

Equally Good Spells

Equally good mainly because they affect a single enemy.

Whirlwind / Tornado [Cancel an attack / Destroy an enemy] — The advanced version is great against Altem Guardians (which require 14 of any attack to kill) or any non-magic resistant unit that has too much armor and especially physical resistance. (Storm Dragons, etc). The weaker version is good against your must-block creatures (paralyzers or those that deal out too much damage, like Familiars). Since this only affects a single unit it’s not an instant game winner, but typically in either game there will be that one annoying unit this takes care of (either attacking or defending). Sadly, it doesn’t work against Summoner Dragons. A-

Burning Shield / Exploding Shield — Fire Block 4, and either turn it into Fire attack 4 or destroy the enemy (if successfully blocked).  Against weaker enemies (that aren’t fire) this is a superior whirlwind/tornado because it blocks and kills (instead of either or). But against better enemies or fire resistant, it’s inferior. So a good early game spell, and Whirlwind is better late game. A if you get it in the first day, but drop a grade each day.

Chill / Lethal Chill — Again, a lesser whirlwind. Chill does remove fire resistance, but doesn’t work against Ice resistant creatures (a fair percentage of those you’d really want to stop, Delphana Masters and Ice Dragons, all of which paralyze. Interestingly, Freezers have an ice attack, but are fire resistant, so it works against them). B

Restoration / Rebirth — Heal 3 / 5 (in forest) and rebirth readies 3/5 levels of units. Never get this, unless you are just swamped with wounds. Although the nights ability to ready 3 levels isn’t bad, if that gets you 2 units back (foresters and something else). I suppose you can use this to attack, use your units to block and soak wounds, then re-set them. Perhaps I’ve been ignoring this, but it’s probably the worst spell. D. (I’m willing to listen to arguments. It does let you resurrect units).

Meditation / Trance — Another spell I don’t use much. Reshuffle two random cards and two handsize? That’s actually not bad, but its random. This works well if you’ve been using Training (etc) to make your deck better, or have a lot of artifacts, etc. If you use Preparation to grab an early artifact, then (since its night) you can use it twice. Note that Trance isn’t an action. You can do this and other things. C+

Space Bending / Time Bending — A feast or famine spell. Space Bending is a minor Underground Travel … but Time Bending? Woah. Take back all the cards you have and do another turn right away? With a large hand size that’s monstrous. If you take Sparing Power and put one card a turn under it, and happen to get Space Bending late, you can take a turn with 10+ cards (more with Motivation) and then re-use them. I’ve upped my opinion about this after seeing some examples but often it’s merely “good not great.” But if you grab this early you can cater your deck to it, and if you just space bend on a night or two, that’s usually great horrible. B

Mist Form / Veil of Mist — [Move 4, all terrains are two, but you can’t go up hills or mountains for the entire turn. But you can cross lakes. / All units gain resistances, ignore the first wound and any additional effects.] Another spell I almost never take, although looking at it I’m not sure why. The Veil would let you effectively block a number of tokens equal to units + 1 (assuming the +1 was relatively small), and move four / ignore terrain isn’t bad. I’m going to make a concerted effort to look for ways to play this. If nothing else, this stops the annoying lakes. (I don’t often play with random orientation….). C+? based on my actions, but what do you know.

Charm / Possess — Influence four with either a discount or a bonus crystal (often a rebate), and the advanced ability is a combined block and attack. Another spell I’m always happy to see. A- only because sometimes during the day you just chuck it because you have no place to recruit or no good targets, but possession is always worth it.

Cure / Disease [Heal 2 with a bonus, or all blocked enemies have armor reduced to one] — Another spell I’ve been grabbing more and more often over the last month. Disease effectively turns your blocks into block + almost lethal attacks. Combines really well with Utem / Altem Guardsmen (both of whom double their block against swiftness). Heal 2 (during the day) is often just enough healing to be useful to pick up a few spare wounds and redraw right away, or reset a damaged unit. Honestly, during the day I’d be looking to go underground with this, unless you had a lot of wounds. Still, this is only rated B, mainly because the day effect is only so-so.


Written by taogaming

June 7, 2016 at 7:04 pm