It’s Good to Be a Mage Knight, Day Two

Today, Goldyx and Tovak explore moral ambiguity!

Tovak returns to the little monastery.

Alright, now where were we? Ah, right, so last time Goldyx and Tovak, Mage Knights both, spent a day and a night conquering a path across the countryside, bringing down warbands of orcs and fortified strongholds with equal ease. I’ve told you that they’re the ones that brought our Red City’s corrupt penny-squeezers to heel, and in only three days too. Well, I reckon I’ll tell you about their second day. It’s the one that some folks like to jaw about when they say the Mage Knights aren’t so heroic as we’ve been told, but don’t let anyone hear you talk like that. And anyway, it’s true that they did some pillaging and burning, but there’s a reason for all that.

Welcome back to our series of dry alt-texts explaining the game! Let's talk about influence. Influence is what you use to hire soldiers, buy spells from friendly (read: conquered) Mage Towers, convince monks to train you in advanced combat techniques, or request healing from places like Villages. Some cards will give you an amount of influence when played, and others will give you 1 point of influence when played sideways. There's also a reputation track that modifies your influence, because the more people like you, the less you'll have to pay for their services. Some actions, like killing rampaging orcs or dragons, will improve your reputation, while others, like threatening people, pillaging villages to take extra cards into your hand, or burning monasteries, will decrease it. Other than for influence, reputation has no benefit, so once you have a nice big army and no need to be well thought-of, there's little keeping you from burning and pillaging all you like.

Goldyx “hires” some Utem Guardsmen.

Eh, what’s that you say? Oh, you want to know how these folks ended up as Mage Knights? Don’t you reckon they were born that way?

No? Smart. It’s a good question to ask, “How’d a man (or dragon-kin, as the case may be) get to be this way?”

There’s not much to tell about their life before becoming Mage Knights, not compared to what they’ve done since, anyway. Tovak Wyrmstalker came to the Council of the Void’s attention when he made the Order of the Ninth Circle from a mercenary band into a regional power, and he was happy to trade his soul for immortality (a small price, I daresay). To hear the rumors, the Council’s goals have so far lined up with his own, but there might be a reckoning in the cards when that changes.

As for Goldyx, well… There ain’t much good honest work for Draconum these days, so he was right fine when the Council offered him the next best thing.

But let me tell you, their ruffian roots were showing that second day. See, they didn’t only conquer the Red City in three days and nights, they were told they had to, by their Void Council overseers. And when you’re told to do something, especially by those sorts, you say yes and you say sir. So as the second day’s sun came up over the horizon, they must have realized that they were a ways off yet from capturing the Red City, so they hustled their soldiers up out of their sleep and went about it.

After some magical communications, they decided to stay split up, with Goldyx exploring in the east and Tovak staying over west, both with an aim to meeting up to break the City when they found it.

Goldyx knew he could use some more soldiers, so he went into town and had his Illusionists perform a few of their tricks to get a band of strong Utem fighters to join up with him. Then he had his warriors cover him while he broke into the village’s stockpiles and took what he needed to keep his army marching. There are still tales over that way about how the very guardsmen who had protected the village were the ones ransacking it, all the while under the spell of those Illusionists.

Sounds pretty bad, but it was a necessity, nobody was hurt too badly, and it pales in comparison to what Tovak was doing far to the west.

Burning a monastery incurs a hefty penalty to your reputation. For reference, pillaging a village is -1, but burning a monastery is -3, and it's such a crime that your minions refuse to help. The downside is that the monastery is permanently destroyed, so you can no longer use it for healing, hiring troops, or buying advanced action cards. On the other hand, the benefit is an artifact card, all of which are tremendously powerful.

Whether they deserved it or not, the Monks sure *looked* evil.

Tovak had decided that he also needed something to spur his horse on. Rather than just pillaging some supplies though, he reckoned the best way forward was to march back to the monastery that he had saved from the wolf-rider orcs the day before and burn it to the ground. His henchmen didn’t feel as firmly about it as he did, so in an act of later-regretted defiance, they refused to take part.

I’m sure they felt differently when the Monks came out of their cloister and revealed themselves to be not only hideous, but armed with very un-monklike weapons dipped in deadly poison. Even so, Tovak wiped them out with a flurry of arrows before they got close. Then he ransacked the monastery’s reliquary and burned the place to the ground. He also made an example of a few of his followers for refusing his orders.

He had been hoping to find some manner of ancient artifact of war, but he figured he could live with what the monastery vault yielded instead.

Artifact cards are a bit different from other cards. Most cards let you use the top action for free, or you can use the bottom improved action by spending some mana of the appropriate color. With an Artifact, the bottom power doesn't use mana, but it will completely destroy the card when used. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. In this case, if you were never going to use influence again, and you didn't want the card appearing as extra chaff in your hand, it might conceivably be the best option to use it up forever.

The monastery’s affluence was now exposed.

Tovak’s plan had been to claim the monastery’s artifact of war and then conquer the nearby Mage Tower, and even though an Endless Bag of Gold isn’t particularly helpful for conquering, he figured he’d go do it anyway. So he marched north and besieged the place, further damaging his local reputation. Not that he cared all that much for his reputation to begin with.

Let's talk mana. Every day and night, some colorful dice are rolled. These indicate natural mana power that any Mage Knight can take advantage of. Normally you can only use one of these dice every turn, but some cards let you use more. You can also find or manufacture colored crystals that you can use. And some cards give you mana "tokens," which means temporary mana that must be used up before the end of the turn. In this instance, Tovak used "Concentration" to have a red mana token. He empowered "Pure Magic" with a blue die, then used that mana token to empower that ability to make a powerful attack.

Defeating the Illusionists and their summoned Minotaurs.

It turns out that Illusionists were a common commodity in our country in those days, because the Tower was owned by a circle of them, and as soon as Tovak’s force began moving towards their walls, they sprang their trap on the Mage Knight: They had used their glamour to trick a pack of Minotaurs into their dungeons, which they now opened and enraged.

Tovak bolstered his Monks forward, fortifying their flesh with ice magic so that they could withstand fierce damage, and the Minotaurs were kept busy clawing at them. He then unleashed an unfiltered stream of magical fire at them, and followed up with a berserker rage. The Illusionists and Minotaurs succumbed to such raw channeling of both magic and strength, and the mages that remained in the Tower immediately put up the white flag.

And then, without even taking the time to ensure their allegiance, Tovak was marching again. He explored farther to the northwest, eventually crossing some craggy terrain into the desert, where his exhausted troops collapsed rather than cross the sun-baked wastes during the day.

Combat is resolved in phases. The first is the Ranged Phase: If you can kill an enemy with ranged or siege cards, then they will never have the chance to attack you at all. This isn't always so easy. Not only are ranged cards rarer than normal attack cards, but if your enemy is fortified, ranged cards will not work. There are even ways to block siege cards, in which case you'll need some sort of special ability (or be willing to take a few hits) to win. And you can't inflict partial hits on an enemy now and finish them off later — combat is all-or-nothing, and you need to inflict enough hits to kill. The second phase gives you a chance to Block your enemy's attack, and again, you need to play enough block actions to block *all* damage, since you cannot block only part of an attack. In this case, exhausting the Utem Guardsmen plus a sideways card for +1 block was enough to match the Swamp Dragon's 5 attack.

Goldyx fights his cousin thrice-removed, whose name he can never recall.

Meanwhile, in the east, Goldyx was testing his strength against some of his Draconum brethren. A poisonous Swamp Dragon had been plaguing the hills near a Keep that Goldyx had an eye to acquire, so he decided a family reunion was in order. Of course, the Swamp Dragon had all manner of nasty names to say, “traitor” among them, but Goldyx was intrigued at the prospect of battle with another member of his species.

It proved disappointing for the one that was both a dragon and a Mage Knight. His Utem Guardsmen (still dazzled by Illusionists) were such adept defenders that Swamp Dragon’s swiftness was halted against their shields, and while it was entangled Goldyx descended upon it with determined fury. It was the first time that a dragon had been slain in this country for many decades, and rumors quickly spread of Goldyx’s prowess in battle. The swelling of gratitude and adulation was only impacted in the most minor way when hours later Goldyx besieged and conquered the nearby Keep, which had been his goal the entire time.

The third phase is when you Assign Damage that your enemy has done to you, provided you didn't block it. This has usually been the most complicated phase to explain to people, but it's not so hard when you grasp that it's a bit different from most games. If the enemy's attack value is above 0, you take a wound and then decrease that value by your armor rating, and repeat until their attack value is at 0 or less. So even if the enemy has an attack total of 1 and you have 10 armor, you'll be taking at least 1 wound. This wound then goes into your hand to gunk it up and limit your options, since it counts towards your card limit and cannot be discarded by normal means.

Goldyx discovers the Red City, because nobody had a map.

After a bit of resting, Goldyx spent the rest of the day exploring. He gradually traveled farther west, and eventually came upon a most important discovery — the Red City, majestic and imposing, with its populace trapped within by two dragons that had been pillaging the region for months. He decided to camp there for a few hours to let his troops rest before taking on the Elder Dragon that had roosted nearby.

The fourth and last phase of combat is the Attack Phase, and it's also the simplest. Just play enough cards (and potentially sideways cards for +1 attack each) to have an attack value that matches or exceeds your enemy's armor. And then they're dead and you get fame, which is this game's version of experience.

Tovak visits another monastery, which is appropriately terrified.

As night fell, Tovak drove his troops across the now-cool desert. The monks of the monastery that lay at the heart of the sandy sea feigned joy at his appearance, and Tovak made a point of offering them a few coins from his Endless Bag of Gold as a warning. At this, they adopted wide smiles and creased brows, and taught him the secret art of Firebolt-throwing.

Unfortunately, while the monks were teaching Tovak their secrets, they also conspired to rid themselves of their new-found overlord. So they sat him down for an early-evening feast (it was late enough that when he had arrived, the story goes that they greeted him in their nightgowns, and had to rouse the entire staff to appease their deadly new master) and told him that in the hills to the west were a series of pits and burrows, a veritable spawning-pit for monsters. And in that pit, they told Tovak, was a powerful artifact of war. Of course, Tovak was overjoyed at this news, and trusting that monks would not lie (perhaps naively, though don’t let the village overseer know I said that), so he immediately set off for the hills. Unfortunately for the monks, he insisted that a few of their number come along as guides and battle-help.

With what we've learned about combat, let's now take a look at why Werewolves and Gargoyles are so dangerous. See, it's not just that they're a combined 9 armor and 12 attack. The Werewolves have the "Swift" ability, meaning that to block their attack, you need double their attack value. So instead of 7 block, you need 14. And Gargoyles have a little icon up by their armor showing that they have "Physical Resistance," so unless you're hitting them with special fire or ice attacks, you need double the hits. So these two units combined are harder to block and effectively have 13 armor.

Gargoyles and Werewolves versus Tovak’s army.

Unfortunately, the monks’ trap was well-laid, for the Mage Knights had invaded our continent during the Full Moon, so the spawning pits were swarming with Werewolves and Gargoyles, a terrible and potent mix. As soon as Tovak and his band reached the area, Tovak recognized his mistake — he had been a master tactician before he was a Mage Knight, after all. His plan was immediately altered from its previous artifact-grabbing slaughter-fest to an orderly retreat. Even though the Werewolves were swift and deadly, he was able to block the brunt of their assault with help from both the Savage and Red Cape Monks. Then his Herbalists got the Red Capes back on their feet, and he charged their powers of flame with a fiery red crystal from his pouch. As the ragged band descended the hills, they were battered and exhausted, and had failed to do any harm to the Gargoyles’ stoney hides, but aside from a few wounds to Tovak himself, they’d made it out safe. In a huff, they marched back to the monastery for rest from the ordeal, which their hosts grudgingly (and with some intense worry) provided.

Tovak’s wounds were sore enough — and the setback humiliating enough — that he wondered if he and his forces would be able to conquer the Red City by the next night, so he roused his troops from their sleep and marched east across the desert that same night, deaf to their pleas for rest. They finally stopped in a stretch of forest to steal a few hours’ sleep.

The High Dragon has quite a few interesting modifiers. He's resistant to both ice and fire, so any spells or advanced skills that use those would need double his armor number to defeat him. Also, his attack is with Cold Fire, which can only be efficiently blocked by more Cold Fire. And to top it off, he's "Brutal," so if his attack isn't blocked, he deals double attack damage. Which is why Goldyx loves his cheap Illusionists.

Goldyx fights a High Dragon.

As the evening grew long in the east, Goldyx was determined to bring down another dragon before sunrise. His Illusionists were able to catch the High Dragon off guard with some particularly obnoxious blinding magic, making it impossible for it to attack the ragtag band before they fell upon him. Goldyx alone handled the dragon and drove the blade home, and despite the late hour the battle was close enough to the Red City for the night-watch to see, and by dawn the City was abuzz with the news: two of the three dreaded dragons were dead, and liberators marched unhindered across the northern sections of the Kingdom to liberate them!

I really must stress that this is pretty much the game's easiest conceivable scenario, and we're playing it completely cooperatively. Mage Knight also allows for competitive scenarios in which you siege each other's Keeps, steal Cities out from under one another, and have gigantic epic clashes between Mage Knights.

Tovak and Goldyx, on the cusp of capturing the Red City. Or are they?

Even though such events had happened only that morning, folks had already forgotten all about that ugly monastery-burning and village-pillaging business, and rumors were spinning through the Red City that the siege would begin by mid-day. Tovak and Goldyx were too wise for that, and while more powerful than ever and gifted with strong armies and ridiculous magics, they weren’t about to rush headlong into the City’s now-alerted defenses. They would capture the Red City, though it would be another day and night yet before they were ready to do so.

But that will have to wait for another time.

Posted on September 29, 2012, in Board Game, Game Diary and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’m really enjoying this series Dan, I look forward to IGtBaMK pt 3!

  1. Pingback: It’s Good to Be a Mage Knight, Day Three « SPACE-BIFF!

  2. Pingback: It’s Good to Be a Mage Knight, Day One « SPACE-BIFF!

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