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     " Picking up figs, checking them out, putting them back down, picking them up again... "

      Title: The Mage Knight Gaming System by Wizkids

      Format: Fantasy tabletop miniatures game.

      Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo

      The Hype: Fantasy miniatures gaming have never been so accessible. Mage Knight delivers pre-painted, finely detailed, and completely paper free gaming to tabletops everywhere. Or at least that's what they say. Read on to find out whether or not it's true…

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Playability: At its heart, Mage Knight's system is not so very different from any other minis game. Characters are given ratings for Speed, Fighting, Defense, and Damage and engage in a fairly straightforward target number roll off to see who wins. What makes Mage Knight remarkable, and so note worthy among its brethren, is the "Combat Dial" system all the figures use. Built into the figures bases, the Combat Dial is the method through which not only all the stats and special abilities are listed but also the manner in which the characters take damage. Every time the figure takes a hit, the dial is rotated the appropriate number of damage clicks which then displays an entirely new set of combat values. Thus, your character's stats are constantly changing, evolving, and enhancing (or suffering) based on the amount of damage he or she has taken. That concept, in and of itself, is absolutely badass. And when you combine the dial with the nice, straight forward system it ends up fast, easy, and it ultimately makes gaming as easy as so many of us wish it could be.
          All that's the good news. The bad news is that by that same token the whole thing ends up being so overly simplified that advanced strategy gamers are likely to be turned off. The essence of the problem is the method in which characters take actions. Each turn, each player gets to take a number of actions based on the total point value of the armies involved. Actions are limited to one of 3 basic concepts: move, attack, or pass. If a character moves or attacks, it is then given a chit that, essentially, means that it has to rest next turn or else it takes a point of damage. Now, while all that works well to keep play smooth and rhythmic, what it doesn't do is give certain types of characters- particularly melee fighters, a snowball's chance in hell. Since you only get to make 1 action per character per turn, and it doesn't matter what type of action a character makes, it means that you will spend a lot of time charging your fighters into battle and then having them cool their heels while the enemy takes shot after shot at them. And while it doesn't actually end up hurting play overly much (since all of the characters are strapped by the same rule) it did serve as a constant source of annoyance as our best fighters played the very distinctive game of "Charge, wait. Attack, wait."
          Still that being said, the game does develop a smooth flow once you get used to it and the strategy element does eventually emerge- even if it is slightly marred by the turn system. 4 out of 5

      Layout and Presentation: As I've said, all the information you need to play is right on the figures base- which is an immensely cool feature in any miniatures game. It makes it paperless, simple, and very easy to keep track of. That's the cool part. The down side is two minor, but ultimately irritating byproducts of that concept. The first is that not only are the stats on the figures small, but they're also mounted on the front of the figures (which is almost always facing your opponent). That means that the only 2 ways to keep track of your characters are to either constantly be picking them up to check them out or to start keeping track of info on a piece of scrap paper (which is what we did). While I'm sure there are geeks out there that have all the stats on all their characters memorized, we have a bit too much of a life to worry about that kind of thing. Larger "windows" in the dials and rear mounted stat facings would definitely have made my life easier.
          The second annoyance is the special abilities the characters have. Well, not so much the abilities themselves as how they're kept track of. Each character's special powers are listed on their dials through the color-coding of the individual stat. And while that means that your character's powers can be constantly changing as they take damage (which is cool in a lot of ways) it also means that you will be endlessly looking at the stat, finding the color, then looking the color up in the quick reference guide that comes with the game (the only piece of information you need that is not on the figs themselves). And while, again, I'm sure that if you're one of those geeks who has the time to memorize everything you think it's peachy keen, for those of us with lives we were constantly forgetting what our characters could do…Which meant even more picking up of the figs, checking them out, consulting the guide, then putting them back down.
          Mind you, not that any of those things are inherently bad about the game- but they do mean that if you're not a hard core player you will spend the game in a sense of perpetual motion and confusion…Picking up figs, checking them out, putting them back down, picking them up again, etc. In the end it finally drove us to either add some paper to keep track of things on the side or to just ignore some of the rules and abilities, both of which kind of defeat the point of the whole paperless game thing. 3.75 out of 5

      Value vs. Cost: Mage Knight is what's called a "Collectable Miniatures Game", which is a fancy way of saying that it has all the same randomness and rareness of a card game. So, when you go out to buy it you'll be picking up starters and boosters, just like for a ccg. Each starter has 10 miniatures, rules, dice, a measuring tape, and a comic (which is just a cool bonus) and retails for about $18. Boosters rank in at $7 and come with 5 figures. For our money, each army should end up having 6 to 8 characters (though the game itself is resolved in points per side) and, thus, you'll end up spending about 25 or 30 bucks to not only get started, but also to keep some longevity in your play. And while it goes almost without say that you'll probably want to keep adding to your collection with more starters and boosters, the fact of the matter is for just a little more than you and a buddy can go to the movies you both can be entertained for many times as long playing mixed and matched armies. Pretty sweet in my book. 4.5 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       All in all, Mage Knight is a fun, easy to learn, and quick to play miniatures game that is simple enough for the casual gamer but also has some interesting strategy elements to bring the hard core fans over. I'd definitely say it's worth your time to give it a try.

      The Good: The Combat Dial is brilliant!

      The Bad: Though it's small numbers and forward facing placement leave something to be desired.

      The Overall Ugly: A great game for the money.

      What it's Worth: Market

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