I’ve been getting deeper and deeper into Mage Knight Solo Conquest for the last couple of weeks. So far, I have around 20 hours of gameplay under my belt, but I have still only scratched the surface of this majestic game. Only played Solo Conquest mode with three characters, there is a whole world ahead of me, especially once I start implementing some expansions.
As you can read in my first impression, I’ve had a rocky start comprehending the massive rules, but after playing and studying a bit more, I am getting better at the game.
You can progress simply by playing the game and referring to the rules, but to make my progress faster, I did some research online. It’s been fun researching (and by researching I mean reading articles and watching videos) about the game I like so much. I’ll list some better resources.
- Rules are your number one source of information about the game. Reading and re-reading is something you should do on a regular basis, especially when getting to know the game. I’ve read them three times through and referred to them during gameplay dozens of times.
- Mage Knight Official FAQ is a further clarification on some harder to understand concepts and commonly misplayed rules. It’s a must read (and print).
- This thread on BGG Forums contains a lot of useful information.
- Another way to learn (and to get a general feel of the game) is through play-throughs. Written (by Membury) or in form of videos (Ricky Royal has some great play-through on Solo Conquest, Lost Legion, Shades of Tezla and others).
Parallel with learning about the game, I played the game myself, of course. Let’s see how I did.
I’ve played five full Solo Conquest games so far. This may not sound like a lot, but a single game can last between 2 to 3 hours, if you rush things a bit. If you take it slightly slower, you can have the game on the table for the better part of the day.
I’d actually argue this is the best way to play it. Have a spare table, set it up and play when you have time. I’ve had my game with Tovak up for six hours, playing it on and off, taking it slowly and doing a lot of other stuff in between (like cooking and taking care of the kids).
For my first game, I picked Arythea. I talk about this game in my First Impressions article, so I won’t go into details here. I failed to conquer any cities and didn’t even track score at the end. I took it more as a learning experience, not actually playing.
I was a lot better prepared for my second game. I took Arythea out again (determined to get a win with her!) and it went better. I conquered one city, but just came short at conquering the second. I was too weak, especially when it comes to units I commanded (I only had one) and did not have a realistic chance at conquering the second city.
I think I paid the price of burning down a monastery early on, which hampered my reputation and I couldn’t recruit any worthwhile units. I did fine with towers, keeps and adventure sites though. Here are the stats:
- Arythea, Mission Failed
- 79 basic Fame
- 4 Spells, 6 Advanced Actions, 2 Artifacts, 4 Crystals, 2 Units (1 wounded)
- 2 Keeps, 1 Mage Tower, 1 Monastery, 3 Adventure Sites
- 2 Wounds
- 1 Conquered City
- Total Score: 120
Looks like Arythea doesn’t like me much, but I refuse to take no for an answer. Using my experience from previous two tries, this time we were successful. I didn’t play much differently, just made sure I recruited some good units.
But it wasn’t an easy win, I was just strong enough to conquer the second city. I guess it really was that quality unit or two that made the difference compared to previous game.
- Arythea, Mission Successful
- 87 basic Fame
- 2 Spells, 3 Advanced Actions, 1 Artifacts, 0 Crystals, 3 Units
- 4 Keeps/Mage Towers/Monasteries, 1 Adventure Site
- 1 Wound
- 2 Conquered Cities, all Cities conquered
- +11 Fame for Dummy cards and no End of Round announced
- Total Score: 156
So, I have mastered playing with Arythea (or so I thought), and I wanted to try another character. It was around this time I read Membury’s report and viewed a video play-through with Goldyx. I knew that he is not the most beginner friendly character, but I decided to try him out anyway.
It didn’t go so well unfortunately, starting right from the first turn – I didn’t even bother with a Mage tower next to starting point, since it had a pretty nasty occupant. I went for the keep instead and took some heavy wounds here. And then forgot to recruit a unit here.
Continuation followed similar path. I did manage to conquer one city, but it was a real struggle that really wore me out. I was so weak, that I didn’t really have any chance of even challenging the garrison of second city let alone capture it.
Goldyx felt like he relies on mana heavily and I just couldn’t produce needed mana at the right time, so the whole game was an uphill battle. It probably didn’t help, that I was in a little hurry and didn’t take sufficient time to think things through and adequately plan my moves.
Goldyx, 96 points, defeat. I was so disappointed, I didn’t even write down mission summary.
For my next game I decided to do things differently. I’m not going to be in any rush. I’ll set-up the game and play a turn whenever I have time, regardless how long does the game take. Meanwhile, I can take of my other duties and can think about my future moves and plan them thoroughly, so I don’t make any silly mistakes like forgetting to recruit.
I took some risks at the very beginning – I ventured into a dungeon and I knew I would be in trouble if that enemy with paralyze comes up (20% chance) – in that case I might as well quit. Luckily, it didn’t and I was in for a great start.
Later I came across one of the brutal dragons and there was no way around him. I had to take 5 wounds and should have been knocked out, but since this was my first knock-out, I forgot about this mechanic. I went for the rest the next turn and discarded my wounds (and one action card). With a knock-out I would have lost one more turn.
The cities itself we’re a bit of a pushover at the end. I was very powerful, had Horn of Wrath and Savage Monks for Siege attack plus Tremor (I think that’s how it’s called) for reducing armor of multiple enemies. I recruited Altem Mages at the first city and didn’t even need them at the end. Also, I had several action cards still available and had no wounds on units or in my deck.
I think I made a small mistake with Tovak’s Resistance Break skill, which reduces Armor of one enemy, and I used it to reduce Armor of all enemies in both cities. Even taking this into account, plus that turn I “cheated” at the dragon, I believe I would still conquer both cities with ease.
- Tovak, Mission Successful
- 130 basic Fame
- 1 Spell, 6 Advanced Actions, 2 Artifacts, 1 Crystal, 5 Units
- 2 Keeps, 1 Mage Tower, 2 Monasteries, 2 Adventure Sites
- 0 Wounds
- 2 Conquered Cities, all Cities conquered
- +12 Fame for Dummy cards and no End of Round announced
- Total Score: 216
Some more things I learned (and some I still have to)
- I still have some trouble understanding how red and blue resistances work. I know you have to double your attack points, if they are resistant to it, but I don’t get the part where they ignore special actions of that color. It’s not very clear in the rules. What cards does it refer to? If an enemy is fire resistant, can I power my rage with red mana or not?
- I really like the way the game is designed as a puzzle. And I don’t just mean a puzzle in a sense how you’re going to get through your turn. I mean a puzzle how you’re going to get through the whole map, collect enough fame, skills, actions and units. And time it so, that you get to those cities just in time and strong enough to take them down. Hats off to the designer, this is superbly balanced and it shows they have done a lot of testing.
- There is an element of luck involved in the beginning. If you get lucky with your hand and map tiles to get an early tower/keep/dungeon etc, this will only compound later on and you’ll have an easy game. (my game with Tovak)
- Contrary – if your starting hand/map is not favorable, you’ll have a lot of difficulties coming back from that (my game with Goldyx), particularly if you lack experience.
- One thing I don’t like about the game is that characters are not different enough. OK, they each have their own skill set and some special actions, but you all build them in similar direction. I understand that this is because of competitive scenarios – to give all players similar chances of winning, but for solo play it’s not ideal. For that reason I have decided to try not taking other player’s skill from the common skill area.
What will I play next?
Goldyx still owns me a win, so that is certainly on my bucket list. As is Norowas, a character I have yet to try. I heard he’s good at recruiting units and that’s about it.
I saw a video about a solo game against Volkare, so I’m pretty excited to try that too. But expansions will come later, after I master the base game.
I’ll try to find some more information on how resistances work on the Internet, so I can scratch down another borderline scenario I have trouble with. Until I understand this fully, I won’t add any enemies from the expansion, as they are full of resistances.
Mentality is going to be like I had it in my game with Tovak: take things slowly, think through, there’s no rush. And most of all, enjoy and don’t worry if you get a rule wrong, just don’t cheat yourself and make sure to find the answer later.
If you made it through my ramblings, congratulations. I’d love to hear your thoughts about my progress. Leave them in the comments below. If you enjoy reading these reports/guides, I have a similar article about Scythe, a strategy game set in an alternate diesel-punk 1920s Eastern Europe.