Mage Knight is a miniatures wargame using collectible figures, created by WizKids, Inc. A synthesis of classic miniatures games and of background stories, Mage Knight was an immediate success when it was introduced in 2001.
Unlike other miniatures wargames, Mage Knight eliminates the need for constant reference to rulebooks and tables by integrating a combat dial into each figure that contains the current combat statistics of each figure -- its movement rate, attack and defense values, combat damage, and special abilities. While this system lacks the versatility of other miniatures games, mainly because players cannot customize their figures, it makes up for this by facilitating rapid gameplay and by having a large number of distinctive figures.
All miniatures, called warriors, come pre-painted and are pre-assigned point costs based upon their abilities. These costs range between 3 points (for a weak figure) to over 500 points (for a powerful dragon). To play a game, players will generally agree upon a point cost total, and then design their armies to maximize their strategic capabilities within the specified point cost total. Each player is allowed to take a number of actions per turn equal to the point cost total divided by 100. These actions include movement, combat, or the use of special abilities such as Regeneration and Necromancy. Game play is typically rapid, but often highly strategic.
Mage Knight figures are sold in Starter Sets (which historically have contained 8 or 9 figures) and Booster Sets (4 or 5 figures). Figures are sold in basic sets, as well as expansion sets. Figures are distributed with seven rarity levels; the most rare figures were the "Uniques", of which only one of each could appear in a player's army. In addition, WizKids gives away limited edition, Unique versions of the non-Unique figures in the sets as prizes for tournaments in comic and game shops. These figures are not available for retail sale, and have different statistics and point costs than the regular figures. This novel prize policy is in part responsible for Mage Knight's success.
On 5 November 2003, WizKids released a new "base" set (their third, after Rebellion and Unlimited), colloquially referred to as "Mage Knight 2.0," that introduced new strategic possibilities to the game, including capabilities to customize Unique warriors and battles via styrene cards called Domains, Items and Constructed Terrain. Later expansions have introduced more options via Spellbooks, Spells, and Adventuring Companies.
Mage Knight has seen 14 expansions in booster packs, though bonus figurines appear in the Heroic Quests, Conquest, Titans supplements, and special figures from the Holiday 2001 and Holiday 2003 genres.
Mage Knight is based in a fantasy world on a continent known only as The Land. Through a section of the Mage Knight website, known as the Scrying Chamber, as well as through a comic book series and two novels, we learn of the history of the people of the Mage Knight universe.
The game of Mage Knight revolves around a conflict sparked by a rebellion against the powerful Atlantis Guild. Hundreds of years before this rebellion lived a mighty magically-gifted person named Tezla. Prior to Tezla's rise to power, there were two known schools of magic in the Land: Elemental Magic and Necromantic Magic. Because these magical schools were diametrically opposite, it was deemed impossible for anyone to master both without going insane. Tezla, however, managed to do just that. Additionally, he invented a third school of magic, known as Technomancy. This Technomantic magic was dependent upon a magically-infused mineral called magestone. As a result, the Atlantis Guild began mining the mineral, though the task was dangerous due to the radiation that unprocessed magestone produces.
Though Tezla was able to sustain life far longer than most humans, death eventually found him. Upon his death, the proponents of each school of magic claimed to have captured his soul essence in an Avatar of their creation. Because it was widely accepted that a soul could not be divided, and because each school claimed fervently that they possessed the true Tezla, strife began to form among the three schools. This is all a lie. Eventually, this led to the Necromantic and Elemental schools leaving Atlantis. These breakoff groups became known as the Necropolis Sect and the Elemental League, respectively.
Atlantis continued to focus on Technomancy, and numerous strip mines were dug throughout the land to harvest the mineral. It was discovered that dwarves, who had a natural magic immunity, were resistant to the deadly radiation emanated by the raw magestone. As a result, many dwarves were enslaved and forced to work in the strip mines, often for their entire lives. This continued for many years, through the reign of the Prophet-Magus Karrudan, a powerful magic-user in his own right.
During the reign of Karrudan, the oppression among the people of the Land was often severe. A small group began to make plans to topple the Atlantis Guild's rule to free the dwarven slaves, as well as ease the oppression of the Land as a whole. During a daring raid to the floating city of Atlantis, the capital of the Guild, a rebel named Snow managed to successfully assassinate Karrudan with a new weapon: black powder. This assassination began the Black Powder Rebellion, and the rebels continued to gather support to their cause. This spark of conflict also enabled the Necropolis Sect to implement their own plans of domination, and the conflict quickly spread throughout every faction in the Land.
During this conflict, other factions became involved, such as the Orc Raiders, who were often a scourge to people of the Rebels and the Atlantis Guild; the Knights Immortal, high elves from the impenetrable Rivvenheimmountains dedicated to eradicating chaos among the "lesser races" of the Land; the Draconum, a race of dragon-men who continually seek self-improvement, evolving into more powerful forms; the Shyft, a mysterious lizard-like race from the islands of the sea who somehow maintain an empathic bond with the wild Mage Spawn creatures; and the Solonavi, an enigmatic race of energy-beings who offer their services for anyone willing to pay their price (which is often a favor to be collected later). During this time, the threat of an ancient cult known as the Tur'aj, or Apocalypse, began to secretly creep into the Land.
A major turning point in the conflict came after the Knights Immortal made an alliance with the Atlantis Guild in an attempt to destroy the Black Powder Rebels. However, shortly before a decisive battle, the Atlantis Guild leaders called their troops home, leaving the Knights Immortal to their own problems. Determined to retain their honor, the Knights Immortal fought on, though hopelessly outnumbered, and were routed by the Rebels at Khamsin. This act was seen by the high elven leaders as traitorous, and vowed to exact vengeance upon Atlantis. The Elven Lords began to rally their troops to fully eradicate chaos, while the victory at Khamsin allowed the Black Powder Rebels to become the Black Powder Revolutionaries - more than just a rag-tag group, but a fully-formed revolution against Atlantis' tyranny.
Shortly thereafter, a key Atlantean city, Rokos, was besieged by an organized group of Orc Raiders. Because of this siege, the Solonavi made known to the leaders of the Atlantis Guild that the Oracle's Needle, a tower in Rokos that served as home to the revered Oracles of Rokos (who had predicted Tezla's birth many years prior to its happening), was a headquarters of sorts to the Solonavi beings, and that the Oracles were allied with them. With the help of the Atlantis Guild, the Orc Raiders were driven off, and their leader slain. The Solonavi made an offer to the Atlantis Guild to help them become the most powerful force in the Land in exchange for an unnamed favor. Though the Prophet-Magus Osiras encouraged Emperor Nujarek to accept, but Nujarek instead refused. This enraged the Solonavi, who expressed their wrath by cleansing Rokos and nearby Luxor of all Atlantean military presence. Nevertheless, Nujarek used this opportunity to transform the Atlantis Guild into the Atlantean Empire, in an effort to restore Atlantis' glory under Tezla.
The Orcs, banding under the Orc Khans, became divided by this loss. The majority of them went back to their homeland, the Fist, under the command of the Broken Tusk clan and its leader, Khan Harrowblade. However, some clans chose to remain, breaking the tradition of the Orcs. These Shadow Khans chose to keep their spoils to themselves, and in so doing, earned the wrath of the clans who returned to the Fist.
During this time, the Necropolis Sect had been at work. To the west, the Necropolis Sect, under the command of the vampire-lord Darq the Corrupt, succeeded in taking control of many cities of the Galeshi, a nomadic race of men loyal to the Black Powder Rebellion. Simultaneously, a crusade was launched against the Elemental League in their home territory of the Wylden Forest. This crusade was led by a troll-turned-vampire, Kossak Darkbringer, who's will was enslaved to Darq the Corrupt via a powerful relic. The Necropolis Sect continued their crusade to conquer the Land, officially becoming the Dark Crusaders, while the Elemental League, scattered remnants of their former selves, vowed to resist as the Elemental Freeholds.
The fighting continued, and in the shadows the Apocalypse Cult continued to gain power. Not long after the drastic changes among the factions, the Apocalypse allied themselves with the newly-evolved Shyft, who had retreated to their isles for a time. This alliance set out to capture an ancient Egg, guarded by the Draconum for centuries. The other factions of the land sought to hinder this attempt, but failed, and the Egg was hatched by the Apocalypse to bring forth the Apocalypse Dragon, a huge creature of enormous power. Centuries before, the Dragon had been defeated by a group of powerful warriors. Now it is loose again, promising to bring destruction throughout the land, and thus give victory to the Apocalypse cult.
Though many of the factions are dedicated to stopping this evil from occurring, due to the fragmented nature of the factions, it seems only a matter of time before the Apocalypse consumes the land.
The expansions are (in order of release):
- Dragons Gate
- Mage Knight 2.0 - The Mage Knight 2.0 Base Set released in November 2003 and represented a major revision to the Mage Knight ruleset. Figures from prior sets remain compatible with this ruleset, but figures released with Mage Knight 2.0 and later also included more features that enabled them to be more versatile and customizable on the battlefield, such as a wider variety of special abilities, subfactions giving units a more "permanent" ability, and proficiencies which gave warriors abilities based on their combat value types. One of the major enhancements with Mage Knight 2.0 was the introduction of styrene cards which influenced gameplay in various ways.
- Dark Riders - Released in April 2004, Dark Riders introduces the "mount" and "rider" units. Certain warriors are removable from their bases, and can be placed in slots on the front of larger "mount" units, and gain benefits from doing so. Certain relics are only equippable by riders. Dark Riders also introduces Faith and Catastrophe Domain cards, Item cards the Dark Riders and Wylden Host subfactions, and four ultra-rare "chase" figures: the Avatars of Apocalypse (whose subfaction the set is named after).
- Sorcery - Released in September 2004, Sorcery introduced a new rules mechanic for spellcasting. Associated with this new ruleset were two new types of styrene cards - Spellbooks and Spells. Also associated with the spellcasting rules was a new proficiency for blocking spells cast by opposing players. Sorcery also was the first 2.0 expansion to have non-unique warriors with item slots, allowing for even greater versatility in army building. Although no new factions were introduced with Sorcery, 10 new subfactions were introduced to give even more variety to the types of armies players could build.
- Omens - Released in April 2005, Omens introduced two new rules mechanics: Adventuring Companies, allowing an army to have a universal ability, and Champions, a figure with a removable base that allows the warriors abilities to be chosen from a set of combat dials, depending on the number of points the players wishes to spend on it. Also reintroduced with the Omens expansion was the Shyft faction, as well as the first 2.0 non-unique Mage Spawn figures. Associated with the release, though not part of the release itself, was the introduction of a convention-exclusive figure known as the Apocalypse Dragon.
- Nexus - Released on August 24, 2005, the Unlimited, Sinister, Minions, Uprising, Pyramid, and Dragons Gate sets. These figures use the same sculpts as a previously released figure, but are painted to 2.0 standards, and have combat dials and stats updated to reflect gameplay in the Mage Knight 2.0 ruleset.