Originally released in November 2000, Mage Knight was designed by Jordan Weisman (of BattleTech and Shadowrun fame). Produced by Weisman's company WizKids Games, Mage Knight combined the large scale battles and strategy of tabletop wargames like Warhammer with the collectible nature of card games like Magic: The Gathering. Mage Knight used an innovative "Clix" system of Weisman's design to simplify the game and make it appeal to new players. The game proved to be very popular and several expansions for the game were released over the next few years. In November 2003, the game was rebooted (dubbed Mage Knight 2.0), which received several expansions of its own. The tabletop game was finally retired in late 2005. Over the course of its five year lifespan, Mage Knight received a total of 14 expansions, as well as several prepackaged sets. In December 2011, Mage Knight was once again rebooted, this time as a board game.
Based in the fantasy realm called The Land, Mage Knight takes place 154 years after the death of Grand-Magus Tezla, Emperor of Atlantis and the first mage to master both known forms of magic: Elemental (the magic of living essence) and Necromantic (the magic of dead spirits). During his lifetime, Tezla created a third type of magic, Technomancy, by harnessing the magic energy within an ore called Magestone. By unifying practitioners of each of the three forms of magic, the Atlantis Empire held dominion over The Land. In the years after Tezla's death, the three groups splintered apart, each following a different Avatar of Tezla which they believe to be the true Avatar. After a series of wars, an uneasy peace settled across The Land. This peace was shattered by the rebellion of the Black Powder Rebels. It is at this point when Mage Knight begins.
- Atlantis Guild - Practitioners of Technomantic magic, the Atlantis Guild is what remains of the former empire. Focusing primarily on offense, warriors of this faction feature many ranged and close combat special abilities while lacking many defensive abilities. One of the four primary factions, the Atlantis Guild was introduced in the initial Rebellion release. Known as the Atlantean Empire in 2.0.
- Elemental League - As practitioners of Elemental magic, the Elemental League is composed of elves, trolls, sprites, elementals, and the like. Whereas the Atlantis Guild is focused on its offensive capabilities, this faction is heavily dependent on its defensive abilities such as healing, but is still capable of dealing significant damage given enough time to do so. One of the four primary factions, the Elemental League was introduced in the initial Rebellion release. Known as the Elemental Freeholds in 2.0.
- Necropolis Sect - A faction of dark elves, vampires, and the undead, those of the Necropolis Sect are practitioners of Necromantic magic. With less of an emphasis on offensive or defensive capabilities, the Necropolis Sect uses abilities like flight, vampirism, and necromancy to harass and outnumber their opponents. One of the four primary factions, the Necropolis Sect was introduced in the initial Rebellion release. Known as the Dark Crusaders in 2.0.
- Black Powder Rebels - Former citizens of the Atlantis Empire, each of the races comprising the Black Powder Rebels bring their own strengths to the faction, effectively making the rebels fulfill a jack-of-all-trades role. With a good mix of offensive and defensive capabilities, the dwarves, amazons, and humans of the Black Power Rebels pose a dangerous threat on the battlefield. One of the four primary factions, the Black Powder Rebels were introduced in the initial Rebellion release. Known as the Black Powder Revolutionaries in 2.0.
- Knights Immortal - A race of ancient elves from the east, the Knights Immortal aim to rid chaos from The Land. With a mix infantry and cavalry, warriors of the Knights Immortal faction tend to fulfill roles as either fodder or support, depending on each warrior's abilities. Although the Knights Immortal is a secondary faction, it was introduced in the initial Rebellion release. Known as the Elven Lords in 2.0.
- Orc Raiders - Hailing from the mountainous part of The Land known as The Fist, these nomadic warbands of orcs and goblins seek to pillage the settlements of The Land. Featuring many inexpensive warriors, members of the Orc Raiders tend to fulfill roles as fodder or harassers, depending on each warrior's abilities. Although the Orc Raiders are a secondary faction, they were introduced in the initial Rebellion release. Known as the Orc Khans in 2.0.
- Draconum - These large dragon-men are the ultimate warriors in The Land. This very small faction features warriors whose combat capabilities often dwarf those of the other factions. As such, warriors of the Draconum faction tend to be centerpieces in an army, but their use can be limited due to their high cost. A minor faction, the Draconum were introduced in the initial Rebellion release.
- Solonavi - A small, enigmatic group of winged warriors, the Solonavi are devastatingly powerful, rivaling even the Draconum in power. The Solonavi tend to be centerpieces in an army, but their use can be limited due to their high cost. A minor faction, the Solonavi were introduced in the Sinister release.
- Heroes - These are brave adventurers who seek to gain fame and fortune in the land. Heroes are often also members of another faction. They were introduced in the Dungeons release.
- Mage Spawn - Not a faction per se, but rather the absence of one. All figures unaligned with any of the other factions fall into this category. Creatures such as skeletons, minotaurs, imps tend to be Mage Spawn. The Mage Spawn were introduced in the initial Rebellion release.
- Shyft - A race of reptilian-like creatures, they prefer to have others do their fighting for them. As such, the Shyft employ the various Mage Spawn as warriors. A minor faction, the Shyft were introduced in the Whirlwind release.
- Apocalypse - A cult of doomsday worshipers, members of the Apocalypse remained dormant throughout history in the hopes of one day bringing chaos to The Land. The Apocalypse faction was introduced in the Sinister release.
With the use of the Clix system, gameplay is much easier than most other wargames. Each figure features a dial which contains all of the statistics of that unit (movement speed, attack, damage, special abilities, etc.), which also functions as the base of the figure. These are used in conjunction with a flexible ruler (usually of 12-18 inches in length) and a pair of six-sided die. The point of using a dial is to alleviate the need to carry around large rule books detailing the statistics of every figure. Instead, a player may only need to bring the small rules handbook and SAC (Special Abilities Card), which details what each of the color-coded numbers on the dial represent (ie, a blue square on a movement slot is Magic Levitation, or a red circle on a damage slot is Pierce). Each figure has a faction, indicating which other units it may move in a formation with. In addition to a dial and faction, each figure also has a corresponding point value. The standard game of Mage Knight is a 200 point game, meaning a player's army may not exceed a combined point total of 200 (though it may be less), effectively limiting which figures may be played at any given time, as well as how many. The game is turn-based, with each player receiving an additional action for each turn per 100 points of build total limit (in a game with a total of 200, each player receives two actions a turn).