Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Magic, the Gathering

What colour will YOU be?

Type: Strategy / Card
Players: 2
Time to explain to others: 5 to 10 minutes
Time to play: About 20-30 minutes
Difficulty: To play 4/10, Game difficulty 5/10
Portability: High
Overall: 10/10

As hinted at on my last post, here we go.

*deep breath*

Amongst the multitude dimensions, there is a place. In the centre of a storm-battered plain, rolling purple-grey clouds above, there is a huge, dark, dusty temple dedicated to all card games that didn't work. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of niches, each one with the skeletal mummies of games past. A place filled with brilliant but over complicated, or too simple, or badly drawn card games. Or good ones that simply could not reach up to the Leviathan.

I'm talking about Magic The Gathering.

Starting in the mid 90's, this game has managed to live, expand, evolve, and leave all others behind it. And it did all of this in just one way: Simplicity

The first time you pick up a Magic deck, you might feel a bit daunted, but don't! Starter decks are still published CONTINUOUSLY (like they have over the last 20 years). And inside most of them, there are simple rules for you to start playing. (that failing, their website has the same quick intro)

You and your opponent are wizards, fighting each other. Your decks have 3 types of cards, Creatures, Lands and Spells. Creatures fight other creatures (or failing that, the opposing wizard), lands give the resources to 'build' creatures or spells, and spells give the game a measure of unpredictability, boosting or killing creatures, injuring the wizard, defending creatures, etc.

Each card has a text box, filled with instructions. Some of the keywords might take a couple of games to get used to, but even the rookiest of players can start being decent at magic in a couple of games. And seeing your opponent play a card you've never seen, is an excuse to engage in conversation: 'What card is that? What does it do? Can I have a closer look?'

There are 5 factions in Magic (green, white, red, blue and black), each with radically different playing techniques. Finding the one you like is half the fun. And most decks have more than one colour (for balance and optimization), which then create issues with the type and number of lands....

Reams of paper and Terabytes of information are available out there on Magic tactics and deckbuilding. Some might complain about Magic's incessant expansion and how you continuously need to buy new decks and new boosters. All I will say is this: as I only play Magic informally, my investment to date has been modest. 

Rui's conclusion: The game is wonderful, flows fast and is really exciting. If you have 30 minutes to spare, you can do no worse.

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