Magic the Gathering: A Great Game for the Whole Family

A Great Game for the Whole Family

Attention players of cards, board games and other great stuff to do with your spouse, your friends or your family—especially those of you fond of games of cleverness, strategy and wit. If you are a poker fan, a Bridge/Cribbage/Spades/Hearts fan, a Risk or Monopoly fan, and, totally if you are a chess fan, I have a game for you. It’s a great game and it’s been around for twenty years. You’ve probably heard of it, but maybe not, and if you don’t remember it, it’s because you did hear of it but probably blew it off. It’s one of those things that… you know how they say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” … Well, I’m willing to bet when you first heard of this game, you looked at it and went, “Lame! No thanks.”

Unfortunately, you blew off an amazing game. It would be like blowing off chess the first time someone told you about it because you thought the checkerboard thing was a poor design. Or blowing off Cribbage because that’s a stupid name.

The game is called Magic: the Gathering. Now before you go: Don’t! Don’t click off this article, dang it. At least read on for a few more lines.

It's not what you think.
It's not what you think.
Does it have to be these?
Does it have to be these?
Or would these work...
Or would these work...
just as well?
just as well?

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover

Listen, I know Magic has a fantasy theme of dragons and wizards and other stupid crap. But let me ask you this: Do the pictures on the cards make a card game or is it the game itself? How about chess? Is a game of chess any less challenging if the pieces are carved miniatures of Civil War soldiers or characters from Star Wars? Of course not. The GAME is the issue.

When Magic came out, it was targeting the fantasy lover crowd. That is true. But what turned out to have happened is that they invented an amazing GAME. The wizards, barbarians, medusas and dragons are no different than the numerals and simple shapes on a deck of cards. It’s not the heart or the diamond that makes a game of poker or Bridge fun; it’s the play: the mechanics of the game, the nuance and subtlety of thought, strategy and player skill. It’s body language and … well, they are just great games.

Magic: the Gathering should absolutely be placed amongst the perennial great games. Personally, I like it more than most of them. You can play for cards (winning opponent's cards), play for money, you can play for fun. Playing poker for “just fun” is not really all that fun, but in Magic it's totally awesome with nothing on the line. Bridge and Spades require four people and four people only. Monopoly is tedious after a while. Chess is pretty hardcore and it can be really hard to find anyone to play with. With Magic you can play with two people, you can play with three. Or four, or seven, or… twelve (although, wow, talk about chaos!). It is not a gambling game at all, but you can play for money and have a ball. You can even play it as foreplay if you’re creative enough (I have). It’s truly a great, great game.

A House Full of Friends and Family Having Fun... Together!

When we discovered this game (my wife and I) nearly eighteen years ago, we started playing and suddenly the TV went off and didn’t come back on for almost six straight months. I could hardly wait to get home each day and sit there with her and play. As my kids got older, they joined in. My cousins picked it up. We had whole weekends with family and friends from literally hundreds of miles coming several times a year to play. It’s a great game.

Richard Goutal made a comment in his hub, Survey of Boomer Age Workers, about how, in a down economy, when money is tight, people come together and have experiences that are more meaningful than having things. That is very true. His comment made me think about experiences that were like that, and I can think of few periods in my life that were as fun and filled with love and company as were those three or four years that our whole friends and family network were addicted to that game. Six, eight, ten people in a house, laughing, eating, playing and just being together lots of times per year… all bound together by the simple catalyst of a card game. In this Internet world of anonymity; the drive-to-work-by-yourself world and eat alone after the drive-through isolated in your metal box on wheels world; this universe of cubicles so that we can’t even see each other while we work; this modern place we live in now… there needs to be more things like Magic: the Gathering.

Trust me, I know.  I get it.  But it's not like that.  You have to trust me.  What have you got to lose?
Trust me, I know. I get it. But it's not like that. You have to trust me. What have you got to lose?

So this article is for you people out there who, in this economy where money is tight and it’s harder to afford to do things you’d like to do, could stand something fun, new and affordable in your lives. It’s for people who saw Magic and saw the Dungeons & Dragons look to the game and “knew” immediately it was not for you. You judged the book by its cover (and I confess, I don’t really blame you, some of those “D&D type guys”, the fantasy geeks are, well, … yeah, anyway… I totally get why you blew it off) but in this ONE instance, you missed out. You don’t have to like fantasy stuff to like this game anymore than you have to like little wooden nothing-shapes to like chess or than you have to like diamonds, hearts, clovers and shovel-looking things to like any of the card games you already play. It’s the game that is either good or bad. Not the images on the cards. This is an awesome game. You will love it, get hooked on it, and have something wonderful to do in the evenings, on weekends and over rainy days and gloomy trips. And it's only like seven bucks to have enough to start. Where else can you get hundreds of hours, even thousands of hours of fun for seven bucks? You can't even take yourself to a movie, alone, for that.

I didn't write this hub for the millions of dollars I'm going to make off people buying the cards from my links. Frankly, you should go to a card shop and look around and buy them there; it's more fun that way. I'm writing this because you will love the game if you give an honest chance. You'll thank me. I'm sure of it.

Get over the fantasy thing and go buy a deck.

(I've written a "buying tips" and "game overview" and included them below the Amazon capsules for anyone interested in just a little more detail. I have also included a link to a much more detailed hub as well.)

A Brief Overview

I will follow this hub up with a more in depth discussion of play (Click this Link to Go to Game Playing Tips Hub), but this is just a short introduction in case you are totally in the dark about what the game is:

Magic is a card game that plays sort of like chess. You have “pieces” that you play, and your opponent(s) play counter “pieces” and you battle it out – except the pieces are cards. There are lots of different card types and an awesomely fun part of this game is building the deck that you play in any given round.

Each player starts out with a set amount of “life.” The object of the game is to play cards down onto the table, and then, use them like chess pieces, using each card’s special ability, it’s Magic, to go after the opposing “kings” or "magicians" who are your opponents. Unlike chess, you can have as many opponents as you want and use as many, or as few, pieces as you want. You can make teams of two-on-two, or three-on-three… whatever you are in the mood to do.

What makes the game so fun is the game mechanics. There are tricks and requirements to getting cards from your hand (which are not “real” they are only “spells”) down onto the table where they become “real” parts of your “army” and other really fun sorts of things. What follows is a fabulous exchange of attacks and counters and counter-counters so cleverly designed and surprising that the game is never the same two games in a row. It’s a little complicated to learn, the first couple of games can be confusing as hell, but the joy of play is well worth the effort of the learning curve.

Buying Tips

If you order online, buy two or three of the basic starter decks. If you want to have a little feel of the “Christmas morning gift-opening fun” buy a few booster packs too, but you don’t need them. Two starter decks and two or three booster packs is a nice way to begin.

If you go to a card shop (comic shops, baseball card shops, some book stores and video game shops often sell the game: call first and ask), you will find “starter decks” and “booster packs.” Some shops will even have some decks already made up and ready to play. Ask the person behind the counter to help you get started, and don’t let them talk you into any fancy cards. You don’t need them. Yet. (Once you get addicted, well, … It’s ON! As they say.) You only need enough cards for you and a friend or two to play. Having super powerful cards changes absolutely nothing in the game experience, and my wife and I had just as much fun starting out fighting with badgers and long tusked boars as we do now fighting with twelve-headed hydras and dragons the size of Boeing jets.

In Closing

As you can tell, I really love this game. I’m not as devoted a player as I was eighteen years ago, but I still play it several times a year with my teenagers and their friends (I’ve even been told I qualify as a “cool parent” a time or two - don't worry, I won’t hold them to that opinion), and sometimes I still play with my wife. I will be glad to answer any questions you have about game play or help you through the learning curve if you want leave questions on either this hub or the more detailed one I have linked. I hope you and your friends can get as much joy out of this game as we have. Introducing it to those of you who have perhaps thought nothing of it in the past is my gift to you: a gift of fun in times where affordable fun is needed most. Enjoy.

(Thanks to Richard Goutal for the idea)

The Galactic Mage (top 10 best seller on for Fantasy AND for Science Fiction)


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Comments 36 comments

pgrundy 7 years ago

OK, I totally would have blown this article off if it was anybody except you, so now I feel compelled to try this. Bill plays chess and I always lose, of course, so I'm thinking perhaps (with my weird brain) this might be a game I could possibly sometimes win maybe sort of, or if I didn't at least the pictures would be cool.

I don't get paid until Monday though, but as soon as I do, I'm totally going to give it a shot and I will order the deck from here too. I owe you one anyhoo.

Thanks. I think.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

You'll love it. And I owe you help if you get confused at first... fair's fair. And yeah, I think you'll have an excellent chance of beating him because the strategies aren't all just "math." There's timing and patience (and when you get better, how you pick the cards you put into your playing deck).

I'm excited to hear how it goes for you.

dineane profile image

dineane 7 years ago from North Carolina

I'm with Pam....only bookmarking this one cuz You're the Man. And I seriously need some fun around here!

Christoph Reilly profile image

Christoph Reilly 7 years ago from St. Louis

You make a strong case for the game. Maybe I'll try it someday.

Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 7 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

Never played the game. You make it sound interesting.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Dineane, thanks. I hope you get around to checking it out. It's one of those things like going swimming in the spring... you have to make yourself jump into the water, but once you're in, it's just fun.

C.R. You should. But knowing your luck, you'll be shuffling the cards one day and, like dry sticks, they'll burst into flame. (lol, wtf with u and fire?)

Sandy - Thanks Sandy. I was tempted to write "It is interesting" but then thought, man, I really sound like I'm on commission or something here. lol. So, I'll just say thanks again. :)

rongould profile image

rongould 7 years ago

My teen son got me started playing. He and his friends would play 2 to 10 or 12 like you said. It got a bit chaotic. When he moved away, no one was interested, so I put the cards away. I'll have to go dig them out and see if I can find others who might be interested... Thanks! I had forgotten how much fun the game is.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Hah, yeah, it's a fun game. And it's fun to revisit even after you overplay it for a long time once you give it a rest. Still, those first couple of years, man, so fun.

Aya_Hajime profile image

Aya_Hajime 7 years ago

Hey Shades - I am insulted - nothing wrong with the D&D crowd! :)

Actually, even though I consider myself to be fairly into fantasy games, I have never tried Magic. Maybe I will try it out now since it comes so highly recommended by you.

There is just too little time, and too many games :)

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Well, I would never admit to being the greatest DM of all time. I mean, obviously, if I was, which, clearly, I wouldn't have been, but if I was, I mean, then I obviously wouldn't admit it.

It's worth checking out. Even if you grab a couple of decks while you're thinking about it and let them sit till that day some day where you need something to do and spot them again... and be all.. HEY! Let's try it.

Aya_Hajime profile image

Aya_Hajime 7 years ago

LOL - I think I will be more motivated if I'm all like - HEY! - maybe that cutie, DM Shades will come over and play Magic with me, and we will be like having so much like fun - you know? ;)

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Oh yeah... I run the kinkiest campaigns too... our games are laughter, debauchery and ROLE playing, not roLL playing. :D

Am I dead, yet? 7 years ago

I have yet to get into the 'Magic' series cards. I love to 'role play' games on the computer so hub has gotten me rather curious, I have to look into it.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Well, I hope you check it out. The thing I'm mostly trying to do though is to get people to realize that the fantasy, or the role play... the "magic" is overshadowing the fact that the game itself is so good. This game would be just as great with a Wild West theme or a WWII theme or modern business world theme or... whatever. Anyway, hope you get to it. It's good times.

B.T. Evilpants profile image

B.T. Evilpants 7 years ago from Hell, MI

No way I'm tryin this nerd game! I'm too busy getting sized for my Star Trek Convention outfit. I get to be a Starfleet Commander this year!

Actually, there's a popular hangout near my house that's entirely devoted to this game. I've never been there, but I always thought it looked...interesting. I'll still never go there, but I'll probably try out the game, just because Shadesbreath said so.

gamergirl profile image

gamergirl 7 years ago from Antioch, TN

Wow. Great hub!! :D

Now I want to break out my 4,000 or so cards and make some decks!!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

LOL @ u BT. That place probably has as high a nerd factor as a Star Trek convention... in fact, they may all be wearing their Star Fleet Commander outfits while they play. lol. You'll have fun if you find some normal people to play with though.

How long ago did you play, Gamergirl?

gamergirl profile image

gamergirl 7 years ago from Antioch, TN

Ah heck, I've been playing since '95 or so..

Aya_Hajime profile image

Aya_Hajime 7 years ago

lol Shades - what qualifies as a "normal person" for a jackalope?

Btw. sign me up for that evening of debauchery and ROLE playing. Not too many normal people I hope ;)

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Excellent point, Aya. What was I thinking? And, you are now on the list. There are no normal people, although a couple who get close on occasion. We watch them very closely though.

gamergirl profile image

gamergirl 7 years ago from Antioch, TN

I'm only going to show up if everyone knows what THAC0 is.

B.T. Evilpants profile image

B.T. Evilpants 7 years ago from Hell, MI

Hmmm. I would guess it means "to hit armor class zero". Oh who am I kidding? I had to google it. I guess I'm out.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

LOL Hey, I started in 79 when there was no THACO. We saw that as over simplifying. Third edition was easier yet. No clue what they're up to now.

Lezardious profile image

Lezardious 7 years ago from Las Vegas

Sorry I gave up on this game was people got obsessed over it... "1 TURN WIN!?" that ruined the game for me... I was all over using human+slivers... but that meant nothing coming from the world and their "1 turn win" nonsence... but it was fun I must say... I give magic the gathering a 3.5/5 score, worth playing... not worth getting obsessed... you'll just lose. xD

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 7 years ago from California Author

Yeah, Lezard, anything that gets obsesses over tends to unravel. My son started coming home with these indestructable cards that made it kind of boring. Not quite the same as the "one turn win" you talk about, which I am also familiar with and agree with you on... but still similar. He devoted a lot of time to finding a bunch of those cards and it became a game of, hurry and try to get him before he pulls out all his untouchable cards. Imagine chess with an indestructable queen. Not fun. We just told him he can play those cards, and all was good again. :)

Richard Goutal 6 years ago

I haven't been at hubpages for a while, but let me thank you for the link to my hubpage. I am glad it gave you an idea for this page!

Now let me mention another idea relative to family game time.(Not alas about "Magic" because I have not played it.) But I remember one Christmas holiday, when my 3 daughters were still young and living at home (roughly grades 5, 8, and 11) and my mother-in-law was, as usual, with us for the holidays as well... I wanted to find a way to get us all interacting, playing games, instead of all doing our own things. So I came up with a contest that ended at midnight New Years Eve. Throughout the week you could challenge anyone (or several) to a game of your choice. I had posted a long list of the board games and card games available with a point value for each game. If you won, you'd win the challenge and get the points. (I can't remember other rules) The grand prize was a $50 shopping certificate at the mall! I can tell you it all worked quite well and we had a lot of fun that year. Of course, I had consolation prizes for everyone.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

What an awesome idea, Richard. I love the way you think! That would be fun... If I did that around here, it would be all about Magic lol, have to change up the rules some to force some variety, but fun could be had with old school games (Monopoly and Chess etc.) fit in with new ones like Guitar Hero, Wii games, and, of course, Magic.

And you're welcome for the link, I appreciated the idea.

billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

Great hub - my boys will be ready for this game. Cheers.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Billy, Austin and Dillon will enjoy. You might too. :)

Lamme profile image

Lamme 6 years ago

Thanks for this hub Shadesbreath, I think this is something my kids would enjoy.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

I bet they will. Bet you would too. I do admit that it takes a few games to learn though. My oldest son met a girl four or five months ago and they've been dating since. Needless to say, she was forced to play (lol). Well, guess who is a little Magic addict now. :)

oliversmum profile image

oliversmum 6 years ago from australia

Shadesbreath. Hi. Wow this sounds like a fabulous game, A lot more interesting than some others around at this time.

Until I read your hub I had not heard of this game called Magic.

Now we will have a more interesting game to play with our Grand daughter, who at the moment changes the rules to suit her mood, on any board or card game that we may be playing.

Thank you for sharing this game with us. :) :)

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California Author

Hi Oliversmum. The rules are, in a way, the "pieces" in the game anyway, so, she might be a perfect candidate for it. Either that or she'll drive you to drinking. :D

Mark 4 years ago

As an aspiring professional Magic player, you hit the nail on the head. This is genuinely a fantastic game, and really, really cheap if you don't play competitively. Thanks so much for writing this.

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 4 years ago from California Author

Wow, Mark, I know a couple of guys who are heavy into it. That's some serious dedication, and, WOAH do you need an epic memory! I totally wish you luck, and, world champion or not, I know you're going to have a ball.

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 17 months ago from California Gold Country

Shades, I don't know if you still come to HubPages..... I was reading some of your hubs and saw this.

My son,Carl Frank, is a F& SF artist and he did a few cards for Magic a few years ago. Actually he just recently got back to them with some new art in the past few months. You can search his name with "illustration" or "Magic cards" .or something similar.

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