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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.
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.
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.)
Booster packs to buff up your starter deck
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.
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.
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)
- Magic: The Gathering in more detail
My follow-up hub with some advice for getting started (inculdes illustrations).
Do you like to READ good fantasy?
Check out my latest novel, The Galactic Mage. Fantasy has been floundering about for the last several years, but the new Galactic Mage series underway puts fantasy back on track. Come have a look at least; what else have you got to do.