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Game Review

Magic: The Gathering

Ages 10 and up
Wizards of the Coast
Game © 1993,1994 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
game in play
Uncle's Games link

2+ Players30+ minutes


You are a wizard who wants to control the world -- rival wizards have the same goal. Wage a battle of spell casting, to determine the strongest wizard.


Build a spell library from the cards. Each player starts with 20 life points. To begin play, each player shuffles their library deck, then places it face down in front of them. Players draw the top seven cards. Players choose who goes first by coin toss (or other method like rock-paper-scissors.)

Each players turn plays as follows:

  1. Untap

  2. Upkeep

  3. Draw a card from the library

  4. Put land into play; cast spells; and/or attack your opponent

  5. Discard down to seven cards in your hand (only if you have more than 7)

  6. Inform opponent that you are done

  7. Heal creatures

Seems simple, right? It is if you understand the terms above.

To cast a spell, you need to have the proper amount of spell points known as "Mana." You get "Mana" from land -- So you have to play land cards before you can cast a spell. Different land types give you different colors of "Mana:" Islands give blue mana; Plains give white; Mountains yield red; Forest is green; and Swamps have black.

When you have land in play, and you want to use it to get mana, you "Tap" the card by turning it sideways. That shows that it cannot be used again for this turn. (Remember, everything "untaps" at the start of the next turn.) You may then cast spells or summon monsters.

When you first summon a monster, it can't attack until your next turn. But if you had summoned a monster in an earlier turn, you can send it to smite your opponent. To do so, you tap the monster card and inform your opponent. If your opponent has any monsters that are not tapped, those monsters can try to block yours. As monsters and spells are cast to damage your opponent, you have to remember to keep a defense ready -- your opponent will get to attack you next!

Certain monsters and/or spells cost extra "Mana" each turn, this is called upkeep. The cards will tell you how it works as you play.

The game ends when one player runs out of life points or out of spells.

An opponent's setup...

Winning Conditions:

  • The player who still has life points at the end of the game wins.

  • The player who still has spells left in his/her library deck wins.

  • The 'Zombie Master' -- A personal favorite ;-)

    Our Opinion:

    Thumbs Up! "Magic: The Gathering" is a collectible card game. This means that if you want to play it well, you will have to spend a lot of money to get all of the cards you want. It is pretty obvious that two beginners with just starter decks are fairly equal in ability, but when you play against someone who has constructed a deck and spent a lot of time and money, the player with the starter deck will almost certainly lose.

    All of the zombies enjoy playing this game -- if you have the money to get more cards, the game stays interesting and fun no matter how many times you play it.

    Be warned: this game can severly hurt your bank account. Starter decks give you 60 cards -- booster packs give about 10 or so. In each edition of Magic: The Gathering there are at least 300 different spells! To get all of any one edition costs a lot of money.

    This game is very well designed. The artwork on each card is gorgeous. The randomized rare cards in each deck is true marketing genius, and best of all it keeps the spell casting fantasy fun. Further, there are so many spells that there is no one winning strategy -- it all depends upon who you are battling against and how well shuffled their deck is.

    While I seem to fawn over this game in the above statements, the fact that it is a collectible card game has severe drawbacks, too. As I noted, a beginner cannot play well against an established player. Players can buy extremely good spell libraries, so it can be very discouraging when you play some of the hard-core collectors of the game.

    All in all, we recommend it -- but try not to become an addict. There really is more to life than this game.

    Where to buy:

    Any local toy store, hobby store or game store. Starter decks cost about $10. There are new package deals out for two players, prices vary.

    Uncle's Games link

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