Magic: The Gathering (MTG) started a revolution in 1993. Richard Garfield created the collectible "trading card game" (TCG), in which each player constructs their own game deck with cards they choose. Often, crafting your deck is more interesting and addictive (and costly) than actual gameplay. MTG has straightforward rules but each card has exceptions, rule modifications printed on the card. This makes the game expandable, but easy to learn since the players only need to know the basic rules. All the new rules are on the card.
However, the collectible nature of TCGs is also a barrier. You have to buy either a pre-built deck or build your own, then find an opponent with a deck as well. This requires lots of commitment. Here is the solution for those who want to give MTG a try with minimal effort--Magarena. I looked at three out of the four free MTG fanwares and recommend Magarena as the best overall. Magarena is easy for beginners because it explains each step of gameplay and highlights playable cards. Other fanwares explain little, and offer no visual cues. Here is the breakdown:
- Forge: Java--has the largest library of 7,500 cards in high resolution. Has several different AI-tuned decks, making it great for serious players.
- Magarena: Java--Best overall. Strong AI and great interface. 500 cards library.
- MagMa: Windows--In Italian. Do not know the language but read that UI is difficult. 3,700 cards library.
- Wagic: Linux/PSP/Windows--easy interface but no in-game explanations. 6,000 cards library but cards are pure text, no graphics. Homebrew Sony PSP support.
Since the aforementioned games are unlicensed, the card images are downloaded separately and furthermore Magarena does not even mention MTG; rather, it is "based on a very popular fantasy card game."