Even though, as my partner commented with no little disgust the other day, I seem to be becoming ever-more geeky as I age, I've managed to pass 33 years of life without ever playing/understanding Magic: The Gathering. So it is that the demo of Stainless' new Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 has been my first experience of the deathless collectible card game. It didn't take long for me to develop a profound and frightening understanding of just why so many people are so drawn to and sucked into this cardboard crack and its digital variant.
It's gambling, isn't it? Highly strategic gambling. That certain belief that you know best, but the cruel and capricious whims of fate can undo your confidence and your strategy in an instant. To this game's - or at least its demo's - great credit I don't feel the hollow, distracting oddness of playing with pretend cards. The cards are the cards, and even though the slightly clunky interface has a tendency to get in the way, this digital cardboard feels incredibly precious.
I realise I'm probably preaching to the perverted here, but Magic's rules, which I've hitheto feared from afar, seem complicated but quickly sensible, and rigid enough that I immediately decided my AI opponent must be cheating when the tide turned against me (he wasn't, but getting three dispel cards in a row just wasn't fair). Could have done without the demo crashing upon my eventual victory and thus denying me my first scalp and associated extra card, but PC games eh?
So, not 100% on the UI but DotP '13 seems to have nailed the most important element - a sense of real competition, and the attendant utter loathing of one's opponents.
I'm sorely tempted to pick up the full game now, though I'm genuinely afraid that will entail waving goodbye to the next fortnight of my life and - God forbid - lurking on eBay at silly hours of the morning looking for bargain-priced real-world starter decks. MUST NOT.
The demo can be grabbed from the right-hand side of this Steam page, and comes in at about 1.4 of those gigglebike things.