Games

Rogue: Magic Multi-Player Variant

by Ron Vitale

Published on Brainburst.com, July 17, 2002

Rogue: Magic Multi-Player Variant

by Ron Vitale

Well, I've ranted a bit about Wizard of the Coast's losing the general Magic audience and the dismal future of the game, but now I'd like to focus on a fun variant that's been around for years. I have never seen an article written on this group player variant before, and although I'm not the game's originator, I thought it would be enjoyable for Magic players to sit down with their friends and have some summer fun!

There Can Be Only One

Rogue is a fairly simple game. Imagine sitting down at a table with four to nine other players. Add intrigue, manipulation, and bluffing all together, and you come up with the game of Rogue. There can be only one winner in Rogue. Each man or woman is out for him or herself. I recently taught a group how to play this variant at a local comic shop and we had about two hours of fun with one game. The Players were able to pick the rules up in five minutes of explaining, and the enjoyment factor was extremely high. Even those who were knocked out of the game early enjoyed watching from the sidelines as the game unfolded.

A typical game can consist of anywhere from 4 to 9 players. Before the start of the game, Players must agree to the style of play (Type I, Type II, or Extended, etc.) and a limit on card deck size. Since the game is a casual game, I would recommend that the minimum deck size be raised to 80 cards. After the group has decided on the basics, each player takes two identical cards (not of their deck) that will represent them in the game and puts one of them face down in the center of the table and the other face up in front of his/her library.

(see Figure 1 below.)

Typically, Players choose to be represented by a card they enjoy playing (I normally use a Counterspell). Note that two players cannot use the same card. Since the card represents the individual Player in the game, you cannot have two people having the same card. These cards are simply markers and cannot be used in the game in any other way.

Next, choose one Player to shuffle up, face down, the cards in the center of the table. To recap: Each Player has two identical cards. These cards represent them in the game. She takes one of those cards and puts it into the pile at the center of the table face down and places the other card in front of her library face up. Got that? Once the Player has shuffled the face down cards, she asks each Player to draw a card and look at it. Players cannot, at this point in the game, show the card to any other Player. The drawn card represents the person you can attack in the game. To break this down into a real life example, let's say that there are five players in the game. Player 1 is represented by a Plains, Player 2 by a Swamp, Player 3 by an Island, Player 4 by a Forest, and Player 5 by a Mountain. After each Player draws a card, the results are (see Figure 2):

Player 1 (Plains): Swamp
Player 2 (Swamp): Forest
Player 3 (Island): Island
Player 4 (Forest): Mountain
Player 5 (Mountain): Plains

Follow me so far? Here's the breakdown of what this means: Player 1 (Plains) can only attack Player 2 (Swamp), Player 2 (Swamp) can only attack Player 4 (Forest), Player 3 (Island) is the Rogue (who can attack anyone) because she drew her own card, Player 4 (Forest) can attack Player 5 (Mountain), and last, but surely not least, Player 5 (Mountain) can attack Player 1 (Plains). Again, at this point in the game, Players cannot reveal their cards to each other. They take their cards and hide them, face down, out of sight.

Playing the Game

After rolling dice to see who goes first, each Player draws seven cards, and then draws an eighth on the first turn. Play from here on in mostly resembles a normal Magic game. Unlike some Magic variants, Players can't share mana or block creatures attacking another Player. The tricky part of the Rogue game is to stay alive. A typical game of Rogue develops into several rounds of buildup as Players prepare their forces to attack. In all the games of Rogue that I have played, I have never seen a creatureless deck. Since you will most likely need to take out several people in the game, having creatures to do damage (or to block incoming attacks) is almost a must.

Let's jump the timeline and see further into the game. After five rounds of buildup, most Players have built up a sizeable force. Several creatures are out on the table and everyone is trying to figure out who is the Rogue. There could be more than one Rogue in the game. The best games I have played consist of only one or two Rogues. Why is it good to be the Rogue? Again, this person has the ability to attack anyone on the table. In the example we used above, Player 3 is the Rogue. On her turn, she decides to attack Player 1 (Plains). She declares her attack, waits for Players to respond to her declaring an attack, and then slides, face down, the card she picked before the game started over to Player 1 (see Figure 3).

Only Player 1 should see this card. Upon looking at it, he sees that she drew the Island and is a Rogue. Again, all Players leave their "representative" card face up in front of their library. The card drawn to see who you can attack is hidden face down out of the way. (In a good game of Rogue, Player 1 would keep quiet and not tell anyone that Player 3 is the Rogue, but, alas, sometimes Players can't keep a secret.)

Player 3 (Island) attacks with two of her creatures and Player 1 (Plains) chooses to take damage. On Player 1's next turn (see Figure 4), he is given one round of retaliation against Player 3.

Thus, on his turn, Player 1 opts to attack with a Serra Angel and do 4 points of damage to Player 3. Because Player 1's attack is in retaliation, he does not need to show his card to Player 3, but if he chose to attack Player 2 (Swamp) instead, then he would need to show his face down card to Player 2. When Player 3 takes her next turn, she realizes that if she keeps attacking Player 1 that she's not going to win the game. Since she's a Rogue and knows that only another Rogue can attack her, it is in her best interest to sit back and wreck havoc with other Players.

What You Can and Cannot Do

The game of Rogue is structured so that you are forced to attack only the person whose card you have (unless you're the Rogue). If you have an Incinerate or other single target player spell, you cannot cast that spell on any Player other than the person whose card you have. Thus, Player 1 (Plains) can only target Player 2 (Swamp) unless he gets a one round of retaliation from being attacked by the person who has his card (or the Rogue). Blanket spells such as Hurricane or Earthquake affect all Players. Players might agree ahead of time to restrict the number of such cards in their decks to make the game more exciting. Your group will need to decide on this. I would also suggest that all cards that offer an alternate form of winning be banned from the game (see Figure 5).

To complicate matters (and thus make the game more exciting), anyone can target the permanents of all Players. Let's break that down: Each Player can destroy, steal, burn, (or even counter) any permanent in play (or coming into play). You just can't target a Player whose card you do not have (again, unless you're the Rogue). In the example we've used so far, Player 5 (Mountain) can pick a person to annoy and burn every creature he casts. Maybe he doesn't like the color of the shirt that Player 1 is wearing so he picks on him. It doesn't matter. He can burn Player 1's permanents until his heart's content. But to clarify the rules, Player 5 (Mountain) cannot target Player 2 directly with a spell unless it's a retaliation attack (or he later obtains the Swamp card).

What does this do for the game? It creates chaos! Typically, one Player will start to bluff and try to restrict another opponent's progress in the game. I've attacked my opponent (whose card I had) only to have another Player cast a Fog and stop my attack. When such moves are made, a Player need wonder: Does that person have my card? Is he out to get me? Or is he the Rogue and can attack anyone?

Life Gain and Scooping Up the Cards

If you defeat (lower to 0 life or run out of cards) the opponent whose card you have, you gain 5 life and get to take his hidden, face down card. (If you're a Rogue, you can kill anyone you want and still gain the card and the 5 life.) After you kill your opponent and obtain her card, you're then able to attack that new person (or if you're lucky, you will have killed the person who had your card and you become a Rogue).

After the game has progressed, there will be times in which a stalemate occurs. Players might have killed each other to a point in which no one else can attack. Depending on how cutthroat your group is, you can end the game and state that everyone left alive is a winner (Nah!), or play more aggressive, and open the game to being a free-for-all. In my group, we never ended the game until there was only one person left.

Strategy, Schmategy

As in any multi-player game, the Rogue variant demands that a Player watch her resources and reserve energy for the long haul. Yes, you can come out with guns blazing and kill your opponent, but you attract the Rogue's wrath or leave yourself open to the Player who has your card. For the purpose of everyone's enjoyment, I'd also suggest that your group ban the showing of cards among Players. Players can only show whose card they have when they attack and can never show their cards in hand to another Player. If a Player has a Giant Growth and wants to use it on your creature to save it from dying, then she needs to say that openly. The strategy involved in playing the game can bring great fun back to your Magic games. Not only do you need to find out who is out to get you, but you need to play and make your own decisions in regard to who you will and will not help throughout the course of the game. Holding an Incinerate in your hand isn't going to let you win, if you could have used that card to kill the Rogue's remaining defending creature so that another Player could have killed the Rogue in a retaliation attack.

On the flip side of the coin, if you're the Rogue, don't announce this fact. If you begin to attack everyone on the table, you've made a room full of enemies. Bide your time, build up your resources and pick one target to attack. Picking on the weakest Player might serve you best. Remember, you'll gain another 5 life if you knock that Player out of the game. Be ruthless, but remember not to overextend your resources. Dropping all your creatures onto the board to kill a Player and then having the next Player cast a Wrath of god will wreck you.

The Deck's the Thing

In being successful at this game, you need to be resourceful and build a deck that's able to withstand the long haul. Playing a Sligh deck of 60 cards might help you kill one opponent, but what will you do when the Player who's out to get you plays a Wrath of god and then drops out a Protection from Red creature? It's important to build a balanced deck. More importantly, your group needs to decide upon a play style. My friends and I started playing back in the days of Unlimited. We've decided to play Type 1 with a minimum of 90 card decks. Why? If you've never tried such a large deck, give it a shot. It might seem foreign playing with so many cards at once, but there's some great fun to be had. Whatever your group decides, make certain that everyone sticks to the rules. If you would rather play T2, Sealed, or Extended, then go for it.

Here's a listing of the deck I typically use.

Blue:

Clone x 4
Time Walk
Timetwister
Hurkyl's Recall
Mana Drain
Force of Will x 4
Dissipate x 4
Counterspell x 4
Zephid x 3
Treachery x 3

Green:

Hurricane x 2
Regrowth
Multani, Maro-Sorcerer x 2

Gold:

Iridescent Angel

White:

Balance
Land Tax
Spirit Link x 2
Serra Angel x 4
Archangel
White Knight x 2
Disenchant x 2
Sword to Plowshares x 4

Artifacts:

Zuran Orb
Tawnos's Coffin
Icy Manipulator x 3
Mercadian Atlas x 2
Planar Portal
Sol Ring

Land:

Forest x 5
Plains x 7
Island x 13
Savannah x 4
Tropical Island x 4
Tundra x 4
Karakas
Maze of Ith
Strip Mine

Next, choose one Player to shuffle up, face down, the cards in the center of the table. To recap: Each Player has two identical cards. These cards represent them in the game. She takes one of those cards and puts it into the pile at the center of the table face down and places the other card in front of her library face up. Got that? Once the Player has shuffled the face down cards, she asks each Player to draw a card and look at it. Players cannot, at this point in the game, show the card to any other Player. The drawn card represents the person you can attack in the game. To break this down into a real life example, let's say that there are five players in the game. Player 1 is represented by a Plains, Player 2 by a Swamp, Player 3 by an Island, Player 4 by a Forest, and Player 5 by a Mountain. After each Player draws a card, the results are (see Figure 2: click on the image for the full size):

It's not the best, it's not perfect, but it's loads of fun to play. This deck of mine was originally built almost nine years ago and has evolved to the point it is at now. Take a look at the style behind it and pay particular attention to my choice of cards. Certain cards such as Counterspell, Swords to Plowshares, and Balance are a must. My finisher card is a Hurricane. Many times I've been able to pull off a Hurricane to win the game. If you don't own these types of cards in your collection, play Rogue with whatever cards you and your friends have. Once you give it a try, I think you'll enjoy it. Have fun!

The Code: A Path to Winning in Magic

Published on Brainburst.com, August 19, 2002

The Code: A Path to Winning in Magic

by Ron Vitale

Magic is a game of skill, luck, and a Code of conduct. No matter if you play Black, the color of evil, or chaotic Red, the game of Magic gels around an unspoken Code of conduct. In today's world, we live in an ethical climate in which truthfulness is ignored. Companies such as Enron and Worldcom have falsified their earning records, major athletes use steroids, and more to the average Magic Players' age-level, fellow students cheat on their tests and plagiarize passages in their research papers. What does this have to do with Magic? The game of Magic also has rules and regulations. Without these rules, there would be no structure. How we adhere to those rules and follow a Code of conduct mirrors our personal values to the world.

Let's look at a real world situation. You are at a pre-release and your opponent beats you soundly. You shake hands and go off to report your loss. But what if I were to tell you that your opponent had cheated by adding some cards to his deck? Think it hasn't happened? Think again. Over the last several years there have been some big scandals in the Magic world surrounding misconduct and outright cheating in the tournament scene. I propose that each of us strengthen our Code of conduct in our daily Magic playing. Just as we shuffle our decks and we play our cards, I am suggesting that we, as Players, focus on the importance of using the Code to better our games. In playing Magic, we are not only playing against an opponent but also against ourselves. We have to continually challenge ourselves to: Learn the rules, practice, be honest, and to be wary of our opponent.

The Goal

The purpose of having a Code of conduct is to be honorable and open. Sound lame? Maybe, but hear me out. There's more to the Code than you might think. When you play a game of Magic, list in your head the goals of the match. Are you out to get revenge against someone? Are you looking just to have a good time? Do you want to win at all costs? There have been moments in which I have felt all of these emotions and I believe that they are all important. No matter how good we are, Magic is about winning and losing. It's a game with a goal that we spend a lot of time learning, preparing for, and practicing. But when we can't achieve a win, many turn to being a poor loser. Losing our temper is not going to solve the problem. Rather, if we act inappropriately, we'll lose our friends and our concentration level for the next match. How to solve this problem? I would suggest that you hold your goal in mind before you start the game. If you're looking to pull off some crazy group deck combo, then maybe your goal is to have more fun than winning. Maybe you've built a deck in which you can't win, but are trying to end the game as a draw. Or, if you're in a State Qualifier, you're out to win. You don't care about anything else but that. This is fine, but remember to hold your goal in sight. Focus on the goal and concentrate on achieving it.

What does this mean? It might sound fairly simple, but how often have you been at 1 life and you've given up hope. You're about to lose and want to concede. What should you do in this circumstance? Never give up. Of course, because of a lack of time it might be in your best interest to concede so you can move on to the next game. But if this is not the circumstance, then it's important to not give up hope. Why? It is always possible to pull off a win at 1 life.

Another important trait tied into holding your goal in mind is to be fearless. Never allow your opponent to see you sweat. Even if you are at 1 life and holding land in your hand, do not show fear or concern. I read of one match where a Player conceded because he had lost hope, but his next card would have won him the game. Again, focus on your goal and stick to it.

Cheaters Never Prosper

I've seen people sneak cards in their decks, trade away counterfeit cards, and even lie about the rules to a Scrub. At the end of the day, if you have to cheat to win, then I can only say this of you: You are sad. Pitiful even. Each of us must choose to take the high road or the low road in playing Magic. You can cheat or be cheated by someone else. How much more enjoyable a game is in which neither Player needs to cheat to win! Closely tied to cheating is the discipline to learn how to deal with adversity. From my perspective, I force myself to stick to a strict set of rules. If playing with a friend and am screwed for land, I'll take a Paris Mulligan even when my friend wants me to reshuffle and draw 7. I'll adhere to the rules to see how well I'd do. When I'm playing in a tournament, my opponent is not going to allow me to reshuffle and draw 7. Discipline helps you learn how to win under real life situations. If my deck can't handle this, then I need to rebuild it. How would I ever know this if I kept taking the easy way out and reshuffled to draw 7 cards when land screwed?

Take my example to the extreme and think about how much more a victory will mean if you do not cheat or bend the rules. Going home at the end of the day and knowing that you beat the best Players fair and square is a wonderful feeling. There's something to be said about that type of victory. Or, if you'd rather be like a steroid-playing athlete who cheats his fellow Players, go ahead-just don't go crying when the DCI suspends you or you lose your friends. Magic is a social game. What you do to another Player affects your name and reputation. No matter if you're a Scrub or a Pro, adhere to the rules and be kind.

Let me expound on this. Many Players tend to put on that hard shell exterior to scare an opponent or to psych them out during a duel. That's fine, but remember not to cheat and be sociable enough to shake the Player's hand and introduce yourself at the beginning of the match.

The Bluff

I believe in utilizing mind games in Magic to help you win, but remember that there is a fine line between cheating and playing fair. Here's a common play of mine: My opponent casts a spell and I don't have a Counterspell. I look at the cards in my hand, think for a moment and say, "I choose not to counter." My opponent can interpret this bit of information in many ways. Possibly I don't have a counter and I'm bluffing, maybe I have a counter but I'm waiting for a better card to counter, or maybe I just don't plain know what I'm doing and my skill level shows my opponent that I'm a Scrub. Is this cheating? No. But if I were to tap my lands, pretend I'm countering, and then "change my mind," I would consider that cheating.

Mind games are legal, in my mind, because these moves deal with the strategy aspect of the game. When I'm playing Blue, I tend to tap my lands in such a way so that I clearly leave two untapped Islands next to each other. I like for the two untapped Islands to announce to my opponent: Remember, I have a Counterspell-even if I don't. Or, if I'm trying to be sneaky, I'll leave one Island untapped on the left of my lands, and an Underground River untapped on the right. These subtle plays force my opponent to watch and learn from my playing habits. If she is not observant, then she will fall into my trap. But understand me: I do not condone illegal plays such as hiding a land under another so an opponent cannot see how many land you truly have left untapped. I do not believe in cheating, but in bluffing and in making your opponent think.

Be One with the Code

Years ago I read a several part article in The Duelist concerning the "Art of War" and comparing this oriental philosophy with current day Magic playing. Essentially, the article described how a warrior prepares mentally for an upcoming battle. The mental preparation for a serious Magic duel is the same. A Player needs to concentrate on winning, to hold that goal in one's mind, and to control one's temper when a loss appears imminent. By not cheating and adhering to the rules, a Player can better his or her playing skills and find the true path to victory. A false victory, one obtained through cheating, is not a true win. On paper it might appear that way, but when a cheater needs to succeed in the future, his skills will be lacking. Magic is about mastering the rules of the game, focusing on the strategy involved, and in utilizing bluffing and observing skills to obtain a win.

When I first played Magic, I learned to attack first and then play other creatures after the attack phase. Most new Players never do this. But think about the strategy involved in such game play. Holding back your resources forces your opponent to act or react with limited knowledge. If you attack with all your creatures and play a Giant Growth to kill one of his blocking creatures, your opponent might counter your spell. After your attack, you then might have forced your opponent to waste his Counterspell so that you can now win the game with a well-timed Hurricane. Baiting an opponent to overstretch his or her resources is a legitimate tactic and is closely tied to bluffing. Remember to pay attention to your resources, your bluffing, cards in play, and your opponent's playing strategy. Do all this and you'll be well on the way to success.

Summing It Up

How would I define the Code of conduct? In as few words as possible: Know your goal, remain positive no matter what, follow the rules of the game, and utilize legal strategies (bluffing and resource allocation) to your advantage. These steps will help you become a better Magic Player. Practice being honest, yet discerning in the information you allow your opponent to see, and you will find a path to better Magic games. The Code I propose is not one blindly followed, but a path filled with discipline, ethical choices, practice, concentration, and embracement of the metagame. Following the Code enables you to strengthen your skills, teaches you bluffing and resource allocation techniques, and improves your concentration level. Play by the Code and you will thrive as a Magic Player in ways you did not think possible.

Revitalize Magic Content: Create a Podcast!

by Ron Vitale

(Originally Posted on MTGSalvation.com May 11, 2005)

I’ve been playing Magic for over 11 years now and I’ve read “The Duelist,” “Scrye,” “Inquest,” StarCity Games articles, and Magicthegathering.com, just to name a few.  But you know what?  We Magic players are behind the times.  We need something new and exciting to help the hobby advance to the next level.  But don’t panic, I have a solution.

Think about what it might have been like to watch color television for the first time.  Or think back to the first time you surfed the Internet using a broadband service.  Magic content has been flat for over 11 years now and it’s time that articles evolve and transform into the next big thing.  What do I mean?  Well, let me ask you this question: Why isn’t there a Magic: The Gathering podcast? (I've since learned that there is a Magic podcast at Brainburst.com entitled "  TCG Player Radio" but it's not well advertised and, although a valiant effort, has some problems.  I'll talk more about that later.)

For the uninitiated,   Wikipedia defines pocasting as “a way of publishing sound files to the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed and receive new audio files automatically. Podcasting is distinctive from other types of audio content delivery by its use of the RSS protocol. This technique has enabled a number of individuals to create self-published, syndicated radio shows.”  To break this definition down into layman’s terms: A podcast (nicknamed after an iPod) is an mp3 audio file that you can play on your PC or on a portable mp3 player. (If you want a longer history of what podcasting is, click here.)

Why would a Magic podcast be a good thing? Look, if I can visit theForce.net and download a Star Wars podcast and then listen to a really cool podcast of Father Roderick at the Catholic Insider, then why can’t I listen to a Magic: The Gathering podcast?  There are over 4,000 different podcasts out there.  I’m tired of waiting for a Magic one.

I’ve done the research and am putting this information out on the Web for all you Magic fans out there.  I challenge you to come up with a Magic: The Gathering podcast.  But I’m going to help you along the way.  I don’t have the time to create a show, but I can share my knowledge.  I believe that together we can transform the way we receive Magic content.

Why Do We Need a Magic Podcast?

We’ve seen webcasts of Worlds and other tournaments from Wizards of the Coast.  Having worked with vendors on webcasting, I know how expensive taping an event can be.  The beauty of podcasting is that anyone with a little know-how and a few pieces of equipment can put together a podcast and share the recording with the masses.  The cost is extremely cheap.  Before I get into the details, let’s talk about some Magic podcast ideas:

  • Sound seeing tours:  What are they?  Well, imagine if a person takes a portable recorder and a microphone with him, goes on a trip somewhere, and starts recording a show.  Some famous sound seeing tours are of people visiting Target, a strip club, and the lobby of the Waldorf hotel in New York City.  Imagine a podcast from Worlds in which the creator of the show interviewed the top players, spoke to the judges, and talked with attendees of the tournament.  And forget Worlds, what about podcasts from any other Pro Tour Qualifer?  The simplicity of making the podcast allows you to be anywhere (without a lot of bulky equipment).  A podcaster could do a show from a Magic tournament at GenCon, or at Wizard World.  Remember, with a little imagination, the location can be anywhere on the planet.  Why not conventions?  Having attended a few over the years, I’ve learned that many Magic artists are there and this environment would be a great setting to interview them for a portion of a show.  Again, the possibilities are limitless.
  • Utilize technology to interview other players from around the world.  With the   Skype software (a mixture between an instant messenger and a telephone), you can call people anywhere in the world via the Internet and have a great quality connection.  A podcaster can call up one of the top players from a recent tour, do a phone interview, and record the conversation and there’s a podcast. Weekly discussions on rulings, the metagame, drafting techniques, and other card strategy.  If a person is creative enough, a show that dealt with these topics could be fun to listen to.  Combine the podcast with “show” notes on a Website and you could include visuals (screenshots of a playing board from a MWS or MODO game) or links to other sites.
  • Podcast a pre-release.  Interview newbies at a release and talk about the new set, what cards people like, what they think the chase rares will be, and what type of decks they’ve decided to use.

In just a few minutes, I was able to dream up the above ideas and I think you’ll agree that some of them would make really fun podcasts.  With a little brainstorming and some help from the Magic community, I can easily see how a weekly Magic podcast could be started.

We Have the Technology

Let’s talk about the listeners first.  If you want to listen to a podcast, what do you need to do? Well, there are several podcast aggregators out there.  Take the time to check them out.  To simplify matters, I use iPodder.  I’m not endorsing iPodder, but it’s easy to set up, use, and that’s what matters most.  But what does iPodder do?  Once the software is installed, you can take a RSS feed of a podcast, add it to iPodder, and then either manually or schedule iPodder to check the Web to see if new podcasts are available.  If one is available, iPodder will download the mp3 of the podcast, save it to your computer, and if you want transfer it to your iPod.  If you don’t own an iPod, listen to the mp3 on your computer or on another mp3 player.  It’s as simple as that and it’s free.

If you’re looking for some podcasts to listen to (to get an idea of what different podcasts sound like), try the RSS feeds out below.  Simply copy the RSS feed, paste it into the "Add feed manually" line on iPodder and then hit the "Add" button.  To check for a feed, click on the name of the podcast in your list and then click the "Check selected feed" button:

There are over 4,000 different podcasts out there so take some time to check them out at   Podcast Alley.

Making It Happen

Are you juiced up and want to work with others to make a Magic: The Gathering podcast?  You can do one or two things:

  • Just start making one without doing your homework and it’s going to suck.
  • Take the time to listen to other podcasts (especially the ones that are highly ranked on Podcast Alley and learn WHY these shows are popular.

I suggest that a group of people work together on putting together a Magic podcast.  Here’s an excellent opportunity for all the Magic websites out there to really put some excellent content together. But be smart: Add some music to the show, make sure you know what you’re going to talk about in advance, and have the show be dynamic. Again, I’d highly suggest that you listen to several popular podcasts to see what they do right.

To start off, you could listen to Brainburst.com's TCG Player Radio.  As I've mentioned above, the "radio" show is an excellent start, but there are several issues that need to be worked out.  First off, there's hardly any advertising (that I could see) on Brainburst.com concerning the podcast.  Branding it as "TCG Player Radio" also confuses matters, since it is a podcast and is even ranked on Podcast Alley (as of this writing it's the 84th ranked show).  I applaud Brainburst.com for running the podcast, but the podcast is plagued with technical issues: RSS isn't set up so you can't use iPodder to download it automatically to your PC, there are consistent audio volume issues in two of the three shows I heard, and the most important point is that the podcast is extremely too long.  Listening to two or three guys talk about Magic for 45 minutes is a bit overkill.  Take into consideration that if you can't envision the cards they're talking about, you can't really follow along.  Although TCG Player Radio plays an important role, I'd like to see them branch out more with doing smaller segments: 5 minutes on Standard, couple minutes on listener feedback, and 5 minutes on limited.  To cap my suggestions off, show notes are a must.  If you can't see the deck or at least have the opportunity to review a specific card or deck that they're talking about in the show notes, then some listeners will be lost in the dust.  Again, I tip my hat to the team, but I believe that there are others who can help them increase their production value.

Equipment

Depending on how expensive you want to go, you can create a podcast very cheaply by simply using your PC’s sound card to record your podcast or you could invest in a good microphone and a portable mp3 player for those sound seeing tours. If you opt for the sound seeing tours path, I would suggest one of   Samsung Yepp's or an iRiver for a solid mp3 player.  Lower end models of each of these players is about $100. With the player’s in-line recording, you’ll just need to purchase a decent microphone (some sell for as little as $20) and you’ll be set.   

If you want to work off your PC, you’ll also need a decent microphone, but you’ll also need some software to create your podcast.  I’ve not used any of these programs, but if you muck about the podcast forums for a bit, I bet you’ll find out which of these is good to use for a novice.

After you create your podcast, you’ll need to set up a RSS feed so that all those users out there in Magic land can add your feed to their iPodder software.  Here’s a list of two programs that allow you to create a RSS feed.

Finally, you’ll need a Website to host your audio files so that people can download the files via their iPodder software.  This is where big sites like SCG and MTGSalvation can help out.  They have the bandwidth and the Web space.

Now as you can tell from this long article, podcasting isn’t for the faint of heart.  But if you have a desire to succeed and to break ground in a new territory, then take heed to what I’ve taught you here.  Adam Curry’s podcast has approximately 80,000 listeners and it is estimated that over 5.4 million people in the United States listen to some form of podcasting.  Not too shabby at all.

It’s not going to be easy, but it sure can be fun.  Take that hunk of plastic and metal on your desk and do something more with it than just frag opponents in Doom3.  The Magic world is in need of some new blood and this is it.  Use what you’ve learned and apply your imagination and there will be no stopping you.

Goop: Play another Card Game!

Published on Brainburst.com, August 8, 2002

Heresy: Play Another Card Game!

by Ron Vitale

Hi all, I see that people are still stopping by to read this article and are on this page for a good amount of time. Please do me a favor and say hi to me on Twitter or send me an email. I'm curious as to how you heard about this game. Thanks!

Have I gone off the deep end to suggest that you try another card game besides Magic? No, I haven't. I want to share this card game with everyone because it'll strengthen your concentration skills, force you to act quickly, help you to adapt to a new playing environment, and best of all-it's fun! What's the name of the card game? Our bunch of friends call it Goop. Some of you out there have probably played this game under a different name. To play the game, all you need is 3-9 players and a set of normal playing cards for each player (each deck must have a different card back).

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Why would I spend my time writing a Magic article that's about another card game? Seems strange, right? Well, Richard Garfield has been a lover of games for many years and he's designed Magic, Netrunner, and the new Star Wars card game. And what about some of the other games Wizards has put out over the years: RoboRally and The Great Dalmuti? Playing games, no matter if it's Magic or not, can be fun and a great way to spend those hot summer nights. But the best thing about Goop, is that playing the game forces you to concentrate. Just as you need to be truly observant in a game of Magic to see all the possibilities so that you can win, Goop forces you to view many separate piles of cards at once, and you need to act fast to win.

Here's how to play: The best games I've played have been with five or six people. Gather your friends up and have them all shuffle a deck of cards. (The reason why each deck must have a different back is that you'll need to separate cards at the end of each game-with different decks, players can gather up their cards easily.) After the decks are thoroughly shuffled (doing a five pile Magic shuffle is another way to have non-Magic players ask: "What are you doing?" It's a great introduction for explaining what the Magic card game is). Another quick note on shuffling: This is an extremely important part of the game. The cards must be shuffled really well. If not, then whoever uses that deck will have an easier time in winning the game.

So finish shuffling your cards and then everyone puts their shuffled deck into the center of the table. At that point, the person whose birthday is closest to the current date picks a deck (he or she cannot pick the deck they just shuffled). Then go around the table clockwise, until everyone has a deck they haven't shuffled.

Once everyone has a deck, each player deals out, face down into a pile, 13 cards. Then take the thirteen cards, and put the entire pile face up. You can see your top card but you are not allowed to look at the 12 cards below it. This is your Goop pile. Then, from the cards remaining in your deck, flip over four cards, face up, in four separate piles. Every person's playing field should look like this:

Goop pile, face up, to your left and then four face up cards in four piles to the right of the Goop pile. After everyone has done this, you're ready to start the game. What's the object of the game? You want to be the first person to get rid of all 13 cards in your Goop pile. If you do this, you shout out "Goop!" and you won that hand.

Whoever picked the first deck, has the right to say "Go!" (In subsequent rounds, the person who "gooped," gets to say "Go!") Once the game has started, there are no "turns." Everyone plays at the same time. Look at your Goop pile and the face up cards. If you have an Ace, you can take that Ace and move it into the center of the board.

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All players can put their Aces in the center playing area. Since each player has four Aces, there could a good amount of them in the playing area. Any player may place an Ace in the center of the table and anyone can play cards on that Ace. Here's an example:

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Player 3 puts an Ace of Diamonds into the playing field. Player 2 has the Two of Diamonds showing in one of her four piles. She can pull the Two of Diamonds from the pile and play it on the Ace of Diamonds (and then take the top card in your Goop pile and put it to where the Two of Diamonds was). If another player also has a Two of Diamonds, then it's a race to see who can get their card on the Ace first. The rule is: Whoever's card is directly on the Ace first can keep it there. The other player must take their card back. Aces in the center area are there for you to build up on. Cards start as Ace, then Two, Three, Four-all the way up to King. Once the King is player on that Ace, then the pile is considered "dead" (no more points can be gained). But if someone else has another Ace of Diamonds, then that Two you had in your face up pile, can still be used.

Getting back to the cards in front of you: The four, separate, face up piles. If you happen to have a card you can play in one of your four, face up, piles in front of you, do so, and then take a card from your Goop pile and play that card where the missing card was from the four card piles. You must have four rows of cards at all times. So if you play a card, replace the card from your Goop pile right away. To get cards out of your Goop pile, you can also play a Goop card onto your four pile of cards. For example, if you have an Eight of Diamonds and there's a Nine of Spades in one of your four piles, you can play the Eight of Diamonds underneath the Nine of Spades.

After you can't play any cards into the center playing area or from your Goop pile, you then take the remaining cards in your deck, deal up three cards, and flip them over (again, you can't shuffle or look through your remaining deck. Same goes with the Goop pile). This part of game plays like solitaire. If the face up card you see can be played in the center of the board or on building off of the four cards next to your Goop pile, then play it. Essentially, you keep playing three cards and then flipping over and playing off of the cards in your playing field until you or someone else says "Goop!" Remember, that you can build off of the four rows of cards in front of you. Let's say you have a Six of Diamonds and a Seven of Clubs in two separate piles.

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Remove the Six of Diamonds from the one pile and move it to underneath the Seven of Clubs. You'll then need to take the top card in your Goop pile and move it to the blank spot where the Six of Diamonds had been. Also, if you have a Nine, Eight, Seven, Six sets of cards set up in one of the four rows, you could move that whole pile to underneath one of the other three remaining rows just like in solitaire.

So How Do I Win?

Winning the game isn't easy. You're playing off of the other players in the game as well as playing against their speed and skill. What you want to do is to play cards in the center board because you get one point for each card there. When someone calls "Goop!" and the hand ends, you need to count the remaining cards in your Goop pile. You get -2 points for each card left in your Goop pile. If you're not fast enough, it's not uncommon for you to get caught with 11 cards in your Goop pile (which translates to -22 points). So the object of the game is to be the first person to say "Goop!" and get a lot of points. Once the first person says "Goop!" and cards are separated and counted, then cards are shuffled and each player puts his deck in the center of the table. The person who has the lowest score in the game gets to pick his deck first. The game ends when a player reaches 100 points.

Why Another Game: What about My Magic?!

Look, Magic is a great game, but they'll be times in which you'll need a break from Magic or are with a group who don't play. Goop is a great game to practice your concentration skill. Trust me, if you play the game with nine people, you'll see how hard it is to keep track of what eight other people are doing. The game can become rather fast paced and stressful. As a longtime Magic player, I learned that the best learning skills to pick up in Goop is shuffling and raising your level of concentration to go beyond its normal scope. And you have to play fast. Really fast. If you sit back and don't play any cards, you won't get any points. This reminds me of a Magic tournament I played in: Speed Magic. Essentially, you had one hour to play as many duels as you possibly could. The winner of the most games won the tourney. Goop, unlike Magic, is an easy to learn game. You can teach people how to play it in about 10 minutes and you don't have to spend a lot of money on cards. You can go on Ebay and search for casino card playing decks and buy about a dozen for around $2.00 a deck. And that's all the cards you'll ever need!

Summing It All Up

It's summertime. You'll be on vacation, staying up late, traveling, and having fun Why not bring a couple decks of cards with you if you can't bring your whole Magic card collection with you? If you're a teenager playing Magic, why not impress your parents and teach them Goop? Show them that you're not just in Korn and Papa Roach-I bet you'll surprise them and have a great time. If you're an older Magic player, why not teach your wife and friends? It'll bring you hours of entertainment and you'll have a blast.

So putting it all together, here's a run down of the rules:

  • Each player must play with a normal playing deck of cards with a different back face.
  • Each player deals out 13 cards for their Goop pile, turn this pile face up, and then deals out four cards, in four separate piles, beside the Goop pile.
  • The player who's birthday is closest to the date says go. After the first round, the person who called "Goop!" in previous game, gets to say "Go."
  • Any Aces showing as the top card in the Goop pile or in the four face up piles can be played into the center of the board. Players then can play their cards (of the same suit) on these aces: two, three, four-all the way up to King.
  • The face up card in your Goop pile can be played in the center of the board if you can build on what's out there (if you have a Nine of Diamonds and you see the Eight of Diamonds in the center area, play that card!) The card in the Goop pile could also be played in one of the four row of cards beside your Goop pile (if you have a Six of Diamonds on your Goop pile and one of the four rows has a Seven of Clubs, place that Six of Diamonds underneath the Seven of Clubs).
  • After you can't play any cards, take your deck, deal yourself three cards and flip them over. You can play the last card in the center playing area or on one of your four piles in front of you. Remember, that you only get points for cards you put in the center of the table. It's not uncommon to not have cards to play in the center area so be sure to flip your deck quickly.
  • Go through your deck, three at a time, then flip and try to play that card. Remember to look to see if you can play any of your four face up pile cards or your top Goop card into the center of the game. Continually scan the board and the four piles in front of you. You want to get rid of those Goop cards as quickly as you can.
  • The first person to play all their Goop cards and calls "Goop!" wins that game. Gather up all the cards in the center, separate them, and hand them back out. Each person gets -2 for each card left in his/her Goop pile and 1 point for each card in the center. The first person to get to 100 wins the game.

A quick note on three player games: It's possible to get into a lock in which no one can play any cards. If this happens, each player can shuffle up his/her deck and then deal three cards and flip. Usually this unlocks the game. As for other rules, players will need to decide ahead of time if two hands can be used to play cards, if players can knock the hand away of another player, etc. Depending on how nice (or mean) you are, adjust the game accordingly.

With the summer heat scorching the Northern hemisphere and school coming up around the corner, savor these remaining summer nights with some fun! Try Goop and the next time you play Magic you'll notice how good your concentration level will be. Enjoy and save a deck for me!