Yes you read that headline right. The master of strategy games, a man whose name has become synonymous with the phrase “just one more turn”, once made a Magic: The Gathering video game. Sid Meier is best known for the Civilization series, an epoch spanning, world conquering, utterly engrossing turned based strategy game where you usher a ruler and their nation to glory or ruin. And in 1997, he made Shandalar.
Magic: The Gathering debuted in 1993 and quickly grew into one of the most successful tabletop games ever. How many collectible card games does the general public have any awareness of? Pokemon? Yu-gi-oh? Yeah buddy, check yourself, this game made headlines during the Satanic Panic. Considering how many collectible card games last more than a few years, Magic is and was a wild success. And in the 90’s success meant two things: finding empty coke baggies in your ill-fitting khakis and turning your IP into a video game.
In 1982 Meier along with Bill Stealey, launched MicroProse, a gaming company that became known for its flight simulator titles. In 1997 Meier and others at MicroProse split off to form a new gaming studio entirely, Firaxis. But before his work was done there, Meier worked on the first ever Magic: The Gathering video game. It was set on the plane of Shandalar, a world full of fantastical creatures and powerful mages. Players would traverse an overworld map, visiting towns and cities, dungeons and dales, fighting to save the land from an evil consortium trying to do what every bad guy and most nationalist politicians want to do: take over the world. Instead of a skill tree, you grow your life total and collect spells represented by the cards in your deck. The goal was to defeat five wizards, each corresponding to a color on the mana wheel, before facing off against the five colored arch villain. The character creation is wild and gives players the option to live up to the possibility that in the multiverse, there’s a lot of wacky ass creatures running around.