Idle Remorse

Review: Polar Dare!

Review: Polar Dare!
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Year: 1991
Tagline: The Game of Chills, Thrills and Spills

Cover shows a scary cartoon polar bear threatening a penguin

how we met

I found Polar Dare! at a thrift shop last summer, shortly after our group played Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur. I picked it up because it looked old, and once I picked it up I could see that it was a vintage, long-box Milton Bradley game. The gameplay looked identical to Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur to me. I was in a place where I felt overwhelmed with outstanding reviews, overwhelmed with my number of games, and I was super picky about buying anything. So I put it back on the shelf.

I must have been feeling foggy, and thank goodness I had backup. Bill grabbed Polar Dare! with a glance that mildly admonished me for putting it back on the shelf. And far be it from me to ever argue about picking up a vintage, long-box Milton Bradley game. And that’s how we met!

how it plays

Each player starts the game with 3 penguins, and your goal is to get all of your penguins safely to the North Pole. But watch out for that pesky Polar Bear!

On your turn, roll the die. If you roll a penguin with a number, you must make that total number of moves. Similarly if you roll a Polar Bear, you must use all 3 moves.

The die has either a penguin or polar bear next to a number and my photo has poor lighting
The die, at sunset.

A move consists of any of the following:

  1. Move an object (either one of your penguins or the Polar Bear, whatever you rolled) to an adjacent ice floe.
  2. Slide one ice floe forward or backward once. This is needed if no ice floe is adjacent to the penguin you want to move. It can also be used to help or hinder gameplay for you or your fellow players.

The only real difference in movement with Polar Bear is that you can’t move an ice floe with penguins on it. You can do this if you rolled a penguin.

An overhead shot at all ice floes at start and then a few ice floes moved
All ice floes start pushed toward Start, as in left photo. Right photo shows a few ice floes moved toward North Pole. They only move up and down, not left and right.

The goal when you roll the Polar Bear is to move him away from you or clear the path you need, or maybe move him toward the penguins controlled by your terrible friends. When the Polar Bear lands on an ice floe with one or more penguins, all of those penguins are sent back to start! OH NO!

The polar bear has his hands in the air very menacing
Our (almost titular) hero the Polar Bear

The first player to successfully land all three of their penguins on the shore of the North Pole wins!

how it went

I often gush over game covers, but only the really captivating ones. I don’t spend enough time gushing over game names I really like. I appreciate the name Polar Dare! very much. I think it is simple in a way that captures the theme as well as the spirit of the gameplay itself.

I think one of the reasons I was initially hesitant to pick up Polar Dare! was because we had just played Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur, and the gameplay sounded so very similar. And it is, really. I think I prefer Polar Dare! for a couple of reasons. I enjoy the moving ice floes to help or hinder player movement. And I certainly was better off not stacking my pawns to make a giant target. And while I love a novelty, like a wind up dinosaur, Polar Dare! just felt like a better game.

Our play featuring wine glass in the background
Ask not for whom the Polar Bear comes

Like other games in this get-from-point-A-to-point-B-and-watch-out-for-danger vein, you can choose to move your penguins en masse or get one to the end before risking another one. For Polar Dare! I like the idea of moving them closer together. The Polar Bear just feels like a more predictable opponent. But that’s probably just my gut steering me wrong. I certainly did not win, and the Polar Bear can come up at any point in the die rolling.

I remember John had an interesting approach where he was keeping his penguins mostly on the starting shore for the beginning chunk of the game. I can see how that might be fun in a diabolical way; he is able to move the floes when he rolls in order to disrupt the rest of us, to say nothing of controlling the Polar Bear when that happens. In this game, it didn’t pay off. He didn’t win either.

John's black penguins in foreground at Start with all others in play distantly
I mean, it’s a strategy. Red does not look so hot in this photo either. That was probably me.

Bill approached gameplay as he does with nearly all games: with a ruthless, straight-forward approach that he thinks will help him win as quickly as possible. But he doesn’t always win, and in this case he did not win.

Keri was the winner of Polar Dare! She was not always pleased with how her game was going, though. My notes indicate that at one point she exclaimed, “Well hot dog, I got a 1!” So I was surprised to come back and read the instructions and remember that there are no 1’s on the die. I bet it was a very funny joke, dripping with sarcasm, and that’s why I wrote it down. So I guess you’ll have to trust me on that.

play or pass

Pass, like the similar games we have reviewed. Polar Dare! is probably my favorite of the race-to-the-end games we have played so far, but it’s middle-of-the-road for me.

If you find Polar Dare! at thrift, it’s a great find and you can definitely resell it for a couple bucks. Make sure it has all the ice floes, the penguins, and the polar bear. The die is unique too. The plastic pieces that the floes float on are important too, but we were just missing one so we could still move the ice floe around accurately. I bet they’d be very simple to 3d print if needed.

Review: TAPPLE

Review: TAPPLE
Publisher: USAopoly
Year: 2013
Tagline: NAME IT. TAP IT. PASS IT.

The cover shows the TAPPLE wheel

how we met

TAPPLE was almost free, and the gameplay looked quick and fun. I was happy to pay 50 cents to give it a go. I’m pretty sure I even had to run out to the car to grab quarters. Worth it!

how it plays

FUN FACT: TAPPLE stands for Touch Activated Press & Play Letter Eliminator

TAPPLE can be played by anywhere from 2-8 players. The player with the middle initial closest to ‘A’ goes first. That player draws a category card and chooses a category for play. Then they announce the category for all players and press the large red timer button in the middle of the TAPPLE wheel.

An overhead shot of the Tapple wheel
The keen observer will note that six letters are missing: Q, U, V, X, Y and Z

The player then has 10 seconds to name something related to the category, press the letter that their answer begins with, then press the red timer button to reset the timer for the next player. That player can name any answer that begins with the remaining letters. After each successful answer the timer is reset by that player.

For example, a category might be Pizza Toppings:
– Player 1 says Pepperoni and presses P and then the red button
– Player 2 says Mushrooms and presses M and then the red button
– Player 3 says Anchovies and presses A and then the red button
– Player 4 says Sausage and presses S and then the red button
– Player 1 says Cheese and presses C and then the red button
– And you get the idea..

If players are unable to think of an answer beginning with one of the remaining letters within 10 seconds then the timer will buzz and that player is eliminated. Continue play with remaining players until only one player remains. That player gets to keep the category card (in the above case Pizza Toppings).

Example category cards include Actresses, Books, Footwear, Flowers, Historical Figures
A sampling of the category cards. Blue/white is meant to be simpler than Red/yellow

Then simply push any of the yellow buttons clockwise to reset the letters. The player to the left of the first player then chooses a category, sets the timer and begins a new round.

The first player to collect three category cards wins TAPPLE!

If by some miracle there is more than one player left after all letters are taken in a round, reset the letters and continue play with a new category except each player must give two answers using two different letters. The last player standing in this scenario gets both the original and the second category card.

how it went

TAPPLE is a super fun filler party game. Yours truly was not particularly good at it, but it was still fun to play. And player elimination is, fairly, a pet peeve for many people. But with TAPPLE play goes so quickly that watching remaining players is exciting. Even allowing for some players to run out of time, a full round would likely take less than 3.5 minutes.

I am not a fan of the TAPPLE box. It uses a tuck box, and my game storage is not loving enough to protect this style of box (nor was the thrift cycle). So it’s a bit crushed. But here’s one of the beautiful things about TAPPLE: the category cards fit into the bottom of the TAPPLE wheel itself! So while my box falls open all willy nilly, the cards are safe.

The back of the wheel with cards tucked away
The storage solution I never knew I needed

We played through a couple of times in our group of four. It was fun. Bill ultimately won, and according to my sticky note Bill and John cheated. How awful. We played long enough ago that I don’t remember the details. I’m not sure how you would cheat at TAPPLE except to insist on words matching categories that maybe don’t. The rules address this with a simple “majority rules” in the event of conflict.

Our play showing the wheel in use
The only photo I took of our initial play, where you can see most letters taken. Whatever the category was it looks like E, L and N are available.

It may be worth discussing some ground rules before play. As an example, say the category is Pizza Toppings and someone said Pepperoni so the letter P is taken. Can I say Chunks of Pineapple and take the C? The game encourages creativity, but only your group will know how your majority will settle.

A quick glance through the BGG ratings show that most people appreciate the light, fun play of TAPPLE. Many people suggest using cards from other games with it, which is an interesting idea that I will have to try soon.

play or pass

TAPPLE gets a play from me. It is perfect for a gaming household that sometimes wants to play a light game or enjoys hosting mixed groups. I only saw it the one time at thrift, but judging by BGG comments many have found it at thrift. What is that saying about good things coming when you wait?

Review: Which Witch?

Review: Which Witch?
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Year: 1970
Tagline: OBJECT: BE THE FIRST TO GET THROUGH THE WITCHES’ HOUSE AND BREAK THE EVIL SPELL.

Four kids surround a 3-d board of a haunted house
They are younger, but are those the same idiots that handcuffed themselves to The Great Escape? Two of them are wearing the same clothes!

how we met

This is a story you have heard before, but I always enjoy revisiting it because it was such a fun day. I found Which Witch? in relatively decent shape in the basement of a junk shop. Someday I will perhaps have reviewed every game I purchased that day, and with each one you can glimpse further into the craziness of finding all of those rare, sought-after (at least by me) games in a single location for so cheap.

Anyway Which Witch? is a spooky, oft-desired game that is really lovely to look at. I have never seen it at thrift, but I did see a very nice copy at a flea market once for $25. So I felt very lucky to have found it at this junk shop in a thrift price range, albeit a little worse for wear. And missing the marble, which is not easily replaced but it’s not so hard.

how it plays

Which Witch? is a roll and move game where the object is to be the first child to reach the Charmed Circle at the top of the stairs.

An overview of the board ready for play
Here we are ready for play. You can just see the chimney top where you drop a marble when needed.

On their turn a player rolls the die and moves that number of spaces. Players can’t share spaces so if you would land on another pawn’s space just go to the next space instead.

The pawns are 2 girls and 2 boys marching
And did I mention how adorable the pawns are?

After movement the player draws a card and does what it says. There are three types of cards:

  1. Wanda the Wicked will turn you into a mouse. Replace your pawn with the mouse of the same color. And guess what, you can’t move as a mouse. On future turns you can’t roll and move as long as you are a mouse. You just draw a card.
  2. Glenda the Good will set you right and break the spell if you are a mouse. This means you get to move again in future turns!
  3. Ghoulish Gerty causes you to drop the marble into the chimney and see what may come of it.
The deck has no image on the back and different witch images on the front
At least they made Wanda ugly and bitter-looking..

When Ghoulish Gerty causes you to unleash the marble, a trap will go off in the part of the house where the marble comes out. This may shock you, but the traps don’t really work. So any pawn on a space marked “Danger” is in the Danger zone and any player on a different space is not, regardless of whether the marble is able to actually set off the trap.

I got a request for more info on the traps so I pulled out my copy and took some quick photos of all traps except the stairs, which only have a marble roll down them.

the marble lands in the bucket to make the panel swing up
In this trap (back on the left, front on the right) the marble lands in the bucket and causes the panel to raise – or causes a marble to sit in a bucket
the marble hits the broom and causes it to swing down
The broom trap (note: we lack a plastic piece for this one and rigged it for play) where the marble hits the broom and causes it to swing down – or where a marble rests against the broom
The floor trap where the marble causes the floor to shake
In this trap the marble causes the floor to shake by landing on the uneven part

If you are on a Danger space and your trap goes off (ie if the marble emerges through the appropriate hole) then you have to go back to the closest past space marked X.

Close up of the board showing spaces
Here’s a closer look at potential spaces on the board

The staircase is special in two ways:

  1. Each space is a Danger space, so run like the wind
  2. You are safe from Wanda the Wicked and can’t become a mouse on the stairs

The first one to the top of the stairs wins Which Witch?!

how it went

I had wanted Which Witch? for a long time before I found it. There is a simplicity to its imagery that is special and haunting. The little pawns evoke an innocence that increases the creep factor of the game. I very much enjoy the design of the game board and different rooms. I was excited to set up the board.

I suspect that Which Witch? setup has always been a challenge. Fast forward 50 years and taking into account I bought this out of a damp basement, setup is even more challenging, like having puzzle pieces made of damp sponge. The soft cardboard definitely lends to the traps not working well and is not unique to my copy. But I never really mind setup (hello, Gloomhaven fan here). So that didn’t bother me.

If you are missing a marble, like I was, make sure you use a nice heavy replacement. That is key to getting the traps to work as much as possible. They still won’t work all the time because the cardboard is heavy.

Once the game is set up, it begs to be photographed. Innocent children pawns marching toward uncertain doom. Marbles causing traps to go off. A haunted mansion. And you have time to photograph it, too. You will not rush through that mansion, and if you are anything like Bill you will spend the majority of your time as a mouse. I think he just got to the second room when the rest of us were in the final room and the game ended. He really doesn’t like this game. But Keri might, because she won our play of Which Witch?!

A close shot of the board showing green pawn ahead and the other 3 colors as mice
I played green and was ahead much of the game, and no wonder! Look at those lazy mice through the door as I trek onward

Now I can appreciate that this is a game for children, but most children I know would probably cry if they had to play it – and not because it is scary. There’s just not much going on. You move. You turn into a mouse. You are a mouse. You are a mouse. You are un-moused! You move. You drop a marble. You move. You get set back. You turn into a mouse. Shit.

I have no idea if my copy is 100% complete but it contains the following: 8 Glenda the Goods, 18 Ghoulish Gertys and 5 Wanda the Wickeds. You might think there are not too many Wanda the Wickeds, but imagine getting turned into a mouse and waiting for a Glenda the Good in that mess. It amounts to player elimination for whole periods during the game.

The staircase with two pawns on it
Ah, the staircase. I’m still there (green), still doing okay, but Keri (yellow) pulled ahead for the win! Fun fact: this is legit how we would be in a Haunted House except I would be closer, clinging to her purse strap

If you played as a child, enjoy those memories and by all means relive them with Which Witch? But if you have just heard of it and are not sure what to expect, don’t pay more than a few bucks for this. And if you do hunt it down, it’s full of plastic bits that hold the traps together so a complete copy is best. But the traps don’t really work so honestly, it doesn’t matter that much.

play or pass

Pass this one by. Which Witch? has novelty and is pretty, but the gameplay is a chore. And when the answer to the question Which Witch? is Wanda the Wicked then gameplay is downright terrible.

(Regardless of my review, if you see this game at thrift buy it for resale. You can resell it like it’s made of gold.)

Review: Maniac

Review: Maniac
Publisher: Ideal
Year: 1979
Tagline: The Fiendishly Clever Paranoid Electronic Game THAT TESTS YOUR SENSES IN FOUR DIFFERENT WAYS!

how we met

I met Maniac at the Kane County Toy Show last fall. I was intrigued by the cover when I first saw it, but I decided to wait until the end of the day before deciding whether to pick it up. It was like $8 or $10 – that’s a lot for an unknown electronic vintage game that can’t be tested!

My thanks to a BGG user who left a rating many years ago describing Maniac as “Ralph Baer’s simulation of a mentally ill parakeet.” I think that comment is what really put me over the edge into “buy.”

My thanks to Bill too. I swear he can fix almost anything old and electronic.

how it plays

Maniac is an electronic game. The game piece has four paddles and plays up to four players. If you want to play, simply settle yourself near one of the paddles.

When you turn Maniac on it will flash “88” a few times and then beep at you. This means battery levels check out and play begins soon. Maniac will cycle through four different types of challenges three times in a row each, which are considered rounds, so 12 rounds total before it starts again.

After each single round Maniac will point at each player in turn and give their cumulative score at that point. The first player to score 25 points wins!

A couple of notes on points:

  • A player can only earn a maximum of 2 points in a single round, and there are only 12 total rounds to make it through each challenge (4 challenges at 3x each), so play will always circle back to the first challenge again to find the 25 point winner.
  • Players score points independently. It’s not like the first person to be right gets the highest score. So ignore those jerks you are rubbing elbows with and just concentrate.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the four different challenges:

  1. CHALLENGE #1: MUSICAL MANIAC In this challenge Maniac plays a series of tones and flashes a “HH” pattern. Then it goes silent at a random time. Your job is to hit your paddle as soon as you hear the silence. If you are within a quarter second, you get 2 points; half a second is 1 point (remember each challenge repeats 3 times in a row)
  2. CHALLENGE #2: SOUNDS ABOUND In this challenge Maniac is going to offer you a series of random notes that you must count. When it’s done, it will start a slow, even beep. Your job is to hit your paddle when the number of beeps is equal to the number of notes. A correct guess is 2 points; one count off is 1 point
  3. CHALLENGE #3: LOOK TWICE In this challenge Maniac shows you a pattern and then shows three additional patterns. If one of the three matches the first, hit your paddle! If none do, hit your paddle after the third pattern is gone to say, “None of these were right.” Scoring on this challenge goes by quarter second reaction for 2 points and half second for 1 point
  4. CHALLENGE #4: YOUR TIME’S UP In this challenge Maniac plays a tone and your job is to count in your head how long the tone lasts. Then Maniac will beep and be silent. Your job is to hit your paddle when the silence has lasted the same amount of time as the initial tone. This one also scores based on being within a quarter second or half second
Turn that volume up!

Then Maniac starts over! Challenges continue in rounds until one player gets 25 points. That player is the winner of Maniac!

how it went

I can’t wait to try Maniac with four players! But alas, it is not a great game for social distancing. Bill and I played last weekend when our internet went down and interrupted the movie we were watching.

Play is a little confusing at first because you have to remember how each challenge works as you go. But once you get the hang of it, it’s fun and easy! Bill realized at some point that he could try and fake me out and make me extra nervous so I’d hit the paddle prematurely. But that worked once, maybe twice. I blocked him out eventually.

My favorite of the challenges was the fourth one, where you lock in the time you think a tone lasted. It reminds me of one of my favorite reality TV shows, Solitary. If you are not familiar, this is a show where contestants are locked in pods and have no idea if it’s day or night. They have to withstand challenges where they tap out, but they are not told when others tap out. So they are playing against themselves. There is one episode where contestants are asked to tap their button when they think three hours have passed. Some tap out after an hour, some after five hours. It’s great.

Maniac was designed by Ralph Baer who is best known in tabletop gaming for creating Simon. The similarities are there, and I can honestly see why someone might prefer one over the other. But for me, I’d take Maniac over Simon any old day of the week. Maniac is fun and varied. Simon is how I spend a quarter to try to win a free personal pan pizza at Little Caesar’s when I’m a kiddo.

I did pretty well at Maniac. The fourth challenge was my best, but I wasn’t terrible at any of them. Bill had 21 points when I hit 25 and won! And Maniac celebrated my win with all of its innate charm (it pointed at me and beeped several times)!

play or pass

Play! Maniac is everything I look for in a vintage game. It’s easy to explain, it works very well, gameplay is varied, and I can see it appealing to a lot of different types of players. And it rings in my ears for around half an hour after play. Perfection.

Miscellaneous: My Magic: the Gathering decks!

I’m still quarantining, and I have this whole Saturday yawning before me. This post probably won’t interest many people, but I’m going to write about my Magic: the Gathering decks!

I used to play Magic: the Gathering with a lovely group of people in Minneapolis on a regular basis. About weekly, sometimes more, sometimes less. I played all the way up until I moved away. I miss them, and I miss playing the game.

I have played a few times since moving to Wisconsin. I tried Friday night magic in Lake Geneva. I played with some friends. I even made my game group play once. But I have not found the same appeal that we had with the old group. We played very casually. We didn’t always buy the new cards. We didn’t play by tournament rules or anything. We had ways to accommodate 6 players, 8 players. We would get through several games in a single night. It was magical. I miss them all.

If you are not familiar with MtG, it has five color types:

  1. Red – a lot of direct damage, very fire-centric, can be very fast
  2. Blue – very meddlesome, manipulates things on the board, steals
  3. Green – creature-heavy, can create a lot of mana, provides a decent balance of offense and defense (if I had to take one color to an island I would probably choose green)
  4. Black – dark creatures, destructive, can cause direct kills to other creatures
  5. White – life-giving, defensive, not super powerful on offense but can be with a lot of creatures together
  6. Colorless or artifact – I consider this a 6th group that has established itself as an option in addition to the above colors

Now onto a closer look at my decks*!!
*in no particular order, just literally the order they are in my box

Box of decks shown from above
Come closer, friend

Deck 1 Black and Green Deck

This deck uses the destructive powers of black with the heavy creatures of green and the ability to trample in order to try and overwhelm the enemy quickly. This deck relies on large green creatures that let me deal damage or protect my creatures in an emergency, cards that let me search for the creatures I need, and cards that let me afford creatures quickly.

Cheapness, mana and soldiers
Yikes!

Deck 2 Red Deck

I don’t love a plain red deck, and it will be clear as we proceed. I didn’t play this one much. But variety is the spice of life. This deck has all the cheap direct damage that is at red’s disposal, some creature cards, and a couple of more rare cards that can give me an additional attack phase and a creature that does severe damage once it is leveled up.

I only have one of each of these, but when they come into play they matter
You can tell by just these cards that red makes compromises on power to be cheap and fast
It would be silly to play red without its cheap, punitive damage cards

Deck 3 The Gambling Deck (will require a coin on hand to flip, almost constantly)

Oh, not a favorite amongst the group. This deck is red and blue with a number of artifacts to boot. Now you might think I could call this a coin-flipping deck rather than gambling, but there are plenty of cards that just kind of say, let’s level the playing field and see what happens. Very fun. Does not last long because everyone attacks me as soon as they see the coin.

Brutal
Ouch
I love how much randomization these force
Wait, is that a win condition I spy on the right? Just need a bunch of coin flips

Deck 4 The Soldier Deck

This is a pretty straight-forward soldier deck. It consists of cards that allow me to play soldier tokens, creatures that buff other soldiers, enchantments that improve creatures. It can take awhile to get going, but then it gets fairly tough. The problem is when your group recognizes your deck and knows they have a limited amount of time to keep you in check.

Look at all that support!
All of these creatures benefit other soldiers or creatures. They add up quickly
These cards all create soldier tokens which are powerful immediately if other bonuses are in play, such as those in the above photo

Deck 5 The Decking Deck

If a player is unable to draw as many cards as needed at the beginning of their turn, they lose the game. One way to attack a player is to attack their deck directly by moving cards from their deck to their graveyard. This is called decking. If you think The Gambling Deck is annoying, decking decks are super annoying. This is not a particularly tough one, but it works. I just made it out of cards I had.

Decking decks almost always need team play to pull off a win. They often leave the player completely open to attack and draw a lot of attention.

Be careful about decking vs a black deck. They like having large graveyards.

If you can pull Traumatize card early in play, mwah
These creatures all contribute mightily to decking

Deck 6 The Five Color Deck (big creature version)

Five color decks are obviously challenging, plus there are so many different directions to go with one. So go big or go home, I say. This deck has the obvious things that allow me to create different colors of mana, and the rest is huge nasty creatures that I just hope to get on the field.

$$$
Mana makers are critical

Deck 7 The Leviathan Deck

This is just a blue deck full of large, blue sea creatures. It has a card in it called Quest for Ula’s Temple that gets counters and then lets me put a Kraken, Leviathan, Octopus or Serpent creature into play. I don’t think I built the deck around this card, but I probably chose the creatures based on it since they are all in there. The goal is get big creatures and turn enemy lands into islands so I can islandwalk them into oblivion.

My buddy Marc had a sea creature deck too. We enjoyed playing them together and, almost always, losing

Deck 8 The Five Color Deck (classic version)

Your first draw is so critical in a Five Color Deck. This deck is very diverse and I really enjoy playing it. It does not have a big mechanism that it needs to work. It just has a variety of small, medium, and large cards that play with different colors of mana. It is simple.

Creatures with varying powers
Mana of any color is important!

Deck 9 The Cascade Deck

Cascade is an ability that lets you play a card and then draw cards until you get a nonland card that was cheaper than the card you played. You play that card for free and put the rest of the cards you drew on the bottom of your library.

This deck is five colors but relies most on red, green, and white. It has cards to increase mana early in the game, and then consists of fairly expensive cards that include Cascade along with creature cards that have haste. It’s a tough deck to get going, but when it works, it works.

Some of the Cascade cards
Some of the cheaper cards that Cascade will pull into play

Deck 10 The Polymorph Deck

I love to give my Polymorph Deck a whirl. It consists of just five things: land, cards that increase mana production like Fertile Ground, sorcery and instant cards that generate token creatures, huge expensive creatures that I do not intend to get the mana to play, and polymorph cards.

The Polymorph card allows me to destroy one single creature and reveal cards from my library until I reveal a creature card. That creature goes into play. Mass Polymorph allows me to exile all my creatures (hopefully a ton of tokens) and replace them with creatures from my deck at no cost. There’s no feeling quite like pulling off a devastating Mass Polymorph. You are practically unstoppable then. This is a fun deck.

This is where the magic happens
How much are they? Just kidding, I don’t care

Deck 11 The Tim Deck

The Prodigal Sorcerer card was nicknamed Tim based on the Tim the Enchanter character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It includes the ability to tap to deal 1 damage to target creature or player. So our group called that ability Timming. This was my Tim deck. It was feared and revered all over our dining room tables from South Minneapolis to Maplewood.

The deck is red and blue and consists almost entirely of Tim creatures as well as enchantments that let any creature Tim a creature.

It should hurt a little to look at this

Deck 12 The Artifact Deck

This is a pretty standard Artifact deck that contains several cards with Affinity for Artifact, meaning you pay one less mana for each Artifact you have in play. So it has Artifact Lands, Artifact Creatures, plain old Artifacts. It’s fun, but it’s not my favorite Artifact Deck. I haven’t pulled that one out of the box yet.

All the obvious choices for an Artifact deck

Deck 13 The Legendary Creature Deck

As implied by the name, this is a red and green deck that focuses on Legendary Creatures. I’m not sure why. Why not?

To make this deck work, I need lots of cards and lots of mana. So it has Howling Mines to draw extra cards, cards like Wild Growth and Lush Growth to increase mana production, and then a bunch of Legendary Creatures and their supporting cards. It’s similar to a lot of my decks where things have to really come together, but then I get big creatures. There is no shortcut in this, though. I have to pay full price for these Legendary Creatures.

I also only have one of each creature in the deck since playing a second of the same card would destroy the Legendary Creature. I can’t afford to risk having my hand polluted with duplicates.

The cost is not so bad when you are only focused on two colors

Deck 14 The White Deck

There is nothing really special about this deck. No particular mechanism. It has cards that protect creatures, cards that grant life, cheap creature cards, and cards that improve those creature cards. This is a deck for a long game. It allows you to be defensive and protect allies, and eventually to make some large attacks and lead your opponents to wonder how they can get past your front lines to get at all the health you stored up.

I like playing white fine, but it’s not my favorite. When I would play the Age of Empires computer game, I would spend what felt like generations of my people in order to set up the best defenses possible before drawing in my enemy. But in MtG I get impatient and want to attack. So this is not a go-to deck for me. It does well in team play though.

You know, it’s fine

Deck 15 The Proliferate Deck

This is another mostly-Artifact deck that is full of cards that add counters (whether they are +1 / +1 or -1 / -1) to creatures and artifacts. Then there are cards that allow me to Proliferate, meaning I can choose where to add counters to improve creatures for myself and my allies or increasingly damage enemy creatures.

This deck contains a lot of cards to increase drawing and mana production.

The counters are key
Mana mana mana!
Examples of cards that offer Proliferate

Deck 16 The Ally Deck

Lots of people have Ally decks because the Ally cards lend themselves to working together beautifully. Mine is five colored. Anyone who plays against an Ally deck knows that it has to be handled, and quickly. Many a time have I sat back and listened while my enemies decide how to triage the damage I am doing to them. The cards are cheap, so unless my mana shuts down with unlucky draws it’s a solid deck. My one kindness with it is to have the deck in card sleeves so the keen observer knows what deck I am playing immediately.

Ally creatures and benefits

Deck 17 The Spirit and Arcane Deck

I threw this together when we ended up with a bunch of cards that are Spirit and Arcane. This deck is green and white. It is filled with Spirit creatures and Arcane spells, along with cards that make these spells cheaper. It’s okay. I kind of think of it as a poorer version of an Ally deck.

You can see the benefits here

Deck 18 The Blue and White Mess with Everyone Deck

This is a fun deck to play and looking through it really made me want to play again. This deck is full of classic white life-giving and damage-negating cards, along with blue cards that manipulate what is in play. One of the beautiful cards in it, too, is Leyline of Anticipation which you can play instantly if it is in your opening hand, and it allows you to play nonland cards as though they are instants. That allows me to keep my mana handy to play interruption cards or, if nothing comes up, to play a creature card at end of turn of the player before me.

This is particularly a great deck for team play because I am unsummoning, countering, gathering life, preventing damage, causing opponents to pay more for their spells, all kinds of mean things.

I particularly enjoy the passive defense in this deck. I’m wide open, and you can attack me. But it’s probably going to hurt you more than it hurts me.

Doesn’t it look FUN?!

Deck 19 The Best Artifact Deck Ever

I love this deck. I don’t always play it because the play can take a long time. It involves tons of adjusting and playing and pulling back and reshuffling. Some turns I draw like 15 cards. It can get old for my fellow players, and I appreciate that.

This is a Blue Artifact deck. The goal is to get tons of mana and endless artifacts in play. Artifacts can give me no max hand size, cause opponents to lose life when they play creatures, give their creatures negative counters, etc.

One key component of this deck is the card Elixir of Immortality. True to its name, this card not only gives me life but allows me to shuffle my graveyard into my library. I can play this deck almost eternally. It’s tough to beat but the offense isn’t great, so I have to really focus on doing what I can to destroy my enemies. Otherwise this deck just wears them down, which isn’t fun.

Just looking at the cards makes me want to draw and play 11 times

Deck 20 The Direct Damage Deck

This deck is the only one in this list that I did not make. It belonged to my good friend Peter, and I admired it and feared it for a long time. He gave it to me one game night, probably for my birthday or some such occasion.

This is a green and red deck, and it’s a thing of beauty. Its focus is in creating incredible mana output. All of the land is Forest, and so there are Wild Growths and Fertile Grounds. Then there is a key card: Utopia Sprawl. When that comes into play you choose red since this is the only way to get red mana in the deck.

The rest of the deck is Creatures like Overgrown Battlement that give you a little defense, but also can be tapped to add more mana to your pool. The rest of the creatures simply allow you to untap a land. The idea is simple: get a few Forests out there that are stacked with extra mana cards that you can untap to create a huge amount of mana in your pool. Then play a comet storm and rain fire on your terrible friends. Comet storms allow you to switch targets and you can choose between creatures and players. This can be incredibly destructive.

If this picture doesn’t scare you then I didn’t describe it properly

Deck 21 The Elf Deck

I couldn’t find the exact rule, but I’m pretty sure there’s a rule that everyone must have an Elf Deck. Mine is my very first deck. I probably don’t need to explain an Elf Deck to you… it is full of elves.

This is a tough deck. Elf Decks start deceptively small, but they can get tough very quickly. My deck relies a lot on Blanchwood Armor to do really heavy damage. Ideally I can enchant a Silhana Ledgewalker so my enemies can’t really do anything about it. It’s my oldest deck, but I still enjoy it.

Good for me, not so good for you

Deck 22 The Equipment Deck

I made an Equipment Deck. It’s not my favorite; equipment in general is not something I have patience for. The deck is okay.

This deck includes white creatures, a few that have particular powers related to equipment. Then there is just equipment galore! When you pack enough equipment onto a single creature it can get really tough, providing both offense and defense. It just takes awhile to get there.

Some of the equipment
And the creatures that wear it

Deck 23 The Bird Deck

Last but certainly not least is my black and white bird deck. I did make this deck around a single card: Soulcatchers’ Aerie. This card allows me to put a +1 / +1 counter on it whenever a bird goes to my graveyard from play, and all my birds get that counter. So I can have up to four Soulcatchers’ Aerie cards played if I am lucky enough to draw them all. So I am not opposed to my own birds dying. I got more where they came from.

This becomes annoying for my fellow players. Sometimes they are not obliging enough to kill my birds for me and I have to do it myself. That’s where black comes in. I have four Carrion Feeder creatures that allow me to sacrifice a creature to put a +1 / +1 counter on the Carrion Feeder. But that sacrificed creature will be a bird so I get the counter on the Aeries too.

This deck can be pretty tough. The beauty of it is that birds are cheap, and even if my mechanism does not come together or gets handled, an army of flying birds is not the worst thing.

I love them all in unique but equal ways
These are some of the cards I need to ensure my birds die, and none of that matters until I get the Soulcatchers’ Aerie into play. One is great, two are fantastic, three are phenomenal and four are unstoppable

That’s it!

That’s all my decks. The casualness of our play comes out in these descriptions. Creating MtG decks is game design with pre-defined options. While it’s not my style, I know and admire people that do MtG deck design with the strictest disciplines that MtG communities offer.

No matter where you fall on that spectrum of seriousness, if you played much at all you likely have some favorite decks and fond memories. I’d love to hear them. 🙂

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