The Original Wizard: Getting to Know Richard Garfield

In 1994 I was a fresh faced 14 year old kid who had just entered what would be the most confusing four years of my life: highschool. Not having grown up in the area, I had no idea who I’d end up making friends with and for a time it seemed as though I’d be that weird loner kid forever….it was painful at times…. I ended up meeting a group of guys and they introduced me to a slew of games that would stay with me till this day. Dungeons and Dragons. Final Fantasty. Hockey stick sword fighting (sooooo fun!)….oh and Magic: The Gathering. I still remember opening my first starter box and drawing, “Serra Angel”; with her arm held triumphantly in the air wielding a bronze dirk, looking skyward in stoic beauty… I’ll never forget it. Yes, anyone who ever played MTG, and there have been MANY of you, knows the feeling of opening a pack of cards and looking through the many image, some beautiful, others terrifying and teleporting your mind to another world full of wonder and magic. We all have one man to thank for this: Richard Garfield, the ORIGINAL wizard and father to both Urza AND Mishra. Here’s a few projects he’s worked on over the years.

1. Robo Rally


Richard Garfield grew up in Philadelphia and as a kid was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons which sparked a love of gaming and fantasy that could not be quenched and would later be put to good use. Fast forward to 1990: Richard Garfield has graduated from university with a degree in computer mathematics and is pursuing further education in combinational mathematics but he’s had this idea for for five years of a board game called, “Robo Rally” and it just won’t quit. The game takes place in a widget factory and after all the petty humans have gone home, the computers race for fun! It’s an incredibly dynamic game and one that should have been a no brainer for any game publisher to pick up BUT….but…in 1985 Richard was having problems gaining interest in his game. He was talking with a fledgling company called, “Wizards of the Coast”…… hint as to where this is going?…and they asked him if he had any game ideas that might be a little more portable….Richard did have ONE idea. (As for “Robo Rally”, the game was eventually picked up by “Wizards of the Coast” and ended being an award winning game!)

2. Magic: The Gathering


Richard had been working on an idea for a game that would combine collectible cards in the same way that people collect baseball cards, and combine it with a game engine to make a system of play available. He drew inspiration from a game he had played years before called, “Cosmic Encounters” and quickly churned out the cards that would be the bulk of the game. At that point in time, Wizards of the Coast were in court battling another company so to protect their new game, which had been titled, “Mana Clash”, Richard Garfield had a temporary shell company set up for him to work under. Once the court case was out of the way, “Mana Clash” was renamed, “Magic: The Gathering” and was released in 1993 to immediate fan fare and the rest is history. The same year, Richard graduated university and became a professor of mathematics, though he left a year later to become a full time developer for Wizards of the Coast. Kinda make my ambitions seem a tad smallish….Side note: Richard’s Aunt, Fay Jones, illustrated one card for him….and it’s goddamn “STASIS”…. one of the hardest damn lock cards known to the game….

3. Filthy Rich


Maybe due to his success with MTG, Richard created and released this game in 1996 titled, “Filthy Rich”. It uses very simple game mechanics and the concept is this: You and your opponents are all advertisers looking to buy space and make tons of money for your clients. The whole thing takes place in a binder where players insert their adds and then roll dice; the number on the die will correspond to a particular space in the binder and if whoever has an ad there gets paid. Players then use the money they earn to buy luxuries which eventually win you the game. I figure this game was sort of a no brainer for Richard: at this point in his life, he’d probably spent so much time around card binders and money that he’d have no choice but to combine the two!

4. Schizoid 


Having had so much success with his CCG’s and board games, Richard tried his hand at a video game which he named, “Schizoid”. In this game which was released by Torpex Games for Xbox Live Arcade in 2008. The games co-op style of play and funky birds eye view shooter style game without the actual shooting was met with glowing response. The concept of the game is this: You and your partner are kinda like bugs, one of you are red and the other blue. The enemies in this game are also red and blue. To survive, each player can only touch enemies of their opposite colour wchi creates a swirling, dodging, whirlwind of a game. Schizoid was nominated for best original game and best co-op multiplayer game by Xbox the year it was released…..Not bad, Richard… not bad….

5. King of Tokyo


King of Tokyo is basically Yahtzee but on steroids. Released in 2011 by Iello games, here’s KoT in a nutshell: you and your friends choose a monster and do battle in and around Tokyo. There are two ways to win, amass 21 points or drop the other monster health from 10 to zero all by rolling special sided dice. A game that’s heavy on chance and light on strategy, KoT is a fast, rock-em-sock-em, beat down style game. Upgrades can be purchased in exchange for power cubes which are gained by certain dice rolls. I was pleasantly surprised to find out this game was created by Richard; it seems he just know exactly what I want to see in a game and delivers constantly. More recently, Richard released a sequel to KoT called, “King of New York” which add new layers to the madness including smashing buildings and a neutral military army waiting to blow you up… FUN!….


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