Throwback Thursday! For today’s update, I had intended to post some videos of me playing the old school Magic computer game known as “Shandalar.” It’s a sweet, but clunky, version of our favorite card game that came out in 1997. Shandalar (which was re-released as “Duels of the Planeswalkers” in 1998 with Legends and The Dark expansion sets added) allowed spellslingers to play Magic at home against the (terrible) AI or connect to a friend’s computer for an online duel (c/o dialup…beeeeeppp whirrrrr boop!).
However, time has not been kind to that game, and I found it extremely difficult to make it function on my Windows 7 rig without crashing multiple times. I would get a few minutes into the game, win some battles, and then the thing would just crash on me. Or I’d go to change my deck, and the screen would be all glitchy and crash. Then I’d restart the program, and it would crash on the first menu screen. Crash, crash, crash. (must be an early version of Magic Online)
The basic idea of the single-player game was that you’re some random dude with a deck of Magic cards (you choose the primary color, and the difficulty level determines how many other colors you start with) walking around the plane of Shandalar, searching for the most powerful wizards of each mana source to defeat. You fight monsters, witches, demons, and other baddies by playing a quick game of Magic, and ante up a card or two before each one-game fight. It’s weird because you don’t play full, real games of Magic – each opponent has a certain life total (often less than 10), and your starting life total changes over time based on the items you acquire (sometimes it doesn’t even reset between fights!).
Look at those 1997 mind-blowing graphics!
Each monster you defeat is tied to one of the five ultimate wizards (one of each mana color), and your life goal is to drain their magic forces by winning enough fights and then defeat the wizards themselves. Kind of neat. Some monsters, and the wizards especially, have some pretty “tuned” decks (for only using alpha cards), so a major part of the game is acquiring more and better cards. Example: the Drudge Skeletons that make up a huge part of your starting black deck can’t even try to deal with the onslaught of Serra Angel the white wizard throws at you.
You can get more cards by defeating opponents (getting their ante cards), finding them as treasure, or buying them at bazaars. Your deck is fully changeable and it’s old school Magic rules, so no limit on the number of each card. So yeah, get that 25 Lightning Bolt and 15 Mountain deck out! However, when you lose a fight, you lose the card that was randomly selected for ante, and you can trade cards in your deck to avoid difficult fights, so your deck is not entirely safe.
The inventory screen, with items that affect life totals and game play
Shandalar is great at showcasing Magic’s roots. Magic started out very simple compared to what we play now – for example, vanilla monsters used to be very powerful instead of being completely useless. It’s a blast to play with super old cards, especially original dual lands and the Power Nine, and I can’t think of anything more fun than beating down your opponent with a bunch of Savannah Lions.
The old rules might seem really weird to newer players, though – stacking damage and state-based effects (like losing the game) wait until the end of the step. Interestingly, the battles function amazingly similar to Magic Online, making me think the same code was probably used between the two programs. The layout even looks the same:
Looks surprisingly like Magic Online, doesn’t it?
I’m going to keep trying working towards downloading a more stable version of the game, since Shandalar is too fun and old school not to share through some game play videos. If anyone has any suggestions on where to find a good copy, leave me a comment below!