Microprose, 1997, 1-2 players, ages 6 and up. This game is really a blast, and a Magic junkie's dream. If you're jonesing to play some Magic and there aren't any warm bodies around, playing against this game's AI isn't half bad. Yes, it does some dumb things and there are a few bugs in the game, but overall the AI provides some decent challenge. The base game comes with over 400 cards from 4th edition (and earlier) along with the "Astral" set (some new cards designed specifically for the PC game). The second release, Spells of Ancients, added more than 130 new cards from Arabian Nights, Antiquities and the core set. The third and final release, Duels of the Planeswalkers, added 80 more cards from Legends and The Dark. The game comes with literally dozens of preconstructed decks that you can play with (and against). There is also a deck generator that you can use to build your own decks to play with (and against). The later editions also came with a very nifty sealed deck tournament generator that allows you to pick which deck packs and boosters (from which sets) you want to include in your tournament. Then you get to build a deck with your cards and play in an actual tournament ladder. There is also the capability for network play, something that I've never bothered with (I'm sure Wizards of the Coast has something much more sophisticated these days anyway). Finally, there is some kind of wacky adventure land called "Shandalar" where you "play the part of an eager young wizard in your quest to banish all evil from the realm". Whatever - I have never bothered to investigate what that's all about.
The bad news is that these games have been out of print and unsupported for quite some time, and unfortunately, according to the manufacturer's website, there are no plans to update them or re-release them in editions that work with more modern operating systems. And unfortunately, these games do not work on versions of Windows newer than Windows 98 (they were designed to work with Windows 95). You can install the base game and DOTP on Windows 2000 ME (SOTA will not install) and they can be played (more or less - you have to restart the game after each duel is over). None of the games will install on Windows XP. Just to keep playing this game I rescued an old PC from the basement at work and installed Windows 98 on it. And it's not just me - there still seems to be a fair amount of demand for the original discs, particularly the later releases. I picked up a copy of the main game for about $20 on eBay, but had to spend close to $50 each for SOTA and DOTP.
And now the good news. Some kind soul "way back when" went to the trouble of creating an install package that includeed all three Magic releases along with the original Microprose patch files (all designed to install and run on Windows XP). And the amazing thing is that they still work on Windows 8.1 (seriously). Here's how to do it -
1 - Use Google to locate the three files that make up the game package: magicg.zip (the three base releases), magicg-mana.zip (the patches), and magicg-m.zip (the docs). I'm not going to put any direct links here (as they are wont to change), but I'm sure the files can be located with a bit of judicious searching
2 - Download the files and then extract the contents of magicg.zip into a temp directory (I use File Explorer for all this file/directory finagling)
3 - One of the extracted files will be an application called "magic.part1" - open it. It will create a sub-directory in your temp directory called "Magic"
4 - Go to the new "Magic" directory and open "setup.bat"
5 - Create this new directory: C:\Magic\Program. Move everything from the "Magic" directory (from step 4) to this new directory
6 - In your new \Magic\Program directory, open "magic.reg" to make sure Magic gets into the system registry
7 - Extract the contents of magicg-mana.zip into your temp directory
8 - One of the extracted files will be an application called "setup" - open it. It presumes that Magic is installed in C:\Magic\Program (which is why you had to create that specific directory on that specific drive)
9 - At this point you may wish to unzip magic-m.zip - it contains a couple of PDF scans of the original manuals
10 - Restart your computer and you're ready to play Magic!
Note that it is not necessary to change any "compatibility" settings for the various executables. As crazy as it sounds, everything runs just fine "as is".
Also note that if you want to use the deck editor there's a bit of extra voodoo that you'll probably have to perform first. What I've discovered is that there is a background process that interferes with the deck editor - the end result being that it only shows you one card in the "available cards" list (the "Air Elemental"). If that turns out to be the case, do this -
1 - Right-click on the Windows icon in the lower lefthand corner of the screen and select "Task Manager"
2 - Right-click on the "Touch Keyboard and Handwriting Panel" task in the Task Manager window and select "End Task"
3 - The deck editor should now work correctly (at least until the next time you restart your computer, at which point you'll have to repeat the process)