Ahh, Avalon Hill's Magic Realm. There are times that I wonder why I have such a great fascination with a game that I can barely play. Now when I say barely play, that may not be entirely accurate. If given enough time, I can set the board up. I get movement and have a pretty decent grasp on combat. Magic is kind of a mystery to me, but that's probably more because I don't generally play magic using characters, and horses still confuse me. But even with these issues, the game still has kept a hold on my mind after 35 years.
As I've said in previous posts, I get my original copy for Christmas in 1979 as a gift from my aunt Cathy. She knew that I was into stories about wizards like The Hobbit and she either saw this in the toy store or bought it through her book club. Yes, they sold Avalon Hill games in toy stores and through book clubs back in those days.
I can still remember opening that box on Christmas Eve at my Grandparent's house and marveling at what was inside. Those hexagonal map tiles were just awesome. The had forests and cave and mountains. It looked incredible.
And the characters! There were 16 of them and the character cards were awesome. I remember the Druid and the White Knight being my favorites. I wanted to play these characters.
Then there was the rulebook. The blue first edition rule book. Now I was 10, reasonably bright, and reading well above my grade level, but that book was a mystery to me. Still, as obtuse as the rulebook was with with wargame-like structure and confusingly organized instructions, there were gems to be found. There was a pool that a giant octopus lived in. There was a vault filled with treasure and a crypt of a knight. There were natives who you could hire to help you or kill for their treasure. In short, there was magic in this game.
For years I would pull the game out of my closet and make my best attempt at setting it up, but mostly I would just stare lovingly at the pieces knowing that there had to be an awesome game in there somewhere. And of course I was right. It wasn't until I was in college that I actually got to play a real game of Magic Realm, and it was everything that I could have hoped for and more. The depth of the game is incredible and the variety is seemingly endless. The second edition rulebook helped a lot too.
These days, I can play it via Realmspeak, which certainly saves on the setup and record keeping time. It's not as fun as playing with live people, but it has the advantage of being available all the time. I've looked for other games to love over the years, but none of them have ever come close. Most recently I picked up the Mage Knight boardgame, as it sounded like it might be a spiritual successor to Magic Realm, and while it was cool, it just isn't Magic Realm.
Honestly, whenever I try to explain to people how great Magic Realm is, I tell them that they just have to play it to understand. If anyone is interested, here are my two previous posts about Magic Realm.
The Real Forgotten Realm
A Busy Day in the Caves of the Magic Realm
And if you'd like to read some really excellent posts that give a good overview of how the game is played, check out this blog: http://cmagoun.blogspot.com/