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Richard Channing Garfield (born June 26, 1963, Philadelphia) is the American game designer who created Magic: The Gathering, the first collectible card game (CCG). Magic debuted in 1993, and its success spawned many imitations.[1] Garfield oversaw the successful growth of Magic and followed it with other exceptional game designs.[2] Garfield also designed the CCGs Netrunner, BattleTech, Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (originally known as Jyhad), Star Wars Trading Card Game, the card game The Great Dalmuti, and the board game RoboRally. He also created a variation of the game Hearts called Complex hearts.[3] Garfield first became passionate about games when he played the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons,[4] and Magic is similar to a roleplaying game in many ways.[5] Garfield and Magic are in the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame.[6]

Early life and family[]

Garfield was born in Philadelphia, and spent his childhood in many locations throughout the world as a result of his father's work in architecture. His family eventually settled in Oregon when he was twelve. Garfield is the great-great-grandson of U.S. President James A. Garfield (1831–81), and his great-uncle invented the paper clip.[7] He's also the nephew of Fay Jones, who, already an established artist, illustrated one Magic card for him.Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many

While always having an interest in puzzles and games, his passion for games began when he was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons.[4]

Garfield had designed his first game by the time he was 13.[8]

Education and career[]

In 1985, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in computer mathematics. He joined Bell Laboratories, then decided to continue his education and attended the University of Pennsylvania, and studied combinatorial mathematics.[4]

While searching for a publisher for RoboRally, which he designed in 1985,[4] Wizards of the Coast began talking to Garfield through Mike Davis, but the game looked too expensive for a new company like Wizards to produce.[9]:278 Peter Adkison of Wizards of the Coast expressed interest in a fast-playing game with minimal equipment, something that would be popular at a game convention.[5] Adkison asked Garfield to develop a game that was cheaper to produce than RoboRally, that might be more portable and even easy to carry around to conventions; Garfield did have an idea about combining baseball cards with a card game and began turning that rough idea into a complete game over the next week.[9]:278 Garfield built on older prototypes of games that dated back to at least 1982, when he had created a Cosmic Encounter-inspired card game called "Five Magics".[9]:278 Garfield thus combined ideas from two previous games to invent the first trading card game, Magic: The Gathering.[5] At first, Garfield and Adkison called the game "Manaclash", and worked on the game during Palladium's lawsuit against Wizards, protecting the game's IP under a shell company called Garfield Games.[9]:278 Garfield began designing Magic as a Penn graduate student. A group of playtesters, comprising mostly fellow Penn students, formed around the developing game.[10]

Garfield studied under Herbert Wilf and earned a Ph.D. in combinatorial mathematics from Penn in 1993. His thesis was The distribution of the binomial coefficients modulo p.[11] He became a professor of mathematics at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.

Magic: The Gathering launched in 1993. Playtesters began independently developing expansion packs, which were then passed to Garfield to edit.[10] Garfield left academia to join Wizards of the Coast as a full-time game designer in June 1994.[4] Garfield managed the hit game wisely, balancing player experience with business needs and allowing other designers to contribute creatively to the game.[2] With his direction, Wizards established a robust tournament system for Magic, something that was new to hobby gaming.[2]

Wizards finally published Garfield's RoboRally in 1994.[9]:292 Wizards published Garfield's Vampire: The Masquerade-based CCF Jyhad in 1994, but changed the name to Vampire: The Eternal Struggle in 1995 to avoid offending Muslims.[9]:219, 279 Netrunner (1996) was Garfield's CCG based on Cyberpunk 2020, where he included an element that made it an entirely asymmetrical game, with the two players having different cards, abilities, and goals.[9]:211, 281 Wizards published the BattleTech Collectible Card Game (1996), based on Garfield's design.[9]:126 Before he left Wizards, Adkison was developing an MMORPG based on Dungeons & Dragons based on a design from Garfield and Skaff Elias, but left Wizards in December 2000 after Hasbro sold the D&D computer rights and cancelled the project.[9]:290

In 1999, Garfield was inducted into the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame, as was Magic. [6] He was a primary play tester for the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition bookset, released by Wizards in 2000. He eventually left Wizards to become an independent game designer.[4]

He still sporadically contributes to Magic: The Gathering.[12][13] More recently, he has created the board games Pecking Order (2006)[14] and Rocketville (2006). The latter was published by Avalon Hill, a subsidiary of Wizards of the Coast.[15] He has shifted more of his attention to video games, having worked on the design and development of Schizoid and Spectromancer.[4]

Games designed[]

A partial list of games designed by Garfield:

  • Magic: The Gathering (1993), collectible card game
  • RoboRally (1994), board game
  • Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (1994), collectible card game
  • The Great Dalmuti (1995), card game
  • Netrunner (1996), collectible card game
  • BattleTech (1996), collectible card game
  • Dilbert: Corporate Shuffle (1997), card game
  • Filthy Rich (1998), board game
  • Twitch (1998), card game
  • Star Wars Trading Card Game (2002), collectible card game
  • Pecking Order (2006), board game
  • Rocketville (2006), board game
  • Stonehenge (2007), board game anthology
  • Spectromancer (2008), online card game
  • Schizoid (2008), console action game
  • Kard Combat (2011), iOS Game
  • King of Tokyo (2011), board game
  • SolForge (2012), online digital card game
  • Android: Netrunner (2012), living card game
  • Ghooost! (2013), card game


  1. "Magic: The Gathering Fact Sheet". Wizards of the Coast. 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Varney, Allen. "Richard Garfield." The Escapist. 10 JULY 2007. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  3. "Complex Hearts". Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Vasel, Tom (2005-06-19). "Interviews by an Optimist # 49 - Richard Garfield". 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Garfield, Richard (March 12, 2013). "The Creation of Magic: the Gathering". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 22 June 2013. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 List of Winners, Origins Game Fair. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  7. Dragon Magazine, December 1998.
  8. Zurcher, Christopher (1998-12-27). "Just like magic". PolkOnline. Archived from the original on 2012-02-16. Lua error in Module:Unsubst at line 14: <strong class="error"><span class="scribunto-error" id="mw-scribunto-error-0">Script error: The function &quot;unsubst&quot; does not exist.</span></strong> requires parameter $N (template name).
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Elias, Skaff (2002-03-08). "Legendary Difficulties". Latest Developments. 
  11. Garfield's thesis
  12. Rosewater, Mark (2005-09-05). "City Planning, Part I". Making Magic. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  13. Rosewater, Mark (2011-09-05). "C'mon Innistrad, Part I". Making Magic. Retrieved 2011-12-16. 
  14. "Pecking Order". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  15. "AVALON HILL WELCOMES BACK RICHARD GARFIELD; Rocketville Set to Blast-Off on March 10". 2006-02-07. 

External links[]