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Richard Garfield

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Richard Garfield
Richard Garfield at Spiel 2014
Richard Channing Garfield

(1963-06-26) June 26, 1963 (age 61)
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania (BS, PhD)
Occupation(s)Mathematician, inventor, game designer
Known forMagic: The Gathering, Netrunner
RelativesJames A. Garfield (Great-Great-Grandfather)
Scientific career
ThesisOn the residue classes of combinatorial families of numbers (1993)
Doctoral advisorHerbert Wilf

Richard Channing Garfield (born June 26, 1963) is an American mathematician, inventor and game designer. Garfield created Magic: The Gathering, which is considered to be 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 game designs.[2] Included in these are Keyforge, Netrunner, BattleTech(CCG), Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, Star Wars Trading Card Game, The Great Dalmuti, Artifact and the board game RoboRally. He also created a variation of the card game Hearts called Complex Hearts.[3] Garfield first became passionate about games when he played the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons,[4] so he designed Magic decks to be customizable like roleplaying characters.[5] Garfield and Magic are both in the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame.[6]

Early life, family and education[edit]

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 and his grand-uncle Samuel Fay invented the paper clip.[7] He is also the nephew of Fay Jones, who, already an established artist, illustrated one Magic card for him.[8]

While Garfield always had an interest in puzzles and games, his passion was kick-started when he was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons.[4] Garfield designed his first game when he was 13.[9]

In 1985,[10] Garfield received a Bachelor of Science degree in computer mathematics. After college, he joined Bell Laboratories, but soon after decided to continue his education and attended the University of Pennsylvania, studying combinatorial mathematics for his PhD.[4] Garfield studied under Herbert Wilf and earned a Ph.D. in combinatorial mathematics from Penn in 1993. His thesis was On the Residue Classes of Combinatorial Families of Numbers.[11] Shortly thereafter, he became a Visiting Professor[12] of mathematics at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.[13]

Game design career[edit]

Precursors and development of Magic: the Gathering[edit]

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 Wizards was still a new company and felt the game would be too expensive to produce.[14]: 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 if Garfield could develop a game with lower production costs than RoboRally, with the idea of making such a game more portable and easy to bring to conventions; Garfield thought of an idea that came from combining a card game with collecting baseball cards and spent a week creating a full game from that rough idea.[14]: 278 

Garfield had been creating card games since at least 1982, starting with a card game called "Five Magics" that was inspired by Cosmic Encounter, and his work with this new card game built on his existing older prototypes.[14]: 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 it in secret during a lawsuit filed by Palladium Games against Wizards, and were able to protect the game's intellectual property by using the shell company Garfield Games.[14]: 278  Garfield began designing Magic as a Penn graduate student. Garfield's playtesters were mostly fellow Penn students.[15]

Wizards of the Coast[edit]

Magic: The Gathering launched in 1993. Playtesters began independently developing expansion packs, which were then passed to Garfield for his final edit.[15] In June 1994, Garfield left academia to join Wizards of the Coast as a full-time game designer.[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 released Garfield's RoboRally in 1994.[14]: 292  Wizards published Garfield's Vampire: The Masquerade-based CCG Jyhad in 1994, but changed the name to Vampire: The Eternal Struggle in 1995 to avoid offense to Muslims.[14]: 219, 279  Netrunner (1996) was Garfield's CCG based on Cyberpunk 2020, where he included an element that made it an asymmetrical game, so that the two players each had entirely different cards, abilities, and goals.[14]: 211, 281  Wizards published the BattleTech Collectible Card Game in 1996, based on a design by Garfield.[14]: 126  Peter Adkison was developing a Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG 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.[14]: 290 

In 1999, Garfield was inducted into the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame alongside 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]

As an independent designer[edit]

He still sporadically contributes to Magic: The Gathering.[16][17] More recently, he has created the board games Pecking Order (2006)[18] and Rocketville (2006). The latter was published by Avalon Hill, a subsidiary of Wizards of the Coast.[19] He has shifted more of his attention to video games, having worked on the design and development of Schizoid and Spectromancer as part of Three Donkeys LLC.[4] He has been a game designer and consultant for companies including Electronic Arts and Microsoft.[13]

Garfield taught a class titled "The Characteristics of Games" at the University of Washington.[13] It is now taught as part of the University of Washington's Certificate in Game Design.[20]

Games designed[edit]

A game of Treasure Hunter in progress

A partial list of games designed by Garfield:

Card games:

Collectible card games:

Board games:

  • RoboRally (1994)
  • Filthy Rich (1998)
  • Pecking Order (2006)
  • Rocketville (2006)
  • Stonehenge (2007)
  • King of Tokyo (2011)
  • King of New York (2014)
  • Treasure Hunter (2015)
  • Bunny Kingdom (2017)
  • The Hunger (2021)
  • King of Monster Island (2022)

Other games:

  • Spectromancer (2008), online card game
  • Schizoid (2008), console action game
  • Kard Combat (2011), iOS Game
  • SolForge (2012), online digital card game
  • Artifact (2018), digital trading card game
  • KeyForge (2018), unique deck game
  • Half Truth (2019), trivia board game co-created with Ken Jennings
  • Carnival Of Monsters (2019) Kickstarted (failed) and eventually released through AMIGO Games
  • Roguebook (2021), roguelike deck-building game
  • Dungeons, Dice & Danger (2022), roll-and-write game


  1. ^ "Magic: The Gathering Fact Sheet" (PDF). Wizards of the Coast. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 24, 2009. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Varney, Allen. "Richard Garfield Archived 2014-01-22 at the Wayback Machine." The Escapist. 10 JULY 2007. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  3. ^ "Complex Hearts". Math.unl.edu. Archived from the original on 8 July 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Vasel, Tom (2005-06-19). "Interviews by an Optimist # 49 - Richard Garfield". Archived from the original on 2007-08-14.
  5. ^ a b c Garfield, Richard (March 12, 2013). "The Creation of Magic: the Gathering". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on March 14, 2013. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  6. ^ a b List of Winners, Origins Game Fair. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
  7. ^ Varney, Allen (December 1997). Dragon Magazine #242 (PDF). p. 120.
  8. ^ Rosewater, Mark. "Blogatog: Stasis".
  9. ^ Zurcher, Christopher (1998-12-27). "Just like magic". PolkOnline. Archived from the original on 2009-07-15.
  10. ^ 26.5248
  11. ^ "Richard Garfield - the Mathematics Genealogy Project".
  12. ^ "Magic: The Gathering––A Game's Origins and Influence at Whitman College".
  13. ^ a b c Garfield, Richard (2007). "Dungeons & Dragons". In Lowder, James (ed.). Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 86–89. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
  15. ^ a b Elias, Skaff (2002-03-08). "Legendary Difficulties". Latest Developments. Archived from the original on June 14, 2002.
  16. ^ Rosewater, Mark (2005-09-05). "City Planning, Part I". Making Magic. Archived from the original on January 4, 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-27.
  17. ^ Rosewater, Mark (2011-09-05). "C'mon Innistrad, Part I". Making Magic. Archived from the original on September 25, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  18. ^ "Pecking Order". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2007-05-06.
  19. ^ "AVALON HILL WELCOMES BACK RICHARD GARFIELD; Rocketville Set to Blast-Off on March 10". 2006-02-07. Archived from the original on 2007-11-07.
  20. ^ "Richard Garfield's Net Worth". www.youtube.com. Retrieved 2023-02-24.

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